Bye bye home phone, hello VOIP

I finally got around to replacing my home fixed line phone with VOIP. I took the easy route of sticking with my ISP, Netspace/iiNet.

Previously each month I’d been paying $59.95 for ADSL2+ broadband, plus for the home phone $22.95 rental, plus $6 for caller ID, plus $2.93 for an unlisted number.

Local calls were costing me 30 cents, but because I only make at most perhaps about a dozen a month, a grand total for net+phone of around $95 per month. With all the phone costs included, each call was costing me about $3. (Some of them can be quite lengthy, which is why I decided not to abandon any form of home phone completely.)

Switching to the equivalent Naked (eg without a home phone) ADSL plan, with VOIP (which doesn’t count towards the plan quota, and includes free local and national calls) is costing me $59.95 per month. On top of that I’ve decided to rent (rather than buy) a BoB2 combined VOIP-capable modem and VOIP phone for an extra $9.95 (on a two year contract — I’ve checked; we won’t get the NBN in that time).

So I’m at $69.90 per month with most calls included — saving about $25 per month.

The changeover

One thing that scared me about doing the change were the warnings that it would take 10-20 days, and that I would be without Internet during this time. As an extremely wired, internet-addicted person (and indeed family), this terrified me, and I ended up timing it for the January school holidays when the kids were away. (I figured I could find ways around it on my own, like using my mobile, though I’d need to take it easy to avoid high fees.)

This turned out to be a furphy. The text might imply you’ll be without Internet for the full switch period, but in fact once I’d signed-up, an email I received said that in fact it would be out for only up to one day.

If I’d known that I would have done it a lot sooner. In fact any outage was barely noticeable — it probably happened in the middle of the day when we were all out.

I think they’ve severely undersold how easy it is to switch.

The catches of VOIP

There are catches of course.

The BoB2 wasn’t quite plug-in and go, as advertised… it seemed to have picked-up the wrong logon info from somewhere; possibly an issue with migrating off an existing account. Easily solved.

I had ummed and ahhed over keeping my old phone number or switching to a new one. In the end I placed the order requesting to keep the old one, but when it was provisioned, they’d actually allocated a new one. I don’t mind — I almost chose it that way — so I won’t bother to get it changed back, though there’s a few people I’ll need to notify.

By ordering VOIP you have to waive your rights under the telephone service Customer Service Guarantee. Basically that means if it doesn’t work, you don’t have much recourse. That’s OK for us — we barely use the home phone anyway; the mobile is much more important, so this is really just a backup (and cheaper option for local calls).

Some complain about VOIP call quality — in the calls I’ve made so far, it’s been okay for me. I haven’t yet tried it with a lot of network traffic going on. Theoretically QOS should ensure it’s okay, but it’ll be interesting to see how well that works in practice.

They note that calls to 13 numbers don’t necessarily go to a local branch of the company you’re ringing, unlike those made from conventional fixed lines.

They also warn about not keeping it as the only phone in the house, in the event of emergencies. Fair enough, we have mobiles for that. And you can’t dial 190X premium numbers at all. (No loss!)

Finally, although you get free national calls to fixed lines, it’s worth being aware that this excludes 1300 and 13 numbers, which are listed at 30 cents each, untimed. What I’ve also found is that some other types of calls cost — I used the 1194 Time service a couple of times to check voice quality without ringing a human. Turns out these cost 35 cents a pop, despite not being listed on the call rates list. Odd.


So far I’m happy, and saving a big heapa money. I wish I’d switched ages ago.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

9 replies on “Bye bye home phone, hello VOIP”

Sounds like you really did your homework and got a much better deal.
Just to clarify:
* Is it the case that it still costs you 30 cents to call a fixed-line number in Melbourne (untimed) and it only costs someone 30 cents (untimed) to call you from their fixed-line phone in Melbourne? .
* is the sound quality the same as with your previous fixed phone? (ie, not dreadful tunnel-like crackly sound you get on a mobile). thanks

While call costs are included in what we pay, we too have to pay for 1300 and 13 numbers. It is ironical, as they were introduced so that people weren’t disadvantaged by timed long distance calls.

I am tempted to do the same thing, I only used the “home phone” about three times in the last year.

On the other hand, the last call on it was about two hours long.

It’s curious that they are still cautioning people not to have it as the only phone in the house. This “caution” was supposedly because the phone system is more reliable, and more or less independent of, the internet and the electricity supply system. Old phones usually worked when there was a power blackout ( as long as you had at least one non-cordless phone ).

With the new network, that will no longer apply.

Also, many VOIP providers don’t support calls to ‘000’, but most people would use their mobile anyway, so maybe that is not that important.

@Roger, sorry if I wasn’t clear: on this particular VOIP plan, calls to any landline number in the country (but not 13/1300/11.. numbers) are completely free, with no time limit.

In my case, the lack of Customer Service Guarantee became quite important. There was a fault with the line, meaning no ADSL2 internet, (and no calls, but that wasn’t an issue). I called iinet, who called Telstra, and between the two of them, it took a month to get internet access back.

With the Customer Service Guarantee, Telstra have less than 48 hours (I think) to fix the line.

I telecommute to the UK so internet is very important. Just something to consider.

thanks, and if people (on a land line, in Melbourne) phone you, are they charged just 30 cents for an untimed call, or do timed rates (like calling a mobile) apply?

Thought about making the switch, but the waiving the rights thing bothered me. Plus mobiles need power and if you’ve had a power cut and lost VOIP/internet, then you have whatever is left on your mobile’s battery to make calls, including in an emergency. I know mine isn’t always 100% charged,

Anyone know if 000 still works on a ‘naked’ data line? We don’t have a phone plugged in but for now I’ve stuck with a legacy Netspace phone/ADSL2+ bundle, with a wired phone on stand-by in the cupboard for emergencies. I won’t plug it in full time as got sick of the daily calls from “Microsoft” offering to fix my computer.

@Neil, yeah I guess they’re reliant on Telstra copper wire from the exchange to the property… well, until the NBN comes in.

@Roger, yes, ringing into the VOIP phone is done via a 03 area code number, at normal call rates.

@Marcus, the FAQ says yes it’s possible to ring 000 — makes me wonder if 000 operators have access to address details as they do for conventional fixed line phones.

Yes mobiles need power, but normally we’d have at least one charged mobile in the house.

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