Portable WiFi Beats Roaming Charges

14 Aug 2017 | 02.33 pm

Portable WiFi Beats Roaming Charges

Uni-fi Global device gets you connected online at local rates

14 Aug 2017 | 02.33 pm

The termination of roaming charges for calls and texts in the EU has finally happened but individuals and businesses can still get burned with big bills for data usage, especially if they travel beyond Europe. Irish entrepreneur Killian Whelan (pictured) spotted a niche for tech solutions to keep costs down, and the venture is proving profitable.

Whelan (49) is a seasoned businessman who has been involved in a variety of ventures. He was the majority shareholder of vending machine operator Vendit when it was bought by Coca-Cola for around €8m in 2005.

Whelan’s Travelwin is a parent for four activities – SimLocal, Brandbox, Uni-fi Global and the as yet unlaunched UK VAT reclaim service, Vatback. SimLocal, on the go since 2011, sells local SIM cards to intercontinental travellers, which retailers can apply data bundles to by scanning them at the point of sale (using Travelwin-owned software).

For Uni-fi Global, Whelan partnered with a Chinese tech firm to develop a portable WiFi ‘hot spot’ device that gives users secure data connectivity at local rates. The trick is that the device uses cloud-based SIM technology to provide the 4G (where available, otherwise 3G) online connectivity at local rates.

The battery powered gadget, which can work in around 100 countries, costs €170 through the Uni-fi website and allows up to five devices to connect simultaneously. “Business travellers to some places in Asia, Africa and South America have to pay between €500 to €6,000 per gigabyte of roaming data,” says Whelan.

Uni-fi’s monthly data bundles are priced from €23 per data gigabyte. “The Uni-fi device is compelling based on cost and it’s essential for security too, as firms cannot rely on public WiFi,” he adds.

Whelan’s endeavours have impressed investors, among them Delta Partners and Enterprise Ireland, who have invested €800,000 in Sim Travel Ltd. The company booked a net profit of €772,000 in the year to November 2016 and doubled its debtor book value to €1.6m. Net worth at year-end was €2m.

 

 

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