September 27th, 2007

A Cellphone Without Borders

This looks like it might be useful for folks who travel out of the States.

Early next month, a small company called Cubic Telecom will release what it’s calling the first global mobile phone.

And there’s no monthly fee and no commitment for any of this. It works like a prepaid phone, where you put some money in your account and use it up as you talk.

At this point, the appropriate world traveler’s response ought to be involuntary drooling, but there’s more to the story. Most of it is more good news, but also more complexity.

For example, consider this: at the site from Cubic, you can request local phone numbers in up to 50 cities at no charge. Now you can have a Paris number, a London number and a Mexico City number that your friends overseas can use to call your cellphone.

No longer must you hand out a series of international phone numbers for each trip you make, or expect your colleagues in the United States to pay $50 a pop to reach you.

Cubic points out that this feature alone is a life-changer for people who have moved, for example, to the United States from overseas. Their family back home can keep in touch for the price of a local call.

I signed up for numbers in Paris, London and Barcelona, and then asked friends in those cities to call me. They dialed local numbers, and my phone rang in New York — very slick. Voice quality was typical of Internet calls: perfectly understandable, but slightly muffled, with a quarter-second to one-second voice delay.
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So I went to the MAXroam site, and had a look. The bare SIM costs €29.99, including €5 call credit. They charge you €1 per month if you don't use it. (But I'm guessing you could simply send one SMS a month, at €0.37, and then I guess you've used it that month. You'll want to check if you actually do go with this service.)

Within the US, incoming calls cost €1.10 per minute, outgoing ones cost €1.18 per minute, and sending an SMS costs €0.37. Receiving an SMS is free, as is checking your balance or adding credit. Customer care calls cost €0.35 per minute.

Back home in Ireland, where the company is based, receiving calls costs €0.24 per minute, outgoing ones cost €0.31 per minute, and sending an SMS costs €0.22. The other costs are as above.

I didn't get a chance to look at the prices in every country, but I did notice that incoming calls in Australia were only €0.21 per minute.

All these prices appear to be with reference to where your phone tower is when the call begins.

You can get a local number in Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA. Since you get up to fifty numbers, you could have one in each country and still have 22 extra numbers for I don't know what. It does make it easy for people to reach you, which could be very helpful for international businesses.