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May 23, 2007

Start your own cell phone company

Most cell phone users have a love-hate relationship with their cell phone company with perhaps more of the latter. Don’t you sometimes wish that you owned own cell phone provider and could tell your old nemesis to ring off? Well, it’s now possible (in a way at least) without building a lot of tall towers and hiring annoying salesmen through the services of a company called Sonopia.

The AP’s Bruce Meyerson explains:

Maybe it’s time to stop grumbling about your cell phone company and just start your own.

That’s what Rod Farthing did, at 2:30 a.m. no less. Oh yeah, it took him just a few minutes to get Farthing Mobile up and running, replete with a selection of national calling plans and cell phone models.

Business is slow so far: Since the April launch, Farthing has signed up two subscribers, himself and his son. But he has two prospects in his wife and another son.

Well no, Farthing didn’t actually build a cellular network or develop a billing system and everything else that one needs to run a mobile phone business.

Instead, he created Farthing Mobile through Sonopia, a new “do-it-yourself” service that enables groups and individuals to design their own cell brands with a healthy dose of social networking gone mobile. Sonopia buys air time from Verizon Wireless to provide service, a fact hidden by each group’s brand on the phone’s screen.

OK, there had to be a trick, but Sonopia allows you to create your own branded  and logoed mobile phone provider complete with phone and calling plan packages, plus a social networking infrastructure:

Sonopia provides tools for each community to share information, photos and other multimedia content on the phone, as well as a dedicated Web site that can be accessed by non-subscribers who just want to be part of that community. So far, about two of every three members are phone subscribers, while the rest are Web-only participants.

The owner of the company gets 3 to 8 percent of the “monthly proceeds” depending on size and while it probably isn’t much of a money making attraction for individual entrepreneurs, it has drawn various community and nonprofit organizations, charities, and sports teams. The nearest analog would be the logoed credit cards that many organizations provide where they get a small cut from the issuing bank. Still, many folks seem to be in it just for the ego trip involved – “the vast majority of Sonopia’s growing roster of wireless communities were started by individuals, families and tiny groups with very specialized interests.”

Bottom line: Unless you want to to do this for your fairly large organization, there’s no financial reason to setup your own cell phone company. However, the ego trip involved in having your own mobile phone provider has a certain undeniable appeal.

Posted at 12:42 pm. Filed under Companies, Mobile Phones, Sonopia

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