If you’ve ever wanted to have your own mobile phone network, now you can. Sonopia launched today, and it allows anyone to create their own virtual mobile phone network in a couple of minutes (which I promptly did).
Sonopia uses Verizon to handle actual calls and data, and is effectively a reseller of their service. Users who set up a network for their affinity group (sports team, church, school, etc.) will receive 3-8% of the revenues generated from their customers (the percentage increases as the number of customers grows).
Users can choose from a few different phones and calling plans and can co-brand their own website to get people to sign up.
Almost as an afterthought, it seems, Sonopia tacked on social networking features to their site as well. Subscribers can add friends, create a profile, upload pictures and video from their phone, etc.
I came away disappointed in my testing of the site. Design and flow of the signup process isn’t thought through properly, and there is very little information available on the site for people who are thinking of creating a network. As promised, it took me only a couple of minutes to create my own mobile network, but when I was done I had a lot of questions left unanswered. Small groups will be able to guilt/bully some of their members into switching from their existing carrier to Sonopia, but the site needs an overhaul before large number of people will feel comfortable with the service.
The company was founded by Juha Christensen, a Symbian founder and the former head of Microsoft’s mobile division. The company has raised $9 million from venture firms ComVentures and Sevin Rosen.