Virgin offers 'triple play' wireless broadband

Virgin enters broadband arena with services aimed for the home user

Virgin Mobile Australia has launched Virgin Broadband, a broadband Internet package which it says is geared for the average household.

The offering consists of two services: Virgin Broadband at Home and Virgin Mobile Broadband.

Using its 3G HSDPA network, the $60 a month Virgin Broadband at Home service provides users unlimited standard local and long distance phone calls, free calls to Virgin mobile, free voicemail, and broadband with a 4GB download quota. Peak speeds are 750kbps but typical speeds will more likely be around 512kbps.

The new plan does away with the need for a home phone line, instead the modem routes phone calls over Virgin's 3G network. The modems are supplied by Belgian company Option.

"You take the modem out, plug it into the power in the wall, you then unplug your landline handset (the normal home phone you've got today) from the wall and plug it into the modem," Virgin Mobile Australia CEO Matt Davey , said. "You then can plug in your PC either using your Internet cable, or if you've got Wi-Fi in your laptop or PC, [there's a Wi-Fi router in the box as well], so it will just automatically connect. You then register your details and you're away to go. Very simple plug and play."

The phone is meant to act in exactly the same manner as a normal home phone would act, says Davey said. It has a normal phone plug, a dial tone, and it rings like a normal phone.

The company says this will appeal to disgruntled broadband users.

Davey believes the reason is that "people find it complicated, they find it confusing, and quite a lot of them find it expensive".

"And what we think we'll do is that we'll open up the broadband market now," he said.

The product was designed specifically for the consumer market.

"We're not after heavy, heavy users and we think that they'll self-select out," Davey said. "If you're using 70, 80, 90 gigabytes this is not for you, and quite frankly if you're using that kind of download capacity you'll be looking at something that's faster anyway."

For $80 a month with the mobile broadband service, consumers get a new nokia 6120 phone, a USB modem, 1 gigabyte of download working at 512 kbps, and $520 worth of calls. 3G HSDPA is also supported in coverage areas.

"It's a bit like a capped plan," Davey said, adding there is no charge for excess usage. When the limit is reached the speed is throttled to 128kbps.

Both products involve a 24-month contract because the equipment is provided upfront.

Davey ruled out the prospect of adding wired broadband such as ADSL to its product range in the future.

"I think we'll just stick with our play," he said. "What it takes a lot of people to understand today is that you don't need a copper connection into your house anymore. This does away with that."

"This is about Virgin becoming a full blown telecommunications company. So it's an Australian first and it's also a first for Virgin in the world. This is really the first wireless triple play that is going on in the Australian market - you get a home phone, mobile, and broadband."

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Sharon Springell

PC World
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