Emir Aboulhosn, chief executive officer of Vancouver-based Roam Mobility, said that the service will work because there is a definite need. “There was a report last year that said Canada had the highest roaming rates in the world,” he said. “We have 18 million Canadians that cross the border every single year and we knew that Rogers and Telus and Bell were making a lot of money off of it.”
Amit Kaminer, a research analyst with the Montreal-based SeaBoard Group, appreciates any new market options for reducing roaming charges, but isn’t ready to call RM a winner. “Plenty of others companies out there do (International SIM cards) as well,” he said. “The secret sauce, besides the cost, is to make the experience as easy and seamless as possible for consumers.”
Kaminer said that, while RM is certainly cheaper than roaming packages offered by the big three Canadian carriers, it’s not substantially cheaper than calling cards, buying a prepaid SIM card while in the U.S. or using a VoIP service from a coffee shop hotspot. The real challenge is still convenience. And while phones can still be locked in Canada, putting in a new SIM card is challenging, if not impossible for some travelers.
Aboulhosn acknowledged this stumbling block but thinks it’s a temporary one. “Telus will unlock your phone (for a fee), and Wind [Mobile] and Mobilicity sell unlocked devices,” he said. “The strongest growing market right now is prepaid in general, especially in the U.S.” This, he said, is pushing Canadian carriers to provide unlocking options, if not straight-out selling unlocked devices.
Aboulhson also thinks that by creating a dedicated network with T-Mobile using its wide 4G network, users will have better, more stable connectivity and both faster and cheaper service than if they paid full price for a roaming package.
Ideally, he wants to bring an end to what he calls “Starbucks tourists.” The point of RM is to offer an easy alternative with no hidden fees. Like competing services, the allure of Roam Mobility is that you will never pay more than the up front fee, taking the fear out of roaming. This makes the service more attractive to businesses who, he said, are excited to invest in a fleet of hotspots and SIM cards. He said the company has already attracted the most attention from businesses looking for cheaper and easier to implement data and voice solutions.