Vonage, the respectable face of VoIP, has launched a mobile client allowing iPhone and Android users to make VoIP calls for free, as long as they’re calling a Facebook friend.
The application, which is appearing now on iTunes and the Android Marketplace, lists those Facebook contacts who also have the application installed (and can thus be called for free) and those who haven’t (with whom communication is limited to messaging). Vonage tells us that both forms of communication work over 3G connections "in most countries".
Vonage started offering VoIP almost a decade ago, and supplies customers with routers that feature a standard telephone socket into which customers can plug their existing handsets. But despite having a significant customer base the company has been eclipsed by Skype and its brethren, which can run even cheaper services by utilising the processing power of customers’ computers.
Thus this offering, which is basically about getting the Vonage brand into the public eye again and putting a toe into the mobile VoIP water. The equally-free Fring offers much the same capabilities, with video calling and support for various messaging platforms as well.
What’s surprising is that Vonage hasn’t integrated the service with its domestic offering: one can imagine taking a Vonage number on the road to make and receive calls just like at home. Perhaps that’s what the company has in mind when it says “we will expand on this service to include a wide range of integrated voice and messaging services that change the way people communicate”.
Such an offering would really annoy the mobile network operators, which need that by-the-minute voice revenue to pay for the networks. But that’s not Vonage’s problem - at least not yet. ®