The beauty of the Truphone SIM is that it can roam across the main four networks – O2, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange – so that your phone will hunt for the strongest signal and lock onto that. This has been possible in the past, but only by using an overseas SIM. I’ve done this when travelling around bits of the UK with really crappy mobile reception, such as the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, but the two downsides of using an overseas SIM are that anyone calling you has to call a foreign number, and any outbound calls you make to the UK will incur you some hefty roaming charges. The Truphone SIM avoids both these pitfalls, because while you’re in the UK it uses your normal Truphone number.
This offering has the potential to really shake up the mobile phone market. I don’t see many signs of brand loyalty to the mobile networks – most of us just hunt round for the best deal whenever our contract comes up for renewal, and thanks to the way the networks reward what customer loyalty there is (very poorly indeed), you nearly always find the most attractive offers available only if you switch networks.
My own mobile number has been ported around the main networks so many times that it’s been with one particular network three separate times, and I know I’m not alone in this. Many of us have been through all of the networks by now, and what do we find? That they all have the same level of customer service – particularly with consumer contracts: businesses are usually treated better – and that the costs aren’t that different between providers. So, given that it’s a level and fairly unlovely playing field, there’s plenty of scope for a disruptor product to come along and really wake up the big players, and it will be something like the Truphone SIM that does it.
At the moment, Truphone and SIM4travel are still going through their integration phase. You can get the original SIM4travel from www.SIM4travel.com, but you’ll have to hang on for a while for the version that dovetails into the Truphone VoIP service.
It all sounds perfect doesn’t it? Yes, but there’s one huge caveat, namely that at launch the Truphone SIM will provide voice and SMS only, with no data services. I’m told that the company is working frantically to remedy this, since it realises that mobile data is becoming critically important, and it will start to offer worldwide data services towards the end of the year. My hope, of course, is that it will revolutionise data roaming costs the way it’s doing with voice traffic.
I can’t really write about VoIP without mentioning Skype, although there’s a part of me that longs to do so. I want to turn away from Skype because of its closed, proprietary, even secretive system, and because of the peer-to-peer nature of its network. It works a bit like file-sharing networks, inasmuch as all Skype users’ machines are connected together into a cloud, but the majority of the traffic is carried via so-called Super Nodes. Each user has no real control over whether their machine (and internet bandwidth) is going to be used to support a Super Node, but the decision appears to favour machines with fast processors, lots of RAM, and a zippy and clean internet connection. It’s a bit scary to realise that behind your back, your computer might be being used as a mini telephone exchange.
That’s the downside, but on the other hand, Skype does have a lot going for it – the main thing being that it works. In my experience, you can load up the client software on a machine behind even the most firebreathing of firewalls and the most poxy of proxies, and, somehow, Skype manages to punch its way through them. I’ve hardly ever had to do any faffing around when setting up Skype – it just always seems to work, which in the field of VoIP is quite impressive.
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