Wanadoo LiveBox network box review

Wanadoo is hoping that by sprucing up its internet router, more customers will be tempted to use the service, but is it a case of style over substance? Pocket-lint gets connected to find out.

The ‘all-in-one’ solution from French ISP Wanadoo is an interesting concept. Resembling an iPod that has mated with an atlas, the LiveBox is small enough to be tucked away on a bookshelf and flash enough to be the centre-piece of any cutting-edge internet office - especially the Wayne Hemmingway designed offering.

The core technology is a hybrid of a number of already existing devices, all neatly wrapped in a white plastic case and given a pulsating logo. The LiveBox encompasses an ADSL modem, a wireless transmitter, and a VOIP phone connection.

Set-up is as easy as plugging cables into ports and then following the step-by-step instructions on the installation CD-ROM. Once configured you can opt to either attach a computer, or a games console, via Ethernet or USB, or use the wireless receiver, supplied in the box, to access wireless internet. One receiver is supplied but others can be purchased, at a cost of £44.99, to expand the number of computers on the wireless network.

The VOIP phone function utilises any normal touch-tone phone, with a supplied adapter saving on having to purchase specialised additional handsets to get the voice service working. The LiveBox is also enabled with Bluetooth, although this function is currently deactivated, supposedly pending the next set of system upgrades or product launches. LiveBox is also capable of connecting gaming consoles, such as the X-Box or PS2, to the web to allowed online games to be played.

Even though set-up is easy, the structure of the package that supports the product is a little more complicated. There are three levels of usage within the ‘Wireless and Talk’ service, costing £17.99, £22.99 and £27.99 per month and although each of these packages offers a 2Mb download speed, each is capped, at 2Gb, 6Gb and 30Gb respectively. Strangely you will not be penalised if you exceed your monthly bandwidth usage but if you do so repeatedly then you will prompted to upgrade to a more suitable package. As a service incentive, for the first 6 months at least, Wanadoo are waiving the additional £4.00 a month for the VOIP service.

The ‘Wireless and Talk’ service is described by Wanadoo as offering ‘an additional phone line’ to households that already have an existing BT service and clearly states that you will need to maintain your BT line in order to use this service.

On the up-side the VOIP phone service will give you free evening and weekend calls to all UK landlines and other ‘Wireless and Talk’ customers. The savings also apply to calls made to mobile phones, with calls costing 10p per minute all the times. International calls are charged at 4p per minute but strangely are only offered to 20 countries. There is also a maximum call time of 2 hours on all calls, although you can redial as many times as you wish.

Gripes, capping, costs and countries. Capped internet usage is a real turn-off for us, especially if you have a wireless connection as it means that you will have to lock the network down to prevent neighbours from hijacking your precious bandwidth. You’ll also have to keep a tab on usage each month to avoid being bumped up to the next tariff.

The service contains lots of costs, you’re charged for the calls for example even though you have to pay BT to lease the original line and at some point the £4.00 PCM charge will be reintroduced for the VOIP aspect of the service. What looks like quite an economical deal could end up working quite expensive, especially if you are interested in downloads and bandwidth rich content.

And finally, why is the number of countries you can call dictated by the service provider? It would be understandable to offer different tariff bands depending on the country being called but to only offer a service to a select number of countries, excluding anywhere in Russia, India, Africa, South America or the Middle East, is beyond comprehension.

Verdict

Overall the LiveBox is a well-conceived piece of technology, ideal for those who want services without needing to know about the technology. It comprises a number of sensible functions and should be the device that no home can do without.

Sadly though, when coupled with a service package that's so locked down, cost constrained and hampered by limitations, all the advantages of the technology seem ultimately overshadowed.