Whenever I travel to the U.S. I am careful with usage of my BlackBerry Bold for voice calls; there’s a $0.95 per minute roaming charge for any use of it on the AT&T or T-Mobile network even before any long distance charges are considered. Calls back to Toronto from California will result in a total charge of $1.75 per minute. And, at $6.00/MB for data usage, I try to maximize my data activity via WiFi access points in hotel rooms, airports and conference press rooms. And, when I go to Mexico or Europe I look for any opportunity to make voice calls over Skype and access data services over WiFi; in fact, in Mexico, one is advised to turn off the BlackBerry. Roaming charges will easily clean out your wallet.
Recently areporter was referred to me for more information about how he could avoid “roaming charges billing shock” in the future. He had just received a $400 roaming charge billing for using his iPhone over the Rogers network during a weekend trip to Vancouver, Canada.
At one of Andy Abramson’s famous Blogger dinners, held during a recent conference, roaming charges were identified as the number one cost issue and arbitrage opportunity existing in the wireless services market today.
Today Truphone, who has continuously demonstrated innovation in low cost wireless calling, announced their forthcoming Truphone Local Anywhere service at Mobile World Congress. From the press release:
The introduction of Truphone’s multi-country, single-SIM service will change the current experience of people with an international lifestyle. Their mobile experience is currently characterized by frustration, brought on by constantly having to juggle multiple SIM cards and mobile phones in order to minimize their mobile costs.
In an interview with Truphone CEO Geraldine Wilson, she highlighted four key benefits of this service. On a single handset a Truphone Local Anywhere subscriber can:
- have a local number whenever travelling in a supported country
- make calls anywhere in the territory of participating carriers at “local” rates
- make international calls at reduced costs
- eliminate or minimize ”roaming” charges at most destinations
But there is also a benefit to people calling to a Truphone Local Anywhere subscriber. Personal and business calls to the subscriber can be made via the subscriber’s “local” number for the location from which the call is being placed.
- All numbers will be “mobile” numbers, capable of supporting SMS messaging and data activity
- The default callerID seen by the called party will be the call destination’s “Local” number but the displayed callerID can be managed to display other numbers available to the subscriber
- calls to other Truphone Local Anywhere customers will have the lowest calling rates
Geraldine was quite specific in stating that the target market includes mobile professionals, travel industry employees, expatriate workers who need a “local” number in both their home country and “on the job”, and international students. According to Geraldine, this “road warrior” market encompasses 300 million today, making over 700 million trips per year.
Why an announcement now at Mobile World Congress? While Truphone has already signed some carrier and service provider agreements for this program, they are seeking out additional carrier and MVNO partners to build out a worldwide network.
As for the infrastructure behind this service:
- the customer will receive one SIM that supports service providers in all countries
- it is a scalable, plug-and-play solution
- a customer will be able to add another carrier or service provider to the SIM over-the-air
- Truphone is seeking out non-traditional distribution channels
- it will have full data compatibility
Bottom Line: if Truphone can pull off a sufficient number of service provider relationships worldwide, Truphone Local Anywhere will have the same friction-free impact for travellers’ mobile communications activities as the introduction of the Euro provided to European travelers, eliminating the need to stop by an “exchange counter” when arriving in every country.
Update: Jon Arnold: Truphone Launches Local Anywhere Service
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