Optus ends reception woes with WiFi calling

If reception woes are a real drama where you live, a neato solution by Optus involving WiFi could just make your night.

There are places in this country that have no mobile reception at all. We know because we’ve lived in them, and short of setting up some gadget trickery with femtocells, there may not be much of an option to get this working.

Optus, however, has been dabbling with something that could do the job, playing with an idea that it is rolling out across its network to both prepaid and postpaid customers in Australia.

The concept is called “WiFi Talk” and allows Optus customers to receive phone calls via a free app, which is being rolled out to iPhone and Android customers this week.

“WiFi Talk is an innovative solution to help customers stay connected easily if mobile coverage is limited indoors, whether at home, in the office, or even in places such as shopping centres,” said Amanda Hutton, Vice President of Customer Experience and Delivery at Optus.

“The app is simple and easy to use,” said Hutton, adding that “unlike traditional WiFi calling applications, it uses your existing Optus mobile number when people call or text you, and they don’t need the app or have to do anything differently.”

This reliance on an Optus phone number found on the SIM card means that if you have little to no mobile reception and you’re within range of a wireless network you can use — say at home, in the office, or with a public WiFi hotspot that you trust — you can actually make and receive calls without worrying that the mobile reception will be so bad you’ll be forced to drop the call.

The WiFi Talk app does need to be installed and running to make this technology work, but you’ll find once that has been setup, calls can be made using the app using either the keypad, call history, or contact list on the phone inside the app, with texts able to be handled through the WiFi Talk app, too.


There are some notes we need to point out to make this work, and the important one is that the WiFi Talk app won’t work if you don’t have a voice-enabled SIM. This means an Optus plan — prepaid or postpaid — won’t work using this system if it was purchased for data only, such as the sort you might look into if you have bought a tablet for web surfing or social networking.

Essentially, WiFi Talk needs a mobile phone number to make this system work, so if you don’t have one of these, the system won’t work at all.

You also need to be on the mobile network for the app to register at all, for the app to work. If the reception is so bad that you have lost connection altogether, the WiFi Talk app simply won’t engage at all, so you still need something — a bar of access — in order to make this work.

Once you have that magical minimal bar and you’re connected to a WiFi network with access to the web, the app will let you communicate, but only at that point.

“WiFi Talk is a simple way for Optus customers to stay connected where they have access to a WiFi connection,” said Hutton.

“This is the first of many exciting developments for Optus in the WiFi calling space.”

Optus customers should be able to access this service from this week, with the app existing on iOS (Apple iPhone) and Google Android. We’re checking to find out whether Windows Phone customers will receive the app, though knowing the current Windows Phone ecosystem, we’re pretty sure we already know the answer.