Hong Kong telecom entrepreneur Rick Siemens launched a VoIP service yesterday offering users free Wi-Fi hotspot access in return for signing up.
The service, Zoippe, aimed at Asian consumers and SMEs, is operated by Siemens' Hong Kong-listed niche telco e-Kong.
e-Kong executive director SG Lim said the company aimed to sign up 120 million users in three to five years. 'Skype did it in three years - we should be able to do it in five,' he said.
Lim said 'the biggest problem' would be customer acquisition, and for that reason it is marketing through and sharing revenue with partners.
In Hong Kong, it is working with Wi-Fi hotspot operator Y5, who is giving free connectivity to those who download the Zoippe client. In Thailand, the partner is Web site operator Asiaxpat.
Zoippe offers calls to PCs and phone numbers, plus IM and SMS to mobile numbers, Lim said.
Another partner, e-Power, is selling a voice-only service in China with the support of China Telecom.
Siemens, the chairman of e-Kong, founded Hutchison Telecommunications in the early '80s and established the Hong Kong mobile operator Sunday in 1997.
e-Kong offers long distance and business solutions in Hong Kong, Singapore and the US. It posted a profit of HK$22.8 million ($2.9 million) in 2006 on revenue of HK$330 million.