When a telco’s mobile phone business is killing its fixed line business, what does it do? For Telstra, the solution is the T-Hub, a landline phone that – with Wi-Fi, touchscreen, smart phone features and internet connectivity – is very much like a mobile smartphone, albeit an oversized one.
Available from April 20, the T-Hub combines a traditional cordless DECT phone with a Wi-Fi tablet. It can support up to five handsets, which cost $69 each, but all the interesting stuff happens from the 18cm (7 inch) touchscreen.
You can use this to listen to voice messages, write SMS-like text messages via a virtual keyboard, add photos of contacts from an address book, as well as organise your domestic life via calendars, notes, alarms, clocks and calculators.
Just like a mobile phone
The large touchscreen charges via a cradle and, when untethered, can be carried about and used in different parts of the house. It has 802.11n networking built-in, meaning the it can link to the web over a wireless home network to provide instant access to a range of BigPond and Sensis services, such as news, sport, weather, The Trading Post, Yellow and White Pages, and 1234 services.
Just like a mobile phone.
Using the T-Hub’s pre-installed screen icons, you can also connect directly to a range of Australian internet radio stations, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. There’s a built-in browser for surfing to other websites, plus all the usual control buttons (zoom, forward/back) for navigating around.
And equipped with a USB port and SD slot (2GB included), the T-Hub will also play music and serve as a digital display for your favourite photos.
Just like a mobile phone
Considering that VoIP shares responsibility with mobile services for cannibalising fixed-line revenues, the absence of a Skype icon on the T-Hub’s screen is no surprise. If you want this, the BoB product from iinet is the “home phone of the future” for you. (Or you could Skype on select smartphones via Optus or Vodafone.)
Like BoB, which is exclusive to iinet, the T-Hub is for Telstra customers only. Specifically you must have a Telstra fixed line account and be a BigPond customer. For existing customers, a T-Hub can be purchased for $299, but there are also 15 bundling deals to choose from, the minimum cost of which is $1976.60 (excluding usage)for 24 months. More pricing details are contained in Telstra’s “Fact Sheet” below.
Seeing as it duplicates so much of what today’s smartphones do, it’s hard to see the T-Hub luring back those who have already ditched their landlines – especially when there’s no Skype facility.
We can’t see customers from other telcos and ISP providers rushing to Telstra to enjoy its fruits either – not just because of the cost of converting, but because the T-Hub’s free networking features are confined to the company’s ecosystem. Surf to sites outside this and you’ll start incurring data charges.
For existing Telstra and BigPond customers and those who must have a landline, however, it delivers arguably more value – by way of interactivity, entertainment, information and convenience – than competing premium cordless phone packages.