back to article Custom ringback tones: Coming to your next contract mobe?

Ringback tones, which replace the ringing tone one hears while waiting for a phonecall to be connected, are about to explode back into fashion, if vendor OnMobile is to be believed. Technically speaking, ringback tones (RBTs) are trivial to implement. The "brrr brrr" (or "brrrrrrr" in some countries) one hears while waiting …


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  1. Test Man

    T-Mobile spun out the system years ago - it's called Ringtagz ( and works on all the major mobile networks.

    OnMobile are therefore simply treading down an already-long-worn path.

  2. JDX Gold badge

    So if I call Subway it will instead of "ring ring" go "eat fresh" over and over and over and over?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "So if I call Subway it will instead of "ring ring" go "eat fresh" "

      That depends. RBT could presumably be paid by the organisation that the call is for, in which case they pay and they choose. Or you could pay and have your choice. But don't forget the companies already have this option at no cost by having your call automatically answered and playing their own recorded message. Usually this pseudo RBT is bad music and intermittent honey tongued lies about how valuable your call is to them, but a few are daft enough to force feed you product advertisements.

      1. The Man Himself Silver badge

        "the companies already have this option at no cost by having your call automatically answered and playing their own recorded message."

        At no cost to *them* - if they answer with a long pre-recorded announcement, then the caller is paying from the moment the message kicks in....and have you seen how much it costs to call an 0845 (as so beloved by so many companies these days) from a mobile?

        1. edge_e

          "the companies already have this option at no cost by having your call automatically answered and playing their own recorded message."

          As soon as everyone's used to hearing custoimised rings, you'll be able to move them seemlessly into a call they're paying for without them realising the calls been answered....

          Actually, I wonder if there are any crafty bastards playing ring ring down the phone at me until i hang up?

    2. Velv

      Why would you call Subway?

      So they pass the phone down the line while they deal with your enquiry?

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge


    it never occurs to these folk that people might not actually want to be advertised at while waiting for the call to be answered.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Somehow...

      It could be worse - you could end up having Greensleeves played at you even before you've been connected, told your call is important to them and then put on hold (with Greensleeves continuing on for your "enjoyment", if such aural torture can be called that).

      1. John Miles

        Re: you could end up having Greensleeves played at you even before you've been connected

        But at least if I am not connected - I am not paying

    2. Steven Roper

      Re: Somehow...

      You clearly haven't encountered the delusional mentality of advertising twonks. I've actually worked with these people, I'm sorry to say, and I've been exposed to their peculiar brand of reality-rejection first-hand.


      People love watching advertisements. They receive deep and fulfilling life satisfaction from the excitement of learning about our latest products. They find our art and design work stimulating and interesting, and will naturally tend to seek out more. People desire advertising as it fulfills their deep spiritual need to buy and consume. Our task, then, is to gratify this insatiable desire by creating deeper, richer, more spiritual advertising that will touch their hearts and win their souls to buy more widgets.


      I know this is difficult to comprehend, but you'll find that the only possibility that exists for "these folk" is that you desire ever more intense and personal advertising and that they are the ones to fulfill your need.

      It's sickening, I know, but that's the mindset you're dealing with. Not much short of a course of Haloperidol can fix that I'm afraid.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think it's great....

    ..can I sign up for some high pitched sine waves or brown noise for my work mobile?

    Yes I know, frequencies and mobile phone calls, but the thought of it makes me happy.

  5. Paul Shirley

    who would want this?

    Still mystified there was ever a successful business selling ringtones or wallpapers but at least they offered end users something. I might not pay for them but my ringtones are as customised as anyone else.

    But what the appeal is here is way beyond my understanding. Maybe the plan is: sell to advertisers to create a need, then sell the ability to override it to users?

    1. Test Man

      Re: who would want this?

      Nah, it's simply another thing that can be customised. I've been using Ringtagz (way back before its current version, when it was a T-Mobile service). It's.... OK, but as another poster said, it's only really aimed at the person dialling your number, not you, so there's limited benefit I suppose.

      1. PassingStrange

        Re: who would want this?

        Hmm. That wasn't how I read the article - the impression I got was that YOU would be fed the RBT you'd chosen, NOT the person you called. Both possibilities are clearly technically possible in principle (and from comments here, the second is already out there) - but, on a re-read, the article isn't clear as to which it's talking about...

        1. Bill Ray (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: who would want this?

          My apologies for not being clear - the Ring Back Tone you set is heard by people who call you, so you can impress them with your style and choice.


  6. Piloti

    Really.... ?

    "but the failure of custom RBTs outside South America is unfathomable"....

    Because they annoying, it's as simple as that. And, when you think about it, the "customer" get no benefit, because it is the caller, not the receiver, who hears the RBT.

    I worked in different parts of Africa for a number of years and they are quite popular there too. Except, of course people forget they have them and therefore forget that their callers are hearing some annoying, naff, tinkly, horrid pop song from three years ago......

    Basically, I don't care what music you like, as the caller, I just want to hear Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

    1. stucs201

      Re: as the caller, I just want to hear Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Exactly. The point is to provide useful feedback that the phone is ringing, not to play music. However I could be tempted by a slight variation:

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      "Hang on, I'll answer soon"

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      "Sorry I'm taking a while, be there soon"

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      "I might be busy, are you sure you want to wait"

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      "Look, I've either left my phone at home, am busy or simply don't want to talk to you"

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      "Give up already!"

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

      "Do you have nothing better to do today?"

      1. Siberian Hamster

        Re: as the caller, I just want to hear Brrrrr Brrrrr.....

        or a random 2% chance of one of these phrases inserted:



        'I want to play a game'

        'where's the kaboom, there's supposed to be an earth shattering kaboom'

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really.... ?

      "Because they annoying, it's as simple as that."

      Quite. I think the phrase should have been:

      "the popularity of custom RBTs inside South America is unfathomable"

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Could make things cheaper for consumers?

    Instead of paying to wait on hold, does this mean a call centre could have one that says the usual "Your call is important to us..." (but not important enough for them to answer it right away!) so we don't have to pay to wait?

    Perhaps that's why the telcos are reluctant to provide it, it would dent their money-for-nothing revenues.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Could make things cheaper for consumers?

      In Germany at least, it's already illegal to pay to wait on hold. But don't ever think that any call centre service is every going to get cheaper for the consumer!

      I guess one advantage of the service would be to confirm that you did indeed dial the correct number. But I don't think there's much advantage in this for companies over connecting someone to the electronic switchboard, which if it's correctly configured can provide branding, current information and menu choices. It could make sense for anyone wanting to use the network as as switchboard but that's one of the many boats that the operators seem to have missed.

  8. Tom 260


    I'm sure a few will want their RBT to be an engaged tone, the dial tone, that 1571 new message tone, or perhaps that lady saying "Sorry, the number you have dialled is not in service", just to throw a few spanners into the works.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Engaged

      "The number you have dialled is purely imaginary, Please rotate your reality 90 degrees and try again"

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I understand these to be quite popular in the USA as well, though personally the thought of having to listen to music forced down a phone line while waiting for something never particularly impressed me. If LTE is going to let the quality be semi-decent then maybe people will bother with it.

    My memory may be faulty, but I do seem to recall verizon prefixing the user-selected ringtone with "Please wait while we connect your call" or words to that effect, meaning it won't really make sense to try and stick an engaged tone or something in there.

  10. bigtimehustler

    This is one sure fire way to make sure i never ring the end user again if they replace it with something other than the default ring. They have proven they are not worth my time if they have taken their time doing this.

    1. Professor Clifton Shallot

      What if it was, say, a message that they were somewhere with unreliable reception or loud ambient noise where a phone call would possibly not be too convenient for either party?

  11. Antony Riley

    One useful application.

    As a replacement for hold music so we all pay the telcos much less.

    1. Test Man

      Re: One useful application.

      Which will never happen because companies want to collect money from you by answering the call and THEN subjecting you to hold music.

      Even if that wasn't the original intention, fact is they get money from it so why would they implement this and stop the cash cow?

      No, this system is squarely aimed at the consumer, not businesses.

  12. Hilibnist
    Thumb Down

    It's the thin end of the wedge

    Just wait until your Telco changes their standard RBT, then 'invites' you to pay for the good ol' fashioned brrr brrr to get rid of their adverts...

  13. Tromos
    Thumb Down

    I'm happy with Brrrrrr Brrrrrr

    If the quality of the replacement RBT is anything like the typical 'hold' renderings of Vivaldi played through a guitar effects fuzz-box, I'll go without.

  14. LPB


    Actually Orange have been doing ring back tones for years - My colleague annoys me with 'You are the one and only' daily. Just go to whilst connected to the cellular network and select a tone of your choice - you'll be charged on your next bill.

  15. Jeff LeCoat

    They are very popular in China

  16. Neil Spellings

    Only fools...

    I've only ever heard one of these once and it's a colleague who has the Only Fools and Horses theme tune play when you call him. Always wondered how he did it!

  17. dorsetknob

    Motion Picture Association of America will want paying or we sue YOU JOE PUBLIC

    Did not the Music Mafia kill this idea years ago with demands for music royalties

    Something like Public performance rights royalties

  18. Michael Jennings

    That precise problem of British people getting nervous at that long single foreign ringback tone that they hear when they call me when I am abroad is what I would like to get rid of. I don't necessarily want people knowing that I am abroad, so I would like the standard ringback tone. I fear that every foreign telco I roam to would have to know about my preference, though, so this might be somewhat harder than just changing the ringback tone that is send when someone calls me when I am in the UK.

    I believe that the standard ringback tone in Macau used to be different to that in Hong Kong. This was a problem, given that Macau is the place that people in Hong Kong go for sinful activities. Men from Hong Kong did not necessarily want their wives to know when they were there, and the ringback tone was a dead giveaway. So it was changed to be the same as Hong Kong.

    1. Test Man

      Not going to happen because the ring tone is from the network you're roaming on.

  19. PDC

    Not just T-Mobile

    Erm, it wasn't just T-Mobile. 3 had this for years, and only killed it off a few months ago. You could have up to 5 tunes at a time.

  20. -v(o.o)v-

    This has been available (and very popular) on all carriers in certain south-east asian countries for years.

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