Wireless infrastructure provider Movirtu has created a cloud-based mobile phone service, allowing those living below the poverty line in the Third World to join the mobile age more easily.
The U.K.-based company’s new service provides users with a unique phone number, accessible on any mobile phone, free of SIM cards, handset hardware or additional software that could cost cash-strapped users more money.
Much of the Third World connects to information and banking services through mobile phones instead of computers, but even the cost of owning a phone can be prohibitive, with handsets often being borrowed or shared among communities.
Movirtu’s cloud-based phone services are aimed at those living in rural areas on less than $2 a day. Eighty percent of people living below the poverty line in rural sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia do not own a phone or SIM card.
By detaching phone service from hardware or even SIM cards, Movirtu’s service lets Third World citizens easily share phones or borrow handsets from others while still retaining their own number, allowing them to send and receive mobile money and information services as well as make and receive calls and texts on any phone as if it were their own.
Severing the traditional connection between numbers and SIM cards and hardware opens up phone service to a broader swath of customers, giving them a way into what is an increasingly vital connection to the global world.
The idea of a truly portable cloud phone service could easily be expanded beyond the Third World as well. A growing number of handset owners in the developed work own more than one SIM or device, often for work and personal user — over 1 billion mobile phone subscriptions in developed markets are duplicate accounts. A cloud-based phone could most likely be welcomed in this growing segment, and the idea could take flight with frequent travelers and businesses as well.
Movirtu gives phone numbers mobility through software called MXShare, which is installed in the core network of the mobile carrier. Revenue will be shared between Movirtu and the local carrier. The service itself functions much like a prepaid account, and the cloud phone customer uses vouchers, apps and carrier service, much like any other prepaid user.
The company is currently partnering with Airtel in Madagascar to deploy the service and plans to expand the service to other markets this year.
Movirtu is a for-profit social enterprise that provides wireless infrastructure to sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.