Even as the price war in the telecom space between Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone Idea continues, the focus could be shifting towards the quality of services. Airtel has added the Wi-Fi Calling feature for its prepaid and postpaid users in India, and the expectation is that it will improve the call quality when you are indoors and also reduce the load on the network at the same time by shifting some of the calling load to the Airtel Broadband network. Airtel insists that any calls made using the Wi-Fi Calling feature remain free of charge, much like the voice calls on the mobile network.
To get Wi-Fi calling to work for you indoors, at home and at work, what you need is an Airtel connection—prepaid or postpaid, doesn’t matter really. And a smartphone that is capable of handling voice on Wi-Fi calls. Airtel says you must update to the latest software for your phone. For Android users, head to Settings and check for the software update for Android on your phone—this option is either in the About menu or somewhere in the main list of options, depending on which Android phone you are using. Apple iPhone users must head to Settings -> General -> About and check for the software update. Once this is done, you must restart your phone (chances are, the software update process will do that for you) and head to the mobile network or mobile data settings on the Android phone and Settings -> Cellular on the iPhone. Here, you need to enable VoLTE and the Wi-Fi Calling options.
At present, the Apple iPhones that work with Airtel Wi-Fi Calling include the iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 11, iPhone XR, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus and the iPhone SE. The OnePlus 7, the OnePlus 7 Pro, the OnePlus 7T and OnePlus 7T Pro are also compatible with the Airtel Wi-Fi Calling. If you have a Xiaomi phone, the Redmi K20, the Redmi K20 Pro and the Poco F1 are three phones that work with Airtel Wi-Fi Calling—and we expect more Redmi phones will be added to this list soon. At present, the Samsung Galaxy J6, the Galaxy On 6, the Galaxy M30s and Galaxy A10s are compatible with the Airtel Wi-Fi Calling.
One important ingredient for the Airtel Wi-Fi Calling to work is that you must have an Airtel Broadband connection, known as Airtel Xstream broadband, for the switch of voice calls from the Airtel mobile network to the Wi-Fi network. The Airtel Xstream broadband plans start at Rs 799 per month and depending on the service in your area, you have the option of signing up for speeds up to 1Gbps.
So, what exactly is VoWiFi? “VoWi-Fi simply stands for voice over Wi-Fi. VoWi-Fi is a complementary technology to VoLTE and utilises IMS technology to provide a packet voice service that is delivered over IP via a Wi-Fi network,” is how trade body GSM Association describes VoWiFi. For this, you need to be connected to a Wi-Fi network at the time (it doesn’t matter what Wi-Fi, as long as there is a Wi-Fi that doesn’t have a firewall blocking the calls) and a smartphone that supports network generated voice calls to be switched to Wi-Fi and back. For quite a while now, mobile companies in India have been using the VoLTE technology to switch some of the calls over to the LTE/4G network for better clarity and to reduce the chance of call drops. What this means to you, as a user, is that you will be able to make a regular voice call from your smartphone, even if the mobile network coverage at that location is spotty or fluctuating, and as long as you are connected to Wi-Fi. This could just be the ideal solution for a couple of problems that mobile service providers are facing—the issue of network congestion which leads to failed calls and call drops, as well as allow mobile service providers to take on platforms such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger, which allow free calls over Wi-Fi (and mobile data) to users. But if and when mobile operators such as Reliance Jio, Airtel and Vodafone-Idea allow this, you won't have to switch to a third-party app to make those voice calls on Wi-Fi. This is the logical next step to the VoLTE, or Voice over LTE technology, which mobile companies have deployed for a while now.