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There's a Tru Global Roaming Solution

NEW DELHI (MainStreet) -- There might just be a global roaming phone that really does roam all over the globe.

Sprint (S), Verizon (VZ), T-Mobile and AT&T (T) advertise themselves as global phone operators, but the fact is, you really can't get one phone that works the same way all around the world. Your Verizon device may struggle to work in countries such as France or Spain, which use different cellular standards. And all phones are only as good as their roaming agreements. If your phone can't connect to the local network in a country, it isn't really a phone, is it?

Tiny U.K.-based Tru lets users make complex international cell calls via cheaper local and long-distance.

Well, tiny U.K.-based start-up Tru (formerly Truphone) has a fresh idea for creating a truly global cellphone. Tru lets users make costly and complex international cellular calls via a series of cheap local and long-distance calls. The company has created a modular Subscriber Identity Module -- or SIM card -- that can slide into any so-called unlocked phone -- yes, it even reportedly works in the Apple (AAPL) iPhone. That SIM card brokers the connection to low-cost international calls. SIM cards start at $30 and calling rates are steeply discounted over traditional cell calls. Rates for calls from the U.S. to France run 35 cents per minute.

To get a feel for how effective this idea was, I took a Tru SIM BlackBerry (RIMM) on an overseas trip to India and Amsterdam.

What you get
This is a surprisingly effective low-cost global roaming tool.

I must say, Tru was a surprise. When a demo unit showed up in my New Delhi hotel room I took the Tru SIM card, slid it into an unlocked BlackBerry, pressed a few buttons and the phone found the New Delhi cell network immediately, albeit with its own new Tru number. Voice quality was excellent, and data access was reasonable both in 3G and slower-speed networks. Better yet, in this emerging nation, Tru also managed to find access in more rural areas outside the city with wildly different networks than those found in Delhi.

Tru also had a nice mix of support features. Separate local numbers can be added to your phone for the U.K. and Australia, meaning you and in-country contacts will pay only local rates. Tru also offers a downloadable app for smartphones and computers that allows for making Web-based phone calls. Tru also features sophisticated call forwarding and other features.

In all, I found Tru to a be a solid global roaming solution that most any business should consider.

What you don't get
Pricing was inconsistent -- some markets were actually pricier than other options -- and then there is the headache of having another number.

Tru was a reasonable, but far from a perfect, tool. While European and Canadian calling was cheap, calling from countries such as India was not. Per-minute rates for calls from India to the U.S. were $1.71 per minute, lower than what Verizon charges -- but not by much. And for all this money, Tru requires that you manage a second number overseas. Your clients and employees must learn it, which can be tricky.

Bottom line
Tru offers global business travelers a new approach to managing their international telephony: a simple modular SIM that can work in any unlocked phone. In my early test, the tool showed promise. Users just need be sure the total rate for the service makes sense and that users are willing to manage the hassle of having a second international roaming number.

But at least for now, Tru is a truly interesting idea for global business travelers.

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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