Welcome to VoIPstuff.net.au I have recently migrated my old site to a new format. My original site was built in 2006, and some of the links and vendors are either out of business, or have changed their business models. Most of the concepts on this site will remain valid over time, so the information here is still useful. I will be working on updating some of the content on this site over the coming months.
Are you new to VoIP?
If you are new to VoIP and have just started to do some research on what it is all about, this is a good place for you to spend some time. A good place to start (after your read this page) is to go to the learning centre (click on the link on the left hand side of this screen). This gives some suggested reading in a logical order. Once you have built your understanding, you can use this web site as more of a reference when you have specific interests. Now this website is deliberately built to be as ‘untechnical’ as possible. There is a need to be a bit technical in places, because some things in VoIP ARE technical. Wherever possible however the concepts have been pitched in layman’s terms and illustrated to assist understanding.
Why would you bother with VoIP?
Because it’s dirt cheap, and you won’t really notice the difference in call quality (if you do it right). The standard rate for calls is 10 cents untimed to anywhere in Australia. Mobile rates vary a bit but you can get 13 cents per minute from Pennytel vs 37 cents from a typical telco. International rates are in the vicinity of 2-5 cents per minute depending on supplier and country. More recently Pennytel is offering untimed calls to over 20 countries for just 8 cents per call.
Even cheaper international calls if you need them
It is not that hard to get international calls untimed using a variety of methods. For cheap international calls, one way is to sign up for a local phone number in one country, then pick up your hardware and physically move it with you to another country.
So for example, let’s say you are an Aussie and you go to live in England for a year. You can create a Sydney local phone number by signing up with a local provider and using an ATA and then take the ATA (and the phone number) with you to England. Anyone that rings you on your Sydney number will make your phone in England ring (for the cost of a local call in Australia). When you make outgoing calls from your ATA from England back to Australia, you also will pay for the cost of a local call – cool hey! The only issue is to stop people calling you in the middle of the night!
How much can you save?
Bottom line, most people can save a minimum of 50% on calls plus the cost savings of line rental. A user that pays say $300 per quarter for a phone bill will save around $600 per year if they keep PSTN POTS phone line for incoming calls, and switch to VoIP for outgoing calls. You can save an additional $250 per year if you dump the POTS line too. The savings are greatest for STD calls (save up to 95%), then local calls (save up to 60%) and then mobile calls (save up to 50%).
For information about the various rates you will pay for VoIP, have a look at this site http://www.ozinternetphones.com
How do they do it so cheap?
Your VoIP Service Provider (VSP) is able to provide you with very cheap calls across Australia and around the world because they use the internet (which is free) to send your call for most of the distance. The image below illustrates a call from Brisbane using Pennytel VoIP to a PSTN phone in Adelaide. The step by step process is:
1. Your telephone signal is converted to VoIP by your ATA, and it is then sent to Pennytel in Brisbane through your router and modem.
2. Pennytel then sends the call (for free) across the internet to its offices in Adelaide.
3. Pennytel Adelaide then converts the call back into a normal phone signal and connects back into the PSTN network in Adelaide(and pays a small fee of 3-4 cents to Telstra).
4. Telstra delivers the call to your friend’s phone just like a normal PSTN call.
What type of VoIP to get
There are basically 3 ways you can use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
- You can use a PC based VoIP offering such as Skype. This service allows you to make free calls to other Skype users and while you can use it to telephone people on the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) the call quality is pretty bad in most cases (IMHO). You also have to have your PC switched on to make the call, and you have to be next to your PC with a microphone and speakers to use it.
- You can use a PC based VoIP offering that has a softphone.. This service allows you to phone other PSTN telephone numbers but like Skype, you have to have your PC switched on to make the call, and you have to be next to your PC with a microphone and speakers to use it.
- The third method is to purchase an Analogue Telephone Adaptor (ATA). See image further down this page). The ATA converts the signal from a regular telephone handset into a digital signal and sends it through the internet. Your VoIP service provider (VSP) then sends the call through the internet to a physical location close to the destination of your call. They then turn the signal back into a regular telephone signal and connect back into the PSTN network. In this way they can provide you with fixed rate calls (ie 10 cents untimed) across Australia because they are using the Internet (which is free) to travel the main distance, and only enter the telephone network when it is a local call. The wholesale rate that they pay Telstra is much less than consumers pay hence they can do the whole thing for 10 cents per call (including their profit).
Most of the advice on this website refers to hardware based ATA VoIP services. I think this is the best all round balance between convenience and price.
Before you jump in and purchase a VoIP ATA device, here are a few things to consider.
Do you want to keep your current PSTN telephone number?
Reasons you would keep it:
- To provide backup for your VoIP service in case your internet service or your power goes off. Unlike the PSTN, you need power to run an ATA box and hence your VoIP phone wont work in a blackout. Having said that, most people have a mobile these days, so maybe this is not a reason.
- You want to use the advanced features of an ATA like the SPA-3000 that allow you to dial your home PSTN phone number and connect through to your VoIP phone service. You could use this feature to call home from a friend’s place, and then make International calls at a cheap rate through your ATA at home.
- You only have ADSL broadband and can’t get cable in your area. Unfortunately you have to have a telephone line to get ADSL, so there is no way you can cancel your telephone line and save the rental. The upside is that ADSL2+ is now setting the pace for Internet speed (leaving cable for dead) so maybe it is worth it after all.
- You don’t want to lose your old telephone number. Currently you can’t port your number to a VoIP telco, although Engin states that they are currently trying to make this service available. If this happens in the future you will be able to port your current telephone number to a VSP like Pennytel and keep your current telephone number.
- You are a little unsure about VoIP and want to take a “steady as she goes” approach to moving to the new world. In this case you may want to keep your current PSTN service for a while until you are 100% happy with the technology.
- You can switch to Telstra Homeline Budget and pay only $19.95 per month line rental. The call costs are more expensive on this plan (such as 30 cent local calls), however since all outgoing calls are through VoIP this is irrelevant. $19.95 per month is all you will pay to Telstra to keep your current incoming phone number without having to tell everyone a new number and to have a backup in case of power failure.
Reasons you would dump it:
- You don’t want to pay the telcos to ‘rent’ their line. $19.95 per month is about as cheap as you can get line rental and most of us would rather not pay this.
- You don’t need the backup service because you have a mobile that you can use during a power failure.
So before you decide which ATA to buy, first decide if you want to keep your current PSTN phone service. You wouldn’t buy an advanced ATA like the SPA-3000 unless you were going to keep your current PSTN line (at least for a while anyway).
One good way to make the change to VoIP is to buy a device like the SPA-3000 or one of the Billion routers 6404 VP or VGP, 7404 VP or VGP that allows you to use your current PSTN number and your new VoIP number seamlessly. This will allow you to get used to using VoIP until you can satisfy yourself with the quality and reliability. Once you get there (and you will), then start a transition phase when you tell the people that phone you on your PSTN line that you have a new phone number. After about 2-3 months, disconnect your PSTN number and save $300 per year for the rest of your life! I suggest you enable your Telstra or Optus voice mail, and leave a message telling people your phone number has changed (and don’t leave a message here). That way you encourage others to update their address book with your new number in a way that is painless to you.
Are you a techo or novice?
If you are not very technically minded and don’t know anyone who is, then consider purchasing a device that comes configured and is managed by the VSP.
Companies like Freshtel, Voise, Nehos, iPrimus and Engin all provide such a service. The advantage of doing this is that the VSP sets up the device for you. Some of these companies manage the device for you remotely so you can’t change the settings yourself, and so you can’t get into too much trouble. If you take this approach, you should ask the VSP if you are locked into using their service. Companies like Engin actually lock the ATA box so that you can’t use it with any other service provider. This will limit your opportunity to get the lowest prices from different service providers.
Alternatively, if you have a bit of techo in you; are willing to learn; or know someone who can help you out if the going gets tough, then you will find it more flexible to stay away from the locked Engin plans.
ATA or integrated router?
OK so once you have decided that you are going to use VoIP using a normal telephone handset (ie you have abandoned Skype or a softphone as not practical) you will need to decide what ATA and A router is like a ‘powerboard’ for the internet. You can connect more than one internet device to your single internet connection. You will need to buy a router if you don’t have one. to purchase – you will definitely need both. It is possible to purchase these devices separately or as a combined unit. What hardware you buy really depends on what you want to do and what situation you are in.
Reasons you would buy a combined ATA/Router:
- You haven’t bought a router yet and hence have the option to buy a combined unit. You should refer to the section on routers for more information.
Reasons you would buy a separate ATA and Router:
- You already have a router and don’t need another one.
- You want to take advantage of a special introduction offer that VSPs provide from time to time.
- You want the advanced features of an ATA like the SPA-3000.
How many phone lines do you need?
One really good thing about VoIP is that you can have more than one line into your house for a minimal cost. Each Direct Inward Dial (DID) number will cost you about $5 per month, so in theory you can have as many phone numbers as you want for $5 each per month. Some ATA/routers (like the Billion 7402VGP) have 2 FXS ports – which basically means that you can plug 2 separate telephone handsets (or cordless phone sets) into these 2 ports and effectively have 2 phone lines. Whether people can dial these separate handsets directly will depend on whether you have a DID for each handset. You will definitely be able to dial out separately on the handsets regardless. So if you want to be able to make 2 calls at once, then consider an ATA that can handle 2 or more phone handsets (FXS ports).
FXO and FXS ports can be confusing. I remember which is which by thinking FXS is the one you speak into and FXO is the outbound signal to your service provider.
The other option is to purchase more than 1 ATA. You could purchase a SPA-3000 to allow you to take calls from your existing PSTN phone number and also send VoIP calls through your VSP. You could then purchase a separate SPA-2000 (and separately plug it into your router) to allow another incoming/outgoing phone number (at the cost of the $5 per month) or just an outgoing phone number (at no monthly fee).
How will you access your VoIP phone in your house?
One thing to consider is that most houses are wired with multiple telephone points (ie one in the kitchen, another in the office, perhaps one in the bedroom). Most broadband internet connections only come into 1 point in the house, and that point may not be convenient as the main point for your telephone service. It is normal therefore to use VoIP in conjunction with a good quality cordless phone kit. Doing this allows you to connect your cordless phone base station to the ATA and the intenet in the location where your internet connection comes into the house. You then use cordless handsets to access the telephone in other parts of the house.
While any cordless phone will do the job, it is better to get a good quality setup. VoIP is almost as good quality as PSTN, but not quite. Every part of your setup therefore counts. If you multiple the VoIP drop in quality through your telephone handset, you may be disappointed.
The other thing to consider is a cordless phone setup that has an indicator light on the handset to show you when you have a message on your answering machine. I use the Uniden 2355 setup and this is one excellent feature of this phone.
If there is something that you want to know that is not on this site, or if there is something that you don’t understand, then I strongly recommend you visit the Whirlpool forum. You should first search the threads for information and if you can’t find what you need, then log on and ask a question.