One of the more compelling wireless resale business models that I’ve seen in some time comes from Voiamo, a mobile virtual network operator, which last week launched a service called Globalgig, aimed at helping mobile data users save money when using their mobile devices outside their home country.
I talked this week with Voiamo CEO Nigel Bramwell to get details on the offering.
To use Globalgig, customers must purchase a mobile hotspot device capable of supporting multiple cellular technologies, including EV-DO and HSPA, as well as multiple frequency bands. The hotspot, which costs customers about $120, can be used in any of the countries where Globalgig offers service, and customers can use it to connect multiple Wi-Fi-capable devices to the mobile data network.
“It’s a post-paid service with a one-month rolling contract,” explained Bramwell. “We charge $25 on a monthly basis for a gigabit.”
Globalgig is currently available in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, where Voiamo resells the services of Sprint, Hutchison Whampoa’s Three and Singapore Telecom’s Optus, respectively.
“We’re looking at [launching service in] 12 countries by the first half of next year,” said Bramwell, “and 30 countries in [the next] two years.”
Globalgig doesn’t have any direct competitors, Bramwell said. Instead it is a more economical alternative to international roaming and for-charge hotel Wi-Fi offerings. When U.S. wireless users travel abroad, they may be charged as much as $20 per megabyte, Voiamo said.
Another option, of course, is for travelers to rely on Wi-Fi hotspots, which often can be used for free.
“Wi-Fi is clearly a competing element,” Bramwell admitted. “But for all its benefits it has limits, too.” He noted, for example, that the performance of Wi-Fi hotspots can be spotty, depending on the conditions at any given moment, and that unlike cellular offerings Wi-Fi doesn’t support handoffs.
In addition, he noted that the majority of hotels charge for Wi-Fi.
The bottom line
Reselling another carrier’s wireless service traditionally has been a low-margin business. But when I asked Bramwell about that, he said Voiamo has been very careful about the agreements it has made with underlying carriers. The carriers the company is working with “want to expand the use of their mobile data networks,” he said – and they have offered Voiamo terms that enable the company to make a “fair margin.”
Voiamo’s future plans for Globalgig include adding LTE by early third quarter of next year. Around that same time, the company is also looking at launching a voice version of its service.
Edited by Braden Becker