Anywhere SIM, a company that wants to solve poor signal problems in the UK, has snapped up its first retail partner. Argos will be selling its SIM cards both in store and online, giving the upstart some much-needed visibility on the high street. The SIMs are unique because they automatically monitor and switch between three different UK networks -- O2, Vodafone and EE -- depending on which one has the strongest signal at the time.
It's handled by a clever bit of business and partnership engineering: the company is working with Manx Telecom, an operator based on the Isle of Man, and has a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement with O2 in the UK. That deal is what allows you to have a UK mobile number. The other two networks -- as well as countless others scattered across Europe -- are handled with international roaming agreements. So apart from O2, you're always being treated like a holidaymaker abroad.
Anywhere offers three different pay-as-you go plans -- Home, UK and EU. With Home, you can only make calls on O2 (described as its "home network), but you can receive calls through any carrier. Calls are 5 pence per minute, texts are 5 pence per pop and data is 5 pence per megabyte. The UK option lets you make and receive calls on any of the three networks, but the price of a call and a megabyte of data is 10 pence. The EU plan, lastly, gives you access to all of Anywhere's roaming agreements in Europe. The price of a call is upped to 12 pence per minute, however.
If you're interested, there are some major caveats to consider. For one, there's no 4G. For another, there are no monthly plans, although the company promises to add both sometime this autumn. Also in the pipeline is access to Three's UK network, which should go live in August. While these might sound like deal-breakers, Anywhere SIM isn't too bothered. The company believes that the bulk of its business will come from older UK citizens that like to travel a lot or live in places with poor coverage.
Given its target market, the new partnership with Argos makes sense. If the company is to build a subscriber base, it needs to make sure its SIM cards are visible in the right places. Few retailers have the footprint of Argos, so outside of launching its own brick-and-mortar stores, this is probably the fastest way for Anywhere to build a presence on the high street.