Cellphone sans Frontieres

From NY Times : Early next month, a small company called Cubic Telecom will release what it’s calling the first global mobile phone. The appeal of Cubic’s cellphone is that it makes calls to or from any of 214 countries — for 50 to 90 percent off what the big telecom carriers would charge.

On this phone, a 20-minute call from the Bahamas costs $5.80 (that’s 90 percent off T-Mobile’s rate). The Cubic price from Russia is 49 cents a minute (90 percent lower than AT&T). And there’s no monthly fee and no commitment for any of this. It works like a prepaid phone, where you put some money in your account and use it up as you talk.

At this point, the appropriate world traveler’s response ought to be involuntary drooling, but there’s more to the story. Most of it is more good news, but also more complexity. For example, consider this: at the MaxRoam.com site from Cubic, you can request local phone numbers in up to 50 cities at no charge. Now you can have a Paris number, a London number and a Mexico City number that your friends overseas can use to call your cellphone. No longer must you hand out a series of international phone numbers for each trip you make, or expect your colleagues in the United States to pay $50 a pop to reach you.

Cubic points out that this feature alone is a life-changer for people who have moved, for example, to the United States from overseas. Their family back home can keep in touch for the price of a local call.

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