VoIP operator Truphone has snapped up cheapo-roaming operator SIM4 Travel, with a view to combining the operations and providing travellers with low-cost VoIP calls over cellular infrastructure.
Truphone has spent £1.34 million in cash, along with £1.3 million in shares, for the company whose own shares have been in steady decline since listing, with a value of £37.4 million, on the Ofex market back in 2006.
SIM4Travel sells SIMs through Tesco, WH Smith and similar high-street stores, giving buyers a new phone number which receives calls for free and makes them at a reduced cost in a wide variety of countries.
Truphone provides a VoIP client for Nokia N and E-Series phones, allowing owners of those handsets to make cheap calls over Wi-Fi networks regardless of where they are in the world.
The company isn't commenting on plans, but it's easy to imagine a scenario similar to the 3UK/Skype arrangement. Calls made from a Truphone-equipped handset would be routed over the cellular network to the nearest Truphone hub, and then converted to VoIP connections for cheaper routing.
Where a Wi-Fi connection was available that would be unnecessary, but Wi-Fi is far from ubiquitous, and Truphone would like to be making money when you're not near a hotspot.
The purchase might also make it easier for Truphone to claim to be a mobile operator, and demand mobile termination fees. T-Mobile has been refusing to pay such fees on the grounds that a call to a Truphone customer might be routed over the internet (if the customer is connected to Wi-Fi at the time), and thus cost Truphone nothing to deliver.
That case is still winding its way through the British court system, but operating their own connections won't do Truphone any harm when it comes to proving their operator credentials. ®