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Fring-Skype iPhone slanging match: Telcos v freetards

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Analysis P2P VoIP network Skype and client developer Fring have engaged in an epic slanging match after Fring's implementation of mobile-data video calling on the iPhone appeared to result in its ousting from Skype.

At present Apple's own software only allows video calling on the iPhone 4 - the first iPhone to feature a user-facing cam - via the phone's Wi-Fi connection to another iPhone 4. This generally ensures decent call quality; it also placates the mobile networks, who are already struggling to deal with the surge in mobe-data demand precipitated by Apple phones (and to a lesser extent, other smartphones).

Fring's app allows video calling between most smartphones over 3G mobile links as well. However, Fring makes use of other VoIP and IM networks - in particular, of Skype - to actually let its users get in touch with each other, rather as some apps will integrate different IM networks.

Fring, having made it feasible for iPhone users to place video calls via their phones' mobile data radios and tariffs, apparently struggled initially with demand on their own equipment and briefly removed Skype functionality delivered via Skype's API. When they tried to restore it, however, they say that it was found to be blocked from Skype's end.

Fring personnel wrote on a company blog:

Now that fring expanded capacity to support the huge demand for video calling for all users, Skype has blocked us from doing so.

They are afraid of open mobile communication. Cowards.

Skype responded, saying:

An hour or so ago, Fring reported on their blog that we had blocked their access to Skype. I want to make one thing absolutely clear: this is untrue.

Fring was using Skype software in a way it wasn’t designed to be used – and in a way which is in breach of Skype’s API Terms of Use and End User License Agreement. We’ve been talking with Fring for some time to try to resolve this amicably...

Fring’s mis-use of our software was increasingly damaging our brand and reputation with our customers.

Skype built its huge user base by offering free client-to-client calls: most of the costs of this are met by the users, as Skype's peer-to-peer network exploits bandwidth and processor resources from selected user systems ("supernodes") to run itself.

The firm has sought to make money by connecting ordinary phones to the Skype P2P cloud via cheap local calls, allowing ordinary phone users to pay Skype a small sum and get long-distance service which would normally be expensive.

This approach led to much criticism from telcos, who argued that Skype and its users were in effect benefiting from their networks without paying for them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Skype at first suffered many problems with its paid-for SkypeIn and SkypeOut normal-phone connections, which naturally had to be bought in from telcos.

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