Communication service providers have long been grappling with whether to partner with or compete against over-the-top communications apps, but they now have a third option from Genband.
The networking vendor has acquired fringland Ltd. for an undisclosed sum. You might have heard of the startup for its two-way mobile video chat service that worked across any device and over cellular long before Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s FaceTime did, but the service also includes VoIP calls and texting. (See Fring Punches AT&T in the FaceTime and Fring Brings Group Video Chat to iPads.)
Genband plans to add fring to its portfolio of communications services, which also include cloud communications, 4G voice, and WebRTC. CEO David Walsh, Genband's former chairman who took over the CEO slot from Charlie Vogt in June, says its goal is to give CSPs access to any possible communications method they might need to support. (See Genband CEO Quits, Joins Harris Broadcast and What's Next for Genband?)
"We want to be in a position that no matter where the real-time communications originates from, we have a solution for our carriers and handle multiple traffic types," Walsh says.
Genband will now offer fring to its 700-deep service provider customer base to white label and offer as their own. The company suggests it will be particularly valuable to fixed operators and cable companies looking for a mobile play or for mobile operators wanting to offer a cheaper roaming alternative.
For fring, the acquisition gives it a global reach and combines it with operators' billing, quality of service, and seamless routing mechanisms. In addition, Walsh says that Genband will continue to support fring's 40 million existing customers on its consumer platform.
A consumer mobile app might seem like a strange acquisition for a company that's long focused on the traditional fixed telecommunications space, but Walsh says it already has this type of offering on the enterprise front with its NUViA white-label Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) offering. This acquisition adds a consumer element to its offering. (See Genband Constructs Cloud-Based UC Service.)
"Our game plan with fring is less about building over-the-top; it's more about building a software, cloud-based technical platform for our customers to offer OTT services," he says.
As to why fring in particular, and not one of its competitors like WhatsApp, or Viber, Walsh, a former private equity man, says most of these OTT players weren't for sale since they're too busy trying to steal CSP customers -- successfully, too, in some cases. Genband's expectation is that if CSPs aren't already cooking up OTT alternatives to remain relevant, they soon will be. And, it wants to be the name that comes to mind when they're ready to make a move.
"What we hear, talking to carriers and analysts, it seems like most carriers, MVNOs and cable operators are going to make a decision over the next 12 to 18 months," Walsh says. "We want to be in a position to be the solution when carriers start to move. We can get you into OTT and help you craft a product or service immediately."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading