O2 launches VoIP over wifi trial in UK

UK mobile operator O2 is trialling a VoIP technology offering to a to select group of customers. O2 Connect will allow smartphone users to use voice and text services over wifi networks from their normal mobile number to any UK mobile or landline number.

O2 Connect will initially be available on all iOS and Android handsets and will subsequently roll out to other devices.

“This trial will allow us to explore the potential of delivering VoIP services to customers. We hope to launch O2 Connect as a commercial service in 2012.” explained Richard Porter, head of consumer mobile products, O2 in the UK.

A group of 1,000 people will be able to take part in the trial, initially for free, to assess how the service can be deployed to customers as well as participating in the development of new features.

The company said that the service has benefits over existing services such as Skype as it doesn’t require the user to set up a separate account or ID, and they can use their existing phone number instead. In addition, users are not restricted to communicating only with other users of the service, but can call and text anybody with a normal UK mobile or landline number.

The trial will commence in October 2011 by invitation only and will include O2 consumer and business customers. The trial will also be extended to attendees at Wired 2011. The operator said that it will monitor how customers use O2 Connect before deciding the pricing structure of a finished version of the service.

“We see O2 Connect as part of an overall communications offering from O2,” said an O2 spokesperson. “By offering enhanced communication features we anticipate that we will attract new customers and improve the experience for existing customers, driving an increase customer satisfaction.  We anticipate that in a commercial product, some parts of the O2 Connect service will be included within existing pricing; others will be sold as extras.”

The service is the latest in a series of developments from O2 Labs. O2 Labs aims to introduce new services in different ways, with extensive beta testing and involvement of customers in the product development process.

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