Italian inventor lauds his SIM phone design

An Italian businessman has designed a multi-SIM mobile phone that he claims will enable users to cut their phone bills up to 30 per cent by switching to the operator offering the most convenient tariff at different times of the day.

“I am planning to have the product manufactured in Taiwan and expect the first models to go on sale in Italy by the end of the year,” said Giovanni Ferrara, the inventor of the flexible-use cell phone, in an interview with the IDG News Service.

An entrepreneur operating in the health sector in the southern Italian town of Melfi, Ferrara said he obtained a patent for the new product, which enables users to switch from one mobile operator to another without opening their cell phones to change their SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card, four years ago in Geneva. The patent covers the European and Asian markets, with the possibility of an extension to the United States, he said.

“I had difficulty getting the project off the ground,” he said. “Initially, there weren’t very many mobile operators and people didn’t pay much attention to my idea. Now around 40 per cent of cell phone users have more than one contract and my software will enable them to manage their contracts to the greatest advantage.”

The multi-SIM cell phones will enable customers to switch easily between as many as four carriers, making use of some of the approximately 130 different tariff offerings currently available from Italy’s five mobile phone operators, he said.

Ferrara has the backing of seven partners – entrepreneurs from the northeastern Veneto region and southeastern Puglia – and has identified potential manufacturing facilities in Taiwan, although he has not yet fixed on a name for his new company, he said. He expects the handsets to retail for between 1.1 million lire (US$480) and 800,000 lire.

“The system should permit savings of around 30 per cent, so I think the phones will have paid for themselves within three to four months,” Ferrara said.

“The idea came to me when I saw how many people were forced to carry around two or three cell phones so as to choose the most convenient tariff on the basis of the time of day and the recipient of the call,” he told the online daily Il Nuovo.

The phones offer other advantages as well. “At a certain time of day you can switch to a number where you will only be called by your friends,” he said in the interview with IDG News Service.

The handsets will work with the systems used by all the major European cell phone operators, creating a potential market that is expected to rise to 400 million European mobile phone subscribers, Ferrara said in the interview. “My product works with a software managed by the user. It can be easily updated to take account of new tariff offerings,” he said.

The Italian businessman is currently considering the possibility of manufacturing his product in southern Italy, as well as Taiwan, in order to take advantage of European Union funds available for industrial development in the area. His main interest is in the European cell phone market, starting with Italy’s 45 million subscribers, although he also expressed interest in the potential markets in Singapore and China.

“It’s a project that merits consideration. Until the newspapers started talking about it, very few people were prepared to take it seriously,” he said.