As any smartphone-touting traveler who’s flown abroad can tell you, international roaming isn’t cheap. And when you add voice to the mix, the charges can really start to add up. But VoxEra, an Egypt-based startup, wants to solve that problem once and for all.
The VoxEra, with its four flashing indicator lights and connectivity ports, looks a little like a home router. The diminutive device connects to Wi-Fi or a spare Ethernet port. And once a SIM card is inserted into its designated rear slot, the VoxEra works its magic: All calls placed while you’re traveling are charged at domestic rates.
That’s thanks to VoxEra’s clever system of relays. When you’re abroad and someone calls or texts your number, VoxEra receives the incoming data and converts it to an encrypted internet-based message. It sends that message to the startup’s remote servers, which transcribe it back into a cell network call or text. Your phone’s none the wiser.
It may sound complicated, but the legwork can save you big on roaming fees. AT&T’s cheapest international option, International Data Pass, starts at $10 a day. Theoretically, calling and texting with VoxEra is free.
VoxEra’s system provides the added benefit of being able to use your number and your domestic plan’s balance. For calls outside the country, the startup’s Reach service offers low-cost options. And when you’re in an area without an internet connection, VoxEra can forward incoming calls through voicemail.
The idea for VoxEra came from CEO Amr Elgalby, who checked in at work frequently while he traveled abroad. The calls to clients became prohibitively expensive.
“I realized that a majority of the travel community faced the same issue: The price to stay connected to home, to loved ones, and to work was too much,” he said. “I used my love of technology to create VoxEra in hopes that I, and everyone else who decided to use this device, could stay connected.”
According to VoxEra, cell carriers make a killing on the more than 29 million people who use mobile roaming while abroad. A survey by Juniper Research found that roaming fees generated a collective $57 billion in 2013, and that 88 percent of travelers paid more than $100 a month in international charges.
The VoxEra is launching on Kickstarter, where it’s already surpassed its $20,000 goal. Units start at $80, and are expected to ship in June.