The use of mobile VoIP is undoubtedly on the rise, with the number of OTT mobile VoIP subscribers surging by 550 percent in 2012 worldwide to hit 640 million. Of course, most of these users tend to opt for Wi-Fi networks — understandably so with the cost of mobile data these days — but that doesn't mean VoLTE is out of the picture; on the contrary, Infonetic Research expects that there will be eight million VoLTE subscribers by the end of 2013.
With these numbers in mind, it's clear that VoLTE is still on the verge of breaking out, but new innovations arrive each day to bring the technology to the mainstream. In fact, mobile start-up TextNow recently went beyond its OTT texting app with the release of a mobile service built entirely around IP communications.
As a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), TextNow is now selling refurbished versions of the Samsung (News - Alert) Galaxy S II and the Nexus S with standard phone features disabled. Instead, these devices rely on TextNow's voice and texting app, enabling users to place VoIP calls and send IP SMS messages just as with a normal mobile phone.
All of TextNow's traffic is handled by the Sprint (News - Alert) network, but since the MNVO doesn't have to buy bulk minutes and messages from its carrier partner, all traffic is sent over Sprint's 3G data network. For the customer, this equates to much lower pricing.
Indeed, for only $19 per month, TextNow provides 500 MB of data use, unlimited texting, unlimited inbound calls and 750 minutes of outbound calling. Subscribers are given standard telephone numbers, making the service appear as normal to standard phone users, but calls to other TextNow users are completely free.
There are a few unanswered questions as to how this all works. For example, will excessive VoLTE calling eat into a subscriber's 500 MB of monthly data, or is browsing and downloading counted as separate? That said, since the service is aimed at younger, more casual users, it's unlikely an answer either way would make much difference.
Meanwhile, Kevin Fitchard over at Gigaom reported that calls placed with a TextNow Galaxy S II over Sprint WiMAX (News - Alert) sounds just as good as a normal mobile call, while texting was just as fast. He did note, however, that the setup time for connecting calls over 3G is noticeably longer.
Edited by Blaise McNamee