No converged telephony; Wired Country faces snip?

Last year, Alcatel demonstrated "converged telephony" to me, and I thought it was pretty neat overall. Very useful for NZ as well, as we pay so much for our mobile calls compared to everyone else. The Motorola-made BT Fusion handsets simply route calls over broadband connections at home and the office instead of using more expensive mobile networks automatically - and once you're out of range, uses a GSM network like a normal mobile.

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- No converged telephony for NZ

- Wired Country faces snip?

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No converged telephony for NZ

Last year, Alcatel demonstrated “converged telephony” to me, and I thought it was pretty neat overall. Very useful for NZ as well, as we pay so much for our mobile calls compared to everyone else. The Motorola-made BT Fusion handsets simply route calls over broadband connections at home and the office instead of using more expensive mobile networks automatically — and once you’re out of range, uses a GSM network like a normal mobile.

However, neither Vodafone nor Telecom were interested in converged phones. Vodafone understandably wants to put as many calls through its network as possible, but for Telecom, which has a monopoly on broadband in NZ, such a service would be pretty attractive. Not only would it be something Vodafone couldn’t offer here, but Telecom could also tie in customers with an integrated voice/broadband/mobile solution at its usual high margins.

BT does it like this: while it headlines the BT Fusion service with low rates — 3p/minute peak and 5.5p for up to an hour of off-peak calls — plus free handset and wireless base station, it charges for the other bits and pieces necessary for converged telephony. So, customers need to have a BT landline at £10.50 a month, and BT DSL, which starts at £17.99 a month, on top of BT Fusion plans that cost £9.99 and £14.99 per month respectively.

When I asked Telecom about “Project Bluephone” and converged handsets last year, however, it was very lukewarm despite the idea being promoted by its network manager, Alcatel. At the time, I put it down to Telecom’s general conservativeness but the real reason may be a technical one: Alcatel’s converged telephony solution uses the Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) 3GPP standard which converges wireless LANs with cellular networks — but it only supports GSM and not CDMA, which is what Telecom uses for its mobiles. It’s also uncertain if UMA supports 3G protocols like WCDMA/UMTS or CDMA2000/EV-DO.

There is of course a fine irony in BT doing converged telephony with Vodafone UK, but let’s just put that down to the weird things that happen in a competitive telecommunications market and move on. The stockbrokers didn’t like BT Fusion anyway, and lopped a chunk off the UK telco’s share price after the announcement.

- British Telecom launches fixed and mobile phone service

- 3GPP: Third Generation Partnership Project

Wired Country faces snip?

Speaking of telecomms competition, or rather the lack thereof, the only alternative to Telecom DSL in Auckland is under threat. Blaming its reseller partners’ lack of commitment, Wired Country’s owner Counties Power is talking about offloading the wireless ISP.

I’m a Wired Country customer and was very pleased with the service initially. However not long after the launch, the resellers’ “commitment” led to network overloading. It looked like the network design wasn’t able to support the requisite number of customers to make it a success for Wired Country and of course, to keep ISPs onboard reselling the service. That, and the jacked-up wholesale pricing, led to major ISP partner Ihug bailing from reselling Wired Country, and its future looks uncertain now.

Wired Country did make changes to the network this year, and for me the service is once again stable, albeit not quite as fast as in the past. Sean Weekes at Iconz prefers copper over wireless, but when all you get over the metal network is neutered DSL … well, I really hope that Wired Country gets out its current mess, perhaps with a more tech-savvy operator at the helm.

- For sale: wireless ISP, slightly used

- Wholesale revamp and retail ISP for Wired Country

- Ihug cans Wired Country residential broadband

- Wired Country retail ISP

- Axxcelera Broadband Wireless

Hmm … Wired Country’s gear is actually upgradeable to the upcoming WiMax standard

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