I don't have a land

by francine Hardaway on May 10, 2006

I don’t have a land line anymore. For the past two years, my home phone and fax have been Vonage, which is a VOIP solution. For us humans, VOIP stands for “voice over Internet protocol,” or using your broadband data connection to make phone calls. So I use the cable company to make my phone calls, but not because they have offered me an old-fashioned phone line. I just use my Internet connection to make phone calls.

And now I can do that from my mobile phone as well. Although this doesn’t really matter in domestic calls, it matters a lot when I travel, because international calls can cost up to $2.50 per minute from a cell phone. I discovered that when I was in India and China. When I bought a calling card, it didn’t work in every country. And it still wasn’t cheap. It’s not uncommon for my monthly mobile phone bill to double after a one-week trip to Asia.

It was only a matter of time before a globe-hopping techie would find a solution to this, and last week I helped launch the first one: Mino Wireless (www.minowireless.com). I share it with you because, if you travel internationally, it can be a godsend.

Although Mino only soft-launched three months ago and didn’t even announce itself until I sent out a press release on May 3, it already has customers in 43 countries. When there’s a real problem that’s solved by a new technology, early adopters jump on the solution.

The reason is simple. Especially in developing countries, the number of mobile phones is now larger than the number of landline phones or computers. But although it is natural to use a mobile phone to make international calls, until now it has been inconvenient and expensive. With MINO�s new technology, Internet phone calls will become available to hundreds of millions of new people worldwide. MINO currently has the lead in VoIP connections for mobile devices in quality of service, ease of use and cost. Of course we hope this will last. Yes, there’s a pending patent. It’s more complicated than that.

The founder of Mino, Jing Liu, came upon the solution because he was an end-user with a problem. His former company demanded that he travel frequently throughout Asia, and he was forced to find ways to make international mobile phone calls.

The Internet was the obvious method. Making Internet phone calls has become enormously popular, especially among young people and business people who speak to each other across national boundaries. However, to take advantage Internet phone technology, you have to be in front of a computer– as with Skype–or purchase and install special hardware as with Vonage.

The holy grail of Internet phone calls is to make them work on mobile phones, and Mino may be the first company to achieve that. The company has been working on this technology for more than years, but to launch this worldwide, it had to make its service work on every popular phone from every major carrier in every major country in the world. This was no small feat.

MINO Wireless made its first public announcement recently, disclosing that it had received Series A funding from investors in Silicon Valley and Asia. The mission of the company is developing novel technologies that allow mobile phone users worldwide to make international calls at very low rates. Because this is somewhat threatening to the major carriers, there will probably be some controversy until the carriers themselves figure out a way to partner with Mino and monetize this technology for themselves.

Stay tuned. Mino has a great product roadmap from what I can see (I have been listening in to the analyst briefings) and I’ve got high hopes for it.

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