Buzz Box

Reporter: Andrea Burns

"I was spending about 70 dollars a month, now I spend between 15 and 20 dollars a month".

"People come to me and say, "What's the catch?" When I say there's no catch they look at me with disbelief".

Talk might be cheap, but phone calls aren't. Australians spend billions every year hooking up with family, friends, work.

Phones might be a necessary evil in a 24/7 world but Professor Kevin Fynn from Perth's University of Western Australia says big phone bills don't have to be.

Kevin, along with fellow professors of Telecommunications, Tony Cantoni and John Siliquini from Curtin University have developed the Buzz Box.

About the size of a packet of cigarettes, the only addiction it promises is to lower phone charges.

"All it takes to connect it, this plug goes into your phone; this one goes into the wall and the plug into a power point. That's it."

"I tell my wife at home to always read the manual because I'm supposed to be a bit of a guru with technical stuff and we've got computers and things and she always asks me questions, read the manual...well with this one, I didn't have to say read the manual because there's nothing to read, you just pick up the phone, dial the number".

"The device uses a system called VOIP. It stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. What that means is instead of transmitting your voice down a phone line, it's transmitted over the internet.

But if you don't have a computer, or if you don't have good internet access, until now, you haven't been able to use VOIP. With the Buzz box, you make calls as you do normally, but they're sent through the Buzz Box's computer." Kevin claims the only difference you'll notice is cheaper calls.


STD calls - 49c each- UNTIMED

Mobiles - 30c/minute

Local calls 1 min + =17.5c

Local call (less than 1 minute) = 9c

International calls - UK 6.5c/min Italy 6.6c/min

Local calls one minute or longer are seventeen and a half cents, under a minute it's half that.

Optus wouldn't comment, but Telstra would, spokesperson Jenny Young defending its call costs.

"With home phones you get the call quality, the reliability, the convenience of just being able to pick up your home phone and get terrific rates".

International calls on the Buzz plan, - the UK, 6 and a half cents a minute, Italy 6.6 cents a minute.

Regularly calling relatives in Italy, Pensioner Luciano Antoniolli was getting bills for sixty, eighty dollars a month.

These days after connecting the Buzz Box, his phone bills are more like five, ten, maybe stretching to twenty odd dollars.

As a mortgage broker John Zaninovich's job is to find the best home loan deal for his customers. Still, he admits finding the right phone deal for his family was tough.

John already got free local calls as part of his Telstra package so he installed the Buzz system on a second line he uses for STD and mobile calls.

"I reckon we've saved 20% on our bills".

Living in WA's North West, young mum Pip Arthur says keeping in touch with family before she installed the buzz box, was expensive.

"I was probably spending about 70 dollars a month on phone calls, sometimes more. I know going out to the letterbox, that bill would come in and I'd cringe and thing oh, how much is it going to be this month but now I don't spend more than 20 dollars a month" says Pip.

And it's in country Australia that Professor Fynn believes the Buzz Box will have the greatest impact.

They're unlikely entrepreneurs but the three professors will get a 40% split of profits from their invention.

For now, it's home phone lines, they hope by the end of the year they'll also be doing mobile and business plans, but they say Australians talking more and paying less will be the big winners.

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