Mint Telecom has launched a pre-paid mobile phone service, offering UK users flat-rate calls from all corners of the world.
The service, for GSM phones, has no contract, registration or monthly line fees. Mint's network, which took four years to develop, incorporates more than 240 networks across 114 countries. Mint claims that its pre-paid service could cut roaming call charges by up to 80 per cent.
International roaming enables mobile phone users to use their handsets and phone number on overseas networks. The cost of a call is determined by the network operator where the call is originated. Many countries adopt different tariffs, which according to Mint causes inconsistencies and confusing billing.
Mint director Adrian Wood said: "Users often get a nasty shock when they check their phone bills after travelling outside the UK. There are a number of confusing tariffs and costs charged by international network operators for both incoming and outgoing calls while roaming. Mint makes things simple with a single tariff."
Mobile phone users need to buy a pre-paid Mint SIM card, called a BasicCard. Every call made, regardless of origin or destination, will be charged at 85p per minute and every call received will cost 42.5p. Calls are charged by the second. Sending SMS or email costs 9p from country to country.
"Mint is not a substitute for a domestic tariff but complements it. We are focused on international usage. Mint has more network coverage in more countries than any other GSM operator in the UK," said Wood.
The International Telecommunications Users Group (INTUG) is concerned that operators seem to be able to charge whatever they like for international roaming, causing companies to discourage employees from using their mobile phones when travelling abroad.
Ewan Sutherland, director at INTUG, said there needs to be a reduction of international roaming charges, and new players such as Mint can help drive down players and encourage competition.
Mint will use distribution company European Telecom as its channel partner. The service is expected to be available from 400 outlets within 30 days in chains such as PocketPhone. The company is also looking to work with airports to attract both travellers from and visitors to the UK.
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