Telco Jabs Users as It Tries to Sew the Seams

Opinion: British Telecom's Fusion service poses propositions to users over integration of cellular service and Wi-Fi.

Theres no doubt at all that you meet a much classier sort of chap, using a mobile phone.

What I mean is: If you get a call, and its from a mobile, why, you just naturally trust the person more than if theyre using an ordinary phone. Dont you agree?

OK, I give up. That was my last attempt to make a sensible justification for paying British Telecom for calls at mobile rates, using my home phone. And it just doesnt work, does it?

Heres the BT Fusion proposition: You have a single phone, which works as a GSM mobile when youre out and about, but which switches to become a VOIP phone, using Internet telephony, as soon as you arrive at your home.

Heck, wonderful! Internet phone calls are free, so... who could object?

Small print: No, these Fusion Internet phone calls arent free. They are "up to 95 percent cheaper than equivalent off-peak mobile phone calls."

The more you look into the Fusion idea, the harder it is to fathom what on Earth is going on.

For example, Fusion doesnt work on an ordinary broadband connection.

If you already have a cable modem or an ADSL line, you will probably have to cancel it; BT Fusion requires you to have a BT Broadband ADSL line.

And the same goes for your cheap phone service; BT Fusion calls have to be billed to a standard BT phone line.

The phone is, at least, wireless; but despite the fact that most people who would be interested are likely to have a Wi-Fi network at home, Fusion doesnt use Wi-Fi. It uses Bluetooth.

So you have to have a special Internet wireless hub, provided (free!) by BT, which does Bluetooth telephony.

It also does Wi-Fi, which means that if you didnt have Wi-Fi, now you do. And if you did, you now have two Wi-Fi networks, and have to start fooling around with channels.

/zimages/1/28571.gifRead more insight here about Wi-Fi from columnist Guy Kewney.

Theres nothing wrong with the phone. Its a standard Motorola GSM phone, with a little extra software in its Bluetooth stack, which means it can be a cordless phone.

It is, at the moment, unique; if you dont like the Motorola, youre stuck.

However, if you use the phone at work, it remains a cellular phone. Because the thing works over Bluetooth, putting a hub in the office will be of use to only six people maximum. Thats all the hub can register.

And only three of them can talk simultaneously; you have to have one hub for every three of the office staff who are likely to be on the phone at any one moment.

When youre out and about in the streets, of course, it switches to the GSM network. But you cant use your existing mobile provider. It has to be contracted to Vodafone, BTs Fusion partner.

All incoming calls are charged to the caller in the way that is normal in the U.K. Unfortunately, they are charged at standard mobile phone call rates—calls to mobile phones are among the steepest tariffs available.

Next Page: Seamless switching.