Data-only the future for smartphones

  • Breaking
  • 20/06/2013

Using only data on your smartphone could be the way of the future, as making calls over the internet becomes more popular.

There are more than 1000 free voice over internet (VoIP) apps available on the New Zealand Apple App Store, which allow people to make phone calls using data rather than the minutes on their phone plan.

Now New Zealand internet provider Orcon has launched their own VoIP app, Genius Go, which not only allows app users to call each other for free, it also allows Orcon broadband customers to use their smartphone as their home phone.

People using the Orcon system will have little use for separate calling minutes on their phone plan, as all calling can be done using their 3G data.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen says it looks like separated calling minutes and data plans may not be needed soon.

"The way forward is going to be all data," he says.

But he says use of data, rather than phone plan minutes, could be dire for New Zealand mobile network providers as they currently rely on voice calls to make their money.

"It's going to be interesting to see how the big telcos respond… They're going to have to think hard about massive restructuring of their businesses."

Network provider 2degrees says it has already noticed an increase in data use among its customers.

"This year alone data usage on our network has almost tripled compared to the same time last year," chief of marketing Malcolm Phillips says.

But 2degrees has not seen a decline in use of voice and text messaging services.

Vodafone head of mobile Zac Summers says they are also seeing increases in data usage, as well as an increase in voice usage from customers on plans.

"We've seen data volumes on our network quadruple over the past two years."

Mr Summers says US research predicts data use to grow tenfold in the next five years.

Network providers are already catering to customers' needs by offering some data-only plans, although these are primarily aimed at tablets rather than smartphones.

Telecom says their data-only plans are mainly used for tablets, but "a customer could use the data-only packages on a smart phone if they wanted to".

Using only data could mean significant cost savings for customers, especially if they are using a wireless home or office internet connection to make some of their VoIP calls.

And even if people do need to use 3G data to make VoIP calls it is not expensive – the Orcon Genius Go app only uses 2MB of data per 5 minute call, which means just 200MB of data would give you 500 minutes of calling to anywhere in the world.

Right now the only drawbacks for free VoIP calls on smartphones are that your friends need to have the same app as you to receive a free call – if the person you want to call doesn't have a VoIP app there will likely be other costs, and you always need a 3G or wireless broadband connection.

Data-only plans:

2 Degrees - $20 for 1GB, $50 for 3 GB, $99 for 12GB

Vodafone - $10 for 512MB, $50 for 2GB

Telecom - $30 for 750MB, $60 for 2GB, $80 for 4GB

Skinny Mobile - $4 for 200MB

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source: newshub archive