While the cable industry is understandably excited about its joint venture with Sprint Nextel and how that will facilitate the quadruple play, some people insist on throwing in a reality blanket. One them is Jenny Fielding, COO of Switch-Mobile, whose company is opening a back door for cable operators to quietly slide into the mobile services without the fourplay.

"We see ourselves as an intermediary in this time of flux," Fielding said. "We’ve been talking to the cable operators because I think a lot of people aren’t ready to make that switch" from their mobile service to a cable mobile offering.

Most cellular plans come with contracts and equipment deals that Gorilla glue consumers to carriers. Even the most willing players, eyes alight with the possibilities offered by cable operators and their friends at Sprint, might not be free to make the move over to the dark side without incurring hassle and penalties.

So why not, in the parlance of sports, take what the opposition is offering? Let the consumers keep their cell service, but find a way to dig into that service, Fielding said. Switch-Mobile burrows in with cheap international calling. Rebrand of brothers "The idea is to have the cable operators use their existing VoIP system and run it through our application and rebrand it. That would give them an in, a first step to get them on a mobile phone, getting them on the radar of the consumer in terms of mobile and then eventually making the switch," Fielding said.

It’s a niche application and one that might – especially if it’s successful in attracting mobile customers to cable – have a short life span. Fielding looks at it another way, however.

"People are moving away from landlines, and they want everything on their mobile," she said. "They used to run home to make international calls on their landlines because it was so cheap. Now they want to use their mobile phone, and they don’t way to pay $1.49 to call the UK, so there’s a gap there that can be filled." Handling the heavy lifting Switch-Mobile would handle the heavy lifting with a java application that’s downloaded onto the phone. When a subscriber makes an international call, the application opens a local dial-in number, and that call is then shipped via Switch-Mobile’s VoIP system at a much lower per-minute rate.

"We would license that technology to the cable companies," she said. "The cable operator would rebrand it; they would send out a text message that would go to the phone, and you, as a mobile customer, would download the app onto your phone, and it would all come in your monthly bundled bill" from the cable operator.

The idea is innovative, but "it actually is pretty simple," said Fielding, noting that Switch-Mobile has been in discussions with cable operators. "We call it the electronic calling card. It really is that easy." – Jim Barthold

The Daily

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