Vir2Sim promises ‘no more roaming costs’ with virtual phone numbers



VIR2SIM is a Latvian startup with a simple promise: no more roaming costs when you travel. It works by giving you a virtual phone number. Calls to this virtual number get forwarded to you at no extra cost for the caller (although the user has to pay if they are abroad and correspondents call them).

The difference between Vir2Sim and Skype is that Vir2Sim does not rely on VOIP for incoming calls, but uses the GSM network for incoming connections. This should result in better quality, says Vir2Sim. For outgoing calls through your virtual number, it does use the data connection (meaning: 3G or WiFi).

According to GoalEurope, the service is currently available in 19 countries: United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Ukraine, Australia, Sweden, and Israel, among others.

I have to admit that it took me  5 e-mails to their  support (for lack of a media contact on their site) to grasp this concept. I was thinking of a use case that will sound familiar: you go abroad for a few days, you set foot in Athens, Berlin or Barcelona, and you’re stuck with no data (or if you’re roaming, data at ridiculous, “reading your e-mail will be € 45, thank you” prices).

Specifically, I wanted to know what the difference is between buying a local sim card with a data package, which is always a bit of a hassle because you have to switch SIM cards. It turns out, there isn’t a difference

Initially I thought Vir2Sim worked as follows:

  1. I go to Barcelona
  2. buy a virtual number on Vir2Sim with a decent data plan and
  3. I can call and surf on 3G

Turns out, it’s the exact opposite: how it works is that you go to Barcelona, buy a sim card there with a data plan, and rerout your ‘home’ cell number to the virtual number you bought on Vir2Sim. People who then call your ‘home’ number get forwarded through Vir2Sim to your new SIM card at no cost to them (you pay for the forwarding).

So, still some hassle for travellers. Vir2Sim apparently sees it more as a way for business people who are present in different markets, to maintain a ‘local’ number in every market.  

It’s a neat idea, but it leaves me hungry. I’m still on the hunt for an app that allows me to buy 3G access for a few days when abroad at reasonable prices. Actually, I think it should be legal for users to somehow auction their excess data, but I doubt that it is at this time. (@NeelieKroesEU, are you reading this?)

But if you develop the idea, let me know :)

Vir2Sim was founded by Nick Ustinov, who previously launched Pozitel, an online service for cheap international calls.  Vir2Sim is the first product of Arcana, a Latvian group of IT companies who are mostly doing consultancy and project development, but who are interested in launching products as well. Vir2Sim raised about € 500 000 in funding, Ustinov says. He also added that more Arcana products will follow. (How about: an auction place for excess data?)

[GoalEurope][photo: Flickr, contemplicity]

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).