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Freshtel plans Aussie mobile VoIP

Australian start-up Freshtel today said it expected to launch a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service for mobile phone users locally within weeks, after a successful trial of its dual-mode technology with UK mega-retailer Tesco.
Written by Brett Winterford, Contributor on

Australian start-up Freshtel today said it expected to launch a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service for mobile phone users locally within weeks, after a successful trial of its dual-mode technology with UK mega-retailer Tesco.

odonnell.jpg

Freshtel CEO
Rhonda O'Donnell

(Credit: Freshtel)

After many months of testing, Tesco's telecommunications arm Tesco Telecoms has launched a service that allows owners of approved Nokia dual-mode mobile handsets to make cheap internet calls when within the boundaries of a Wi-Fi network.

The Tesco Talk Wi-fi service, developed by Freshtel, can be launched via a simple SMS message and offers any UK mobile phone user 10p per minute calls to mobiles, with landline calls, including international numbers, as low as 2p per minute: so long as the user is connected within a Wi-Fi network.

Freshtel CEO Rhonda O'Donnell said the Tesco deal was similar to a large wholesale technology deal due to be announced in Australia "very, very shortly".

"We do see [Australian] retailers are starting to head down this path," she said. "They are already selling prepaid cards and we've wanted to talk to them in terms of doing what Tesco has done. I can assure you, you'll be hearing from us very soon."

Freshtel product manager Greg Snow said the service worked on any mobile network, but to date only functioned on a limited number of Nokia dual-mode handsets (the Nokia N81, N95, E65 and E51).

"We have a roadmap to support a wide range of popular handsets," he said. "Nokia is the manufacturer we are first to market with, but we are now targeting other handsets and will be making announcements to that effect before the end of the year."

Calls made via a Wi-Fi network are charged to the user separately to the bill they receive from their regular mobile carrier.

"When you fall outside the Wi-Fi zone, the phone falls back on your regular GSM or 3G service," Snow explained. "But in the near future we'll be supporting 3G as an extension of Wi-Fi, so the areas you can use it in will be far greater. If you look at most 3G plans, you can get a couple of gig[abyte]s at a very low cost."

The service was far more attractive to prepaid mobile users. Prepaid subscribers, Snow said, could expect savings on international calls as high as 40-60 per cent. But he admitted that post-paid subscribers with usage caps could find the service achieved negligible cost savings.

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