The operator has started testing its VoIP app in the U.K., called Clever Connect, which offers voice calls over Wi-Fi or 3G networks. It's a limited trial and is only open to T-Mobile customers by invitation for now. According to the operator's website, "We're still developing the Clever Connect app and would like you to test it."
The app will work on iOS4 (or higher) and Android 2.2 (or later) smartphones and is available to download from Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s App Store and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Play store.
It is understood that T-Mobile has developed the service with Danish mobile VoIP firm Vopium A/S , as TechCrunch reports. (See Vopium Banks $16.5M.)
An interesting feature of T-Mobile's service is that it appears to be able to automatically select the best available network between Wi-Fi or 3G. According to the operator's website, "[the app] always chooses the cheaper way to call."
Calls between Clever Connect users are free. International calls are priced at a flat rate. For example, calls to the U.S. using Clever Connect will cost 2 pence (3 U.S. cents) per minute.
The service is similar to T-Mobile US Inc. 's Bobsled Wi-Fi calling service. (See T-Mobile USA Bolsters Bobsled Messaging.)
Why this matters
This mobile VoIP trial highlights the increasing need for telcos to act more like Internet companies when it comes to introducing new services -- that is, pushing a service or app out to users before it is completely developed and tweaking it according to their feedback. T-Mobile rival Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) has established a whole business unit, Telefonica Digital, to do just that. And Telefonica, too, has already developed a unified communication app called Tu Me. (See Et Tu, Telefónica? and Telefónica: A New Breed of Telco.)
As for mobile VoIP services, it's likely that mobile operators will continue to develop their own OTT offers -- as T-Mobile and Telefonica are doing -- to reduce the number of subscribers defecting to competing offers from third parties such as Skype or WhatsApp. Whether users will actually want to take up those offers from their telcos remains to be seen.
- TEF's VoIP Revolution
- T-Mobile Bobsleds Into VoIP With Facebook
- Telefónica Digital Gets Smart
- Telefónica: Digital Dreamer?
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile