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Singapore startup develops mobile app that enables free calls

Zafirah Salim | Aug. 5, 2014
Called “nanu”, the app inserts an unobtrusive advert to play over the dial tone; and revenue from the advert is used to make the calls free.

Singapore-based startup, Gentay Communicatons, recently launched a mobile application called "nanu" that allows users to make free calls, including those made to non-nanu users and even landlines.

However, mobile calls to landlines are free for only 15 minutes-limited to the first one million users-and can be used in 73 global destinations, including Singapore, China, India, the UK and the US. On the other hand, calls made to non-nanu users are free only in nine countries, including Singapore, India, Thailand, Germany and the US.

Gentay explains that such free calls are made possible thanks to its proprietary mobile advertising technology. When a user makes a call via nanu, the dial tone is replaced with a short, unobtrusive audio advertisement; and revenue from the advertisers is what pays for the cost of the calls.

Martin Nygate, the company's chief executive officer, told The Business Times (BT) that this revenue model, though solely dependent on advertising, is sustainable because being on mobile allows advertisers to track the geo-location of nanu users and target their advertisements accordingly, making it an attractive model for them.

This call-for-free feature is apparently not the only thing that makes nanu "revolutionary". Unlike existing web or mobile apps that enable free calls such as Skype, Viber and Line, Gentay claims that nanu does not need a fast network. Instead, it works fine on 2G and congested networks.

According to the same BT report (dated August 5, 2014), the startup is currently in talks with clients like Nestle, KFC and HTC, and aims to inject 97 percent of its advertising revenue back into the system in the form of free calls for users.

"Telcos have been exploiting the cost of calls for years by charging high roaming charges. nanu wants to change this as we believe keeping in touch should be made as easy as possible," said Nygate.

He added that Gentay has had discussions with global telcos that have expressed interest in licensing nanu's technology, but it has decided to directly offer the app for free to users instead. Nonetheless, it expects to work with telcos to ensure a win-win value proposition for all. After all, nanu-a VoIP service like Skype and Viber-requires a telco's infrastructure, mobile data or WiFi to work.

nanu is a free mobile app, and is available for download on Android mobile platforms. It will be supported on iOS, Windows, and other mobile operating systems later this year.


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