Calling All Countries

The latest cell phones let you roam, if you want to.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the June 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Traveling overseas is an increasingly common requirement for entrepreneurs. But staying in touch with your office and customers at home is arduous when visiting clients in multiple countries. If you need more access than hotel phones allow, you could find yourself dealing with differing cell phone standards or spending precious time finding a cell phone rental provider.

Thankfully, smaller cellular service providers with an international perspective are catching on to the need for one-stop cellular service. One company, International Mobile Communications Inc. (IMC) of Bethesda, Maryland, provides a service called WorldCell. "We provide international calling and roaming capabilities in more than 90 countries from Austria to Thailand," says Blake Swensrud, the firm's founder. Phone rental fees are $75 for the first week and $50 per week thereafter, with discounts available for lengthy rentals. Calling charges vary by country, of course, but WorldCell says their calls cost substantially less than the outrageous rates charged by hotels.

Using conventional cell phones, IMC has negotiated interconnection agreements with cellular service providers worldwide, ensuring that users are never without a phone connection. Travelers can rent the phones at airport kiosks or can obtain a phone by calling (888) WORLDCELL or visiting

Gene Koprowski has covered the tech industry for 10 years and writes a monthly computing column for The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition. Contact him at

Hold, Please

New accessory is music to customers' ears.

Placing customers on hold for more than a minute can seem rude if all they hear is silence. Giving clients something to listen to may actually boost their mood--perfect for when you pick up the line.

One low-cost solution comes from Phonex, a Midvale, Utah, wireless phone extension systems producer. The company has developed Easy Hold With Music, a device that plays music while customers are on hold. It's easy to install: Simply plug it into the phone. Priced at $19.99, the device offers just two tunes for you to play to your customers, but for the small office on a budget, Easy Hold sounds much more professional than dead air. For more information, visit Phonex at

Freedom Rings

Ditch your long-distance charges with the Internet.

Internet telephony is hotter than ever and it's not hard to see why: Domestic long-distance phone charges can be as low as 5 cents per minute using Internet phone carriers.

But now, even low-priced carriers face stiff competition, and entrepreneurs looking to save money are reaping the benefits. San Jose, California-based InnoMedia is offering a new product, called InfoTalk, that lets you make free long-distance calls via the Internet. (Local phone charges still apply.)

To install, just insert InfoTalk into the phone jack and connect the phone cable to your wall outlet; then dial the desired number, and the device handles the rest. Voice quality is generally good, although it varies depending on Internet traffic volume.

For now, the only catch is that the party you're calling must have the InfoTalk device, too. However, InnoMedia hopes to solve that problem soon. The $215 InfoTalk device is sold at and at consumer electronics retailer Fry's.

Contact Source

Phonex, (801) 566-0100,

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