Vending Machine Sells Cell Phones In Las Vegas Airport

What really clinches sales, the company says, is the price of calls -- 1.5 cents to the U.K and not much more to other international points.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

November 7, 2007

2 Min Read

Travelers walking through Terminal 2 in Las Vegas' McCarran Airport this week are greeted by a huge vending machine shaped like a mobile phone.

According to 011 Mobile, the telecomm provider that operates the machine, many people are pumping money into the vending machine to purchase mobile phones and SIM cards before they hit the town's slot machines.

"It's a very new concept and it catches their eye," said Shane McFarland, 011's director of corporate relations, in an interview. "They go right to the screens. They can purchase everything from lower price-point phones all the way up to PDAs." What really clinches sales, though, is the price of calls -- 1.5 cents a minute to the U.K and not much more to other international points.

The vending machine is aimed at international travelers accustomed to paying much more -- typically $1.45 a minute for a call to the U.K. McFarland said the vending machine has been so successful in its first week of use that the company is planning to install additional machines in the airport and, later, in other locations.

The biggest sellers so far are SIM cards, which means the services offered are restricted to AT&T and T-Mobile GSM phones and networks. So far, based on a few days of experience, 60% of the purchases have been for SIM cards and 40% for mobile devices. A variety of phones and devices is offered, although most of them are manufactured by Motorola and LG.

A major selling point, McFarland said, is the ability of users to connect to a mobile phone network without the necessity of dealing with service provider personnel; some people switch on the spot from paying more than $1 a minute for international calls to making calls for pennies a minute -- a powerful enticement to purchase SIM cards or phones.

"Customers can make a phone call immediately after they make a purchase," he said. Customers purchase time with their credit cards in increments of $25 and $50, and McFarland added that many purchasers put their old SIM cards in their pockets and immediately begin using their new cards.

The phones and cards, McFarland said, automatically search for and find the strongest network nearest each subscriber as the subscriber moves about Las Vegas or the country.

McFarland said the touch screen displays on the vending machine are set up to operate in 12 different languages, although most of the traffic so far has been from English and Spanish speakers. He noted that 011 Mobile has been in business for nearly 20 years, during which time it has provided service to more than 1.2 million businesses and users worldwide. It specializes in targeting consumers in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Ireland and the U.K., although McFarland said the company is moving to increase its business in additional countries.

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