Fonepool offers a pre-paid phone service to the 10,000 Irish J1 visa holders who travel to the US on Work and Travel Programmes each year. The company will deliver the service to J1 visa holders from more than twenty countries in 2004, concentrating on Europe in the summer months and southern hemisphere countries including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina in the winter months.
In contrast to Europe, pre-paid services account for a small fraction of the US mobile market, making it difficult for prepaid phone users to find outlets that sell pre-paid services. A winter 2003 participant, Bridie Stanton from Auckland, New Zealand, says "The phone deal was sweet. It was incredibly convenient having a phone over there, whether it was to text message my family and friends any news or just find out what was happening back home. ...it was super convenient. Something that really helped make my experience just that much better. Thanks!"
To support Fonepool's offering, Macalla Software's solution enables students to simply text message a demand for fresh credit to a local number that triggers a transaction for the appropriate amount to be charged to an authorised credit card, without the needs for vouchers.
"We believe this is a compelling, convenient, and ultimately cost-effective method of keeping in constant touch with family, friends and colleagues while on an extended visit to the US," said Niall O'Cleirigh, CEO Macalla Software. "The handset based top-up means phone credit is always at your fingertips, while signing on for the service here in Ireland before they travel will eliminate any insurmountable administration travellers may confront overseas."
Fonepool launched the service last year enabling student workers to purchase a US mobile phone for 87 that works across the US, including $40 credit. Fonepool succeeded in recruiting 1,000 Irish students during the summer and the same number of Australians and New Zealanders during winter and has recently signed a strategic two-year agreement with operator T-Mobile USA, the fourth largest provider of mobile phone services in the US.
"We are delighted to be associated with Fonepool, their innovative budget communication offering is a very complimentary add-on to our J1 product." Said Dearbhla O'Brien, Commercial Director of student travel agency USIT.
Colman Lydon, President of Fonepool Inc, said: "Macalla Software is the acknowledged top-up domain expert. Its proven software and flexible deployment options made our decision in choosing a mobile solutions partner an easy one. The electronic top-up solution is an integral part of Fonepool's strategy going forward."
The company is targeting J1 programme participants from emerging markets in Central and Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, growing its market to the 200,000 people who visit the US on a J1 visa each year.