Voice over internet protocol (VoIP)

This page provides information about the Voice over Internet Protocol phone service. It requires a relatively fast internet connection to function, and can offer a good-quality, cost-effective voice service.

What is VoIP?

VoIP is a service that uses the internet to make voice calls to any other phone number in the world, instead of the traditional copper connection. The term stands for “Voice Over Internet Protocol” or, in simple terms, a telephone service that works over the Internet.

VoIP offered through retail service providers may be of comparable quality to your current voice service. You may use a standard analogue phone handset, a dedicated VoIP cordless phone system, or even software such as Skype.

In general, making a call over VoIP is considerably cheaper than making it over a landline or mobile phone connection, which is why it’s such a popular service.

How does it work?

VoIP works by connecting your current telephone to the router that broadcasts your incoming internet connection throughout your premises, or by plugging in a set of headphones with a microphone to a computer and using software.

You use the phone, or virtual phone keypad on your computer, to place the call to any phone service that has a number.

Your call uses your internet connection to make the connection to the other phone, rather than the landline service provided to you by Telstra, or your mobile phone connection provided by the supplier you chose. However, the “voice” data is prioritised over the ordinary internet data, as it travels over the internet connections. This means VoIP calls will be delivered using the best-quality service available to you at that point in time.

As the call is made over the internet, it will use your internet data inclusions, not your phone plan inclusions.

How much data is used depends on your equipment and service provider. It’s likely to range between 25Mb and 80Mb of two-way data for each hour of a call. (Note that there’s 1000Mb in one Gb, and most internet plans have at least 20Gb of data available to you each month, if not considerably more).

Can I get VoIP?

As long as you have an internet connection of some kind, you can get and use VoIP.

However, there are some limitations and things to be aware of.

  • It’s not a replacement for a landline system for managing medical alarms, faxes or priority assistance service.
  • It requires an active internet connection to work. If the internet connection goes down (for example, in a power outage, or extreme weather/environmental events), your VoIP system will not work; you won’t be able to make emergency calls over it.
  • We do not recommend disconnecting an existing landline service in favour of a VoIP.
  • If your internet connection is provided by fixed-wireless, mobile broadband, or fibre-optic connections, you’re unlikely to notice any difference in quality between a landline call and a VoIP call.
  • If, however, you’re on a satellite connection – particularly, nbn™ Sky Muster – there will be a noticeable delay on your call, and the quality of the call can vary from “extremely good” to “barely usable”.

It is recommended for nbn™ Sky Muster and Fixed Wireless users, who do not have access to a mobile service, that a basic land line connection is maintained, as emergency backup. BIRRR recommends using VoIP only as an additional voice service.

For nbn™ Sky Muster there are three events that WILL cause a temporary loss of service and your VoIP connection will fail:

  1. Power failure, which can be overcome with a backup power source.
  2. Rain fade, for which there is no solution.
  3. Provider or back haul transmission failures and nbn™n Sky Muster outages.

It is important that both your landline and VoIP line accepts 000 calls.

Understanding VoIP plans

VoIP handset plans

Many internet service providers will have VoIP as an optional extra to their plans. It may cost a small amount extra per month – generally around $10-$20 more.

Like ordinary landline plans, there may be a cost per call. For example:

Local & National calls : from 15c/call
Mobile calls : from 22c/call
International calls : from 5c/call
13/1300 Numbers: from 35c/call

(These costs are taken from Ant Communications’ Pay As You Go plan, costs $5/extra per month. Other plans from other providers may have higher or lower prices).

This does not include the cost of the VoIP handset and other hardware, which is likely to be a once-off cost of between $90 – $200.

You may port your current landline number to the VoIP service, or you can acquire a new local number for the VoIP service, should you wish to keep the landline. Or you could take all incoming calls on your landline and make outgoing calls via the cheaper VoIP service.

VoIP software plans

Software such as Skype is free to download and use if the person you want to call is also using the same software.

If you want to make a call to any phone call, regardless of whether that person is using your calling software or not, there may be a charge paid to the software supplier. This could be a once-off connection fee, or charged per a specific period of time (seconds, or minutes).

Skype is the best-known and most well-supported of the VoIP packages.

Setting up a VoIP system

This may require the use of an additional piece of equipment, called an Analogue Telephone Adapter or ATA.

Your service provider can guide you in the provisioning of a VoIP service over your internet connection.

Experienced users may consider a 3rd party Voice Service Provider (VSP); however, this avenue should only be explored should you require a more complex VoIP service or have business-grade requirements.