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Friday, September 28, 2007

A Cellphone Without Borders By DAVID POGUE

It’s amazing the way the Internet keeps toppling traditional businesses. Telegrams have gone away. Music CD sales are tanking. Newspapers are hurting.

One especially lucrative business, however, has somehow escaped the Internet’s notice so far: international cellphone calls.

That’s about to change. Early next month, a small company called Cubic Telecom will release what it’s calling the first global mobile phone.

Cubic points out that this feature alone is a life-changer for people who have moved, for example, to the United States from overseas. Their family back home can keep in touch for the price of a local call.

I signed up for numbers in Paris, London and Barcelona, and then asked friends in those cities to call me. They dialed local numbers, and my phone rang in New York — very slick. Voice quality was typical of Internet calls: perfectly understandable, but slightly muffled, with a quarter-second to one-second voice delay.

Even that’s not the end of this phone’s possibilities. For a flat $42 a month, you can turn on its unlimited Wi-Fi calling option. It lets you receive unlimited unmetered calls to any numbers in the world from Internet hot spots, or make them for a penny a minute. Either way, you have little fear of racking up your bill.

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