Tru – Bringing Real Value to Mobility

Updated: January 15, 2011

If you don't know Tru, you're not alone. I'm writing this Brief not to extol the virtues of this company - although that's unavoidable to a point - but to bring your attention to an innovative approach to a significant problem faced by most businesses. Tru, in fact, is the new name for a company that recently re-branded itself around this problem. The previous incarnation was U.K.-based Truphone, and this company typifies the creative disruption that so often occurs from outside the mainstream, which is comfortably controlled by a handful of giants who have healthy margins to protect.

These types of companies often take a while to break through since they're swimming upstream and challenging the status quo. Ultimately, however, they are in business for our benefit - both those who use mobile phones and those who pay the bills. Focus.com is a great forum for solutions like this, and that's why you're reading about Tru here.

So, what is Tru? Sure, it's a catchy name, but more importantly, they have a laser focus on a growing problem. Enterprises tend to be global businesses by nature, and SMBs are increasingly following suit for various reasons. Mobility is indispensible for business travelers, and as operators move along the path LTE and 4G data networks, there is a growing disconnect around the high cost international calling.

We have long become accustomed to free domestic long distance calling, either with wireline or wireless providers. More adventurous end users have discovered free or near-free mobility long distance using WiFi and Internet-based services like Skype or Google Voice. As such, those sky-high mobility bills are coming under increasing scrutiny, and businesses are wondering if there's a better way.

Well, Tru is one of those ways, and the solution is quite simple. You just have to understand two acronyms, and Tru does the rest - GSM and SIM. GSM is the dominant global wireless standard, and by focusing there, Tru can address the largest swath of international callers. Things get more interesting around the second part - SIM. All GSM-compatible mobile phones use a SIM card, which are the real brains of these devices. Tru's secret sauce lies in their IMSI SIM card - International Mobile Subscriber Identification - which can support more than one local number.

When using this service, callers only pay the local rates based on where they are. For a traveler going between New York and London, they simply activate the local number in each city - something they can do on the fly - and solve two big cost problems at once. First they cut out the international calling rates that would come if they just used their home-based number. Second, these calls connect directly in Tru's network and bypass those dreaded roaming charges that add up so quickly when traveling.

This is a simple solution for both businesses and end users, and the benefits are clear as day. Of course, there is a lot of engineering magic under the covers, but that isn't your concern. All you need to do is sign on for Tru's service and swap out your SIM cards with theirs. For the most part, you don't need new phones, new numbers or any network modifications. Tru supports most of the major handset vendors and platforms - Nokia, Android and Apple - not just iPhone, but iPad and even iPod. BlackBerry support is coming soon, and that will give them access to the vast majority of business users.

Without dwelling too long on the company, Tru's network currently serves the U.S., U.K. and Australia, so it isn't universal yet. Hong Kong and several other E.U. countries will be added in 2011, and following the general laws of networking, the value of their service grows in tandem with their market reach. You'll have to do your own homework to learn how much your company can save, and all I can say here is that the more international mobile calling you do in these markets, the more sense this service makes.

I should add that the story doesn't end there. Everyone understands the high costs of mobile calling in these situations, but access to Tru's network extends to data and text - hence their integration with the iPad. Savings here can be harder to articulate, but the principle is the same. As such, the value proposition goes beyond saving money on mobile calling.

Service providers are not the core audience of Focus.com, so I suspect this will be a good news story for most of you. After all, service providers don't like to see traffic shift away from their networks, especially for such lucrative revenue streams. However, we now know that mobile service can be quite affordable for domestic use, so why should we pay so much for these other calls? Wouldn't we make more calls if the price was lower?

This, in fact, is what happened with Skype. There is no doubt they siphoned billions of minutes - and revenues - away from network-based carriers - but more importantly, they made the pie bigger. Simple economics dictates that the propensity to consume increase as the cost declines.

Some mobile operators have embraced this logic, with the Skype-Verizon partnership being the most visible example. Tru may not be the best friend for big mobile operators right now, but in time, I think you'll see that change. The customer is always right - right?

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