Do you resent those astronomical mobile phone bills you get following a trip abroad? Do you turn your phone off when you are overseas on business?
If the answer either of the above questions is yes, then you might be excited to hear that these inconveniences could become a thing of the past. That is if the offering being made by business communications company Truphone is as good as it sounds.
Truphone was established in 2000 to deliver targeted communications solutions to international businesses.
The founders felt that the existing proposition for international communications in supply chains and between trading partners was broken – making do with an infrastructure that was not designed to be global and with services from organisations which, at heart, are more concerned with their share of the mass market of personal communications.
Making a ‘zag’ to the rest of the industry’s ‘zig’, Truphone set about establishing a global communications network that rejected the infrastructure used by all other communications providers and allowed users to be local callers wherever they are in the world and whoever they may be calling.
By doing this, Truphone offers to make roaming fees, for both voice calls and internet usage noting more than an unpleasant memory for its commercial customers.
Unlike more communications infrastructure, Truphone’s does not rely on back tracking a mobile phone call or internet activity back to the user’s country of origin before pinging it back across international airspace.
By partnering with local networks and using a network structure shrouded in IP for competitive resilience, Truphone can issue a single SIM card with multiple international identities so that when you are in Germany you appear to have a German number, in Australia you have an Australian number and so on.
This premise offers benefits to those calling these number too. If your Truphone contact is in Australia but you are in the UK, you can call them on a landline or mobile number on their UK identification and talk to them in Australia at a local rate.
You should be, it’s an ingenious concept which has won favour with a rapidly growing Truphone customer base which includes the world’s five largest banks, office furniture maker Bisley and motorbike manufacturing icon Harley Davidson.
Truphone hopes that its services will help break down barriers to international trade for SMEs in particular and is keen to capitalise on a surge of recent surveys, including its own, which show more and more SMEs are looking to grow through international expansion in the next few years.
The cautious minded who are wary of putting their communications in the hands of a relatively unknown name may point out that if you only want to trade in Europe, then there is no need to switch providers due to the forthcoming abolition of intra-EU roaming fees in 2015.
But Robert Jones, European MD for Truphone is keen to emphasize that this does not answer the question of trade outside Europe – which is where trade and economic experts like the UKTI see the major opportunities for growth in the medium term future.
Furthermore Mr Jones says then end of roaming fees in the EU will likely have the effect of forcing mainstream communications providers to increase fees elsewhere. “It’s like squeezing a balloon” he says.
So what’s the catch?
It’s a question Jones says he asked a lot by disbelieving customers who bear too many battle scars from interactions with communications providers on personal and professional levels to trust such a novel and apparently valuable proposition.
Of course Jones insists there is no catch. But while this may be true, there are, at least for now, a couple of limitations.
Truphone’s full architecture that support local identification for the user is currently only available in eight countries world-wide.
The company recently moved to soften this limitation by adding a group of 66 nations in which Truphone users can buy competitive ‘bundles’ which include locally priced minutes, texts and internet usage and where users can be fully supported by local service desks, manned by multi-lingual teams. It’s not the full package, but it’s likely to be better than the roaming norm.
Also – if you’re hoping to dramatically cut the cost of international communications the Truphone offering may not be able to help you. It tends to be a cost neutral transition Jones admits, but the benefit come in getting so much more out of that cost.
“Typically the usage increases significantly because users are no longer inhibited by the fear of racking up huge roaming fees,” says Jones. Instead they communicate more fully and effectively with colleagues, suppliers and customers, increasing their efficiency of business and operations across international borders.
Jeremy Garside, CIO for the London Symphony Orchestra, another Truphone customer testifies to this saying that the Truphone contract has helped drive better communication behaviours among players, tour staff and international venues for the world famous group.
Since good communications are widely acknowledged to be the bedrock of successful international business, this can only be a good thing and Jones adds that being able to hand out local numbers on a business card also helps to consolidate a company’s presence in a market, showing commitment and immersion to local partners.
With manufacturing accounting for over half of UK exports, an increasing number of SMEs looking to become global and the UK being one of Truphone’s fastest growing markets, the company is strongly courting the sector for new business.
As a company which likes to think of itself as constantly challenging and innovative, converters can look forward to continuing Turphone developments to keep them keen.
These include applications for interface with enterprise applications, the ability to “patch in” to systems like Office 365’s Link service for internal communications and voice recording – for quality and training purposes as we all know.
Truphone’s proposition is undoubtedly strong and its brand is growing. It is confident that it has a sustainable competitive differentiator from the main stream because its offerings because of its unique infrastructure and targeted appeal to business at a time when, according to XX, most mainstream providers are actually dismantling their SME focussed business units.
The only real challenge is convincing customer that Truphone is “for real”, according to the marketing pros. That’s for you to decide.