While many Australians find themselves questioning the necessity of a home phone line in an age of wireless information, the antiquated communications infrastructure (and near complete monopoly of it by previous government body, Telstra) requires the rental of a phone line to provide high speed internet.
The major providers of home phone services are Telstra and Optus, though smaller companies offering packaged phone and internet services are popping up everyday. Some examples of these are iiNet and iPrimus.
If there are already phone lines in place in your building (this is almost always the case), it will take around 1-4 working days for your service to be connected. If there is damage to the lines, this can extend by days or weeks.
When you arrange a connection, you will need to supply a valid credit card number (if you are a non-citizen of Australia) as well as the number of your passport or license. If you are an expat lucky enough to have been transferred by your employer, they are able to connect all utilities in their name and deduct the cost from your wage or salary, which will make your life much easier.
Monthly phone costs include line rental, and charges per call (even locally). It is in your best interest to check the price of both, as cheap line rental can often mean very expensive call rates, and visa versa.
All phone providers in Australia have packages that allow you to make calls at reduced rates in exchange for a monthly package charge. All phone companies provide long distance and international calling, at inflated prices, but can usually provide an Overseas Calling plan.
If you are planning to make many overseas calls (and will have packaged phone and internet), you will be well served to request a VoIP phone (Voice Over Internet Protocol) as part of your communications package. Most major Australian telecom companies now offer VoIP options in addition to line rental. VoIP hubs function like normal telephones, but allow you to make long distance and overseas calls via the internet (rather than your phone line) at a significantly reduced cost (depending on how much you spend talking to family or friends overseas).
Companies providing Home Phone only, or Home Phone with Internet Packages:
- Telstra: http://www.telstra.com; 13 2200
- Optus: http://www.optus.com.au; 133937
Companies providing Home Phone with Internet Packages only:
- iiNet: http://www.iinet.net.au; 13 19 17
- iPrimus: http://www.iprimus.com.au; 131 789
Mobile phone coverage and connections have come a long way in recent times. Areas that less than a decade ago had no service at all may now be streaming internet video to 3G handsets. However, coverage and data speeds still vary widely. If you will be in the major Melbourne area (CBD and inner suburbs) coverage shouldn’t be a problem, but if you are planning on living in the outer suburbs or beyond, it is highly recommended you investigate coverage with several companies and ask your intended provider for a coverage map.
To connect to any mobile phone service you will need to complete a minimum 100 point identification check. This usually consists of 2-3 standard documents such as a passport (70 points), drivers license (70 points), or recent utility bill or lease with your name and address on it (25 points). Some companies also accept credit cards, bank cards, or a letter from your employer as proof of identity, but these count for less points than official documents.
While most providers require you to be a citizen or Permanent Resident to qualify for a contract-based phone package (which offer the best rates and newest phones), many do not actually ask as long as you meet the 100 point identification check.
Connecting to a contract plan usually involves picking a handset (heavily subsidized or financed in most cases), choosing a monthly plan (that usually includes talk credit, SMS value, and data for smartphones), and agreeing to pay the base price plus overages (and there can be many if you chose the wrong plan) for 24 months.
Mobile phone plans in Australia are among some of the most confusing in the world. With a wide variety of companies using credit systems based on ‘call value’ as opposed to actual call cost*, it can be near to impossible to compare plans or discover how much talk time you will actually be getting for your monthly fee. It is highly recommended you study available plans carefully before commiting to any plan.
If you don’t wish to commit to a mobile phone contract (which generally are a minimum of 24 months), all carriers provide ‘prepaid’ mobile phone plans. Phones on such plans usually start at $50, and allow you to add credit as you go (the cheapest credit recharges starting at about $15). Once again, the amount you are paying is usually not indicative of the amount of call credit you will receive, and there are usually some ‘top-up’ bonuses or specials included if prepaying past a certain limit (eg. $29 top-up may actually give you $400 of ‘call credit’).
Prepaid specials vary wildly from week to week and company to company, but it can pay to have your whole family on prepaid plans with the same company as most carriers allow free calling between their prepaid customers.
*For example, a monthly mobile plan with major company Optus may cost $49, but provide you with ‘$750 of call credit.’ As calls and/or SMS to other mobiles, land lines, long-distance land lines, or international calls are all billed differently at different times of day, it can be a very complex process to determine what the actual cost is.
Major Mobile Phone Companies:
- Telstra (See website above): 1800 050 381
- Optus (See website above): 1300 301 937
- Vodafone: http://www.vodafone.com.au/personal/index.htm; 1300 650410
- Virginmobile: http://www.virginmobile.com.au; 136369
- 3 Mobile http://www.three.com.au; 133320
If you are an expat who rings home to the other side of the planet frequently, there are several other options to reduce your calling costs without getting involved in contracted phone plans.
Prepaid international calling cards can be found at any convenience store and many supermarkets. While rates vary, these calling cards are always cheaper than connecting directly through your home phone line. By dialing a toll free number inside Australia, and then entering the information found on the calling card, you can be connected to any phone in the world for prices that are usually less than $0.10 a minute.
A good resource for comparing the hundreds of available international calling cards (and purchasing them online to receive a PIN by email immediately)
Alternatively, you can make international calls for free, provided you have a broadband internet connection. The world’s most popular service for this is Skype. Skype allows you to prepay credit into a Skype account and make very cheap international calls to any phone, or allows you to connect for free to friends and family who also have Skype installed on their computer. Many people choose to use the computer-to-computer option as it allows you to hear and see the person you are talking to using webcams.