Tru seeks marriage between GSM and VoIP.

UK-based company is working toward a future where one account, one number serve two phone technologies.

By Adam Stone | Posted Feb 14, 2011
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For many, Tru (until recently known as Truphone) is best known as a purveyor of inbound, GSM-based calling tools. The company also has made a major play in the realm of VoIP apps for mobile devices.

In a pair of recent announcements, Tru has taken steps to beef up both of these offerings. While its GSM and VoIP efforts have run parallel thus far, company executives say these latest moves help guide Tru toward a bigger picture, one in which the telephony industry embraces both GSM and VoIP as close cousins, if not outright siblings.

"In the future, we will look to bring these two technologies together so that you have one number, one account and one voicemail across your Tru App and Tru SIM services," said head of PR Chloe Graf. "We believe that marrying these two technologies is the future of mobile communications."

So, what are the enhancements that lay the groundwork for this future coming-together?

On the VoIP side, Tru already has a foothold with its downloadable apps that allow low-cost or free calling via Wi-Fi connections. Recently the company announced it would make those same apps available on desktop and laptop PCs.

With a single account across mobile and PC connection points, users’ phones will ring simultaneously on both devices, while calls will transfer seamlessly between PC and mobile phone, allowing users to keep talking while moving or sitting.

"We were hearing from our customers that whilst it is great to use Tru on their mobiles, they often were stationary and they don’t want to hold their mobile in their hand or put their mobile on the speaker," Graf said.

The upgrade allows users to integrate all their social and personal networks including Skype, Facebook, AIM and GoogleTalk with real-time updates and synchronization between devices.

Within the coming 12 to 18 months, this enhanced VoIP offering will begin to cross-pollinate with the company’s GSM offering, though the exact business model has yet to be determined, Graf said.

On the GSM side, the latest enhancement addresses issues of convenience.

Founded in 2006, the London-based company claims 300 corporate customers using its GSM service, with another 100 in the pipeline. Up to now, businesses have had to buy their services piecemeal: voice, text, data, each priced separately. Tru's new Business Elite product bundles all these elements in a single package.

"We felt it was too complicated. People find it much easier to get their heads around a bundled offering. It’s all about giving people the easiest solution," Graf said.

Tru is usable across the U.S., UK and Australia, with the Netherlands and Spain coming on line soon. Roaming is free when calling in the network, and the company hopes to sign 20 more countries by the end of the year, Graf said. The bundled plan gives users discounted roaming rates in 220 countries and 100 minutes of free talk time in Europe.

Plan pricing breaks down into a couple of striations. Elite 450 costs $74 for 45 talk minutes, 250 SMS messages and 40MB of data. The top-tier 1500 plan costs $210 for 1500 minutes, 750 SMS messages and 500MB of data.

Tru is looking to the bundled plans, paired with free roaming, to help businesses overcome a lingering frustration when it comes to their telecom needs. For travelers bound for destinations overseas, Graf said, things just are not running smoothly. "People aren’t using their phones when they are abroad," she said. "They have these smart phones and as soon as they step out of the country, they turn dumb."

This applies across the boards, as Tru’s target audience ranges from the smallest to the biggest enterprises, Graf said.

"If any company has travelers that are away once a month, then it makes sense of them to be with us," she said, though she acknowledged bigger businesses are more likely to see a high volume of international travel.

Looking ahead, the company continues to expand its available platforms. In addition to Android, Nokia and iPhone/Pad/Touch, Tru announced recently that it had enabled GSM-based reception e-mail to the BlackBerry. (Tru has offered a VoIP calling app for BlackBerry for some time.) "They are very careful about preserving their reputation," Graf said. "So we are thrilled to be able to say that we are working with them."

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