Pics: How they fix mobile phone towers

How do they fix or upgrade a mobile phone tower? With a very big crane, that’s how.

It wouldn’t be a job for someone with a fear of heights.

Fixing a mobile phone tower (1/2)

Fixing a mobile phone tower (2/2)

In my family, my sister gave up her landline when she moved last year, and in her household now relies totally on mobile phones for making calls (plus naked DSL for internet). My mum has (without moving) just switched from landline to mobile as well. I moved to VOIP at home plus mobile earlier this year — it’s been pretty good, though occasionally the modem needs rebooting.

We’ve all given up the landline due to costs, and needing to have a mobile anyway. Are others doing the same?

Bye bye home phone, hello VOIP

I finally got around to replacing my home fixed line phone with VOIP. I took the easy route of sticking with my ISP, Netspace/iiNet.

Previously each month I’d been paying $59.95 for ADSL2+ broadband, plus for the home phone $22.95 rental, plus $6 for caller ID, plus $2.93 for an unlisted number.

Local calls were costing me 30 cents, but because I only make at most perhaps about a dozen a month, a grand total for net+phone of around $95 per month. With all the phone costs included, each call was costing me about $3. (Some of them can be quite lengthy, which is why I decided not to abandon any form of home phone completely.)

Switching to the equivalent Naked (eg without a home phone) ADSL plan, with VOIP (which doesn’t count towards the plan quota, and includes free local and national calls) is costing me $59.95 per month. On top of that I’ve decided to rent (rather than buy) a BoB2 combined VOIP-capable modem and VOIP phone for an extra $9.95 (on a two year contract — I’ve checked; we won’t get the NBN in that time).

So I’m at $69.90 per month with most calls included — saving about $25 per month.

The changeover

One thing that scared me about doing the change were the warnings that it would take 10-20 days, and that I would be without Internet during this time. As an extremely wired, internet-addicted person (and indeed family), this terrified me, and I ended up timing it for the January school holidays when the kids were away. (I figured I could find ways around it on my own, like using my mobile, though I’d need to take it easy to avoid high fees.)

This turned out to be a furphy. The text might imply you’ll be without Internet for the full switch period, but in fact once I’d signed-up, an email I received said that in fact it would be out for only up to one day.

If I’d known that I would have done it a lot sooner. In fact any outage was barely noticeable — it probably happened in the middle of the day when we were all out.

I think they’ve severely undersold how easy it is to switch.

The catches of VOIP

There are catches of course.

The BoB2 wasn’t quite plug-in and go, as advertised… it seemed to have picked-up the wrong logon info from somewhere; possibly an issue with migrating off an existing account. Easily solved.

I had ummed and ahhed over keeping my old phone number or switching to a new one. In the end I placed the order requesting to keep the old one, but when it was provisioned, they’d actually allocated a new one. I don’t mind — I almost chose it that way — so I won’t bother to get it changed back, though there’s a few people I’ll need to notify.

By ordering VOIP you have to waive your rights under the telephone service Customer Service Guarantee. Basically that means if it doesn’t work, you don’t have much recourse. That’s OK for us — we barely use the home phone anyway; the mobile is much more important, so this is really just a backup (and cheaper option for local calls).

Some complain about VOIP call quality — in the calls I’ve made so far, it’s been okay for me. I haven’t yet tried it with a lot of network traffic going on. Theoretically QOS should ensure it’s okay, but it’ll be interesting to see how well that works in practice.

They note that calls to 13 numbers don’t necessarily go to a local branch of the company you’re ringing, unlike those made from conventional fixed lines.

They also warn about not keeping it as the only phone in the house, in the event of emergencies. Fair enough, we have mobiles for that. And you can’t dial 190X premium numbers at all. (No loss!)

Finally, although you get free national calls to fixed lines, it’s worth being aware that this excludes 1300 and 13 numbers, which are listed at 30 cents each, untimed. What I’ve also found is that some other types of calls cost — I used the 1194 Time service a couple of times to check voice quality without ringing a human. Turns out these cost 35 cents a pop, despite not being listed on the call rates list. Odd.

Overall

So far I’m happy, and saving a big heapa money. I wish I’d switched ages ago.

Thinking about VOIP to replace my land line. Any recommendations?

Another $38.60 (per month) bill for my land line, which I barely use. That’s made up of:

  • line rental $22.95
  • 17 local calls $5.10
  • calls to mobiles $1.62
  • silent line $2.93
  • caller ID $6.00

Almost all of the cost ($31.88) is in the line itself, rather than the calls.

My sister’s recently gone down the route of not having a land line at all; just mobile. I’m not sure I want to do that just yet, particularly as lengthy local calls to family could get very expensive.

VOIP has come a long way in recent years, and could be an option. Naked DSL (which is available in my area) along with an ISP VOIP plan could turn out to be substantially cheaper.

It appears my current Netgear DG384G version 5 modem/router doesn’t support VOIP, so it looks like I’d either need an ATA (Analogue Telephone Adapter, about $60) or a new modem/router than supports VOIP (about $100).

But (taking the offerings from iiNet/Netspace as an example, since that’s my current ISP, and I’m pretty happy with them) it’s then monthly costs of $9.95. With the usage above, 17 local calls at 15 cents = $2.55, assume the mobile call would be the same cost. Unlike with a conventional phone, you don’t get a White Pages listing unless you opt in (rather than paying $2.93 per month to opt out). It’s not clear to me if I could still get caller ID, but it still adds up to only $14.12 for that “typical” month, so I’d make $100 investment in equipment back in less than 5 months.

What have I missed? What else should I take into account? What other options are there?

PS. The main thing I missed is that Netspace’s Naked DSL plans include iiTalk VOIP for free. (This is probably the same deal Julian’s comment refers to.) The Naked plan is $10 more than I’m paying now. One option for hardware would be a BoB2 VOIP phone would be another $9.95/month (and local calls are free), or $199 outright.