PieNetworks, trialled 50 Hotspot Webphones in capital city airports and a Melbourne train stations using the Telstra BigPond broadband network over a four-month period. It was part of a market assessment to gauge interest and demand for the product.
The Webphone can be called an all-round communications device. Users can make phone calls, text, surf the Internet either on the 22-inch touchscreen terminal or by Wifi through the product. It takes coins and credit card payments. Bandwidth demand from the unit is low, according to the vendor.
Telstra was impressed with the market assessment and has entered negotiations with PieNetworks for a potential rollout to other payphone locations.
The telco has a network of around 19,000 payphones Australia-wide which are either universal service obligation (USO), outdoor or indoor units. According to PieNetworks, the Webphone is designed specifically for high-traffic retail locations such as shopping centres and airports so it would not be a replacement for all Telstra payphones.
But the vendor is currently working on expanding its product range to encompass all types of situations.
“From our perspective, our product range will ultimately replace the old payphones because it provides the essence of current phones,” PieNetworks managing director, Campbell Smith, told ARN. “They can make telephone calls but adds what we call the ‘mobile generation’ services such as Internet, WiFi and so on.
“I’d like to see, some time in the future, the old payphones gone, replaced by our Webphones because they are what consumers are demanding.”
The vendor is currently developing a mini version of the Hotspot Webphone which will target the in-shop payphone market. There are more than 20,000 in-shop payphones in a number of places such as convenient store, petrol stations and cafes.
“Hopefully, we will be doing that with Telstra but we’ll have to wait and see,” Smith said.
Currently Telstra and PieNetworks are still in the early stages of negotiation. The number of Webphone units Telstra will be deploying and the scale of the rollout is yet to be determined.