The Friday interview: Pat Phelan

21 Sep 2007

Tech Crunch is one of the most hotly-contested investor-pitching events in the world and Cork-based Cubic Telecom was one of 40 firms invited to attend. Pat Phelan is CEO.

Why is attending an event like Tech Crunch in San Francisco so important to a Cork-based company?

Tech Crunch is the second-most read blog on the planet. Being invited to the annual elevator pitch event is hotly contested and only 40 firms a year are invited. It is attended by over 600 venture capitalists and we would envisage attracting investment of €20m.

You are proposing to significantly reduce the cost of international calls. Why?

Years ago I worked in a restaurant in Cork. The kitchen porter was Bangladeshi.

I would see him and other immigrant workers line up outside long distance calling centres and these calls would cost them an absolute fortune.

I found a way to help them make those calls cheaply and that’s how we ended up in business.

How does it work?

There are two scenarios. First, if you’re leaving the country you buy a SIM card for €29.99, you pick a number at home and when you’re making a call in New York or London you can make calls of between 15 and 20 cents a minute. Once outside the EU you are making savings of €200, or 90pc off regular roaming rates.

In the second scenario, we provide you with a phone for €99. If your hotel has Wi-Fi, instead of calling through your phone’s SIM card you can ring over the internet using session initiation protocol. Using this we can get your calls to wherever you want at the lowest possible rates.

Is it true that you’re going to give phones away for free?

The phones are made for us by Pirelli in Italy. We’ll give the phone away but it will involve signing a 12-month contract. You can buy phone minutes for three-quarters of a cent anywhere in the western world.

We like to describe ourselves as the people’s phone company.

How are mobile operators charging so much for calls?

The terrible truth is that we are all being totally ripped off by mobile operators. What people don’t realise is that the calls cost the operator nothing as it’s on their network anyway. Because of internet protocol the world has gone flat but mobile companies aren’t telling anyone.

Where does Cubic go from here?

We can enable people to make calls for flat rates when overseas and their relatives won’t get stiffed with charges either. We are flattening the planet completely.

By John Kennedy

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