Las Vegas –MNVO Touch Mobile came to Super Mobility Week with a low-cost prepaid service that keeps plan prices down by defaulting voice calls to Wi-Fi before connecting to the Sprint cellular network.
The service uses VoIP over Wi-Fi and 3G/4G cellular, but it shifts to circuit-switched 2G if that offers the best voice quality, the Canadian company said.
Plans start at $20/month, or less than half the price of entry-level carrier plans that don’t offer Touch Mobile’s feature set, said CEO Derek Ting.
The service is only the second such service from an MVNO to deliver seamless handoffs from Wi-Fi to cellular and back, said Ting. Unlike the competing service, however, Touch Mobile’s price also includes free visual voicemail and the ability for an account holder to send and receive texts from a tablet app as if the texts were being sent to and from the user’s phone number.
The company “soon” will offer web calling so that users can dial out from a PC or tablet to place calls or send texts from their Touch Mobile phone number.
Target markets include price-conscious youth who want “cool free features” as well as credit-challenged consumers who don’t have credit cards, Ting said. Consumers buy PINs from brick-and-mortar retailers for a month of service or online at pinzoo.com. If the 30-day service expires after a four-day grace period, during which only Wi-Fi calling is allowed, then users must get a new phone number if they reactivate service.
The service is available on three phones marketed by the company. On those phones, the Wi-Fi calling experience is just like a cellular calling experience, Ting said.
The lowest cost plan of $20 offers a 200MB bucket of cellular data and cellular VOiP service, which equals 600 minutes of cellular voice calling at 3 minutes of voice calling per MB. Unlimited free Wi-Fi calling and data is available on top of that.
A $25 plan offers 500MB of cellular service, a $35 plan offers 1GB, and the $50 plan offers 2GB, or the equivalent of 6,000 voice minutes on the Sprint network.
Free Wi-Fi service is available only if a cellular plan is purchased.
Phones available with Touch Mobile service are the Samsung Galaxy S3 at less than $250, Galaxy S2, and the Galaxy Victory, available for less than $100.
The company launched service today through hundreds of dealers through a partnership with master agents, Ting said. The company is seeking additional dealers and will sell through Fry’s in the fourth quarter.
The company was founded in 2009 and launched the Text Now over-the-top app, which is available along with phones to consumers through the company’s web site. Text Now’s Wi-Fi/cellular plans are similar in price to Touch Mobile plans but lack a handoff from Wi-Fi to cellular.