Rogers Wireless launched its Second Voice Line Service this morning, offering two phone lines on a single cell phone. It’s aimed at the SMB owner-operator crowd, with several features to recommend it, and one that should make you think twice.

Irv Witte, Rogers Wireless’s vp of business marketing, demoed the service for me last week. Upside: Two separate lines means two separate voice mail greetings, one for business callers and one for personal calls; you needn’t carry two phones, and you save on some of the overhead (system access fees, etc.) that a second phone entails; documenting the cost of cell phone use for tax and expense purposes is easier, as the calls are billed to two separate numbers; and you can have numbers in two different area codes, if you so desire.

It’s the last feature that’s a double-edge sword. The idea is, for example, that Irv’s Plumbing does a lot of business in downtown Toronto (416 area code) but Irv is actually located in the suburban 905 belt. Downtown customers are more likely to call a 416 number; it’s all good.

Stretch it a little further: You’re a Toronto-based consultant who does a lot of business in Montreal. A Montrealer, accustomed to spotty French language service from anyone with a 416 phone number, can call the 514 to reach your fluently bilingual self. Still good. But here’s where the bill starts to pile up.

Ludicrously, cell phone users pay long distance charges if a local caller calls the cell number while the cell user is in another area code. So, if you’re in Toronto and your Montreal customer dials your 514 line, you pay the long distance. If you’re in Montreal, and someone calls your personal (416) line, you pay the long distance. If you’re out of the city and want to make a 416-to-416 phone call … that’s right. You pay the long distance.

This isn’t a feature flaw in the service, by any means. But it does mean that for the user who splits area codes, the long distance bill is going to be higher. And it’s frustrating, since long distance within Canada



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