By Chris Nicholls

SYDNEY: Internet telephony company Freshtel Holdings has announced it will roll out its WiFi mobile phone software in the UK in Q1 next year.

The software will allow Nokia N95, N80 and E65 users to download a program that will give them access to cheap call rates as long as they are in a WiFi area. The system will run on a pre-paid credit system and users can keep their existing number and any calls placed will show the user’s original mobile number.

While only three phones were listed initially, Freshtel’s chief technology officer John McMullen said the program will work on forthcoming WiFi enabled handsets as well.

Freshtel will sell the software through their existing UK internet phone partner Tesco. Customers will be able to trial the software before purchase.

Chief executive Rhonda O’Donnell said the product’s integration into their current non-mobile internet phone network meant the application would automatically configure the mobile handset to place a call over the Freshtel network when WiFi was available.

“Users don’t need to worry about which network they’re calling on or having a separate phone number for the internet phone – it’s totally seamless.  Users can simply call as they always have and automatically receive cheaper than traditional landline rates when WiFi is available,” she said.

However, unlike T-Mobile’s Hotspot@Home system in the US, which switches seamlessly between the home WiFi network and T-Mobile’s national voice network, Freshtel’s network relies on the user being within a WiFi area to continue the call.

However, McMullen said one survey conducted stated 62 per cent of 200 people surveyed used their mobile phones at home or at work, with 76 per cent when the survey included Gen Y respondents.

He also said British Telecom research in the UK found only one per cent of users of BT product similar to T-Mobile’s used the switch from WiFi to GSM feature.

McMullen said even if the product was sold through JB Hi-Fi in Australia, he did not see a problem with selling the software, despite JB’s current agreement to sell phones on the Telstra network.

He said the company’s future goal was to sell their software to network providers so they would sell it themselves.