A review of VoIP phone services in Australia

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Traditional home phone packages bundled with a broadband plan are becoming a thing of the past. After all, who uses their landline telephone anymore? We suspect a lot of young people forego the handset for their mobile phones, as mobile phone plans these days can be dirt cheap with unlimited calls. However, there is still merit in having a home phone, but the way a phone call is delivered these days can be vastly different. Enter the realm of Voice over Internet Protocol – or VoIP for short.

How Does VoIP Work?

VoIP simply works by converting analogue voice calls into little packets of data. VoIP basically means you’re using the internet to make phone calls, and your voice is transformed into little packets of data that are then deciphered on the other end. This is similar to using a multitude of other things over the internet – email, instant messages etc.

With Voiceover IP, you can still call a landline or mobile phone, but you’ll be using your internet connection to do so, rather than a phone line connection. This can represent a solid alternative and can work out to be fairly cost effective.

VoIP has emerged as a popular alternative to a copper home phone line amid the rollout of high-speed fixed line broadband, Wi-Fi and mobile 4G, along with the rapid adoption of the smartphone. High speed internet access is virtually wherever we go and has enabled a whole new communications boom.

  • Landline telephones have been left in the dust: With VoIP, users plug their phone connection into their modem, bypassing a direct copper home phone line.
  • New NBN connections also commonly prefer the use of VoIP as the country moves away from copper connections.
  • VoIP can be cost effective: Many internet providers charge for ‘home phone line rental’, which is basically paying for the privilege to access and have an active copper home phone line in your home.
  • VoIP bypasses this need by plugging directly into a compatible Wi-Fi modem.

We’ve established that VoIP has a strong foothold in the future of home phone calling in Australia, but how much data does it actually use, and will it limit internet speeds in any way?

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How Much Data Does VoIP Use?

Perhaps the best thing about VoIP is that, unlike many other things used over the internet, it does not require a lot of data or particularly fast internet speeds.

  • A single phone call requires download and upload speeds of only 100Kbps, with 3Mbps a second now recommended. Given a lot of providers these days boast 20Mbps download speeds with 1Mbps upload speeds on ADSL2+, bandwidth for VoIP is usually not an issue.
  • As far as data used, 13 megabytes per hour tends to be about the norm. Given that most broadband plans are unlimited these days, this is likely not a major issue… unless Nanna rings you for your birthday and you’ve only got 50GB to spare.
  • This low data use is also good for mobile phone data connections as many plans nowadays boast over 1GB in data inclusions. This begs a question: Could you forego calls and texts, and just base everything entirely on the internet?

The communications landscape is fundamentally changing, with VoIP services allowing Australians to communicate both at home and on the move. Evidently, the humble fixed landline has been politely told to vacate the premises. So with VoIP appearing to be a solid alternative, what services are out there, and what can you expect to pay?

Australia’s Top VoIP Home Phone Internet Plans

A range of ISPs currently provide VoIP plans as an alternative to fixed line telephone plans, with consumers able to use their regular home phone to access these services. Generally speaking, VoIP services frequently come as an option with a naked DSL plan, while traditional DSL providers prefer the bundling of a traditional home phone line. There are exceptions of course. The following is a selection of some of the top ISPs offering VoIP plans.

Exetel VoIP Plans

Exetel offers its own VoIP service, ExeFone, with all of its broadband plans. Under ExeFone plans, Exetel to Exetel calls are free, and if bundling a broadband service, the Exefone service is about $10 a month extra. For this customers get local, national, mobile and international calls to 10 countries included.

  • Other international rates are available from as little as 1c a minute

Exetel already offers some cheap NBN and ADSL plans, with 500GB data costing less than $50 a month. Unlimited data can be found for less than $55 and this – combined with a $10 VoIP plan – can mean you can call and browse endlessly for less than $70 per month! Speed boosts on the NBN are also available from an extra $10 a month, so it pays to look at Exetel if you’re in the market for a new home phone and internet service.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Exetel

NBN Basic Unlimited (12 month contract)

  • NBN Basic Evening Speed (NBN12/1)
  • $20 Upfront

min. cost $679.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $54.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Exetel

NBN Basic Unlimited

  • NBN Basic Evening Speed (NBN12/1)
  • $0 Upfront

min. cost $54.99 over 1 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $54.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Exetel

NBN Standard Plus Unlimited (12 month contract)

  • NBN Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN50/20)
  • $20 Upfront

min. cost $739.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $59.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Exetel

NBN Standard Plus Unlimited

  • NBN Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN50/20)
  • $0 Upfront

min. cost $69.99 over 1 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $69.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Exetel

NBN Premium Unlimited (12 month contract)

  • NBN Premium Evening Speed (NBN100/40)
  • $20 Upfront

min. cost $1099.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $89.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Exetel

NBN Premium Unlimited

  • NBN Premium Evening Speed (NBN100/40)
  • $0 Upfront

min. cost $89.99 over 1 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $89.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

iPrimus VoIP Plans

iPrimus’ range includes a number of Lingo VoIP plans, which can be purchased separately from its broadband plans, and can be used in conjunction with a plan from another provider. These plans comprise its:

  • Lingo Starter plan, priced at $9.95 per month
  • Lingo National plan, priced at $19.95 per month
  • Lingo Australia plan, priced at $34.95 per month
  • Lingo 50 Countries plan, priced at $39.95 per month

Local and national calls are priced at 10 cents per call for the Starter plan (unlimited for the other plans), with calls to iPrimus mobiles costing 12 cents per minute for the Starter and National plans (unlimited for the other plans) and calls to other Australian mobiles costing 26 cents per minute for the Starter and National plans (unlimited for the other plans).

International calls are priced from 3 cents per minute for the Starter, National and Australia plans, while the 50 Countries plan has unlimited calls to standard fixed numbers to 50 countries.

Customers will receive a Lingo ATA Box with their service, costing $99 with no contract, $59 with a six-month contact, and provided for free with a 12 or 24-month contract. It should be noted that many of iPrimus’ ADSL2+ plans still rely on the included landline telephone bundle, while its NBN plans are a little more forward-thinking.


Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
iPrimus Logo

Unlimited Basic

  • Basic 12/1 Speed
  • $60 modem on 12 month plan

min. cost $1,680 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $70.00Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
iPrimus Logo

Unlimited Supercharged

  • Standard Plus 50/20 Speed
  • $60 modem on 12 month plan
  • 1 Month Free, Bonus 2000 international minutes or unlimited calls to AU Numbers on 24 month contracts

min. cost $1,920 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $80.00Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
iPrimus Logo

Entertainment Basic

  • Basic 12/1 Speed
  • $55 activation fee + $15 P&H

min. cost $1,920 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $80.00Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
iPrimus Logo

Entertainment Supercharged

  • Standard Plus 50/20 Speed
  • $55 activation fee + $15 P&H

min. cost $2,160 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $90.00Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

MyRepublic VoIP Plans

MyRepublic already offers cheap naked DSL and NBN plans, and also offers VoIP plans from a little extra per month. MyRepublic plans with any form of VoIP calling start at just under $70 a month. This then includes local & national calls on a 12 month contract, plus unlimited data as standard. You are only charged $1 for the VoIP-compatible modem. If you opt for a month-to-month contract this modem then costs $99 in upfront fees and you’re subject to a more expensive monthly rate.

  • MyRepublic’s fixed line NBN plans come with the maximum speed tier as standard, which is 100/40.
  • These prices make it much cheaper than competing providers.

MyRepublic is still a relative unknown compared to the big boys but offers some cheap naked DSL & NBN plans with cheap VoIP call packs thrown in if you so choose.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
MyRepublic Logo

Unlimited Essential plan

  • Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN50)
  • $1 Upfront

min. cost $1,680.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $69.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
MyRepublic Logo

Unlimited Essential plan

  • Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN50)
  • $60 Upfront

min. cost $899.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $69.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
MyRepublic Logo

Unlimited Essential plan

  • Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN50)
  • $99 Upfront

min. cost $168.99 for first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $69.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
MyRepublic Logo

Gamer Pro Essential

  • Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN50)
  • $1 Upfront
  • Get $200 discount off the Swiftpoint Z Gamer Mouse when you order Gamer Pro plan by 30.06.18

min. cost $960.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $79.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
MyRepublic Logo

Unlimited Premium plan

  • Premium Evening Speed(NBN100/40)
  • $1 Upfront

min. cost $2,040.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $84.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
MyRepublic Logo

Unlimited Premium plan

  • Premium Evening Speed(NBN100/40)
  • $60 Upfront

min. cost $1,079.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $84.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
MyRepublic Logo

Unlimited Premium plan

  • Premium Evening Speed(NBN100/40)
  • $99 Upfront

min. cost $183.99 over 1 month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $84.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
MyRepublic Logo

Gamer Pro Premium

  • Premium Evening Speed(NBN100/40)
  • $1 Upfront
  • Get $200 discount off the Swiftpoint Z Gamer Mouse when you order Gamer Pro plan by 30.06.18/li>

min. cost $1,140.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $94.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

iiNet VoIP Plans

IiNet offers its Netphone VoIP service with its residential NBN, VDSL2, cable and naked DSL plans, and it’s priced at $9.95 per month.

  • Netphone comes with included calls to other Netphone numbers, along with local and standard national calls, while calls to Australian mobile numbers cost 29 cents per minute, which are billed in 30 second increments.
  • International calls are from 5 cents per minute (with call inclusions varying plan by plan).
  • Dependent on the contract, you can additionally purchase a VoIP international call pack for an additional $10 a month. This includes all calls to landlines in 20 different countries, including popular ones like the UK, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
  • For an additional $10 per month you can buy a VoIP Mobile Call Pack – this includes all calls to standard Australian landlines and mobiles.

iiNet’s VoIP plans come with no minimum term, although they are only available when bundled with an iiNet fixed line broadband service, and the broadband service may come with a minimum term.

Netphone works by plugging a standard phone into a VoIP-enabled broadband modem, or for those without a VoIP modem via a VoIP adaptor, ATA, device. Below are some iiNet plans you can expect to see bundled with a Netphone.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
iiNet Logo

Essentials Plus

  • Basic 12/1 speed
  • Fetch included

min. cost $1,679.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $69.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
iiNet Logo

Advanced

  • Standard Plus 50/20 speed
  • Fetch included

min. cost $1,919.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $79.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
iiNet Logo

Ultimate

  • Premium 100/40 speed
  • Fetch included

min. cost $2,399.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $99.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
iiNet Logo

Essentials Plus

  • Basic 12/1 speed
  • Plan + $79.95 activation upfront

min. cost $149.94

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $69.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
iiNet Logo

Advanced

  • Standard Plus 50/20 speed
  • Plan + $79.95 activation upfront

min. cost $159.94

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $79.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
iiNet Logo

Ultimate

  • Premium 100/40 speed
  • Plan + $79.95 activation upfront

min. cost 179.94

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $99.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Internode VoIP Plans

Internode is a subsidiary of iiNet and perhaps unsurprisingly has several broadband plans with the ability to add a VoIP service. Internode’s VoIP service is called the ‘Nodephone’ and Internode packages this service with many NBN plans.

  • NodePhone plans start at $0 extra per month, which comes with PAYG rartes, while other plans can be had from $5 per month.
  • Local and national calls are untimed and charged at 18c each. Mobile calls are 29c a minute while international rates start at just 15c/minute.

Internode may be a subsidiary of iiNet but what it offers is quite different. 250GB data can be had from under $60 a month, remembering that a NodePhone with credit can be bundled from an extra $5. Internode does not seem to offer any ‘packs’, rather relying on relatively cheap call rates to see customers through.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Internode

NBN Bronze Unlimited

  • NBN Basic Evening Speed (NBN12/1)
  • $15 Upfront

min. cost $1,694.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $69.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Internode

NBN Bronze Unlimited

  • NBN Basic Evening Speed (NBN12/1)
  • $99 Upfront

min. cost $168.99 for first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $69.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Internode

NBN Gold Unlimited

  • NBN Standard Plus Evening Speed(NBN50/20)
  • $15 Upfront

min. cost $1,934.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $79.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Internode

NBN Gold Unlimited

  • NBN Standard Plus Evening Speed(NBN50/20)
  • $99 Upfront

min. cost $178.99 for first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $79.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Internode

NBN Platinum Unlimited

  • NBN Premium Evening Speed(NBN100/40)
  • $15 Upfront

min. cost $2,414.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $99.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Internode

NBN Platinum Unlimited

  • NBN Premium Evening Speed(NBN100/40)
  • $99 Upfront

min. cost $198.99 for first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $99.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Where can I get free VoIP?

A range of free (and a combination of both paid and free) VoIP services have emerged amid the high-speed broadband and mobile connectivity boom and are now well-established in the market. Referred to as over-the-top (OTT) services – being delivered over the user’s network service, but not directly from their ISP – these services encompass a combination of functions in addition to voice calling, including video calling, along with text and picture messaging. Among some of the bigger and better known services are:

  • Skype
  • Messenger (Facebook)
  • FaceTime
  • Viber

All you need with these services is a data or internet connection, and away you go. These apps are available via both desktop and mobile devices, across the Windows, Android and iOS platforms. Such services typically allow users to communicate with each other for free within the application, yet cannot be used to contact mobile and fixed line numbers, and in this regard are limited when compared to the paid VoIP services on offer from ISPs.

However, it should be noted that some free services also offer paid functionality, charging users to make calls to mobile or fixed line numbers and operating in a similar manner to paid VoIP services. Indeed, in the case of Messenger, you have the choice to put all your mobile phone contacts into the app and text from the app. It uses data, and not your text credit. This is done by sending text as MMS, instead of SMS. However, text MMS likely does not use much data.

It should also be noted that while these services are free, users will need to pay for the broadband used to deliver them. While many of these texting functions do not use much data, the fact is they employ a lot of multimedia tools that can eat up data. So, keep track of how much data you are using!

These free VoIP services do have their limitations, so it can be worthwhile looking into paid services as well to get the most immersive VoIP experience.

Paid vs Free VoIP: What’s best?

For people in the market for a paid VoIP plan, keep in mind that these services often come with a broadband plan. It may well be worthwhile consolidating your broadband and VoIP needs as one. While you may not be able to rely exclusively on free services, you should certainly explore your options and tailor any paid VoIP plan accordingly. The free VoIP services mentioned earlier seem to work best as an option when you’re out and about, while the paid VoIP services through broadband providers work best at home as a replacement to your home phone.

Certainly, a paid VoIP plan provides further flexibility when used in conjunction with other services, and amid a variety of options, it may well be a case of mixing and matching your various free and paid services. Whatever the case, VoIP services are likely the way of the future, and whether you spell ‘phone’ with an ‘f’ or a ‘ph’, there’s likely a VoIP service out there to suit you.

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