Roaming. The ArcticStartup region is going to get rid of that beast one way or another. Whether it will be Ukko Mobile, Skype, HolidayPhone or the new kid on the block, Roamer remains to be seen.
With Ukko Mobile focusing on data sim-cards only, HolidayPhone sending you a bunch of sim’s by post and Skype demanding internet - in addition to the roaming killing name, Latvia based Roamer also probably has the best promise. If they are able to deliver, that is.
According to Roamer, you will be able to keep your own local number, save 90% of the costs, have a data-plan when traveling, and only have to change the sim-card once.
This is quite a promise. But how are they going to do this? Basically, you sort of migrate your local number to a newly bought sim-card in the country of arrival.
In Nick Ustinov’s, co-founder & Chief Research and Development Officer of Roamer own words: “The path to lower costs is in three simple steps. First, you need to ‘park’ your home telephone number immediately prior to traveling abroad. Then, when you arrive at your destination, you can install any local SIM-card which has a suitable data plan. Finally, you have to activate your ‘home number’ on the new card. After that, you can accept calls on your ‘home number’, as well as make calls from it, during your whole stay abroad. The service uses the cellular network at the destination and ensures a high quality connection irrespective of the available speed of the internet.”
The test version of the Roamerapp.com service was presented at TNW Conference by a group of developers from Latvia, who demonstrated the functionality of the mobile application and talked about how it works.
They are currently getting ready for beta-testing with 1000 users and are planning to launch the service in the summer of 2013 as an app for iOS and Android. Once launched, Roamer is promising functionality pretty much in the whole world and will be able to originate from 52 countries.
There are still a number of unanswered questions, such as whether calling back home will still be expensive or if calling your number will cost your colleagues or family more than the local call. Moreover, it is not always possible to buy a sim-card easily in some countries so we reached out to Roamer for comments and will update the story when they get back to us.
UPDATE Interview with Nick Ustinov, Chief Research & Development Officer at Roamer:
ArcticStartup: What about calling back home? Is that going to be expensive on the local sim-card?
Nick Ustinov: Calling back is not much more expensive than receiving a call, and it works via GSM callback (we dont use 3G or Wifi to transmit actual voice traffic). For example, if you travel from Finland to USA, then incoming call in USA would cost you 0.05 EUR/min and call to Finland from USA would cost 0.13 EUR/min (and we bill per second, dont round it to minutes like others do). Also, when you call back to Finland the other party will see your usual phone number (the one you parked).
ArcticStartup: Surely though if your friends or family from back home will want to call you, it will then be expensive for them?
Nick Ustinov: No, they will just call your usual number actually. Then incoming call will be forwarded to our service number (which is always a local number in your home country) - so small charge may apply to you, depending on your provider, however in most plans local calls are free nowadays.
ArcticStartup: What are you plans for growth? Do you have funding already?
Nick Ustinov: We are not looking for angel investors, since the initial development was financed by founders already, what we do need is A-round financing for aggressive marketing campaign, the aim is to build a strong brand in this niche and push out travel sims and other similar solutions, which are actually much more expensive in any case.
One more benefit of using a local operators SIM card in country of travel is 1) ability to use local data plan at local rates and 2) getting a local phone number actually, so you can call your fellow travellers at no extra cost.