The nation’s number two telco Optus has ramped up its trial of femtocell technology into a fully-fledged commercial service offered across all of Australia’s capital cities and large regional centres, with the flagship offer over the service seeing customers pay as little as $5 a month for unlimited calls nationally.
Femtocells are small devices which customers install in their homes, connecting them in to their home broadband network. The devices then act as a small 3G mobile base station, funnelling mobile traffic back from customers’ phones through their broadband connection to their telco of choice. They have not previously been commercially sold in Australia in quantity.
Optus’ launch yesterday of a commercial femtocell service, dubbed the ‘Optus 3G Home Zone’ service, follows a trial the telco conducted from April this year in a number of major cities. “With today’s launch, Optus is extending the service to all major capital cities as well as large regional centres,” the telco said yesterday.
The telco will market the solution as a challenge to the fixed-line telephony market which it also plays strongly in, alongside its major competitor telco. Other rivals such as iiNet and Internode have chosen to tackle the market by offering consumer-grade internet telephony services, which Optus does not currently offer.
For $5 a month over 24 months, on top of selected $59 and above mobile plans, Optus will offer the femtocell service, which will come with unlimited “standard” national mobile calls to fixed lines and Australian mobile phones. It is also guaranteeing “five bars” of reception in customers’ homes with the service.
“As many Australians struggle with the rising cost of living, Optus is delivering new innovations to help our customers stay connected and, in the process, pay less,” said Optus Consumer managing director Michael Smith. “We believe today’s announcement signifies the biggest challenge to the Australian home phone since services began nearly 130 years ago.”
“As our major competitor raises line rental costs1 Optus is providing a great value alternative for the home calling needs of our customers. Customers involved in our recent trial love the fact that they are receiving personal and dedicated coverage where they need it most.”
However, not everyone has been as keen on the femtocell technology as Optus. Vodafone offers a similar service to businesses, but has not launched a femtocell offering to consumers, while Telstra had harsh words to say when Optus kicked off its trial. “Femtocells are a means of compensating for poor coverage,” the company told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time.
A number of online commentators have highlighted the fact that Optus’ network does not currently offer the coverage or speeds that Telstra’s does, and also the fact that Optus’ trial femtocell solution could charge customers for calls placed using broadband connections which they were already paying for. However, others have seen the femtocell solution as a valid option for those who want to ensure good coverage in their homes or workplaces.
Image credit: Optus