There are far more telcos in the UK than you might think. T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange, O2 and 3 trip off the tongue, but you'd be forgetting the 'virtual telcos' such as Virgin, Tesco and even IKEA who run off their backs - and the latest entry could be the quirkiest yet...
'Giff Gaff' launches tomorrow and is marketing itself as a 'people-powered' network. What this means is it will ask people to promote the network in exchange for free minutes, texts and data. All promotional options will be found at giffgaff.com/tools with the network claiming 'VIG' members (Very important Giffgaffer - yep, it went there) can get their entire mobile usage free each year (excl. roaming and international calls).
"Involving customers in a two-way dialogue is at the forefront of what we want to do," said Giff Gaff CEO Mike Fairman. "We've already seen positive engagement with people and great interest in our model. "
So what's behind the promotional message? At this moment not a lot. What we do know is encouraging: the network is sim only so there are no long term contracts or messy handset subsidies to worry about. For the first six months all Giff Gaff users will get free data up to an impressive 100MB per day (more than Orange gives its iPhone subscribers) and money earned by users can be paid either against their mobile bill, directly to them in cash or donated straight to charity.
On the downside, Giff Gaff has yet to reveal its standard minutes and text prices (it will need to be good to tempt users away from more established networks) and its virtual network partner is O2 which has suffered more than its fair share of troubles this year (though £500m of network investment is on its way).
Yes, it all sounds a little bonkers to me, but in an ever more self obsessed, self promotional age the Giff Gaff business model might just work...
Update 25.11.09: With the launch today, pricing has emerged and it is rather good. We wait costs per megabyte after the opening period, but otherwise all looks good: