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Orcon says its Genius is 'Skype made usable'

The landline is dead. Or at least it will be in the near future, and Orcon CEO Scott Bartlett says its new Genius device, on sale today, marks the beginning of the end.

The landline is dead. Or at least it will be in the near future, and Orcon chief executive Scott Bartlett says its new Genius device, on sale today, marks the beginning of the end.

“Within five years, every single phone in the country will operate using this technology,” he says.

Genius is a wireless modem which routes phone calls over broadband. Other functions include charging USB-powered devices and sending voicemail files to email.

Orcon is offering customers a $70 Genius plan, with two options: 30GB of broadband with standard calling rates, or 5GB of data with unlimited national landline calls. Extra data packs can also be added onto packages and they can keep their current phone numbers.

Bartlett says it’s the best deal in the country. “This is the price people should expect to pay.”

He says many ISPs make their plans unnecessarily complex. Instead, they should offer a starting point and let customers personalise their own.

“People love to use the internet and data caps are a problem. For some 5 or 10 gigs is not enough. There are also people who don’t use huge amounts of data but they talk a lot … You can call your neighbour and it will cost the same as calling someone anywhere else in the country.”

TUANZ chief executive Paul Brislen says Orcon’s package is a step in the right direction, but believes voice calls over IP should be unmetered.

“Once we’ve got ultra-fast broadband rolled out the model for making voice calls changes,” he says. “We’re moving to a world where you share that connection with everybody else … and voice is no more important than email or web surfing or video.

“Ultimately I think we should just forget about charging for voice calls altogether.”

Rather, he says, consumers should be able to buy internet packages and make calls via phone, Skype or any other product of their choice. “It’s a matter of how quickly we get there, really.”

Bartlett says Genius is future-proofed and UFB-ready as it will operate on both copper and fibre. “In five years you won’t have any copper going into your home—just fibre.”

The device uses the same underlying technology as Skype but Bartlett describes it as “Skype made usable”.

“We love Skype. But if you want to make a call on Skype, you have to log on to your computer, plug in your headset, start skype, and type in the number. It requires you to be at your computer.

“Genius works exactly the same as your current home phone—it’s just seamless. The phone operates the same way it always has.”

Orcon collaborated on the product with Australian ISP iiNet , which set up iiNet Labs, its own R&D unit, for the past year. Genius is its first device, sold in Australia as the BoB 2.

In a statement last week Steve Harley, iiNet Labs CEO, said it plans to make more of its products available through Orcon in the future.

“Orcon are the first export contract for us and we look forward to exploring more opportunities of this kind … We have been working with the team at Orcon to develop something that will work in both markets—from both a technology and product point of view. We’re both really happy with the outcome.”

Barlett says Orcon worked with iiNet closely from start to finish, from the general look and shape down to the internal circuit boards and chip.

“It sets itself up. You literally have to plug in two plugs. One is the power plug, one is for the telephone. It takes about a minute and a half.”

Genius will be available to 84 percent of Kiwi households and Bartlett says that will increase to 90 percent by Christmas.  But full coverage will take years. He says broadband connections in deep rural New Zealand don't meet the minimum standard for Genius to operate.