T-Mobile, this fall, made it newly inexpensive for subscribers to text and email while traveling, and a T-Mobile MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) is doing the same for international travelers headed to the United States—along with anyone who wants a quick, hassle-free connection.
Ready SIM markets itself as the "James Bond of SIM cards," explaining that no personal information is connected to the SIM, so calls can't be traced to a specific name or organization.
Ready SIM's real draw is how hassle-free it is, CEO Emir Aboulhosn said. The company sells GSM SIM cards by the data allotment (500MB to 2GB) or the time frame. Talk, text and data plans are available in 7-, 14, 21 or 30-day increments.
An example of a use model is someone who uses a tablet at home over WiFi, but is going away for a week. She can take a Ready SIM, pop it in for the trip, and throw it away when she's back.
"The idea is that you can buy wireless service on short-term or disposable-type setups, without having to go to a retail store, pick out a plan, and deal with all the hassles. This is the first product that commoditizes wireless," Aboulhosn told eWEEK. "You buy a SIM, whether just data or voice too, pop it in the phone or tablet, punch in your five-digit ZIP code, it gives you a local phone number, and you start using it."
Aboulhosn said that since launching in January, the company has sold "hundreds of thousands" of SIMs, all around the world.
"We have distribution around the world so that people can buy the SIM in advance and use it as soon as they arrive in the U.S. The product has been very successful [in this way]. People pop them into their phones while the plane is still on the runway, and they have access to local phone service."
Pricing ranges from $15 to $40 for the data-only plans, and from $25 (for seven days with unlimited talk and text and 500MB of data) to $55 (for 30 days with unlimited talk and text and 2GB of data).
James Bond of SIM Cards
As for the James Bond business, Aboulhosn said the assumptions of nefarious dealings that spring from the company's "identity-free" pitch are the elephant in the room.
"Well," he said, "everyone brings it up, so it's not much of an elephant anymore."
More seriously, he explained, "We don't take any information, because we don't need it. … As a wireless provider, our attitude is that we are selling something that's designed to be a quick, disposable service. Some people like the privacy or anonymity that comes with that. We offer our own private access point name, or APN, and we put encryption behind that as well, so it's definitely a unique offering, and a niche product."
Another use-case model is someone who uses Craigslist but prefers not to give strangers his personal number.
He added, "But if we get a request from law enforcement, we do provide the call records we have on file. Just not names, which we don't have. The reality is, though, that it's not hard to provide a fake name. On each carrier, you'd be surprised how many subscribers there are named Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck."
Think of it like a pay phone, Aboulhosn added. "You pop in a quarter and make a call. Your name doesn't have to be attached to a phone call. And, it can be that simple."