The National Geographic Society is getting into the cellphone business with a phone and service targeted at international travelers.
Talk Abroad Travel Phone works on a prepaid basis, allowing customers to buy or rent a phone and then pay in advance for minutes. The service will work in more than 100 countries, and has a UK-based number that customers use no matter where they go.
To use the service, people can buy a phone with a special SIM card, or just buy the card and snap it into their own phones. It is compatible with several hundred carriers around the world.
While Disney and ESPN have offered branded cellphone services with leased network service from Sprint Nextel, Nat Geo will only provide its name and advertising, which significantly reduces risk.
Customers can buy the specially designed National Geographic phone, made by WP Phones, for $199. Customers in the US can also rent the phone, which costs $49 for one week to $129 for two months. The phone uses GSM, the most widely used standard in the world. Customers who already have a GSM phone that is unlocked -- or not affiliated with a particular carrier -- can buy a SIM card that snaps into their phone to get the service.
There is strong interest in the service among professional mountain climbers and tour guides, according to Markus Hutnak of Nat Geo. He said the service also can help parents keep in touch with children studying or traveling abroad. "Whether the kid decides to pick up, that we can't really control." (info from The Wall Street Journal)