With SFR switching CEOs while Xavier Niel’s Free Mobile sweeps France, it’s hard to imagine how this space could be disrupted even more – when iMC Mobile told me they were tackling the Telcom Space from France, I was a little shocked. Free Mobile has clearly taken a bite out of the domestic market, but no Telcom company to date has tackled the real problem – Roaming charges. Even though some providers operate in multiple countries (Telefonica, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, etc.), I still have to pay roaming charges to send information from their network in the UK to their network in France. But all the might be about to change with iMC Mobile.
Rocking their own patented technology, iMC Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) – although that may sound highly technical, it ultimately breaks down to the idea that they can acts as a mobile provider without actually owning their own telecommunications network. Virgin Mobile has been doing this for years, operating a mobile network in almost every country that its associated airlines company, Virgin Airlines, counts as a destination. This is different from Skype, for example, which is just a Virtual Network Operator (basically, no SIM card) – in fact, iMC Mobile has their own patented SIM card and network server system.
iMC Mobile was founded in 2009, and has been selling their mobile plan since June of 2011. Focussing mainly on salesmen who do heavy amounts of business travel over seas, iMC’s technology allows them to knock 75% off of normal roaming charges, reducing calls between Europe and China to next to nothing. The company’s plan offers competing prices for domestic calls in France, but their roaming charges between Europe, the US, China, and soon the rest of the world, are where the real value is at. Siting a not-impossible example, Nicolas Moreau broke down the problem with roaming. When your phone plan is based in France, for example, and you are in the US, making a call to someone else in the US is not as simple as it seems it should be. Your phone call (or data connection) goes from your phone to a US telecom provider, which then relays that call to your French telecom provider. From there your telecom provider determines that you are trying to call an American number – let’s say, your friend who you are meeting at a restaurant – and they route the call back to their partner US telecom provider, who then connects you to your friend. The price goes up everytime your phonecall changes hands. Yeah – it’s that ridiculous. By the way, when you are roaming and check your mail, it is the exact same process: US provider connects to French provider, and French provider sends you your data bit by bit.
iMC has patented a workaround for this. In that same sceneario, you call your friend while roaming who is 15 feet away from you: the phonecall connects to the US provider, who routes you to iMC’s local servers, they connect you to your friend (via a US provider, of course). They cut France right out of the equation, even though your plan is domestically based in France.
So – if you’re travelling a lot, or are just tired of getting screwed on roaming charges, take a look at iMC mobile. They are currently available in France only, but I’ve been told they will be available in many more countries in the near future.