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Former Mobivox founder Eric Reiher quietly launched TriBair back in January. The concept is rather simple. Marry up free calling with WiFi. Ok, nothing exactly new as Truphone and Gizmo both debuted that way years ago, and initially the news came at a time when I was too busy with CES to think about it more deeply. Then came my L-O-N-G, V-E-R-Y L-O-N-G trip that started in MIami at IT Expo and now has me in my fourth country in three weeks, and with a few more weeks of travel what Eric told me about is now gaining traction in my mind because I'm seeing how it works first hand in a limited manner from others via FON and their partners.
In the fast I've possibly unfairly dismissed FON, the hotspot network, but now some years later as the FON technology has found it's way into broadband providers networks in France and elsewhere as a way of sharing access as friends who go from house to house, and to others who don't even know one another, I've come to recognize the genius of the idea. And, with Tribair, so has Eric.
When you look at what Cablevision, Comcast and TimeWarner are doing with shared Wi-Fi access, their model provides their customers with the ability to "roam" from hotspot to hotspot, now public only, as if their customers are home. SFR/Neuf in France provides the same concept, but each customer of a NEUFBox, and I would suspect the same from Free.tv exists, can turn on their SFR WiFi Hotspot thus making their hotspot accessible to SFR mobile and 3G data subscribers, who have smartphone or WiFi laptops.
The idea is simple. You install a Tribair client, find a hotspot and make free calls to other TriBair subscribers or for low rates to others.. In alot of ways this is as much like what Skype Access does with Boingo, but for free. And if the FON model of sharing between carriers and between their customers can keep growing, then Tribair has more than a shot at being successful, especially in light of T-Mobile's statistics which shows how many of their customers use their mobiles to make calls over Wi-Fi.
One page out of the FON manual that Eric has taken is the friend's connectivity idea. You can add your own Wi-Fi hotspot to the list and that lets others make calls for free too. While initially something I didn't pay attention to, having now looked at the model from afar, I like what I'm seeing more and more with Tribair, so give it a TRI.