Cellphones were originally designed to make voice calls on the go.
As technology evolved, however, many modern smartphones will never make a traditional cellular voice call in their lifetime – thanks to apps like WhatsApp and Skype.
South Africa is not at this stage yet, though, and many local users still use cellular voice calls every day – despite it being exponentially cheaper to call someone via WhatsApp.
There are a few reasons for this – one of the most prevalent being that voice calls have become a default to many cellphone users.
Additionally, the quality of a VoIP call on platforms such as WhatsApp and Skype is not always great, frustrating users into using more traditional means.
To determine whether a shift from voice calls to VoIP will take place in South African, MyBroadband asked local mobile networks about the future of cellular calling.
MTN believes that standard voice calls are still highly relevant, noting that the decline of cellular calling users is becoming less prominent across Africa.
“Standard voice calling remains very relevant in the near future and will certainly continue to be part of the product mix,” said MTN.
“This can be attributed to appropriately bundled offers along with more personalised packages that are tailored to the needs of individual customers.”
MTN added that VoLTE, a new voice protocol that it launched in 2018, provides users “clearer, more natural calls and faster voice call connection time”.
This is achieved by transmitting calls through LTE networks.
Vodacom highlighted that cellular calls are able to be conducted between any two mobile phones in the world due to cellular voice calls being a global standard.
In contrast, said Vodacom, VoIP calls such as on WhatsApp are proprietary, meaning they are only possible with other users on the same platform.
Vodacom added that the quality of cellular calls is superior to that of packet-switched calls.
“Until all handsets are replaced with 4G or 5G smartphones, and the 4G and 5G networks have achieved the same network coverage as 2G, packet-switched calls will not replace standard voice calls or circuit-switched calls,” said Vodacom.
Vodacom believes that in an ideal world, all voice traffic would move to VoLTE, but this is unlikely to happen for many years due to the fact that most handsets currently do not support VoLTE.
“The benefit of a traditional call is you can call anyone on any network at any time – and you do not have to ensure the other party has a the same app downloaded and has data to accept a call,” said Cell C.
However, Cell C said “certain smartphones are integrating more into these OTT apps and allowing calling directly from the contact list.”
It said that other benefits provided by cellular calls include “proven quality and reliability”.
“This is closing as the technology and codecs being used by the VoIP operators improves continually,” said Cell C.
Regarding the future of cellular calls, Cell C acknowledged that voice calling is changing as people’s needs change, adding that “voice notes have become a type of voice call”.