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Nanu nanu! Mork calling Orson on VoIP over 2G

Another player tries to crack free VoIP over mobile data

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A Singaporean outfit called Gentay Communications has launched “nanu”, an ad-funded VoIP-over-mobile-data service it says will succeed where others have failed.

Ad-funded phone calls are an old idea, but have hardly ever met with success. Last March, for example, free mobile network operator Ovivo went titsup.

Gentay's founder Martin Nygate thinks he can avoid that fate thanks to two factors.

The first is that termination rates – the price telcos pay to have a call pop out on a landline – have plummeted. “Termination rates to 55 per cent of the world's pop are one cent or below,” Nygate told The Reg. At that rate, Nygate thinks he can find sufficient advertising to cover costs.

The company's second secret weapon is proprietary compression technology that Nygate says means nanu calls require a bit-rate of just 11kbps, compared to sixty-odd for Skype and forty-something for Viber. The VoIP-over-mobile-data experience is poor at those bit rates, Nygate says, which retards adoption. But at 11kbps he feels nanu will perform well on 3G networks and even work on 2G networks.

So slim are the service's bandwidth requirements Nygate said it currently has servers in Singapore alone, a choice he says doesn't create latency-related problems.

Indonesia and the Philippines are nanu's first targets, and as the service's Android app happily runs on Froyo, aka Android 2.2 it will find a home on the kind of US$30 Androids prevalent in such nations. Gentay promises versions for the iPhone and “other smart and feature phones” in the future. If that statement includes BlackBerry it will help in Indonesia, as it is one of the Canadian company's last redoubts.

Nygate hopes to win users around the world, too, with 15 minutes of free nanu-to-landline minutes thrown in for the first million subscribers. Nanu-to-nanu calls are free and Nygate promises they always will be.

The nanu app asks for a laundry list of permissions, including peering at Contacts, device ID and call information and more. Readers won't therefore be surprised to lear that advertising, not paid calls, is the main game. Nygate feels that a global community of opted-in users who can be identified by location will represent a honeypot over which advertisers will slaver. ®

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