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Genband Rings Up Fring

Genband, a top supplier of VoIP gear and software to the cable industry, has acquired fring, a provider of over-the-top mobile IP communications services that hook into major smartphone platforms.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Genband said it will use the acquisition of Israel-based fring to expand its white-label cloud offering for service providers with OTT mobile voice, video and chat capabilities. Genband anticipates that this mix will empower cable operators and other service provider to complement their traditional voice services with branded OTT apps that compete with services such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber.  Reuters reported that Genband paid $50 million to land fring, citing an unnamed market source.

“Of all the voice segments, the OTT segment is growing the fastest,” said Genband CEO David Walsh. “When you’re Genband and the core of what you do is voice, you can’t afford to ignore the fastest-growing segment of the market.”

And, he said, carriers likewise can’t afford to sit on the sidelines and let OTT voice take over their traffic. Instead, they can build complementary OTT voice services of their own that provide a higher quality of service than over-the-top competitors. Some examples have already emerged. Comcast, one of Genband's customers, has already deployed Voice2Go, a complementary app that lets its traditional residential VoIP customers place free calls over Wi-Fi.

Walsh said the fring integration could play a big role as cable operators develop OTT voice apps that can run on their rapidly growing Wi-Fi networks. “They [the cable operators] want people to use their Wi-Fi hotspots and apps that will drive people to want to subscribe.”

Genband, which ramped up its cable market position via the acquisitions of Cedar Point Communications and the VoIP unit of Nortel Networks, counts Comcast, Liberty Global, Charter Communications, Kabel Deutschland, Shaw Communications, Videotron, Rogers Communications and Cox Communications among its cable operator customers.