Phone Savers

Reporter: Rohan Wenn

It's certainly got people talking. Hundreds of homes turning their back on Telstra, hundreds of homes able to make home phone calls and get broadband internet without using telephone lines.

For six months, 500 Hobart families have been trialling a new gadget that allows power companies to become phone companies. The telephone signal is sent through the power line. According to Aurora Energy, it is as simple as plugging in your modem with a power point, plugging in your computer, and plugging in your phone.

Peter Davis is the Chief Executive of Aurora Energy, a company that owns 25,000 kilometres of power lines, which are now also being used as telephone lines, thanks to these small boxes made by technology giant Mitsubishi. He says, "Nearly everybody has got electricity connected to their home so why not use that asset, that power line coming for something other than electricity?"

With this technology, if you are connected to electricity, you can access cheap phone calls and broadband internet that doesn't go through the telephone line. It goes through the cable that supplies your electricity.

Rob Grant has been part of the trial and is ready to disconnect from Telstra permanently. He says, "Once we can shut Telstra off we'll save about $35 a month through line rental fees and lower phone call prices." That's over four hundred dollars a year that Rob doesn't have to spend, and he says the service has certainly got many of his mates talking, "Other people that we know are pretty keen to see what we're doing and I'm sure they'll be signing immediately when this is available in their area."

Telecommunications experts say power companies like Aurora could snatch as much as a quarter of Telstra's phone and internet customers right around Australia, and the internet service is also expected to take off in the bush, where they can't get broadband.

Technology guru Peter Blasina explains, "It'll save customers a lot of money over the long term because they're just not paying anywhere near what they pay for phone calls." Earlier versions of the product did have some bugs, with claims the electromagnetic radiation created affected emergency radio frequencies. But Peter says this later version has addressed that problem.

And as far as Rob's concerned, he's a convert, and looks forward to a Telstra-free future. He says, "So long as Aurora keep this service going, we'll be using it.