For many Australians, there’s a comfort in having a landline phone at home. Sure, mobiles have become the must-have accessory of the modern age, and most of us never think of leaving the house without them. Still, the landline persists in our homes – but should it?
While many Australians are very comfortable with landline phone technology, the changes inherent in the rollout of the National Broadband network, as well as the increasing value in mobile plans, means that the comfort you get from having a landline might be simply a matter of spending money for little to no real value.
Do you really need a landline phone?
There are a couple of significant pointers towards dropping your landline phone that are worth considering.
First, there’s the question of landline availability. For the vast majority of Australians (excluding those on satellite or fixed wireless), the arrival of the NBN doesn’t just signify an increase in Internet speeds. If you’re on a fixed line NBN connection, your existing copper phone line is effectively decommissioned the moment you switch over in favour of what’s essentially a virtual phone line. It’s called VoIP (Voice over IP), and it uses an Internet connection to convey your voice messages.
VoIP connections have been around in Australia for more than a decade, and typically they offered lower call costs than standard landline phones. That hasn’t always carried through to all NBN plan providers, even though the “landline” services they offer are really just VoIP anyway.
The sting in the tail here is that VoIP doesn’t work if there’s no power, whereas the copper lines do. It isn’t economical to keep the copper lines going – we’re talking many millions in maintenance a year for a confusing kludge of copper in the first place – but it means that there’s less security in having a landline in a power outage than there is a mobile phone.
It may be tempting to declare that you won’t switch, and you’ll just stick to your landline phone. The issue here is that once your home or business premises is declared “ready” for NBN service, you’ve typically got 18 months before the copper lines are simply closed down. Sticking your head in the sand won’t help you there and may be a serious detriment if you leave it too late and you’re stuck at the back of the installation queue.
Second, there’s the cost issue of calls. Some NBN providers offer reasonable rates for landline calls, but many stick to the kinds of cost models that have been part of landline calling for decades now.
Meanwhile, in the mobile world, the actual cost of making a call within Australia has dropped to virtually nothing. You can pay as little as $10 per month for a package with unlimited standard mobile calls and texts per month, so you can talk and text as much as you like without any excess charges at all.
If you’re constantly on the phone to overseas relatives or for work purposes, many providers offer a bundle of minutes, or in some cases, unlimited calls to selected destinations. Very few VoIP providers offer the same deal, and it’s super-rare if you are clinging to your existing copper landline.
All of that adds up to a landline that may feel comfortable and familiar, but not necessarily great value for many consumers. Our research at Finder shows that many Australians are ditching landlines entirely, and that’s only going to put pressure on those that retain them. As the value of landlines as a business proposition drops, it’s entirely likely that the remaining providers will seek to maintain revenues by charging more, not less, for those landline services.
What to check for with your landline deal:
- Are you paying a ‘line rental’ cost above any call costs? Once you’re onto a fixed line NBN connection, this is a charge you shouldn’t be paying.
- Does your provider include unlimited calls to your regular calling haunts? If not, check around for a better deal.
- Are you keeping a landline around just so others can call you? A mobile phone with a long-expiry SIM plugged in can perform the same job for as little as $5 to $10 per year if you’re not calling out on it.