Something exciting happened a few months back: my local telephone exchange (or ‘Central Office’ for my American brothers and sisters) was upgraded to support ADSL 2+.
Actually, it had supported ADSL 2+ for some time, but only by Telstra resellers. When the Internet Service Provider iiNet came along, which runs its own back-haul network independent of Telstra, I committed to doing a number of things:
- Upgrading my home internet from ADSL (supplied by Internet Service Provider aaNet) to ADSL 2+ (supplied by iiNet),
- Converting to Naked DSL;
- Porting my telephone service from traditional PSTN to VoIP, and
- Freeing myself from the expensive Telstra service and equipment fees and call costs.
Would this be an expensive exercise? Would I ultimately save money? Or would I pay more for the privilege (as I saw it) of being Telstra-free?
Now the dust has settled, it’s time to find out.
The Existing (Old) Setup
I have a small analogue PABX, with extensions cabled to most rooms in the house. This should neither detract from my internet story or cause any undue alarm.
Now, Mr & Mrs Dr Ron have had a common, garden-variety 19th-century analogue telephone line for many years. We only used this for incoming calls. Why? Because Telstra call costs are generally more expensive than… well, anything, really. So when someone called our home telephone number, all the phones in the house would ring and we would speak to the caller. I was on Telstra’s “Homeline Budget” plan, which is the cheapest line rental vs most expensive call rates, at $71.64 per quarter including “recurring costs” (about $23.88 /month). I was on this plan deliberately, to minimise the service and equipment fees, given that we didn’t use the service for outgoing calls. So far so good.
For outgoing calls, we had an account with engin, the VoIP telephone company. Engin offered 10 cent untimed calls to any number in Australia, (a third the cost of Telstra on the “Homeline Budget” plan,) and timed calls to mobiles and international numbers. My engin plan was like a mobile telephone “cap” and I paid at least $14.95 /month for the privilege.
So to make an outgoing call to a local or national number, we would “dial 0″ on an extension, and the PABX would pre-select the line connected to engin’s SIP voice box. We would get a “second dial tone” and make the call.
Now to keep down costs, I successfully trained Mrs Dr Ron to use her mobile telephone to make mobile-to-mobile calls. I did the same. I think calls to mobiles are always expensive on landlines and VoIP accounts, compared with mobile-to-mobile rates, especially when you can take advantage of “free 3 to 3″ and similar promotions run by other carriers.
My wife has a lot of family overseas, and we ring friends overseas too. Weekly calls to England, Scotland and Denmark are not uncommon. International rates on engin weren’t too bad and international rates on the mobiles weren’t too bad either.
The New Setup
We have kept the PABX: no change.
We’re still using mobile phones for mobile-to-mobile: no change.
We churned from the old ISP (aaNet) to the new ISP (iiNet).
We ported our telephone number, from Telstra PSTN to iiNet VoIP. This went surprisingly smoothly. We experienced a service outage for a few days, which was expected and clearly explained in the T’s & C’s provided by iiNet.
We cancelled the engin account, as it was no longer needed, and I got sick of their poor customer service (but that’s another story).
Incoming calls still arrive by dialling the same phone number, but these are now carried by iiNet VoIP into the PABX. (The iiNet router has anFXS port which drives an analogue trunk circuit on the PABX.) Similarly, outgoing calls are carried via iiNet VoIP instead of engin VoIP.
For richer or poorer?
Previously I was paying:
- Monthly Telstra bill: $23.88 + call costs, if any
- Monthly aaNet bill: $94.25 for 40 GB bandwidth
- Monthly engin bill: $14.95 + call costs not included in this cap, e.g. international calls
So previously I had a minimum monthly investment of $133.08 for home internet and telephone calls.
Remember I haven’t changed my call usage patterns, or the way I use my mobile telephone.
Now I’m paying:
- Monthly iiNet bill: $69.95 for 30GB peak/30GB off-peak + call costs not included in this cap
In addition to a financial windfall of $63.13 per month, I’m also ahead because:
- There’s no separate Telstra account;
- There’s no separate engin account;
- I’m using ADSL 2+ technology, better (albeit marginally, at my house) than first-generation ADSL;
- I’ve got half as much bandwidth again, compared with the previous internet plan;
- Unlimited, free, local and national telephone calls, as opposed to engin’s 10 cent calls which chipped-away at a “cap”; and
- VoIP quality is much better, for two reasons: (1) I’m on a faster network connection; and (2) my new router, provided by iiNet, has a Quality of Service feature which was missing in the old SIP box.
So Dr Ron wins. Faster, cheaper internet, and more cash towards that Mediterranean retirement villa.
Seriously though … that’s $756 /year in my pocket.
What have we learnt from this exercise?
Review your internet contract, and personal internet requirements, regularly.
Internet “plans” come and go, just as fast as mobile phone plans these days. If you stay on a plan for longer than 12 months, chances are that a faster, cheaper plan offering more bandwidth has become available, that might better suit your needs.
Shop around, and monitor consumer advocacy websites – like Broadband Choice in Australia – to compare “apples with apples”.
Happy hunting, good luck. See you in the Med.