Smartphone app links to home line
About 50,000 Orcon customers will be able to make free local calls and pick up calls to their home-phone number wherever they are in the world, using an app on their smartphone.
If that sounds baffling, it is only the start of a series of innovations made possible by the industry-wide switch to internet telephony that looks set to challenge people's concept of a "home phone".
Orcon chief executive Greg McAlister said the company's "Genius Go" app for iPhone and Android smartphones, which it has just released, "integrated" customers' home phones with their smartphones.
Customers could set up the app so calls to their home phone would ring simultaneously on their smartphone and could be picked up on either.
That meant they could pick up landline calls anywhere at no cost, for example when holidaying overseas or when sitting on their sofa, he said.
Customers could switch the feature off if someone else in their household wanted to pick up calls.
Orcon customers could also use the app to make calls from their smartphone that would be treated as a home-phone call, McAlister said.
That meant that even if they were travelling overseas they could still call their next-door neighbour at no charge.
Up to five smartphones could be linked to a home account.
Telecom has long mooted the idea of allocating multiple numbers to home phones.
That is another development, like Genius Go, made possible by the transition from "switched circuit" telephony to internet telephony.
The idea, first discussed publicly by former chief technology officer Murray Milner in 2004, would mean each person in a household could be allocated their own individual number for their shared home phone.
That would mean one person in a household would be able to put their calls on voicemail or divert their calls to a mobile phone or another landline, for example, while allowing calls to other family members to ring through.
People could be billed separately for calls they made on a shared household line and businesses could request staff making personal calls from work to pick up the charge on their home account.
Telecom is due to launch its first internet telephony service by the end of the year, enabling it to run voice calls over the ultrafast broadband network, but its features have not yet been disclosed.
Orcon had begun work on Genius Go before the company was bought from state-owned enterprise Kordia for a rumoured $30 million to $35m by a consortium of businessmen in April, McAlister said.
"I would have loved to have been able to credit this as my idea," he said, adding he could not see mobile phone companies liking the app, because it would reduce their calling revenues, but believed they would have to live with it.