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Fring - Free Mobile VoIP Calls

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What is Fring?:

Fring is a VoIP client (softphone) and service that allows free VoIP calls, chat sessions, instant messaging and other services over mobile devices and handsets. What makes the difference between Fring and most of the other VoIP software is that it is designed specifically for mobile phones, handsets and other portable devices. Fring offers all the benefits of a PC-based VoIP client, but on mobile phones.

How Free is Fring?:

Fring's software and service are both completely free. Consider the cost benefits of having a softphone like Skype on your computer. You would be able to make free calls to other people on the PC, but would have to pay small amounts for calls to mobile and landline phones. Fring gives free calls not only to people using PCs, but also to those using mobile phones.

Since you can make calls from your mobile phone to other mobile phones, you save a real lot on mobile communication. However, you need to convince your buddies to install Fring on their mobile devices as well. Since calls to PSTN have to be channelled through paid services, you will require paid services like SkypeOut, Gizmo or VoIPStunt to make calls to PSTN.

Eliminating the need to call PSTN, all calls are free; and the only thing you have to pay for is the data network services like 3G, GPRS, EDGE or Wi-Fi. A person using Fring optimally is likely to save more than 95% of what she would spend on traditional mobile communication. If Fring is used with free Wi-Fi in a hotspot somewhere, then the cost is nil.

What is required to use Fring? :

Let us look first at what is not required. You don't need a computer with headsets, or complex equipment like ATAs or (wireless) IP phones.

In terms of hardware, you need a 3G or smart mobile phone or handset. Most of 3G phones and smart phones of the most common manufacturers are compatible with Fring.

You also need to already have a data service (3G, GPRS or Wi-Fi) which you normally use with your smart phone. These services normally come with multimedia, mobile TV, video chat etc.

How Fring works?:

Fring is based on P2P technology and harnesses the power of data bandwidth to place and receive calls, without bearing the costs of acting as middleman between VoIP and PSTN. It uses purely data bandwidth to transmit voice.

Getting started is a breeze: download the application from www.fring.com and install it on your mobile device. Register for an account and start communicating.

Brief specifications :

  • Free calls using 3G, EGDE, GPRS and Wi-Fi technologies on mobile phones.
  • Works with other voice applications, including Skype, MSN Messenger, ICQ, GoogleTalk, SIP andn Twitter.
  • Free calls to PCs and mobile phones.
  • Cheap calls to PSTN using services like SkypeOut, Gizmo, VoIpStunt etc.
  • Works on most smart phones.
  • Auto-roams on Wi-Fi hotspots.

My opinion on using Fring:

The first thought should be given to the cost. While the Fring service in itself is completely free, using it might not be so. You will need to have a data network service like 3G or GPRS, which is normally paid service. It comes back to the same as with PC-based softphones - you have to pay for internet service. Now, if you are a regular 3G or GPRS user, then there is no reason not to use Fring, since you will be paying for the service anyway; you will thus be benefitting from mobile communication at no additional cost. But even if you are to sign in for a data network service only to be able to use Fring, it would result in considrable savings on mobile communication.

Whether to use Fring is also subject to the mobile device you have. If you use a simple mobile phone without 3G or GPRS functionality, you can't use Fring. Now, some simple phones have only GPRS, making them usable with Fring, but GPRS is around four times slower than 3G, so quality might suffer. Would you invest on an expensive 3G phone and service for Fring (or for free)? Maybe most of you who don't already own a smart phone will say no, but for some, the investment might be much worth it. If you spend a lot on mobile communication, then Fring can be an intelligent thing to buy hardware for.

Feature-wise, Fring is rich enough to give a nice experience. I find the best one to be the interoperability with other services like Skype, MSN Messenger, ICQ, GoogleTalk, Gizmo, VoIpStunt, Twitter etc. The Fring software can also autoconfigure whenever a Wi-Fi hotspot is detected in range, making roaming seamless.

For call quality, the main factors are roughly the same as for other applications like Skype: the P2P network, bandwidth and processor power. If you have these right, I can't see why you will complain.

Bottom line: If you already have a smart phone with 3G or GPRS service, it is worth giving Fring a try. If you don't, estimate how much you will save depending on your mobile communication needs, and decide whether it is worth investing on a smart phone and data network service.

Fring site: www.fring.com

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