Smart offers as low as P2.50/minute for calls abroad

By Lenie Lectura, Business Mirror

Posted at Sep 23 2009 11:21 PM | Updated as of Sep 24 2009 07:26 AM

MANILA - Filipinos with relatives based overseas but have no means of contacting them due to budget constraints can now place international direct dial (IDD) calls even if they don’t own a mobile phone.

A reloadable IDD card is Smart Communications Inc.’s newest service offering, which caters to the low-end segment of the market. In particular, these are consumers that have logistics problems and those who do not own a cellular phone.

Dubbed as Hellow, the country’s first reloadable IDD card, which can be used on any Smart or Talk ‘N Text cellular phones, allows calls to 17 destinations where the most number of Filipinos may be found, and costs for as low as P2.50 per minute.

Unlike other IDD services, anyone can avail of the Hellow reloadable IDD card for P30 from any Smart wireless centers and other accredited resellers. Printed on the plastic card are the unique account number and PIN. The Hellow user just needs to key in these numbers when using any Smart or Talk ‘N Text handset. The per-minute charge is deducted from the Hellow account and not from the Smart or Talk ‘N Text handset.

The P30 load that comes with the Hellow reloadable IDD card may be used up to the last P2.50 and subsequent loads come in denominations of as low as P15.

Calls to Canada, mainland US, Guam and Hawaii cost only P2.50 per minute. Calls to Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, China, Malaysia and Hong Kong cost P5. For calls to Japan, Australia, the UK, Italy and Thailand, Hellow offers P8 per minute, while calls to Saudi Arabia and UAE cost P10.

“Several market segments are still underserved. So this offering is geared towards two most important segments which are the frequent callers but have to go to a place where they can make a call and those that who would want to make a call but can not do so because they don’t own a cell phone. This is Smart’s answer,” said Danilo Mojica, head of Smart’s wireless consumer division.

Mojica said this is Smart’s own version of bucket IDD pricing. A regular IDD call made by a Smart subscriber now costs anywhere between P15 to P20 per minute. “The rationale behind this offering is that we are targeting a specific market. We hope that we register 500,000 buyers of Hellow card in a year,” he said.

Kathryn Craig, head of Smart’s international service, said the company expects to double IDD traffic now that a new set of customers is expected to use and subscribe to the new offering. “The volume will double of course. We will be adding also more destinations in the future”

We would like to think that Hellow is the ultimate IDD service. No other service offers access and coverage through over 38.5 million handsets. Likewise, no other service offers load ubiquity and affordability the way Hellow does,” she said.

There are about 1.3 million Smart load retailers nationwide.