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Facebook tests Wi-Fi calling, and voice app in Canada

Facebook (s fb) is testing a new calling feature on its Messenger iOS (s aapl) app in Canada that could push more voice communications away from the carriers and help drive adoption of over-the-top VoIP calling apps. The social networking giant will let Canadian users call their friends over a Wi-Fi connection, mimicking similar functionality from VoIP calling apps like GTalk (s goog)or Skype(s msft). It’s part of an update to Messenger that also allows users to record a voice message and send it over — something those of us with fat fingers and complex texts will appreciate.

Users outside of Canada (and those using Android) can receive the Wi-Fi call attempts calls as a push-to-talk messages, and it’s unclear if or when Facebook plans to offer Android users similar Wi-Fi calling functionality. I am not a big Facebook user, but I love VoIP on my handset, and use a variety of apps to communicate via my phone over Wi-Fi. As Wi-Fi networks become more prevalent, these options are easier than ever to use.

Unfortunately, many are likely to view this as yet another closed platform method of communications like Apple’s FaceTime. Luckily no one is demanding that I use Facebook as the sole means to communicate with them. The cool, but also annoying truth, about this service and the myriad other VoIP services out there, is that voice used to be the domain of the telcos and now it’s available to everyone. We’re in the initial flush of figuring out what that means, so we’re still dealing with conversations via IM or text that go something like this:

Me: wait, you have to explain that to me in a call. How did he say it?

Friend: Okay once sec, you want phone, Skype, Gtalk or FaceTime?

Me: Skype

But that will work itself out. What’s important now, is that voice is moving outside of the narrow confines and experiences of the telco network and that’s going to make things much more interesting. Even if Facebook calling doesn’t take off.

6 Responses to “Facebook tests Wi-Fi calling, and voice app in Canada”

  1. Igor Zavalishin

    Latest Facebook Messenger App update is really awesome. Voice messaging is exactly what we all waited for for so long. However there’s still one thing missing. Members of numerous Facebook Groups and Events don’t actually have a native tool for live voice conversations.

    We’re trying to change this with GroupVox app that brings live voice messaging to existing Facebook Groups and Events. It feels natural to send voice notes to communities you’re a part of, right from any iOS device, Android or using built-in web-based player on Facebook. All voice messages are stored on Group’s Timeline and can be played anytime.

    Check it out at Google Play and at AppStore. It’s free.
    https://www.facebook.com/GroupVox

  2. mark plakias

    Re the Skype play, Ironic scenario if this goes to UK, where since October Skype offers free WiFi through a network of small businesses who pay to provide it as an amenity to customer…..person walks into cafe orders a crumpet, logs into free Skype WiFi, makes free call thru FB…Q: who monetized THAT conversation? A: Skype.

  3. Stuart Crawford

    Good news for Facebook. Microsoft may have just missed the opportunity, however, I can see Skype winning on the Windows Phone platform, but that is just a small sliver of the users out there.

    Stuart Crawford
    MSP Coach
    403.260.9021

  4. This is coming faster than I expected. Skype may have missed their window once Facebook rolls this out widely. I’d be curious to know what the roadblocks are from the FCC and other governmental regulators in the US and abroad.

    The disruption potential here is…let’s just say it ranks up there pretty high.