Polar Wireless aims to slash roaming fees

Polar Wireless Corp. says it has struck a deal to buy all outstanding shares of a numbered Ontario company that has developed a patent-pending technology aimed at saving users big on international roaming fees.

The Carson City, Nev.-based firm, which was formally known as Barricode Inc., calls itself a new “mobile network” provider that plans to eliminate roaming charges worldwide. Its latest news comes one year after the firm first announced its intention to acquire all of 2230354 Ontario Inc.’s intellectual property and business processes.

Under the deal, Polar will acquire a 100 per cent stake of the firm.

The patent-pending technology, which is still in the testing phase, comes in the form of a micro thin wafer SIM, which users will be able to place in between their carrier’s SIM card and their handset. The “global key” will activate when a users leave their home network, allowing them to roam on Polar Wireless’ global network for about “60 to 80 per cent less” than their regular roaming fees.

The company said it is working with mobile carriers throughout the global to buy up voice and data minutes it will need to service its customers. In effect, Polar Wireless will be renting network capacity from a variety of global carriers in order to offer its discounted roaming rates.

Polar Wireless CEO G. Kelly O’Dea said his company is working to build out contracts with 500 telecos to build out the roaming network. He added that these negotiations, plus the years of working with 2230354 to build out the super slim chip, has pushed the product’s launch date back longer than expected.

“We know from talking to a multitude of large enterprises and SMBs that there is a market for this,” he said. “The reaction has been positive.”

O’Dea said that as a SIM user for 15 years, he is looking forward to a time when he is able to retire his belt of international SIM cards for various countries.

“Users are going to be able to put this one chip in and not have to worry about anything else,” he said.

As for the deal with the Ontario numbered company, O’Dea said his company has completed the final audit of 2230354 and both parties have approved a binding agreement.

“It’s about as close to a done deal as you can get,” he said.

O’Dea could not give any details on pricing or the official launch, only saying that benchmark and user testing has been completed in several of countries.

Amit Kaminer, a research analyst with the Toronto-based SeaBoard Group, said Polar Wireless’ product could be an “interesting and creative solution” to a problem that many business travelers are currently facing. He added, however, the thin SIM and rate per minute would have to be attractive for the solution to truly catch on.

For telcos in Canada and around the world, Kaminer said, a wide-scale adoption of this solution could force carriers to lower roaming rates to keep their volume.

“The more these off-solutions become prevalent, the faster the carriers would realize they need to encourage customers to use their own services,” he said.

Brandon Mensinga, a senior analyst covering mobility at IDC Canada, said that while he could not comment on the company or the viability of the patent, a product that can reduce mobile roaming fees could see significant interest from the business market.

“Enterprise users especially are less likely to do things like swap out a SIM card,” he said.

Telus Corp., Rogers Communications Inc. and Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. declined to comment on Polar Wireless’ announcement.

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