Public WiFi internet access provider AlwaysOn has revealed that it will be taking on mobile service providers by rolling out WiFi calling over its hotspot network.

In an announcement similar to the one Cell C’s made a couple of weeks back, AlwaysOn says voice calling over a WiFi network allows you to make calls by using your regular phone dialler. But instead of connecting to a mobile carrier such as MTN, Vodacom or Cell C, it pushes all the voice traffic through the WiFi connection.

This shouldn’t be confused with Voice over IP (VoIP) such as Skype or WhatsApp, where you need a specific app. With WiFi calling, there’s no requirement for the person on the other end of the call to have specific software installed.

Just over a year ago, mega-internet provider Internet Solutions (IS) announced that it increased its stake from 51% to 100% in AlwaysOn, and by folding it completely under the IS banner, it allowed them to roll out public WiFi and paid-for WiFi to more than 1 400 hotspots across the country and 1 million abroad.

AlwaysOn’s calling functionality will be launched first on Android devices, and it will integrate with your phone’s native dialler. It will then give you the ability to make carrier-grade voice calls over the AlwaysOn networks across the world – and there are lots of them. By last count, AlwaysOn had over 1 400 hotspots located across the globe, and for the calling offering the company made arrangements with carriers to handle the service.

What this means, is that you can connect to any AlwaysOn WiFi hotspot around the world and make voice calls to anywhere in the world for a nominal fee. (We’ll be updating this story with pricing details as and when they’re released, so watch this space.

To make the calls, you will get 100MB of data a day and will be able to talk for an hour. You will also be issued with a 0870 number, which will be used to connect you to the voice service so that you can answers calls over the mobile network or WiFi – whichever you prefer.

The technology used that gives you the ability to make and receive calls over WiFi is called Hotspot 2, and uses 802.11u for automatic Wi-Fi authentication and handoff. What this means, is that the technology allows you to switch between networks (in this case mobile providers and WiFi) without having to go through additional authentication.

“While Hotspot 2.0 uses 802.11u as a fundamental building block, it extends beyond the 802.11u protocol to effectively automate the network discovery, registration, provisioning and access steps a Wi-Fi user must manually go through today when connecting to a given hotspot,” explained Steve Martin, VP of engineering, Ruckus Wireless.

In short, it means that if you get a call on your regular mobile network and then move into an AlwaysOn hotspot, the call will be automatically transferred to the WiFi network seamlessly.

[Image – CC by 2.0/Simon A]

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.