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Fring brings Skype and Symbian together

Google Talk also invited to party

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Just as Skype declares that the market isn't right for a mobile client, Fring releases one which works seamlessly with its service.

Fring is free to download and provides mobile users with access to its Skype and Google Talk accounts over 3G or Wi-Fi networks.

Quite why Fring has been able to do what Skype has found so difficult remains open to question. The provision of a Fring server; acting as a proxy between the Skype network and the mobile user, may go some way towards explaining: the Fring client doesn't need to support the Skype protocol.

Several other companies have produced Symbian VoIP clients, but Fring differs in offering interoperability with other networks, necessitating a different business model.

Most VoIP providers make money by selling outside-network minutes and additional services: calls to anyone within that network are free, but outside calls are charged for at a cheap rate. But Fring doesn't run the network, it simply provides access to Skype or Google Talk (or both), so when a Skype user calls a non-Skype user, using SkypeOut, they pay Skype, rather than Fring.

Fring may yet sell its own minutes, but the intention is to be a conduit allowing customers access to various services (such as conference calling or voice mail) and, hopefully, charging a percentage for those services. The emphasis is on allowing customers to select from a range of service providers, for each aspect of their telephony requirements, rather than choosing a telephony provider on the basis of the services they offer.

Fring also intends to make money by reducing the termination fee network operators pay each other when routing calls. When a caller from Vodafone calls someone on Orange then Vodafone pays Orange a fee for every minute that call lasts, this is known as the termination fee. Fring will offer a service to Vodafone to intercept those calls and, if the person being called is running a Fring client, route the call over the Fring connection. This means Vodafone doesn't have to pay any termination fee to Orange, reducing call costs further.

Of course, Fring has yet to sign any such contracts, and for the moment the service is being run for free while it sorts that out or finds an alternative business model. But if you're looking for Skype on your Series 60 handset, Fring is a good way to go. ®

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