Zer01 Mobile is a new virtual mobile operator (MVNO) in the US that will use AT&T’s wireless network to offer voice and data services to their users. What is interesting about Zer01 Mobile is that all voice calls will be VoIP and the company will deliver them over AT&T’s data network using its own IP backbone. The service will include unlimited voice and data access and cost $69.95 per month without a contract. Zer01 Mobile will also offer unlimited international calling to 40 countries for an additional $10 per month. What they are doing is essentially undercutting AT&T‘s, Verizon‘s and T-Mobile‘s all you can eat $99 plans using AT&T’s own network. Quite impressive.

zeroAll voice calls on Zer01 Mobile will be delivered using a VoIP application that runs on Windows Mobile 6 phones and will soon be available on Android, Blackberry, Symbian, Java and eventually jailbroken iPhones. This application lets users dial numbers from their phone’s keypad without launching a separate app, meaning users won’t have to change their habits to call using Zer01 Mobile. The application and network equipment the service runs on is optimized to enable VoIP on EDGE and GPRS data connections, something almost unprecedented. Zer01 Mobile plans to launch with a closed beta in April and will soon announce a commercial launch date.

While most mobile carriers are still focused on voice traffic, Zer01 Mobile looks more like a mobile data service provider that gives you real unlimited data and cheap voice as well, in form of an easy to use VoIP app. Traditional wireless carriers have worked out data traffic on mobile devices will be huge, but are still trying to figure out how to make it as profitable as their overpriced voice and SMS traffic.

An MVNO like Zer01 Mobile could hardly exist in Europe, because of the expensive termination charges that mobile operators impose to other companies wishing to terminate calls on their networks. A similar VoIP based MVNO in Europe could probably offer cheap calls to fixed lines and international destinations, but wouldn’t be able to compete with local mobile operators in mobile to mobile traffic.

UK based Truphone has adopted a similar approach and is increasingly looking like a VoIP powered mobile operator for the international traveller. They now offer SIM cards that you can use in any of the supported countries (with no roaming fees and multiple local numbers) and cheap international calls via WiFi or local gateways.

Thank you Pietro for your help in this post.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Maria on March 26, 2009  · 

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