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September 13, 2013

GENBAND Goes Buying Again with Purchase of fring VoIP Service

GENBAND announced this week that it has acquired Israel-based fring, a provider of over-the-top (OTT) mobile communications services. The acquisition of fring expands GENBAND's cloud services portfolio for the consumer market and enables it to offer fring's OTT white label service to MVNOs and service providers. It is also the latest move of GENBAND's – and the IP communications industry at large – to move from a product to a services-based company.

fring provides a white-label, soft-client-based service for voice calls, text chat, two-way video chat and mobile group video chat. According to GENBAND executive vice president and chief marketing officer Brad Bush, fring has around 40 million consumer voice subscribers, as well as an OTT offering pre-tailored to plug into carrier networks. 

It's the OTT offering that brought in GENBAND. "We feel we can help carriers leverage into their existing customers against OTT threats they see in their existing base," Bush said in a telephone interview this week. He also said a major carrier announcement was in the works.

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The fring service is engineered to enable a service provider to easily bring in an OTT solution into a service provider's billing system -- a big feature, given the complexity of OSS/BSS systems in the back office. GENBAND will offer fring to its customer base of over 700 service providers as a part of its growing portfolio of services.

WebRTC is also part of the equation. Unlike other OTT philosophies, fring has discussed with carriers how its offering has a roadmap to evolve into an RCS-complaint service. Most OTT services and solutions are positioned as stand-alone offerings and have done little to discuss how their services might integrate or migrate to RCS should the need arrive. GENBAND already provides a WebRTC gateway to VoIP services, so it already has a solution for moving between fring and WebRTC if the need arises.

Buying fring may also signal a more active acquisition strategy for the company. The company conducted a number of acquisitions between 2006 and 2011, with the biggest one being Nortel Networks Carrier VoIP and applications solutions division.   CEO-at-the-time Charlie Vogt said integration of Nortel services with GENBAND would take a while, with the pace of purchases on hold. 

Finally, acquisition of fring and promotion of the acquisition is a strong indicator that GENBAND is now back in buying mode.

"Under [CEO and Chairman] David Walsh, GENBAND will continue our path of acquisitions and I think this is the type of direction it will take," Bush said. "Nothing is off-limits. We're looking at everything."

Edited by Alisen Downey

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