The Irish troops in Liberia may not be coming home for Christmas but they’ll be able to stay in touch with their families as a result of a phone card deal between the Irish Defence Forces and prepaid phone services provider Dome Telecom.
Dome Telecom, which provides a range of innovative telecom services ranging from prepaid internet and phone cards to ‘white label’ prepaid phone cards for organisations such as Budget Travel and An Post, has secured a deal with the Defence Forces whereby Irish Army satellite communications will be used in such a way that troops will be able to obtain phone calls that typically cost €7 a minute from the troubled African state for around five cent.
“Basically, the Irish soldiers on UN duty in Liberia will be able to buy 36-minute phone cards from behind the bar in their bases in Liberia and call home,” explained Dara O’Mahony, managing director of Dome Telecom. “We worked with the Defence Forces to split off a few channels on the main satellite link that beams the signal into Dublin and treat their calls as if they were generated in Ireland.
“There are only some 6,700 telephone lines in Liberia so as you would imagine calling home would have been nearly impossible for the soldiers. As well as being able to buy the cards, every soldier based in Liberia will be given 36 minutes for free to call home over the Christmas period. The calls are restricted to landline numbers in Ireland only as mobile calls would completely absorb the value on the cards,” O’Mahony said.
According to O’Mahony, other nations’ armies based in Liberia under the UN have begun to take an interest in the service. “The Swedish army in particular, which is working closely alongside the Irish troops, has expressed an interest in the service having seen the Irish troops make use of the phone cards. As part of the deal with the Defence Forces, we have established a number of booths inside the Irish bases as part of the ‘welfare time’ services made available to troops on duty.”
O’Mahony believes that there is a significant opportunity to make such services available to other UN missions around the world. “For example, we have established dollar-based card vending machine at Shannon Airport for the US troops passing through,” he said.
Established in April 2000, Dome Telecom is Ireland’s largest provider of prepaid telephone services. A fully licensed telecoms company, Dome offers a range of international calling cards, including the brands Century 2000, Pulse, Global Caller and Century World. Dome Telecom’s products are available from more than 7,500 retail outlets in Ireland through its distribution agreement with An Post, Alphyra, Easons Electronic and through its network of vending machines.
In addition to its phone card business, Dome Telecom owns and operates a network of low-cost international payphones and provides exclusive ‘white label’ services to customers including the Irish Defence Forces, Budget Travel, An Oige and Independent Holiday Hostels.
Dome has spent more than €2m in the past two years in researching and developing products and services and makes a turnover of around €3m annually.
In recent months the company has been working to roll out internet services at An Oige, Independent Holiday Hostels and the Kinlay youth hostels by establishing ADSL-based web kiosks in major hostels. However, according to O’Mahony, the rollout has been hindered by the delays in providing ADSL technology to hostels in Galway and Killarney.
As well as the hostels, the company has been rolling out bedside swipe card phone services at hospitals across Ireland, including Holles Street Maternity, Wexford General and the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Dublin.
By John Kennedy