Friday, 18 December 2009

Freerunner - an evolving WiFi business

Earlier today I had a chat with Owen Geddes, CEO of WiFi hotspot provider Freerunner. 2010 is going to be a big year for Freerunner with the the launch of a number of new products and services. Freerunner is aiming to continue to drive the agenda of free WiFi access for consumers in a growing number of locations.

Next year will see the launch of a Freerunner MVNO aimed at optimising wireless data connectivity using both WiFi and 3G, based on an intriguing business model that promises to deliver great value for money. Plus, Freerunner will move into the hardware space with a couple of different Freerunner branded devices; a phone and a WiFi ready handheld device.

Meanwhile, the Freerunner community projects and UK and international hotspot expansion programmes continue to ramp up. These hotspots are supported by 3G and satellite connectivity, as well as regular broadband, depending on the location. Freerunner is also starting to install 802.11n compliant routers to provide enhanced coverage to the increasing number of users with N compatible devices.

It's great to see not just a new entrant into the UK WiFi market but one with new and innovative ideas.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

iNum: one global phone number

Originally posted on The Really Mobile Project.

This week I had a chat with Tim Behrsin, who heads up the iNum division at Voxbone. iNum (which stands for ‘international number’)  launched in 2008 and has been busy building interconnect agreements and signing service providers over the last year.

inumThe concept behind iNum is a single global phone number that isn’t tied to a specific geographical location. It uses the global ‘country code’ 883 to give users a number that will reach them wherever they are, regardless of geographical location. iNum numbers can also provide PSTN connectivity to VoIP services that hitherto have been isolated from the PSTN world.
An example of iNum in action is the recently launched Veep Mobile which uses iNum numbers as part of its VoIP over 3G data service.
In 2010 iNum will rollout support for SMS, in addition to voice, enhancing the mobile compatibility of the service. The proposition will also focus on identity, with functionality allowing service providers and users to determine where and how calls and messages should be delivered.
iNum is also looking at opportunities to provide connectivity in regions that are poorly served by existing technology. At the Burning Man event in the Nevada desert, attendees were assigned an iNum so they could be contacted from networks such as Skype and Google Talk, in the absence of cellular coverage.
Top priority for iNum at the moment is extending interconnect agreements with fixed and mobile telcos to allow users to call iNum numbers at standard rates so users can promote them as the best way to be contacted. Within the iNum world, iNum to iNum calls are free.
The concept of a single global number for people who travel, rather than having multiple local numbers, certainly has appeal and with the right pricing stands to catch on. Not having to change service providers when moving between countries could make life much easier for many people. How about Truphone Local Anywhere with an iNum!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Reflections on mobile stuff in Berlin

Last week I attended IIR's Next Generation Billing 2009 conference in Berlin. An excellent conference which provided the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

It's interesting to reflect how my usage of mobile devices changes from trip to trip. Last week's visit to Berlin was my first trip overseas since I acquired an iPhone. Previously I had tended to make extensive use of my laptop for checking emails but this time I only fired up my laptop once. The rest of the time I relied on my iPhone for sending and receiving emails. The iPhone handles emails so well that it made my laptop redundant for the three days I was away. Previously I had used a BlackBerry but much prefer using the iPhone, in part because of the way it renders emails.

The conference hotel had excellent WiFi coverage despite being charged at an extortionate EUR 25 per day. Although I was armed with an iPass account, courtesy of AxiCom, unfortunately I wasn't able to use it because the hotel decided that charging outrageous rates for WiFi was better business than joining a WiFi aggregator! However the combination of hotel WiFi and iPhone was brilliant and did save on 3G data roaming costs.

I had been hoping that the guys at Truphone would be able to let me have a Truphone Local Anywhere SIM to try out. Unfortunately the product is not quite ready for launch; however I was able to use their SIM4travel product. SIM4travel has a number of benefits, including no charge to receive calls in about 40 countries worldwide and competitive calling rates. SMS rates in the EU are less competitive now the EU has capped rates but for anyone travelling between multiple countries it's a handy tool to have. Although Truphone has yet to announce pricing for Local Anywhere, I'm expecting it to be a great product for anyone spending time in more than one country.

When I visited the Netherlands back in the Summer I made a lot of use of my Nokia E63 on Vodafone because their Passport promotion meant that calls and SMS on their partner networks overseas were treated as 'in-bundle'. However sadly that was just a promotion and now regular roaming rates apply, so with every call and text chargeable, my Nokia E72 had a quiet couple of days!

So overall, the winners this trip were my iPhone & WiFi!

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