Orcon Genius: Nerd Stuff For The Masses

Orcon Genius Device

Inside the clandestine world of nerds and geeks, peeps be bugging. It’s like some secret formula has been released, and suddenly my mum is capable of making nerd Coca Cola.

Orcon Genius DeviceOrcon’s new Genius product takes stuff that geeks have been aware of for some time (naked broadband and VoIP providers), and packages it all up with a sexy device, tight pricing, and some TR-069 jiggery pokery. The result is a plug-and-play solution for everyone to circumvent the previously all-but-mandatory Telecom PSTN line rental. Yes, even my mum.

The Genius device, co-developed with Australia’s iinet, comes in two flavours: the full version includes a matching DECT cordless handset, while the lite version is just the WiFi/DSL router with a phone port. If you already have cordless handsets in your house, the lite version should be plenty. I’m told that the hardware is otherwise identical.

Pricing is all a bit weird, but certainly cheaper than Orcon’s existing phone+internet plans. The base price is $70 per month, for which you get broadband and the standard “smart phone” services (voicemail, callerid, and call waiting) plus either 30GB and standard calling charges, or 5GB with unlimited national calling. Optional add-ons include more data, flat rate calling to nominated countries, and land-to-mobile minutes.

The lite device is free if you sign up for 18 months, or $5 per month.  The standard device (with handset) is free if you sign up for a 24 month contract, or $10 per month. Those contracts also erase your Genius setup fee, which comes in at $99 if you don’t want to be tied in. Orcon have also nixed a common complaint if you sign up on a contract: adding one free DSL address move while you’re on a contract (only if you move house of course). There’s been (rightly in my opinion) a bit of bitching lately that long-time customers are being hit with the standard Telecom $99 move fee – I think Orcon (and other ISPs) should be swallowing this in the interests of happy customers.

Bottom line: it almost sounds too good to be true. The cost of my fairly heavy usage on Orcon will go from around $170 per month down to $120-ish, with most of the savings being from the removal of the standard line component. Orcon are going to have a very popular device and service on their hands if it works as well as they say it does.

One huge caveat: being VoIP, this service is not going to work with your monitored alarm or medical alarms. I guess you could hack the connection so that it plugs into the Genius device, but that would be completely unsupported. Update 21/7: “we will be introducing functionality in the future to support monitored alarms.”

Update 26 July – Now with VoIP

The Genius device arrived a couple of days ago, and now the VoIP has been enabled. I was a naughty boy and plugged the device in before I was told to, but it worked perfectly. Obviously the DECT phone on the device had no dialtone, but otherwise all good. It is incredibly configurable, so I had no problems setting it up with my normal WiFi SID, security, and port forwarding settings. Incredibly, the device is syncing faster than any ADSL device I’ve had on this line. Previously I would max out at about 4000kbps, but the Genius regularly syncs up at 4300+

How good is the VoIP? Bloody good. I made a couple of inbound calls today, answered by my wife, who commented on how clear they were. This is probably mostly to do with the new DECT handset, but it’s probably partly to do with the whole digital thing too – we’re a long way from the exchange, so analog calls are not perfect.

The one thing I was sceptical about was QoS. How can this system possibly place a call while I’m downloading a, errr, Linux ISO at full speed? Short answer: it just does. I noticed a definite dip in throughput when I placed a call, but it bounced right back up again after I hung up. It seems quite frugal too, based on the completely crap and inaccurate graph at right, I’m guessing about 60kbBs is assigned to voice (well, probably 64 to be exact), but even that seems to be freed up a bit during silence and one-way talking.

Lastly, the voicemail system is awesome. While out shopping today I got an email on my smartphone, which contained a 400kB wav file (yeah, eww), which was a 41 second voicemail message left by my mum. I was able to listen to the voicemail on my smartphone with no problem at all. One teeny tiny problem that I need to call Orcon about: our voicemail PIN seems to not be working, so I can’t clear the voicemail at home. No dramas, because I’ve already listened to it.

Incidentally, we were with Orcon for our normal phone line before switching to Genius, and our voicemail greeting has been retained.

Update 5 August – A week (and a bit) of it

We’ve been rocking the Genius for more than a week now, and it has been unremarkable. This is a Good Thing. We’ve had no issues with data or calls, no missed messages, and no quality problems. Just nothing at all. It’s hard to convey how insanely great it is for a brand new service to have nothing at all go wrong with it.

In the comments below there’s one person who had their phone cut off before Genius was online. This completely sucks but is to be expected. ISP changes and modifications in New Zealand are horrendously bad. Moving house, or moving from one ISP to another almost guarantees you one or more days of missing or incomplete service. One can only hope with an independent Chorus this situation will improve.

Nerd Questions

Q: can I use my existing SIP device in place of the Genius?

A: No. Orcon say the Genius’ SIP settings are configured from their end, and using the Genius guarantees all the right QoS settings and compatibility. Unofficial: I’m sure someone will discover the right settings soon so we can use our own gear. Update 21/7: new semi-official answer: “I guess you *can* use your own device – but it’s not something we support.”

Q: Can I just use the naked DSL bit and connect to my choice of SIP provider, and/or Skype?

A: Yes, but you can’t connect the Genius device to your own VoIP provider (again, guessing because the settings are managed by Orcon). The VoIP service is bundled in the Genius pricing so you can’t opt out, but there’s nothing stopping you using your own service with your own device. Quote “it’s just an internet connection”

 Q: If the device is configured by Orcon, do I have control over common router settings like WiFi SID and port forwarding?

A: Yes, apparently. I’ll do some testing on this when I get the device, but I’m guessing it’s really only the firmware, SIP stuff and account settings that Orcon are managing. I’m told everything else is completely configurable.


  1. Well, this was a shit of a lot more useful than anyone at Orcon managed to be. Kudos.

  2. Novice question: could you use this device with a monitored alarm if you have had your broadband and phonelines split? That’s what we had to do to get simply get telecom broadband to work with our alarm…

    1. No. With Genius, you don’t have any dialtone on your “regular” copper line. The only way to get a dialtone is via the Genius device.

      I’m presuming you could fudge your own wiring so that your alarm plugs in to the Genius. Or maybe that would make it explode?

  3. @SFWD: No. The whole point is you don’t have a phone line any more – your splitter will achieve nothing as there’s nothing to split ;).

  4. I’ve run into sound quality issues with VoiP services in the past. For some reason I’ve never fully understood calls to Australia are a particular problem.

    I’d like to see some guarantees from Orcon before committing to a product like this.

    Actually I can’t commit because I’m on a contract with my existing provider – I’m talking here about when that rolls over some time in the next millenium 🙂

    1. Already a lot of international toll calling is carried over VoIP circuits – even making a call via your normal landline to another country could very possibly be transiting via VoIP.

      The big thing it QoS – quality of service – which should ensure that the VoIP data is prioritised over other data. This is something that you tend to lack when setting up VoIP yourself, or using something like Skype. And it’s something that Orcon aims to control very specifically by supplying a managed service like this I guess.

  5. For SFWD, as far as monitored alarms and VoIP go, they don’t really like to play together. Modems have problems with VoIP Lines and the way the compression works with codecs etc… believe me, we tried this with a fax, and unless your provider (like WxC/Xnet) supports it, it just *won’t* work.

    Although – can’t hurt to try. If you’re thinking of going VoIP However, talk to your alarm company – they may be able to offer an ethernet monitoring option.

  6. Hi….what type of wifi is it?..n or g…and would this device handle heavy multi wifi gaming via the net?

  7. I understand Orcon transfers your old phone number over to the Genius service. Do you know if a second phone number can be added. My wife wants her own number for her home business.

    1. There is room for two separate VoIP logins in the settings. Not sure if Orcon supports this, but it’s worth asking.

  8. Thanks Ben re the screen shot regarding Wifi….Additionally I have just found out the device supports TIVO via wifi connection…which is GREAT given other ISP providers don’t

  9. We sell these by the truckload to our customers in Aussie (I work for iiNet).

    Not sure what firmware lockdown is implemented on the Orcon version of this (we call it BoB2). With ours we do send config down the line automatically. However customers can still manually set the device up, and also run a second VoIP service on it simultaneously (not necessarily ours)

  10. You can run your own SIP service through this – I’ve tested myself.

    Just set up your SIP username/password first (this is important to do first).

    Then backup the configuration to file.

    Edit the config file (its XML) and replace every instance sip1.orcon.net.nz with your provider (ie. for 2talk this would be 2talk.co.nz)

    Not sure if its required, but I also removed the management server link so it wouldn’t try to update from Orcon.

    In the XML there is 4 SIP providers rather than the 2 exposed in the user interface – interesting eh?

    After you’ve done this you can change your ISP to one with a decent helpdesk and international bandwidth to major sites like YouTube and Facebook, and don’t manage to screw up every customer request that comes their way.

    Keep the router – $250 for a VOIP/3G/Wifi/USB Storage router is a bargain.

  11. We’re in. Signed, sealed (but yet to be delivered). We are so OVER paying a monthly line rental (for pretty much nothing) on top of a fairly limited data plan (which we needed to top up all the time, thanks to our joint obsession with reddit). Thanks for the review – Orcon needs to reward you for your love.

  12. An additional note to my guide: If you’re on 2talk you’ll want to disable RFC2833 (so tone dialling works for voicemail etc.)

    Do this by removing the line:


    Remove the line completely, then reupload the configuration and it will work perfectly.

  13. Hmm.. ok.. I’ve forgotten how to post HTML snippets in a comment 🙂


    Swap square brackets for greater than/less than signs

  14. Signed up on the 20th july got email saying swap over will be 1st august phone line was disconnected by chorus guy
    Now I’ve been without phone and internet for 4 days trying to contact orcon and eventually got through was told by orcon support its not good enough and fshould get my phone and internet back on 5th august……..so be very carefully when you sign up to this

  15. The fact I went from a perfectly good phone and internet connection to nothing for 4 days just by signing up to genius
    I now know what the chorus guy meant by his comment when he disconnected our line by wishing us good luck

  16. Connected ours on monday. It works like a dream! Our BB speed has almost doubled as well to 15mb/s. Very happy with it, sounds like we are some of the lucky ones! Good luck Neil.

  17. Still no internet or phone and having to wait over 30 mins to talk to support……..now thinking of changing isp any good alternatives thanks

  18. The USB port in the Genius, could this possibly be used as a shared printer server or is it for external drive use only?

  19. We waited for 2 hours the other day to talk to support – I’d recommend Vodafone, if you’ve got a mobile monthly plan you can get 45gb naked dsl for $65, and get a voip line with someone like 2talk.

  20. Just plugged ours in. ADSL came up fine but WAN didn’t auto configure. Just entered the login details we created when we signed up and WAN came up straight away.

    Hassle free, faster, cheaper and more data than the connection we used to have.

  21. The File Server aspect of the Genius modem is absolutely terrible. I get around 200kbps between client and server on a very good day – and it often drops out or diminishes in quality rapidly, requiring a reboot many times an evening. From what I read it’s a common complaint with the specific hardware. Disappointing to say the least, given I loaned my file server PC out indefinitely in lieu of using the Genius as a replacement 🙁

    1. I have to say I’m surprised you’d imagine a single USB HDD attached to a router could replace an entire file serving PC?

  22. Still no internet or phone never thought I’d miss it so much having to go and pay bills manually and buy a newspaper

    1. Hi Neil, if your still having problems with your phone and broadband with orcon (although something tells me your not with them anymore)

      Check these guys out red-dog.co.nz

      They launching residential services this year, flick them an email to be in the trial and your get free phone and broadband for a year!

  23. Today was change-over day and it happened no problems. Phone is clear both ways. DSL speed increased from 6.2 Mbs to 11.2 Mbs (Consumer broadband speed test). Free National calls and 10 GB per month data cap, same as my previous Telecom plan, all for $35.00 a month less. Thanks Orcon, I’m happy.

  24. Connected Genius today. Broadband is working well however I cannot make or receive phonecalls. Grr. Orcon is not answering their 0800 number and have a voicemail phone loop which eventually ends in a cut off. So wrote an email to which I received an automated reply promising to get back to me in 7 days time! Knew it was too good to be true.

  25. Read the feedback and decided to test for myself how long it took to get through to the support team should I experience any problems. Let’s just say that the delay was long and I gave up waiting so with telecom I’ll have to stay. What a shame that what looks like a great product just hasn’t got the backing of the rest of the business to support it. Telecom may not be perfect but at least they are quick to attend to your call even if you don’t always get what you want.

  26. I found this review post very helpful and decided to sign up for the Orcon Genius plan too.

    I signed up on 8th Aug, they didn’t send me an email to inform me of the connection day until I rang them up 2 days later. The connection was then scheduled to be set up on 18th (10 days for a Telecom technician to get it connected).

    Nothing happens on 18th so I had to ring up again (and wait in a very long queue). They didn’t seem to have any communication with the Telecom technicians so we had to wait for a few more hours.

    Finally at 2:20pm on 18th I got a text message telling me that I was connected. But no internet. Nothing. We tried everything to see if we screwed up. Reset the router about 10 times. Still nothing.
    My husband and I were both on hold to talk to someone at Orcon for longer than 2 hours that night and eventually we lost the line as their work hours ended.

    We rang every morning (at least 1 hour of waiting each day) just to find out nobody seemed to know what was going on and/ or what needed to be done.

    On 21st August, we rang them up again. They said they’d get in contact with a technician and get them to ring us in 15 minutes. 7 hours after the conversation a Telecom technician finally gave me a call. Came over to the house and discovered the first technician and screwed up and connected the wrong cable outside. This only took 10 minutes.

    Aside from this frustrating process, the internet (when we eventually got it going 14 days after signing up) seems to run pretty fast. The phone signal isn’t 100% clear. But it works.

    All in all, I found this experience appalling and disgusting. Orcon had hired customer service employees from other companies because they were so short staffed. And we still had to wait for hours whenever we rang up.
    They should not be selling products and services they can’t deliver.

    If I had internet access during the last few days I would have cancelled my sign up with Orcon and moved on with Telecom instead.

  27. I’ve also had nothing but problems since signing up with Orcon. Firstly, I signed up on 2 August, and after 1 week with no contact I phoned only to be told that it would be connected on August 22, which it was. However, when we rececived the modem, they had sent us the Lite version rather than the one with the handset, so after spending 20 minutes on hold, I got through to support and arranged for the correct modem to be sent to me.

    The next day, the modem was couriered to the wrong address (I havd changed the delivery address on the phone as no-one is home during the day). After chasing the courier we picked up the parcel – only to discover that it wasn’t a modem, but a pre-paid courier bag to return the wrong modem. After spending another 20 minutes on hold, I was told that the new modem hadn’t even been ordered yet. At this point I emailed Orcon about their lack of support and poor service – no response as yet.

    This morning the new modem finally arrived (at the correct address), so I will be setting it up after work today – fingers crossed I don’t have to call the support line again as 20 minutes on hold on a mobile phone adds up. If I hadn’t been waiting almost a month already I would have cancelled my plan and gone with slingshot.

  28. The only time to get through to
    Orcon quickly is when they open at 8am. Try 0800 131415 or actually 0800564687 gets answered faster as it’s aimed at new customers. Appalling service when we joined them this month – it took them a month to get our new connection going in our new house only after I told them that they needed to connect the two telephone cables from our house to the cable next to them from the exchange! Pretty important this but not something that Orcon had thought to check! Don’t bother trying to call them when you get home from work, unless you have an hour or so to kill or you like their on-hold music, which I have started hummuing to myself. I emailed a complaint to them and was told 7 days before I would get a reply! I also wrote to their CEO Scott Bartlett at the physical address on their website and so we shall see if I get a reply. I would recommend everyone write to Scott so that the message of appalling customer service gets through. They clearly have a long way to go as the they have simply decided to market something that they do not have the backing to support and because it’s a good deal, us kiwi’s appear to have taken to it in our thousands!

  29. I’m from UK and in NZ for 8 months on business, signed up for Orcon Genius early September and it was up and running 10 days later. No problems either setting up or since; I think it’s brilliant. It has really made me think about my UK setup; I’ve just has a $200 quarterly bill over there for pretty much zilch.

  30. On GeniusLite and the port forwarding (or the DMZ) functionality works… Orcon support says they’ve never had any issues with this before *cough* used to work for an ISP..

    Idea’s anyone?

  31. I have recently signed up to Orcon on the 2nd of jan and have been waiting since then to be connected.

    decided to call up today and they tell me that there is no port left at my exchange so im on a waiting list yaaaaaay.

    who knows how long its guna take am not waiting a month if they don’t sort anything out soon ill ditch them for slingshot

  32. Anyone figured out the SIP settings? these sods sold me a “VOIP” account but refuse to provide the login settings for my software xLite. They are totally dodgy and I really regret signing up with this deal

    lets crack these settings and make them available to the masses – please help if you know/ Perhaps post on the Orcon Sucks facebook page?

  33. I now have Orcon Genius, but I can’t connect my iphone to the wireless. No box appears to input the pass code.
    Spoke to the technical guy at Orcon, who could not help.

    Any ideas?

    1. Enter the code on the back of the Genius box (Unless you changed it to something else) We have laptops, iPad and iPhones all happening. Dead easy

  34. I have a boblite had it for ages take a bit of modifing but you can put your own sip provider on to it I’m getting a propper genius this week so ill try to hook up a 2nd sip provider and see how it goes. (the option is there but not selectible) email me if you want a modifiable html file (requires a bit of copy a pasting but works fine) email: irrubbish@hotmail.com which ill check, but no my everyday email obviously.

  35. discovered how to change SIP Provider to anyone you like by doing the following
    copy into a text program (notepad, word etc.)
    replace myvoipnumber with your VOIP number
    replace myauthname with your VOIP user name
    replace mypassword with your password
    replace mysipdoman with your SIP domain
    replace mysipserver with your SIP server
    replace mysipproxy with your SIP Proxy
    replace mysipproxyport with your SIP proxy port
    replace mysipregistar with your Registrar IP
    replace myregistarport with your Registrar Port
    replace any info you don’t need with nothing
    log in to your Orcon Genius then copy and paste below into address bar

  36. Just switched from CP to Orcon Genius, no problems for me.
    Churn was faster than expected (3 business days). Works great. Customized wifi settings are easy. Best suprise is the URL website filtering feature, it actually works!
    DECT phone with the full setup does what it should. Liking the emailed voice messages. Recommended.

  37. Have installed Orcon Genius and it is working well – except for the Dect phone that came with the modem. When I pick up the handset to answer a call it does not connect me to the caller. If I connect my old Dect cordless phone to the modem I can answer calls. It is a bit frustrating and I must do something about it.

    I have sent them two emails with different queries and I am happy to report that I received replies within 12 hours on both occasions.

  38. We’re from Oz and spend time in NZ and Oz. We left for Queensland for the winter and cancelled Vodafone because they would not reduce rates even when we were OS. Ordered Genius day before return to NZ. Box arrived early AM next day via courier. Plugged it in and waited for the lights to come up. The delay was getting getting Telecom (or whomever) to make the physical connection at the nearest neighbourhood comms cabinet. That happened on the 2nd day. Just came up when it was powered on, entered the security code. Worked perfectly ever since. Cheaper, faster and regularly get 15mbps. VOIP works perfectly. best ever service anywhere.

  39. This app crap.
    When you ring from your mobile it asks if you want to use Genius Go.
    If you select that option you have to enter the number you are calling again.

    Orcon Support is the worst I have ever experienced.

  40. You forgot to mention the BS that while you pay $99 for connection…..this does not include the modem…..and their POS modems cost $250! Here is my current drama…

    Was closing my account, rung up mid-Sept to close account on Oct 25. Gave them all the information they needed. Asked if I needed to do anything else – was told “No, at Oct 25 it will disconnect and that is all you need to do”. Oct 25 came and went, was emptying house on 26th noticed modem was still connected so packed it with what few things were left in house, put those things into storage and and jumped on a plane for U.S. Got email from Orcon saying I was going to be charged for next month of data. Told them they had already been informed I was leaving. “But you need to inform us 30 days before” my response “try 35 days – look at my record”. They then apologized for the bill. Then I get an email “I tried to call you, where should I send the courier bag to return the modem?” – at this point its been 60+ days since I informed them that I was leaving – why the fuck didn’t they send the courier bag the day I was planning to leave them????? So now they have sent me a final bill with the cost of the modem……even though it was them who a) forgot to inform me to return the modem when I requested the disconnection and b) failed to organize send me the courier bag until weeks after the account was disconnected.

    Do not use Orcon. They will rip you off one way or another.

  41. I now have fiber optic cable and I am successful customer of Orcon Genius, well sort of, I do not have an account number or a password, and therefore I have not been supplied with any kind of email address. I don’t normally care, for the most annoying thing which really frustrates me since the changeover of servers, is that my Office Outlook 2010 does not now work on Gmail in either POP3 or IMAP mode. With my other previous server Slingshot it does. I try to log on to Gmail’s POP3, IMAP, and SMTP with the correct password and settings, but the Orcon server just refuses them. However I can still get into other servers like Slingshot, Vodaphone using their POP3, IMAP, and SMTP settings with Orcon.
    It is a load of Bullshit that medical alarms do not work on Orcon VOIP, all you have to do is just simply plug your telephone line (I have four phones on the line plus the medical phone) into the phone connection on the Orcon Genius modem, there is one provision make sure you disconnect from Telecoms copper lines in the house outside box, otherwise you will picking up all the other phone lines ASDL buzzing hash interference on the line. Also the copper phone line to your house will be fully working in reverse mode if not modified in this way.
    I cannot see any technical reasons why the servers using VOIP cannot supply an extra line(s) like another phone number, or a fax line (faxability). I do not see any practical reasons whatsoever for the unwanted expense for the need of supplying an extra modem other than for Wi-Fi purposes when going onwards past the GPON box. Being fiber, especially if you are on unlimited plan, there is no needing whatsoever for having a user name and passwords whatsoever up to the GPON box connection. Security is not the issue, for nobody will break into your optic line unless they have a machine worth $20,000 as well as the know-how and experience to join by welding the glass fiber optic cables together. You have a greater danger while broadcasting Wi-Fi to all and sundry around your neighborhood, I have told the password codes can be easily cracked. The GPON box (that’s where the fiber is changed over to copper) it should have a backup battery in the event of a power cut and an emergency. The GPON has provision, for 4 LAN lines, 2 telephone lines and possibility a TV line but you cannot connect the computer LAN plug directly to them, not without the through the supplied modem. If the server transmitted data directly (like they do overseas) without any need of a user name and password protocol, the modem that’s supplied by the server to be used after GPON then becomes superfluous.
    VOIP works well, I have done a test with Slingshot’s test server, and I can down load 30 megabytes a second, upload 10 megabytes a second. On ADSL I was getting one third of the speed plus plenty of unwanted ADSL electrical hash noise.
    Paulus Telfer

    1. With fibre you can bypass the ISP supplied router and connect directly to the ONT but all packets are VLAN encoded using id 10.

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