A number of readers (thanks for the tip, Patrick B!) have spotted a new app on the Windows Store, the Cellular Data app, which appears ready to provide cellular data services directly from Microsoft, using only a Microsoft account. The app’s description provides some detail:
Are you looking for a reliable, convenient way to stay connected everywhere you go, even when WiFi isn’t available? The Cellular data app allows you to connect to a trusted nationwide mobile data network using only your Microsoft account. Connect with – and pay for – a mobile data plan on your Windows 10 device using only your Microsoft account information. That means no fixed contract and no long term commitments to a mobile network operator. Now you can buy and use mobile data at your own convenience.
Microsoft is partnering with a French company, Transatel, to provide Microsoft SIM cards to allow pre-paid connections, initially for domestic plans only, but “international roaming offers will be available soon”, according to a press release on the Transatel website. Transatel currently covers 38 countries and plans to expand to 50 by the end of the first quarter of 2016, and according to the app’s FAQ the service will be initially offered in the US, the UK, and France.
The app is designed to work only with select Windows 10 devices, with the app set to “work on PC” (presumably Intel devices with LTE connections via a SIM slot), and there’s no word yet on pricing or availability of the SIM cards, although you can download the app (below) and check it out.
A Microsoft Corporate VP, Eric Lockard, further explains Microsoft’s entrance into offering mobile data plans:
“(W)e want to promote the adoption of cellular connectivity on Windows tablets and laptops to complement classic Wi-Fi connectivity and make it easier for consumers to connect to the internet, anywhere, anytime. The Transatel SIM 901 solution helps us reach this objective in multiple markets through a single interface”.
Currently only a few Surface models offer LTE connectivity, but could a Cellular Data app and a Microsoft SIM card be signalling more Surface models with cellular capabilities to come?