Last summer we skeptically directed your attention
to a carrier by the name of Zer01, which was promising users unlimited voice and data on smart phones for $69.95/month, without a contract. The service claimed to use a VoIP application to route all calls. According to the founders, the service tunneled over GSM networks, though Zer01 claimed to have their own IP network -- and claimed to be using interconnect (roaming) agreements to make calls. In short, Zer01 was supposed to be a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE).
The problem? People started to dig into the operator and notice that it had the light fishy smell of an MLM or pyramid scheme
. The company's apparently "floating" headquarters, the lack of product beyond a shiny GUI, and the shady business practices of a few executive partners left most in the telecom press with a bad taste in their mouth. The more people dug into the specifics behind the company, the more people began to notice they quite often made no technical sense
It was entertaining to see some in the press develop their critical thinking skills and skepticism in hindsight. Laptop Magazine, which was originally so smitten with the unlaunched vaporware they gave them a CTIA award -- was ultimately forced to acknowledge the problems and take the award back
. According to the magazine, the award was pulled "because of serious ethical questions that have arisen about the company." The award remained prominently featured on Zer01's website.
Well, until last March -- when the Zer01 website simply disappeared. Now, the company's MLM partner Global Verge, has won a $43 million judgment against Zer01 for breach of contract, tortious interference with contractual relations and long-term profit losses. Except nobody knows where anyone from Zer01 is
, so it's unlikely they'll have to pay up. Of course while Global Verge won this case, they're still part of a web of spammy
, heavily-criticized service providers for whom providing actual service seems to be an afterthought to marketing them.