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Thursday, February 22, 2007

National Geographic to offer International Cellphones

National GeographicThere is an unusual entrant into the mobile phone space: National Geographic. The organization launched what it calls the "Talk Abroad Travel Phone," which is designed for individuals circling the globe. But worldwide roaming doesn't come cheap at 90 cents per minute.

National Geographic joined up with Playa del Rey, Calif. company Cellular Abroad to provide the service that works across borders by picking up local cellular carriers in over 100 countries. The phone number will stay the same in all locations, and the handset utilizes GSM technology, which is prevalent throughout South America and Europe.

In addition, the Talk Abroad Travel Phone offers a dedicated toll-free number to reach Cellular Abroad's 24/7 customer support service.

"Students, vacationers, business travelers and our own explorers and photographers can now stay connected with this affordable travel phone and SIM card, while they seek to understand and experience our world," remarks the site.

However, such capability isn't new, and National Geographic may have a hard time breaking into a market where third-party providers that don't have their own networks have struggled to compete. All major United States wireless carriers offer international roaming, with GSM providers T-Mobile and Cingular already enabling users to take their phones with them.

Pricing for the Talk Abroad Travel Phone is $199 USD, which includes 30 minutes of outgoing talk time. A SIM-card only option is available for those with GSM phones that costs $79 USD and includes 30 minutes of talk time. Additional minutes can be purchased for 90 cents each. Prices from T-Mobile and Cingular vary by country, ranging from 20 cents to up to $3.

Incoming calls to the National Geographic phone or SIM card, however, will be free. In comparison, incoming calls when roaming with T-Mobile and Cingular are charged the country-specific international roaming rates and can end up being quite expensive. The National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel phone will be available starting next month at Cellular Abroad's Web site.