Spanish mobile network operator Telefónica has unveiled a voice-over IP application that will allow users to make telephone calls, send messages and other data for free.
TU Me will initiatlly be available to iPhone users that are on any of Telefónica’s mobile networks, including O2 in the UK. However, the company says that an Android version will be available soon, and that eventually customers of other networks will be able to use it.
The system records call history, contacts and previous messages online, rather than locally on the device. Unlike popular, Microsoft-owned VoIP service Skype, TU Me will work with the user’s existing telephone number. However, it also differs from Skype in that it cannot call landlines.
The app addresses a problem faced by mobile network operators, that users are increasingly using their data allowance to communicate through applications such as WhatsApp and Viber, rather than the traditional call and text packages. A recent report from technology analyst firm Ovum found that mobile networks lost 9% of their SMS revenue in 2011, nearly $14 billion, due to this trend.
"We’ve seen the growing popularity of communications apps on smartphones, but we believe we’ve gone one better with TU Me using our knowledge and insights of how people use their devices," said Stephen Shurrock, chief commercial officer at Telefónica Digital.