03.Dictionary and costs
Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) is a form of communications technology that allows fast data transmissions over copper telephone lines. The data performance speeds are faster for downloads to the user compared to the uploading of data. ADSL2 and ADSL2+ provide faster data rates.
Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) or Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) describes the traditional method of telephony with voice traveling along copper wire without any digital conversion.
Analog telephone adapter (ATA) a device that is plugged into a router equipped computer network that allows a standard home phone to make VoIP calls.
Softphones only require a PC with an Internet connection and VoIP software, a microphone and a set of speakers. Services such as Skype or MSN Messenger are examples of softphones.
IP phones plug directly into your router equipped computer network and can be thought of as a phone with an ATA built-in. Like ATAs, IP Phones do not require a PC to be on.
Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) a network device, usually installed at the local telephone exchange that allows telephone lines to make faster connections to the internet and achieve up to ADSL2+ speeds.
How much for Naked DSL and VoIP?
Opting for Naked DSL can save you around $30 a month straight up. However, aside from your broadband connection, you may also have ongoing charges with a VoIP provider, ranging from a standard cost per call to a cost plan similar in nature to a Mobile plan with a set value per month.
Also keep in mind that VoIP calls take up data so it is important to have enough capacity in your internet plan to accommodate your phone calls as well as your general web downloads. Talking non-stop for one minute over the internet takes up about 180 to 600 KB. Fast connection speeds for VoIP are not particularly crucial; with anything faster than a 512 (download)/128 (upload) Kbps connection enough for satisfactory performance. Any lower and the quality may drop, particularly when surfing the web or downloading large files while making a call.
Companies such as Telstra and Optus often advertise a compelling bundled deal for landline, mobile phone, and broadband to attract new customers and discourage existing customers from looking elsewhere. Often this practice is very successful as the effort needed to break any of these chains is too much to offset the savings to be made by using VOIP with another ISP.
If you’re not sure if you want to make the VoIP commitment or give up your landline, software based options such as Skype or MS Messenger allow you to try VoIP without any major investment, though they can be limited in their abilities.
Skype is currently the most popular VoIP service. As well as talking directly from one computer user to another, you can also call landline or mobile phones at cheap, per minute rates. Skype is free to download and there’s no setup or subscription fee. While most Skype calls are made from a computer using a Skype application, a dual mode phone with Skype support gives you a normal landline connection plus VoIP on a single handset. The major advantage with a dual mode phone is that the handset is not physically connected to the computer.
While Skype to Skype calls are free, additional Skype features such as SkypeIn and SkypeOut where people can contact you on an eight digit number with an area code, costs money. But the savings can add up.
MS Windows Live Messenger is a popular online chat application that comes with every copy of Windows XP and Vista. You can also download it for free from www.microsoft.com.au. Once you register, you can use your email address as a voice contact. However, the number of users operating live messenger as a voice calling solution are unknown, and there is little use getting a MS Live Messenger phone if all your friends overseas use Skype.
Counting the cost
Although both Telstra and Optus offer a range of landline plans, the Telstra Homeline Plus and Optus Home Comfort Classic, with a monthly rental of $29.95, could be seen as an average phone use plan.
By way of comparison, looking at just the call cost, with line rental plus calls you could expect to get a bill of around $120 using Telstra or $127 using Optus based on usage shown in the VoIP-only plans for an average user. If you removed the mobile calls from the equation, you will still pay around $60 to $66 using either Telstra or Optus for making just 60 local and 10 long distance calls every month. See theTables.
A naked DSL plan such as iiNet includes free local and national calls and discounted international and mobile calls. The monthly cost for using the phone feature and making the same amount and types calls as our average phone user is around $34.80, a saving of $85 compared to the Telstra scenario above. This doesn’t include the cost of the broadband plan, but if you also add a broadband plan to the Telstra scenario for comparison, the savings are comparable.
Internode has a different price structure for its NodePhone2-Special service available to all NakedDSL users. A charge of 29 cents per minute with no connection fee applies for mobile phone calls, however a flat rate of 18 cents is also charged for a call made to any landline, whether it is a local or an STD call. To further confuse the matter, a $10 monthly credit is also included. This means our ‘average’ user would end up paying $37.40 per month when using Internode, a saving of $80 a month compared to Telstra or Optus.
Did you know?
VoIP services that receive a call from the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) need a real telephone number to enable calls to be routed correctly.
However, some VoIP users have phone numbers that give no information of their geographic position as the number is based on an IP address rather than a fixed address. For example, you may live in Sydney and move to Melbourne whilst keeping your Sydney phone number. This might be handy if most of the people you talk to live in Sydney and can call you for the cost of a local call. However the downside is that it can be difficult to determine where the call originates from in case of an emergency.
There have been examples of VoIP calls made where emergency services were sent to a completely different city due to the VoIP number used. The Australian Communications and Media Authority has raised these concerns and have proposed amendments to the telecommunications determination for VoIP providers to only release geographically accurate phone numbers or provide for an a incoming call to be flagged as a VoIP number so the caller will be asked for their location. The 0550 number range is used where the telephone service is not fixed to a particular location, such as a fully nomadic IP-based service.