The young mobile operator offers an alternative to the GSMA industry roaming system that was originally devised over 20 years ago to guarantee a phone worked anywhere in the world, but in reality has not developed to reflect the vast increase in mobile phone use.
“We’re creating an alternative to the very old-school big company approach which almost says ‘We’re going to be the GSM association standard for roaming.’ We’re saying there’s a better way of doing this.”
But AwayPhone isn’t the only one taking this David and Goliath approach. “The roaming market is heating up,” says Madera who explains that in the last few years, companies have increasingly been looking for different ways of roaming.
And Madera welcomes such competition: “From a business point of view, you need to have people in the same market who are helping to define it and shape it. More companies in the same space as us helps to generate awareness of services like ours which is one of our greatest challenges.”
But as Madera is happy to admit, the real reason she can take such a laid-back approach to the growing competition is because she knows she can play the trump card over them. “The EU roaming regulations that have recently come into force has really affected them quite badly,” she explains.
These regulations which came into force at the beginning of 2007 have made it compulsory for European operators to cap their roaming charges on all incoming and outgoing calls made by their customers. This means that while these operators were charging €60-70 cents per minute for an incoming call, the new cap prevents them from charging more than €18 cents per minute.
However, AwayPhone’s unique service has meant that it has been able to soften this blow. Rather than operating using the regular roaming network as most mobile operators do, AwayPhone has formed partnerships with 87 mobile operators around the world who allow them to use their GSM connection, enabling it to act as a virtual network operator and offer its customers local rates, as opposed to roaming rates.
“By taking control of a lot of our network’s elements in this way, we’re able to undercut the EU regulations by somewhere of between 40 to 70 per cent,” says Madera. The fact that the new EU regulation doesn’t extend to international calls made from within the EU and roaming outside the EU has also worked in AwayPhone’s favour.
“What we’re seeing is that because this regulation has come in and artificially depressed the prices in Europe, European operators are increasing their roaming charges for customers using their mobiles outside the EU,” reflects Madera.
“So that’s great news for us because it means we’re saving people even more money when they use their phone abroad. It was a nice way of proving that our strategy for catering to corporate travellers using their mobile phones is paying off despite the fact it’s the path less-travelled in the market.”
Indeed, Awayphone’s risks are now certainly reaping the rewards. The mobile operator recently signed five more MVNO relationships taking its international presence up to 174 countries and it recently acquired US company GlobalFon whose 40,000 customers are all being moved onto AwayPhone’s service.