Cost of Living in Australia: Your Home Telephone Bill

Anybody living or who has lived in the UK and is somewhere approaching as old as I am, will remember the days when British Telecom could charge people whatever they wanted, treat them however they felt like treating them and banked almost 300 gazillion million pounds in clear profit every single second.

Then, 25 years ago, almost to the day, British Telecom was privatised by the Thatcher government and became known as BT Group plc.

And everybody’s telephone bills came tumbling down!

Here in Australia, we are not at that stage yet, but we are getting there.

Let me introduce you to Telstra.

Telstra are Australia’s equivalent of British Telecom and just like BT, they have also been privatised, but it didn’t happen until 2006. So telephone bills here haven’t yet come tumbling down but I am sure given time they will do.

So a price comparison at this stage would be rather pointless as this is a marketplace that is rapidly shifting. Because England is so far ahead in terms of that privatisation I know for sure that telecommunications are far cheaper in the UK than they are here in Australia.

So England wins! Game over.

So if you move to Australia, how high will your telephone bills be here?

When we arrived back in November 2007, one of the first things we needed to do was set up a telephone line. Being a bloke, I never phone anybody. But Mrs BobinOz, when we first arrived, just loves to phone England and talk and talk and talk!

But we knew Telstra wouldn’t be cheap, so my wife agreed to take it real easy at first so we could see how it went. It would also give me a chance to review the alternatives.

Our first bill.

  • Initial connection fee:   $59.00
  • Quarterly line rental:     $29.95
  • Charges for calls:         $52.42
  • Total:                       $141.37

Not too bad at first glance. But seriously expensive when I tell you that the call charges, because it was the first bill, covered calls made between November the 25th to November 30th, 2007. Less than a weeks worth of calls!

We had made only 21 calls; 13 were to the UK. Those calls to England only lasted a total of 124 minutes and yet they accounted for $34.67 of the total.

Let me introduce you to VoIP.

VoIP is voice over Internet protocol. (I think). There are many VoIP providers worldwide so there is no shortage of choice. But most people believe that VoIP is a geeky way of talking over the computer. It isn’t! Not if you get an ATA (Analogue Telephone Adaptor) ….

Linksys SPA 3102

Linksys SPA 3102

I got mine from a company called PennyTel who are based in Sydney. I think I paid $88 for the box which came with $20 credit for telephone calls. I can’t say that setting it up was easy, because it wasn’t. It took me around four hours to figure it out. Perhaps I should have read the instructions.

But once it’s done, it’s done for good. I set my up in January 2008 and haven’t had to touch it since. Here’s how it works:

  • When somebody rings our home telephone number, our home phone rings and we pick it up and talk. Nothing too tricky about that!
  • When we want to call someone, we pick up our home telephone (the same one we picked up previously) and dial out. We are automatically using our VoIP account with PennyTel. No codes, no switches, no Masonic handshake, just cheap calls. Too easy!
  • The computer does not need to be on for our VoIP to work, but the broadband modem does.
  • If there was a power failure or the modem was switched off we would still be able to use our phone, but instead of using VoIP we would be using Telstra.

Our first full month’s bill from PennyTel.

Our first full bill was for February 2008. The call summary was as follows:

121 calls; 543 minutes 30 seconds; cost: $8.07

28 of those calls were to England, one was to a French mobile, several were to Australian mobiles and the rest were just domestic calls in Australia.

Just in case you thought it was a misprint the first time, I will repeat it again:

The total cost of those calls was: $8.07

Of course, we still have to pay $29.95 each quarter to Telstra for the line rental. But that’s all they get and I’m sure you can understand why.

If you’re thinking of coming to Australia, or if you already live here as many of my readers do, you might want to consider switching to a VoIP service provider.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, never has for us. Soon won’t for Telstra.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Valter Russo July 12, 2013, 3:23 pm |

    Hi Bob, what’s up… once again

    i’ve seen great part of the blog, pretty awesome job you have done, but i haven’t found (is this the right way to say,haven’t found?lol) anything about internet, or internet connections/providers, can you link me if you have the topic please?
    or if you don’t i would love to read it from you.

    Valter Russo
    a portuguese Man-of-Peace ahaha

    • BobinOz July 12, 2013, 9:53 pm |

      I have written about almost everything, the Google search function on the right hand side towards the top will help you find almost anything. Had you searched for “Internet” then you would have come across this article…


      PS. Coverage here is pretty good and so is your English, it was the right way to say.

      • Valter Russo July 13, 2013, 3:37 pm |

        actually i did, but the image and title deceived me.
        thank you

        • BobinOz July 15, 2013, 8:47 pm |

          Ah, yes, I can understand why. Cheers!

  • BobinOz October 16, 2009, 5:43 pm |

    Hi David

    Good question, but we haven’t been disappointed with the sound quality of our VoIP. As I understand it, the delays and echoes can come into play when the server, if that’s what they call it, is a long way from where you are calling from. That’s why I chose PennyTel who are based in Sydney.

    If I’d have used Skype, for example, who’s servers are in Europe and America, then I am sure I would have experienced echoes and delays, certainly when making Australia to Australia calls.

    Sometimes calls received from abroad can be a little echoing, but we just unplug the ATA box temporarily and it sounds great again. But our calls out always seem to be pretty good.

    For the savings we are making, it’s well worth the effort.



  • David Azzopardi October 15, 2009, 8:26 pm |

    Great tip Bob. I’ll be sure to consider VoIP when I get to Australia early next year.

    What is the voice quality like with your VoIP provider? I have used a few VoIP systems before and sometimes I encountered delays, echoes, or even choppy speech. Did you get any of these issues with your VoIP provider?

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