BT Rolls Out Mobile, VoIP Combo Phone

British Telecom on Wednesday unveiled BT Fusion, the first combined mobile and fixed telephone service. To make it work, specially designed phones will act as a regular mobile phone when away from home, but will switch to a VoIP phone using Bluetooth when the customer is at home.

The first wireless phone to be launched on the service will be the popular Motorola RAZR, which is just like the original version except for the addition of UMA, or Unlicensed Mobile Access. To connect itself to the home network, the phone includes Class 1 Bluetooth.

UMA is a technology that allows access to GSM services over a regular broadband connection, and allows for seamless handover between a mobile network and a wireless network such as Bluetooth or 802.11.

According to BT, a call from home would save a user up to 95 percent less than making the same call from a mobile phone from home.

To make the technology work, the company will offer subscribers something called the BT Hub, which will detect a UMA-enabled phone and be able to switch the user in mid-call when in range of the network. The BT Hub is also a wireless router, which means the user will just be able to replace his already existing router with the UMA-enabled one.

"We know that many of our customers enjoy the convenience of their mobile phones when they're out and about - but switch to using a landline phone when they arrive back home to save money or because they have little or no mobile coverage," Ian Livingston, CEO of the retail division of BT said.

According to a internal survey by BT, nearly 19 percent of phone users experienced problems with reception inside the home. A common issue with GSM is its relative inability to pass through stone or brick walls, leaving many with signal issues even in areas of strong coverage.

The service will cost consumers 9.99 pounds ($18.04) per month for 100 cross-network minutes, and 14.99 pounds ($27.08) per month for 200 cross-network minutes. A hub and the Motorola v560 will come free with service activation.

According to BT, 400 customers will initially be accepted now, with a wider rollout expected to begin in September. Customers interested in signing up for the service should visit the BT Fusion Web site for more information.

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