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Truphone becomes Tru-network

Take one MNVO into the shower?

Truphone has completed its transition into an MVNO*, actually a whole clutch of them, offering local numbers and calling rates across a range of countries including the UK and USA.

Truphone is best known for being a well-integrated, SIP-based, VoIP service that works well enough, but last year the company bought SIM4Travel in a deal that spelt out aspirations of telco-hood, funded with an additional £12.5m investment. "Truphone Local Anywhere" should come later this year, with a Truphone SIM that operates as an MVNO, or at least in an MVNO-like fashion, in multiple countries.

The service will allow, for example, a customer to have two phone numbers; one in the USA (starting +1) and one in the UK (starting +44). If the user is in America and someone calls the UK number then the call crosses the pond as VoIP and is delivered as a local cellular call, calls to the US number are routed normally and the process is reversed when the user gets back to blighty.

In some counties Truphone will have to become a proper MVNO, while in others they'll have roaming agreements, but negotiations are still ongoing so we have no details. Equally opaque are the charges. Truphone claims these will be comparable with local calls on competing networks, but admits that in a few countries punters will be charged for received international calls.

Calls into the service will all be mobile, so Truphone will make some income on termination rates - assuming it can convince other mobile operators to pay them, and punters might pay a few quid a month to have local numbers in far-flung counties. But the margins seem very tight, and assurances that Truphone won't try to be the cheapest operator in every region brings out concerns that users might still decide to have a local SIM, even if the savings aren't as significant.

We won't be able to judge the business model until the pricing and roaming details are known, but Truphone is promising clever promotions rather than expensive ones - amazing no one has thought of that before. It said that the service should be available later this year, so we'll be better able to judge if the company's aspirations are realistic then. ®

* Mobile Virtual Network Operator - all the fun of being a network operator without owning the messy antennas and backhaul.

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