Nat'l Geographic's mobile service for travelers

The latest entrant into the branded wireless service sector or MVNO space is National Geographic Society with its Talk Abroad Travel Phone service for world travelers.

The prepaid service allows users to buy or rent a phone and then pay in advance for minutes that work in more than 100 countries. Users are equipped with a UK-based number, a special SIM card and a phone if they don't already have a GSM phone. Playa del Rey, California-based Cellular Abroad is the MVNE or manager of the service and it brokered "several hundred" deals with carriers around the world. Cellular Abroad will sell the service through its website, but it hopes to expand to electronic boutiques and mail catalogs. (Always the trouble for MVNOs, how to reach the potential subscribers.)

The specially branded National Geographic phone, made by Swiss-based WP Phones, retails for $199. U.S. customers can rent the phone for $49 for one week or $129 for two months. Within 65 of the 105 countries, incoming calls are free, while rates for outgoing calls start at 90 cents a minute and climb to as high as $2.70 in remote regions.

For more on the new National Geographic wireless service:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)