Sunday, September 23, 2007

Cubic Telecom and Maxroam compared to other offers

Now it's nearly a week since Cubic Telecom presented their new product Maxroam at TechCrunch 40 (TC40), but still they don't reveal their real prices which should be found here. Still Maxroam says "Rates published soon" while Cubic Telecom's website consists only of a place holder and former price examples have dissappeared.

Sure, they claim that GSM calls are up to 80 per cent cheaper than the roaming rates offered by existing mobile service providers. But that's a usual claim which you can also hear from competing companies such as United Mobile. I would like to compare the prices by myself.

At least Alec Saunders got some numbers from Cubic Telecom's CEO Pat Phelan when they talked one day after TC40:
Calls from one Cubic subscriber to another are free when used in a hotspot. They also come with a MaxRoam SIM with 5 euros of credit. That's the kicker, frankly. The MaxRoam LD rates will make anyone turn their head sharply… for instance, calls in Canada cost .0063 euros. In the US, .0131 euros. In the UK… .011 euros. In addition, you can get a local number wherever you're going, so that when you travel others can call you cheaply as well.

Sounds great, but for which kind of calls do these costs apply? I guess that's just the WiFI rates since the San Francisco Chronicle writes:
You just slip the MAXRoam SIM into your unlocked GSM phone when you travel and then when you make phone calls abroad, it comes out to about 15 cents per minute, thanks to global roaming agreements that Cubic has worked out with operators around the world.

15 Cent is a great price, whether in euro or in dollar, and undercuts for instance United Mobile with its funny mobile numbers from Liechtenstein or Jersey by nearly 50 per cent. Only I would like to see where this rate applies. And why does VentureBeat write that Maxroam "will provide cell phone users with a SIM card that enables global calling for rates between 20 and 30 cents a minute in more than 160 countries"? That's a price difference of up to 100 per cent in two articles from the same day.

Still it's a great idea that Maxroam works also in Wifi hotspots where you don't have to pay two digit cent prices per minutes, but probably about one cent to most countries. Also these prices are not yet published, but I guess that's what Alec Saunders wrote about. The Wifi prices are of course great, but they have to be compared to the Wifi offers from Wifimobile and Truphone. Truphone calls to 40 countries are free until the end of the year, at Wifimobile you get the same for a flat rate price of $15.99 €11.99 £7.99 per month. In both cases you can use your existing cell phone number as caller ID, unless you are from the US or the UK, and don't have to bear the shame of these weird Liechtenstein, Iceland, Jersey, Estonia or the Isle of Man numbers. Wifimobile's new calltrough numbers in 11 countries even let you place calls outside a Wifi area.

Which brings me to Cubic Telecom's most interesting feature to slash roaming costs: Consumers get a single phone number, but can create multiple permanent local numbers for themselves - up to 50 - anywhere around the globe. All calls are forwarded to their Cubic Mobile phone, no matter where the calls originate, at the best rates for the callers. That's a cool idea, but Cubic Telecom is not the first to offer it. Local numbers for global SIMs are the new trend, I wrote two months ago. The German company GlobalSIM started already in july to give local fixed line numbers from 43 countries to their SIM card customers.

Like Nokia, whose Executive VP & General Manager of Multimedia Anssi Vanjoki recently said that they "copy with pride" from the iPhone, Cubic Telecom has taken all these available features and squashed them into one product. That's a real accomplishment. They even took an existing phone and and made media like FierceVoip or the San Francisco Chronicle call it the "Cubic Mobile Phone". Although it's the known Pirelli DualPhone DP-L10 which the German VoIP provider Sipgate already sells since january.

But now, dear Pat, I would really like to know the prices per minute.


  1. Hi Markus
    We pushed product development to the extreme to get product ready for TC40,we now have had to sit back and rid it of all bugs.
    MAXroam will launch Weds with Cubic mobile following 2 weeks later, we publicized the fact that we use a Pirelli device and are close partners with Pirelli rather than just a reseller, we will also be the first company to launch the Pirelli windows mobile 5 device globally.
    As regards to the Venture beat article their are two cents, euro and USD
    Whilst I like United Mobile I feel we have already done the caller pays model with roam4free and its time to move on from that, our sim is a local IN COUNTRY fixed line call not an Estonia, Lichtenstein or UK premium number, that's the most important part of the story.
    To use Germany as an example incoming call whilst roaming in Germany is 20c and outgoing call is 30c pretty much regardless of the destination.
    As you know these prices are almost 50% under the new EU regulations and for people travelling outside the EU and people travelling into the EU from outside it the savings are vast.
    We are working on 15c per min roaming in the USA and expect to have an announcement late this year.
    One final item is our hardware pricing, we will retail the Cubic mobile service which includes a phone and the SIM for 99 euro including vat, I am positive this is at least 100 euro saving on what you could buy this phone for anywhere, we provison OTA and the phone comes with a free local number and full PBX functionality on our site. Can you please drop me a line to get you out a SIM and Phone for your testing.
    Thanks for the mention and your kind words over the past few weeks.

  2. One item that I forgot to mention and whilst I am huge fans of Truphone and wifi mobile I feel that the market for the cost conscious is not at the £400 phones, I feel that our offering at 99 with incredible value on calls make more sense, the phone is ready to go out of the box and is a unlocked GSM phone also, you can stick your own sim in for day to day work and take advantage of our pbx and forward your calls to your mobile when not in wifi and when in wifi pick up the calls at no charge,when you travelling just forward your regular numbers to your local in country number and roam on your own numbers, you can add as many numbers as you like to SIM or to phone at never before heard pricing on numbers.

  3. Whow, this is the fastest answer I ever got to a blog post. Just minutes later! Poor Pat Phelan has to work on sunday. Me too, but only to update my blog. ;)

    You know that we tech fanboys are a quite impatient posse. Cubic Telecom's concept sounds too great, but unfortunately the information I found is a little bit contradictory.

    That's why I wanted to know it directly from the source. Thank you, Pat, for the fast answer! A more comprehensive article for a German magazine about international roaming, and how to avoid it, is due in november.

    I am really looking forward to interviewing you.

  4. Hi Markus,

    Nice article once again and good comments from Pat.

    We take on board Pat's issues with £400 phones although the Nokia E and N Series are very popular particularly in Europe. This is one of a couple of reasons that we have introduced our Call Through Numbers. Any handset can be used and Wi-Fi is not essential. It is a very useable service and is cost saving for any consumer/business who uses a mobile to make international calls.

    Having spoken to Pat recently i know he is on the right track and am sure that the prices will be very competitive and will gain lots of customer interest.


    John O'Prey

  5. Maxroam has launched, and rather reminds me of another product already on the market.

    To me, it looks like the cost of incoming call diversion of the landline to the underlying SIM number is pretty similar in both function and cost to an incoming roaming charge (though it's true that callers to you can have lower tariffs).

    ... for instance, compare incoming rates in Europe with the new Eurotariff. I don't see any 80% savings, e.g. 31 cents in Belgium is actually more expensive; 25 cents (not 20 as claimed) in Germany is scarcely cheaper.

    Also, 35 or 40 cents for outgoing calls is patently not only 50% of the new Eurotariff outgoing rates, and several main networks are cheaper than that, either all the time (3) or with options (O2 UK)

    As for the rates in Canada, it appears that Markus' speculation is justified that these might be the wi-fi rates. Published tariff on the SIM is 55c incoming, 62 outgoing. I'd rather get a local SIM with cheap forwarding at a couple of cents. In the USA likewise, and call rates on a local SIM at 10 to 17 US c.

    I think Mr Phelan's depiction of allegedly UK premium rates is really rather disingenuous.

    Jersey comes out of inclusive minutes on one or two UK contracts, and IoM numbers on more. Furthermore, most cheap calls providers and main non-UK GSM networks make no distinction whatsoever between these and other +447n (where n not 0) numbers.

    I'm wondering what it was that prevented Maxroam launching this ages ago. Choice of a different product to resell, perhaps?

  6. I forgot to ask why the Maxroam site shows no seaprate rates for calling landlines or mobiles.

    In most of the world, these have higher termination fees, so I wonder if Maxroam have defeated this, or just not yet included the detail on the website.

  7. MAXroam does not seem to be where it needs to with price disclosure. They list any outgoing call price for each country. But outgoing to where? Local? Home countrie? I suspect it is to a local landline.

    I would really like to see them publish an airtime charge for each country; and a termination charge for each destination. The airtime would be for incoming and added to the termination to determine outgoing(and I would hope would be the same as the cubic telecom WiFi rates.) I beleive that since MAXroam is callback that there is no reason why the airtime charges would not be the same incoming and outgoing.

  8. I am very impressed with some of the africa roaming rates.

  9. So, what about using MaxRoam in Turkey where non-Turkish purchased handsets are blocked even when you use local pre-paid SIM cards? Local foreign residents with 'foreign-purchased/owned' handsets are being asked to register/declare handsets at Turkish customs when they arrive, pay a fee (!) before their phone will work with one of the local SIM cards.

  10. Any phone with non turkish SIM works fine in turkey. You only need to register if you want to use a turkish SIM.


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