International roaming charges are extortionate. You know that, I know that, and apparently Nashua Mobile’s CEO Mark Taylor knows it too – because that’s how he described them at a press conference with Orange Horizon’s boss Sebastien Crozier this morning.
Why were the two together? Why to launch a non-extortionate way of using your phone overseas, of course.
Orange, which operates mobile networks in 32 countries – many in Africa – has been looking for ways to break into the South African market for a while. So far, however, it’s held back from launching a full scale MVNO (ie a virtual mobile network piggybacking off of someone else’s cell towers), and has been offering business customers from overseas a certain level of service while selling phones and accessories to the general public via its online shop.
Now, in a move that as far as we know is the first of its kind, it’s teamed up with Nashua to offer its French subscribers assistance at one of four Nashua stores in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria. If you’re an Orange customer on holiday, you can get help and support in French.
Another key target is the 700 000 South Africans who visit Botswana every year.
The better deal is if you’re heading out of SA to France or Botswana. Nashua now sells prepaid Orange SIM cards for phones and routers which will just work when you’re overseas. The SIMs cost R115 and are good for 500MB of data, 300 SMSs and 120 minutes of call time.
Crozier says that more countries are going to be added to the service later this year, while the company judges demand. The big problem is that every country currently has different legislation similar to RICA compliance, which makes selling SIMs from overseas tricky.
Most people travelling to Europe, of course, partake in ‘plastic roaming’ and buy a SIM card at the airport, but Crozier points out this can be tricky to set up if you don’t speak the local language.
The really interesting part is that as of 1st July European-wide regulations governing the maximum amount consumers can be charged while roaming will come into force. Sadly there’s no similar legislation within the African Union.