IN two years Woosh has moved from being a promising startup with 17 cell sites and no customers, to having 115 sites and 15,000 users, and is now poised to become a big telco player through the launch of its phone services.
Having upgraded its network, Woosh is now able to offer broadband and phone services for an initial charge of $199, including a modem, voice gateway and softphone.
Benefits include free local calling, ten-cents-per-minute national and international calls and free voicemail, caller display and number withhold.
Bob Smith, Woosh CEO, says it is an incredibly exciting time as Woosh moves into offering broadband and phone services to its customers.
“This is a major step for the industry because it’s the first time a mass alternative has been offered. This unlocks the local loop for the mass market in a way that has never been done before,” he says.
In order to subscribe to the phone services customers must have a Woosh modem or PC card, a Woosh phone gateway or softphone and broadband internet and phone plan.
For existing Woosh customers the upgrade to the phone service is priced at $99, while new users face a fee of $199 for a broadband modem, gateway and softphone.
Initially these packages will be sold through mass retailers, such as Harvey Norman and Dick Smith Electronics, and premium resellers Driving Sound Wireless, First Mobile and Digital Mobile, although Sandra Geange, Woosh sales and marketing manager, says other voice resellers are extremely interested in the service.
Geange says her company is targeting residential, home office, small business and remote office workers with this offer.
“The free local calling alone will save a typical small business hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year. As we can negotiate better pricing we will pass it on to our customers,” she says.
Chris Loh, IDC telecommunications analyst, says the main argument in favour of Woosh’s service is the fact it doesn’t require a fixed phone line, thereby placing it in an alarming head-to-head position with Telecom.
“For the first time the cash cow that is Telecom’s local calling services has competition. It’s quite an audacious fixed line threat,” he says.
He points out the ability for a customer to move away from Tele-com and plug into Woosh’s gateway effectively eliminates the incumbent telco player.
“It’s created a flurry because the other carriers now have to review their business model.”
Thomas Clancy, Telecom public relations spokesperson, says his company sees Woosh as a serious contender with an offering for a particular part of the market.
“Telecom believes customers look for value for money, quality of customer service and robust technical reliability and works to offer good service on all those counts,” he says.
As to whether Telecom will lower its prices to meet the challenge, Clancy says the company won’t flag such a move in advance.