It looks like 3G broadband may be even more useful than we first thought. NetComm has revealed plans for voice-capable 3G routers, providing yet another option for broadband users looking to drop their phone line.
The company is following the lead of notebook makers by integrating 3G in its routers, only it will take the concept a step further by including a voice port for plugging in a telephone. A similar device was unveiled by Virgin Broadband last year, and lets uses get high speed Internet and make telephone calls without a phone line.
"But can't I get broadband without a telephone line fee, with naked dsl?", you may be asking. Sure, but here's the big difference. While iiNet and others will give you VoIP accounts with naked dsl, NetComm doesn't rely on VoIP. Calls are made over the 3G network.
We spoke to NetComm managing director David Stewart, who told us the as-yet unnamed device is slated for the fourth quarter this year. It will be similar to the NV34002W (another new unit which will takes 3G cards), only the 3G module including the SIM card will be built in. The unit will have a voice port for plugging in a phone, and 1 ethernet port.
If it sounds like a similar idea to Virgin Broadband, that's because it is. "We're basically bringing out a competitive product," Stewart said.
NetComm is also planning another wireless router with integratd 3G, removable antennae, but no voice port. It's slated for release third quarter of 2008. In addition, NetComm has 2 wireless routers that let you plugin 3G modems via PCMCIA or USB. We'll post more info on these devices soon.
The big question is, who will offer a 3G broadband/home phone service to go with the NetComm box? Does this mean Virgin will have a competitor in the not-too-distant-future? All Stewart will say is that he is talking to carriers.
"We can actually fit the right Sierra wireless module for different carriers. It's literally that simple to plugin a different network module at the production stage," he said.
We're intruiged as to who exactly would offer such a service. Optus has the InZone E960 Wireless Router Modem for home 3G broadband, but not for voice calls. Would major carriers bundle both in the one device?