Hutchison Whampoa Telecom is the founder of the Orange phone network. However, in 1992 it was trying the Rabbit network which used Telepoints to enable mobile use within 100 metres of base stations located inside newsagents and public places.
How times don't change: VoIP specialist Vonage has licensed a collection of companies to create Vonage co-branded phones that connect to its service via any wireless access point. This enables you to make free calls to PCs on the Vonage network or phone calls to landlines and mobiles at the usual discounted rates.
A subscription to the service costs from £8. However, there's a twist: as well as being able to use any open access point (or secured one if you have the key), Vonage has teamed up with public hotspotters The Cloud (www.thecloud.net) to enable you to make calls within range of many hotspots.
So it's a shame that this phone doesn't live up to the premise. It's clever technology, but its shell looks very cheap. It's disappointing that the user interface reminded us of an Acorn Electron. Better news is that the phone is compact and charges via USB port or with a traditional power plug charger.
Voice quality was mediocre with all the hotspots we tried. Furthermore, you're paying a premium for the phone. As a proof-of-concept, this phone would be rightly highly lauded. Yet as an on-the-market device, it's very much version 1.0.
It won't be long before other services like Skype join the on-the-move VoIP party. With Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone handsets emerging, these are exciting times for the mobile consumer. Unfortunately for Vodafone, Orange, O2 et al, it's the stuff of nightmares. They're unlikely to go the way of Rabbit, which ceased to exist only 20 months after launch. Those phones couldn't even receive incoming calls. Dan Grabham