air Baltic, the Latvian carrier partly owned by SAS, has quietly started offering prepaid mobile phone cards, including a SIM card and number, to travelers abroad. The service offers free incoming calls from Latvia in 19 countries (including Ireland) and discounted calls from abroad to Latvia.
The service is run for the airline by SIA Telecom Discount, a small alternative Latvian telco. Just how they do it -- whose network is used-- I have still to find out (I want to get this news out ahead of anyone else, as air Baltic hasn't announced this to the press, only put it in a customer newsletter).
Since I don't think I want to get a new mobile number to use just for a weekend in, say Stockholm, mainly because I don't want to SMS like 150+ contacts and get everyone confused, I think this card is mainly aimed at the Latvians in Ireland and UK market. Think about it -- when you let everyone know you are off to O'Leary's mushroom farm, you also announce your airBaltic number and get incoming calls for free.
My sources say that the next step could be the sale of cheap (subsidized) phones by Telecom Discount bundled with the air Baltic card, so that emigrants could have a "call and be called from Latvia" phone when they hit the ground in Ireland or wherever. Sounds like a reasonable business model.