Sick of line rental and mobile dropouts? Optus's new 3G Home Zone puts a broadband-powered mini base station in your living room, in a bid to lure users away from Telstra.
Launching this weekend after a period of commercial testing which began in April, Optus' new 3G Home Zone is bringing femtocells
to the mainstream with the first national service of its kind to be released in Australia. Femtocells have been rolled out in Australia prior to this, most notably by Vodafone, but 3G Home Zone marks the first occasion in which a telco has attempted a major consumer push with the technology, and is overtly being positioned by Optus as a mod-con magnet to lure users away from their dependence on landlines (and thus Telstra).
Indeed, announcing the product in Sydney yesterday, Michael Smith, Managing Director of Optus Consumer, didn't mince words, saying: "Today the mobile phone has become the pre-eminent device that everybody uses to keep in touch... And we think that there's an enormous opportunity to make the mobile phone your home phone. Which is what today is really all about: taking the shackles off what has been a monopoly business really in Australia for a very long time
Optus 3G Home Zone: five-bar call quality is all yours, for a small fee...
The 3G Home Zone device connects to your broadband service (which can be provided by any ISP, although Optus recommends a connection speed of 1Mbps download and 512Kpbs upload) and acts like a Wi-Fi router for your mobile, providing "up to five bar" quality reception for Optus mobiles as long as you're within range of the device (it's said to offer an effective 30-metre radius). In addition to voice calls, smartphone data services can also be accessed via the 3G Home Zone, but users should be aware that in both instances the traffic will consume metred data as provided by their broadband plan. Up to 12 mobile devices can connect to the Home Zone at any point,
although Optus recommends a limit of four simultaneous users for peak
The greatest incentive for a subset of eligible Optus mobile customers will be the pricing. When bundled with a $59 Mobile Cap plan, the 3G Home Zone only costs $5 a month over 24 months and provides unlimited standard national to fixed lines and mobiles to boot. It's an enticing offer at that pricepoint, but for those on a $49 per month plan (or lower) the cost hikes up to a less-palatable $15 monthly, at which point consumers might well argue that they're being charged for the shortcomings of their chosen network. (And another caveat: only one registered Optus user per device will be able to take advantage of the unlimited calls deal.)