Genband acquires fring to help mobile operators battle OTT threat

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Multimedia and cloud communications firm Genband has acquired over-the-top mobile IP communications service fring, a move that expands the Genband portfolio into the consumer market. Financial details were not disclosed, although a source told Reuters the purchase price was $50 million.

Fring enables consumers to initiate free voice calls, video calls, live chats and text messages over any Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G or LTE connection and across all major smartphone platforms, including Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. Fring also offers low-cost calls to feature phones and landlines, selling fringOut credits available as in-app purchases.

Genband supplies white-label multimedia voice, data, video, and fixed-mobile unified communications applications to more than 700 service provider partners across the globe. The company said it will integrate fring's consumer multimedia IP platform to allow operators and MVNOs to offer over-the-top mobile group video chat, two-way video chat, voice-only calls and text chat services designed to combat threats posed by OTT messaging startups like WhatsApp, Kik Messenger and Viber.

Genband contends that operator services bolstered by fring functionality will deliver a superior user experience compared to offerings from independent OTT apps, enabling seamless call routing between wireless and IP networks and allowing consumers to initiate or receive calls on any mobile device from any location. Genband adds that providers can also leverage their existing subscriber billing relationships to support fringOut credits purchases.

The rapid growth of dedicated OTT apps poses major challenges to conventional carrier messaging services. Consumers across the globe will send 41 billion over-the-top mobile messages per day by the end of 2013, compared to an average of 19.5 billion peer-to-peer SMS, according to a recent forecast issued by research firm Informa. OTT traffic has already eclipsed SMS in terms of daily messaging volume: Consumers sent an average of 19.1 billion OTT messages per day in 2012, compared to 17.6 billion messages via SMS.

For more:
- read this release
- read this Reuters article

Related articles:
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Report: 72 percent of users now use multiple messaging services
Forecast: OTT messaging traffic will double SMS volume by year's end
Forecast: SMS will dominate messaging revenues through 2016

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