IKEA launches mobile phone service

August 4, 2008, 6:55 PM UTC

By Michal Lev-Ram

Known for stylish and inexpensive furniture with names like Ektorp and Malm, Swedish retailer IKEA is entering the mobile phone market.

The furniture chain is the latest in a long line of companies that have attempted to turn themselves into mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, that resell wireless services. IKEA’s Family Mobile offering will launch in the United Kingdom this Friday, where it will run on the German-owned T-Mobile network.

Family Mobile will be available to IKEA’s loyalty card holders, and will operate as a pay-as-you-go service. In the United States, several non-phone companies have failed in similar endeavors.  In 2006, ESPN shut down its phone service after being in business less than a year. But in the U.K. – home of Virgin Mobile, one of the original MVNOs – the concept has been gaining popularity.

IKEA could not be immediately reached for comment, and it’s not clear if the company plans to bring its phone service to other countries.

But Jason Baker, IKEA U.K. customer relationship marketing manager, said in a statement that the Family Mobile plan will help customers take control of their mobile phone costs in a climate “where every penny counts.”