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US firm looks to disrupt international call market

Mobile broadband users hit quarter billion mark

US MVNO Ultra Mobile, already disruptive with its free international texting plan, has launched an international calling plan packing 1,000 minutes for $19 per month.

The firm, which operates on the T-Mobile USA network, said its service eliminates the need for calling cards and global texting add-ons.  The included international minutes can be used to call more than 70 countries and unlimited SMS texts go to more than 190 countries.

“We wanted to make an international call just like any other call,” said Chris Furlong, EVP of Ultra Mobile product development and marketing. “It shouldn’t require add-ons or calling cards or cost half a month’s rent; it should just be a call. Most of our customers are immigrants who came to America for equality, education and opportunity. If we can indeed make their lives in the United States a little better and the world a little smaller, we are delivering on our mission.”

Furlong added that Ultra Mobile is planning to continue extending the country destinations for the service, but the firm is facing challenges due to different global political climates.

“We are reaching a point where politics is placing a much larger role than network build-out costs and carrier economics in determining international calling costs. The many other markets that we want to include in Ultra Zero are kept high because national governments use incoming international call tariffs as a source of foreign currency. Nevertheless, we will continue to advocate for fair pricing on behalf of our customers and offer free international texting as an alternative.”

The move follows an outburst by the CEO of parent network T-Mobile USA, John Legere, who recently described roaming costs as “completely crazy” and “insanely inflated” before announcing that data roaming and text messages would generate no extra costs for “most” users on its Simple Choice plans.

T-Mobile announced that it is cutting data roaming costs for its customers when they are travelling in more than 100 countries worldwide, building on the firm’s pricing overhauls in March, when it cut contract lengths and separated the cost of device from the cost of service, lowering monthly rates.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Legere said. “The truth is that the industry’s been charging huge fees for data roaming. But what’s most surprising is that no one’s called them out – until now.”

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