Phoning cloud style

Cloud phones allow people in third world countries to have access to cell phones. Graphic by Alex Morgan.

People may be familiar with cloud processing, which is the process by which a third party does the vast majority of computer processing and then transfers the data back to an individual’s screen in any number of forms. The concept of cloud technology follows the same lines. Cloud gaming has just recently started to gain a foothold, and now cloud phone services are hitting the market in some select third world countries.

The concept of cloud phone services arose when Nigel Waller went out to create a cheap, affordable phone for third world countries, allowing the people of those nations a way to communicate with each other and the world. Cell phones are the preferred means of communication in nations where landlines are less than reliable. With cell phones, very little that happens on the ground will affect their overall service. This is why Nigel Waller looked into producing a cheap cell phone; the only issue was he couldn’t figure out how to make it any cheaper than $20. This was a major issue because for many people in developing countries, $20 is several months’ salary.

Waller spoke of seeing entrepreneurs in the developing countries sitting on the streets charging people to place a single phone call. The idea occurred to Waller that it might be simpler to provide users with a service that would allow them to have a sense of identity while borrowing a phone from someone else. It inspired him to develop the cloud phone.

The cloud phone is a simple service which gives users a log-on account name and password as well as their very own cell phone number. The number is tied into their account, not the phone they are using. This has a major advantage over the old pay-to-use-a-phone method. With their own number, people can leave them a message even when they are not currently logged into their phone. When they log-in to the cloud phone network, the service then pops up notifying users of missed calls, voice messages and text messages. They can then access and review these messages whenever they get the chance to.

To set up an account with a cloud phone would cost roughly 10 to 20 cents. This is a major decrease in cost for users who would’ve been paying up to $20 with the original plan. Users buy prepaid minutes for making phone calls. The account remains active whether they have any minutes on it or not allowing users at the very least to review missed calls and text messages they have received.

Cloud phoning is an exciting new technology that holds a great deal of potential for developing countries where communication and technology is key to making money. Cloud phoning allows users to have both of these things in the same package, even if the phone they are working on is borrowed. Despite its great intentions, it has the potential to be a problem as well. In the long run, the prepaid minutes will still cut into many families’ budgets in developing countries, but cloud phones are definitely a step in the right direction.