Silent Circle takes on Skype and Viber with global, encrypted phone calls


Secure comms firm promises ‘beautiful disruption’ with its new Silent Phone calling plans, but will businesses agree?

Secure communications firm Silent Circle is taking on Skype and mobile operators alike by adding private, encrypted international calls without roaming charges to its Silent Phone service.

Its new Out-Circle Calling international call plans start at $12.95 (£7.55) for 100 minutes, rising to $39.95 for 1000 minutes. Silent Phone users will be able to call one another for free.

The new plans cover landlines and mobiles in 79 countries, which Silent Circle claims is four to five times more than “non-secure competitors” in the voice-over-IP (VoIP) world like Skype and Viber.

The company is targeting businesses with the new plans, claiming to be ale to save their employees tens of thousands of dollars a month on international roaming charges.

However, they will still have to pay for a data plan with a traditional mobile operator if they want to use Silent Phone over 3G or 4G networks, rather than just over Wi-Fi – so the promise of no roaming charges only goes so far.

Silent Circle CEO Mike Janke told the Guardian the Global Encrypted Calling Plans would bring “beautiful disruption” to the industry.

“A customer can get a basic cheap data plan from any telco and use our encrypted calling plan for all 2G, 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi calling. Our price point, combined with a basic data plan is about 20-45% cheaper than telcos currently offer long distance,” he said.

“Most European businessmen and women pay huge roaming fees when they travel around Europe and other parts of the world. Sometimes up to $1,400 per month. If you are a businessman in the UK with service from say, O2 mobile, just to call 100 minutes to Taiwan you will pay $17.”

Janke also said that “many a telecom’s CEO has contacted me to find out how and why we are doing this”, while claiming that Silent Phone has already saved one Swiss-based Fortune 500 company $44,000 per quarter in roaming charges.

Analysts are not wholly convinced. Gartner’s Charlotte Patrick said Silent Circle’’s main issue will be in educating consumers on the benefits of private communications over other services, such as smaller firms like Lebara Mobile who offer international calls at pennies per minute.

“They will be up against these low-cost providers who have very sophisticated ways of marketing to immigrant communities,” said Patrick.

“For other types of users, Skype is mostly OK for calling home from a business trip or while on holiday. So I would imagine that much of the disintermediation of traditional operator voice calling has already happened,” she added.

“Also, in certain regions like the EU, roaming charges have come right down due to regulation, so it is only calls to very remote places where calling is still very costly.”