“It’s a piece of a puzzle that may seem quite simple but really it’s only available because how we’re dealing with the technology which is actually quite unique” says Madera, whose AwayPhone service combines VoIP technology with the GSM system.
“The big mobile providers are GSM by their nature. We all know about the debacle of them spending vast sums on wireless towers, infrastructure and the 3G licenses in the UK and Europe, so they want to make sure they use it,” explains Madera. “What we at AwayPhone are doing is circumventing our dependence on the GSM system by using an IT-based system that uses internet routing technology to provide international calling at low cost.”
Madera likens her AwayPhone mobile operating service to what Virgin Mobile are doing in the UK. “Virgin don’t own towers and bandwidth, they just ride off the T-Mobile network but they sell it as a Virgin service. The big difference is we do that around the world with multiple networks and then we put it together on one SIM card.”
AwayPhone has formed partnerships with 87 mobile operators around the world who allow them to use their GSM connection. AwayPhone’s customers are then given a SIM card which is a compilation of all of these different partnerships. By acting as a virtual network operator, AwayPhone is then able to offer its customers local rates, as opposed to roaming rates.
“We attach a local number for when you’re travelling, so for example, a leisure traveller can just use it for the few weeks travelling or for a business traveller, they can print it on their business cards,” explains Madera who herself has six local numbers on her business card that are linked to her one mobile phone. “For example, when I’m in Japan, I have a Japanese number that I can give to the new clients I’m meeting which means I’m making myself much more available and showing a commitment to the region.”
Madera says the company’s partnerships are typically with the second, third and fourth most successful operators in the country who are much more forward-thinking than the number one operator in the country.
“They still have excellent coverage and an excellent quality of network but they’re a little more innovative in building new revenue streams. They recognise that rather than cannibalising their revenue, what AwayPhone is doing with our GSM partners is adding revenue they didn’t have before,” says Madera.
AwayPhone pays their mobile partner every time a customer uses their GSM connection to make a call or send a text. But as Madera explains “It’s a wholesale price which is why it’s still commercially viable for us.”
Another added benefit for the GSM partner is the free international marketing it provides: “We’re marketing the service they’ve spent millions and millions of pounds building but we’re not marketing it to people they market it to. We’re marketing it to all of the people outside their country.”
And no doubt the current trend in the marketplace whereby most of the big mobile operators are blocking the use of wireless systems, other than GSM, on their handsets will only strengthen AwayPhone’s unique offering. “We’re very excited to have a service that is actually very different from anyone else,” says Madera.