Unlimited calls to Asia $50 a month*
Pacific LightNet of Honolulu expands its Internet-based telephone service to more countries
Upping the ante for firms competing in the local residential telephone market, Pacific LightNet Communications Inc. of Honolulu is offering unlimited long-distance, Internet-based telephone service to seven Asian nations, Guam and Australia.
The move marks an aggressive step for Pacific LightNet as it tries to seize market share from the incumbent wired telephone service provider, Hawaiian Telcom. Oceanic Time Warner Cable also is rolling out Internet phone service to residential customers on Oahu, promising even greater competition in a market monopolized for decades by Hawaiian Telcom's predecessor phone utility companies.
Pacific LightNet began its Internet phone service, called 808NetFone, a year ago with a package offering unlimited long-distance calls throughout Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. Since then, 808NetFone has lured a few hundred customers to adopt the service.
Based on customer feedback, Pacific LightNet has expanded its unlimited long-distance service to overseas locales that customers had expressed the most interest in, said Pat Bustamante, Pacific LightNet's president and chief executive. These countries are Australia, China, Guam, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
Pacific LightNet's service including the unlimited long-distance package costs $50* a month and is available for homes that have broadband Internet access, Bustamante said. Although Pacific LightNet operates its own broadband Internet service, Hawaii Online, Pacific LightNet's Internet phone service is "agnostic," or able to work with any competitor's system, he said.
With competition brewing, Hawaiian Telcom recently introduced its Call More plan, which provides unlimited direct-dial calls within the United States, including Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, for $25 a month.
Pacific LightNet uses a technology known as voice-over-Internet protocol, or VoIP, which sends signals over the Internet to the country of the person being called, where the signal is transferred onto the phone networks.
Other 808NetFone features include a function that tells customers by e-mail when they have a message on their home phones and allows them to check the message online. Customers also can forward their voice-mail messages by e-mail to others to listen to. Bustamante said the feature is convenient for busy executives who are frequently on the road.
"It has become a real powerful tool and one that makes a lot of sense," Bustamante said.
Ann Nishida, a spokeswoman for Hawaiian Telcom, said the phone company recognizes "the merits of VoIP services and bundled services." But she said that Hawaiian Telcom's standard land phones offer more reliable 911 service than Internet-based phones. For example, she noted that the terms for Pacific LightNet's service say emergency dispatchers will not necessarily be able to identify the location from which a 911 call is made, and that callers should tell the dispatchers the location when calling. The terms also say that Pacific LightNet's 911 service could go down if a resident's electricity goes out, Nishida said.
Dave Kozuki, Pacific LightNet's director of carrier sales and marketing, said each system had particular strengths. For example, he noted that Pacific LightNet's 911 service will continue to operate if the wired phone lines were to go down, while Hawaiian Telcom's would not.
"It goes both ways," Kozuki said.
October 22, 2005
» An article on Page C1 Wednesday incorrectly reported that Pacific LightNet Communications Inc.'s Internet phone service with unlimited calls to Asia costs $28 a month; the cost actually is $50. Customers must have high-speed Internet access to use the service.