Optus releases femtocell mobile 3G 'base station'

Up to 12 devices can be connected

The Optus 3G Home Zone femtocell router

The Optus 3G Home Zone femtocell router

Optus has released a portable 3G “hot spot” based on femtocell technology that can be used by its mobile service customers to get full coverage in areas without a regular base station nearby.

The Optus 3G Home Zone connects to a regular fixed line broadband service – which doesn’t have to be from Optus – and connects regular GSM mobile phones to make voice calls over the IP network.

Unlimited standard national calls to landlines and mobiles are being offered from $5 a month per mobile handset.

Optus’ managing director of consumer marketing, Michael Smith, said the reach of the modem is a 30-metre radius and up to four devices can be connected to it simultaneously.

“The number of devices connected to the Home Zone really depends on the speed of the internet connection, but the modem supports 12 devices,” Smith said.

The device was piloted in April by “a couple of hundred” people in Sydney and Brisbane, but this launch making it available in all major cities and regional centres.

Smith said this technology is the biggest challenge to the home phone in more than 100 years and can compete with monopoly fixed-line voice services.

Mobile handsets are activated through a Web interface on the device, much the same way as a DSL router is configured. Optus does not guarantee any quality of service with the voice calls and it can be installed over any network, but it is possible the carrier will look at offering a service level in the future.

Mobile data is charged at the same rate as the subscriber’s existing plan. Smith said the amount of data the voice services take up when using the device is about 1GB per month based on average use.

Optus mobile customers on plans of $59 per month or more will be able to purchase the Optus 3G Home Zone service for $5 per month over 24 months. The service is $15 per month for customers on mobile plans of $49 per month.

The devices will be available through Optus retailers from July 31.

Follow Rodney Gedda on Twitter: @rodneygedda

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