Dialing For Pennies

Upstart telecoms are outwitting the old national cartels. The result: a surge in competition worldwide--and even free international calls

Howard Jonas, the CEO of telecommunications company IDT Corp., still remembers the day in 1993 when a colleague from Saudi Arabia called to say that Saudi troops were at the door. "Don't let 'em in," Jonas told the panicking man. The soldiers broke down the door anyway and grabbed IDT's telephone equipment, shutting down its local operations. The Hackensack (N.J.)-based company had been running a service for six months that let Saudis call abroad for far less than official rates--a move that took cash out of the coffers of the national phone monopoly. A few weeks later, Jonas got some of his equipment back and was able to start operating again. But the incident put him on notice: The world's telephone monopolies would do just about anything to protect their cash cows.

To continue reading this article you must be a Bloomberg Professional Service Subscriber.