Tesco has started extending its VoIP service, Tesco Internet Phone, onto mobiles, offering Wi-Fi capable handsets the chance to make free calls to other Tesco customers.
Tesco's existing service is a pretty-standard VoIP operation, and is handled by Freshtel, the Australian VoIP specialist with a PC client. Freshtel are also providing the S60 client for the mobile version.
Putting VoIP onto a S60 phone isn't hard - the handsets generally come with a SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) stack so the downloaded application is generally more about getting the right settings onto the phone than enabling it to use VoIP (though it may also provide branding and other capabilities).
Tesco are limiting the trial to four Nokia handsets, the N95, N81, E65 and E51, none of which are available to customers of Tesco Mobile as the MVNO is aimed at the lower end of the market. One of the problems with mobile VoIP is that those most interested in saving pennies on their phone calls don't tend to have Wi-Fi-enabled handsets.
One feature Tesco can offer is close integration with the mobile network, so the existing mobile phone number can be used with the VoIP service, in contrast to other systems which require a separate number to be issued.
Mobile VoIP works great, when connected to Wi-Fi, but it's becoming increasingly complicated for the user to decide which network to use. Having VoIP integrated in the handset, as on the S60 platform, makes things easier as simply hitting the green key connects over VoIP if it's available. But with separate providers and bundled packages, using VoIP might not always be the cheapest option.
Having a single provider of both services makes a lot more sense, and hopefully that's what Tesco, and Freshtel, will be able to offer once they complete their trials. ®