In just under a weeks’ time, as this year’s Royal Welsh Show opens its doors, a little-known Welsh business will turn on the first full-scale mobile telecommunications network designed specifically for people who live and work in Wales.
RWG Mobile has been working over the last 12 months to create a “virtual” network that smartphone and tablet users can access via an app that enables them to make free voice calls over the internet, as well as registering up to five different phone numbers for multiple profiles – such as personal and work calls – on one single device. The network is supported by a customer service team based in Wales who can speak to customers in both Welsh and English.
RWG Mobile is the brainchild of Rhondda-born Andrew Davies, a qualified chartered accountant with experience of negotiating, launching and running successful telecoms businesses in the UK, Europe and the USA. After launching one of the UK’s leading Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), Davies decided to return to his native Wales to work on the development of a new mobile network – a project that he feels passionately about.
“If you think of a European country you will be able to easily identify its mobile network, like France Telecom, Deutsche Telecom or Eircom. No other country in the UK has its own mobile network, so we set out to create a communications provider that reflects and understands the needs of the Welsh population.
“RWG Mobile will compete head-on with the big mobile network operators in Wales, matching them in areas like connection speeds, international dialing and call rates but providing a user experience, customer service support and additional benefits that have a distinct Welsh identity.”
RWG Mobile will be launched initially as an app that can be downloaded to both Apple and Android smartphones and tablets and allows customers to secure multiple numbers that can be used to make and receive calls over the internet using a Wi-Fi connection. This will be followed by a SIM-based product that will make the network truly mobile, offering pan-Wales coverage as well international roaming capability and 4G connection at no extra cost.
Accounts that use both the app and the SIM will initially operate on standard “Pay-as-you-go” tariffs, with top-up credit purchased online via the app or the RWG website (http://www.RWGmobile.wales). As the subscriber base increases, RWG plans to introduce “Pay monthly” contracts, special offers and loyalty programmes by partnering with local businesses including retailers, leisure, sports and entertainment providers, service businesses and transport operators. Looking into the future, Davies also has plans to expand the RWG brand into financial services, offering prepaid debit cards that can be used at ATMs, in-store or online with full internet e-banking capabilities and attractive loyalty programmes.
Davies believes that a mobile network designed specifically for the people of Wales is long overdue and feels that the increasing uptake of mobile technology has created a gap in the market that RWG Mobile is looking to fill:
“The Digital Wales Programme was created by the Welsh Government in 2010 to make us ‘a digital nation’ and, while there has been progress in some areas like the rollout of high speed broadband, other areas are still lagging behind. A Welsh mobile network is just part of the digital jigsaw but one that we hope will provide a catalyst for further developments in infrastructure and services that will provide the people of Wales with more opportunities to become better connected and enjoy the benefits that today’s technologies can offer.”
The number of smartphone users in Wales is growing at around 8% per annum but there is still a significant gap to the UK average. Use of tablets is also growing at 24% per annum but still less than half of the population has one and 4G availability only covers 45% of the total population, compared to 73% across the rest of the UK.
These figures, according to Davies, underline the potential of the market for RWG Mobile.
“Some virtual network operators have been set up in response to demand from customers who want to take advantage of specific services, like international dialing or integration with automated telephony systems, while others are set up by big brands that are trying to cross sell additional services to existing customers.
“RWG Mobile is the first network in the UK that has been designed and developed to meet the needs of an entire nation and that’s what makes the project so exciting. Part of our mission is to continue to develop and improve the product by listening to our three million potential customers and doing everything we can to give them what they want.”