Optus is extracting maximum value out of its mobile network to offer home phone lines without the 'line'.
The new Optus Wireless Telephony product allows you to make and receive calls over the Optus mobile GSM and 3G networks at cheaper-than-landline rates. There's no concept of "long distance" with Optus' wireless telephony service -- all landline numbers nationwide are the cost of a local call.
Although Optus and its subsidiary Virgin Mobile (which also uses the Optus network) have been offering home wireless telephony services as part of a wireless broadband/home phone bundle, this is the first time that wireless telephony has been offered to small business customers or to home users without a broadband plan attached.
The service requires an Optus "Voicebox" and SIM which is registered to your physical address. Once the service is provisioned you will be allocated a geographic landline (02, 03, 07 or 08) number and be able to use it almost the same as a landline provided you are within an Optus mobile coverage area (which currently covers 96% of the population increasing to 98% by the end of the 2008).
Since no wires or connections are required, you can be up and running within hours and easily relocate the service without having to wait for a technician or pay exorbitant reconnection fees. Even better is that there is no upfront fee although you do need to be on contract for 12 months with a $65 pro-rata cancellation fee if you break contract.
The Voicebox accepts up to three standard telephones allowing you to use it with your favourite phone or cordless. Like with the wireless broadband bundle, the Voicebox needs power and you are allocated a landline number, so (by law) you need to notify Optus if you change address. An Optus spokesperson told APC there would be no charge if you relocated within the same state, however an interstate move or request for a new number would attract a $55 service charge.
Like with a fixed landline service there is a monthly rental charge with various plans for home and small business users.
Home user plans start at $29.95 per month with the Wireless Home Comfort Classic plan which gives you 20c untimed calls to any landline nationwide (excluding 1300 numbers which are charged at 27.5c untimed). The $39.95 plan reduces the call cost to 15c whist the $49.95 plan gives you calls at near VoIP rates of 12.5c per call. Calls to mobiles are charged 33c per minute to Optus mobiles and 37c to non-Optus mobiles with a 41c connection fee. Each plan have various caps that provide discounted call rates to mobiles if the calls are made within certain time periods.
Small business plans also start at $29.95 per month with 18c untimed calls to any landline. If you choose the $39.95 plan the call cost drops to 15c per call whilst on the $49.95 plan the call cost is 10c. Call rates to mobiles vary with the plans which each call attracting a 28c connection fee. The $39.95 and $49.95 plans also offer a $1 cap for calls of up to 10 minutes to any mobile.
As tempting as it is, it may not be possible to fully replace a landline service with Optus Wireless Telephony as the Voicebox does not presently work with fax machines, modems or EFTPOS terminals. Optus also advise people should not use this service if they have life threatening conditions or for alarm monitoring since the Voicebox does not have a battery backup and will not work if the power fails.
You can find out more at Optus' Wireless Telephony website.