Why I’m ditching VoIP for the PSTN


opinion Several years ago, I joined the internet telephony revolution. I switched my home broadband connection to naked DSL, disconnected my home phone, and signed up for iiNet’s iiTalk Voice over Internet Protocol solution.

At the time, I felt incredibly free. No longer tied by the shackles of $29.95 monthly plans and analogue signals, I was living in an all-digital world. My voice wasn’t bound to finicky copper wire; instead, it was narrowcast out across the internet, intelligent routing algorithms sending its wave forms to my target IP address whenever I would call a friend, a member of my family, or a colleague.

When I set up my own business in 2010 and needed a professional telephony solution, again I turned to VoIP.

Eschewing complex and costly small business telephony packages, I took the advice of many of my friends who had started their own companies, and signed up for a nice little package with internet telephony player Skype. Most of the awesome features offered by the big corporate telephony players were freely on offer … click to call, email integration, a number that would follow you around as you switched from work to home, email alerts when you received a voicemail, and more.

Combined with the price, Skype’s overall solution set was impossible to turn down.

However, as this year has worn on, I have found myself increasingly dissatisfied with my next-generation internet telephony solutions.

My iiTalk line has grown increasingly plagued with bugs over the years. Long STD phone calls are prone to dropping out, and my relatives complain they can hear an echo on the line. Sometimes it doesn’t even work at all, and we’ll receive a string of emailed voicemail messages as people try to call our house.

My Skype connection is even worse. It has become barely usable when calling mobiles and has difficulty with STD calls to locations like Canberra, where government bureaucrats have become used to picking up the phone and receiving a delay of several seconds of silence before they realise who they’re talking to. Sometimes voicemail messages won’t be delivered for days, or pop up at weird times in my Skype call list.

The frustrating thing about all this is that my equipment should be set up well for internet telephony. I’m running an iiNet-branded Belkin ADSL model which connects to the iiTalk service, with a normal house phone and a naked DSL connection synching at 16Mbps. It’s a similar situation at the office – again, it’s naked DSL, and we have the Annex M option enabled for faster upload speeds. All of my PCs are dual- or quad-core Windows 7 x64 boxes with plenty of RAM, connected by 100Mbps Ethernet directly to our ADSL modems. In short, it’s hard to see where the technical problem lies.

Because of these problems, this week I called iiNet and cancelled our VoIP service. We’re returning to the Public Switched Telephony Network. All of my calls from now on will be placed over the ageing copper infrastructure which the National Broadband Network will eventually replace. The switch will take down our broadband connection for several days, but at the end of the process it’ll be worth it.

I’m about to say goodbye to dropped calls, calls that don’t connect, weird connection delays and echoes on the line forever. I’m going back to a crystal clear telephone service which has worked well for the better part of a century now.

I’m moving forward back to the past.

Now, I don’t want to go too far and draw too long a bow between the experience of one telephony user with internet telephony and extrapolate that to the entire VoIP universe. There are countless individuals and organisations who are entirely satisfied with their experience using various combinations of the broad family of internet telephony, IP telephony and Voice over IP solutions (they each have slightly different definitions — and then there’s ‘unified communications’).

But I will say this.

Voice communications is rapidly becoming a commodity in our highly digitised society — a service that is gradually trending towards being free, provided through telecommunications connections (fixed or mobile) which you primarily use for other purposes. Find me an iPhone or Android user who primarily uses their smartphone for voice calls these days. They’re becoming a rare breed.

But our new networks are incredibly complicated compared to our old ones. The PSTN was simple, functional, and aimed to solve just one problem — how to connect the voice of one person in one location to that of a single person in another. There are a thousand factors which go into our modern telecommunications. Quality of service. The reliability of each network link jumping us to our eventual destination. Congestion on the network. Handover between different networks, including to mobile networks. Latency issues. Hardware and software functionality. All of these come into play when you place a call on a VoIP connection.

Much of these problems will be solved in the predominantly fibre world of the National Broadband Network — because the sheer incredible latency and bandwidth available via the next-generation infrastructure. But the potential for network congestion and poor connection hand-off still exists … and of course the quality of end-user equipment is often dubious.

In the years to come, it will pay for us to remember that obscuring technical complexity in our technology systems and ensuring quality of end user experience will be key. Some times — and in fact, usually — the simplest solution is obviously the best.

Image credit: Carlos Paes, royalty free


  1. Interesting indeed. We are moving in quite opposite directions.

    We have Cisco IP phone solution in place with ISDN connections are various sites for PSTN connectivity but we are looking at reducing their capacity and supplementing with NodePhone IP voice. $10 per month per channel.

    We are moving into a datacentre before we do this so we’ll have 100Mbps/100Mbps access to the NodePhone servers

    As a trial our Perth office has been operating on NodePhone only for Voice & Fax over Internode Naked ADSL2+ and we’ve had no issues at all… hence our planned migration to NodePhone SIP trunks.

    As a cost saver we have just deployed a UMTS gateway into our Cisco IP phone system. This will route all 04xxxxxxxx calls via two SIM cards in the gateway have unlimited calls to mobiles so no more fixed line to mobile tariffs for us!

    That being said my parents use TPG (need I say more) and the VoIP service is shocking. Prone to dropout and terrible call quality..

    Also in regards to Skype we’d never go down that path for so many reasons…..

    • mmmm Cisco …. do want. Need money. Would like to have my own datacentre also :)

      In all seriousness, what you guys are doing makes complete sense. But your business is obviously a completely different size than mine.

      • Yes it does make a difference ;) mind you having an SHDSL or Extreme SHDSL service to the office (if it’s affordable for you) would be fine for delivering VoIP and you can add and remove channels as to you need them.

        Skype I just keep away from because the voice quality is rubbish and there is no QoS as soon as your packets start traveling over the Internet and being dropped all over the place. Not to mention all the security problems of running Skype client software in a corporate environment.

        At home I have Naked ADSL2+ Annex M and NodePhone with a billion router. Works a treat

    • The GSM gateway route is interesting – I played with a few of these a few years back, and they were not bad, just a little flaky – and depending where in the infrastructure you place them, you still have to trunk voice around to those gateways, and may be subject to the usual QoS/bandwidth issues.

      • We’ve deployed it directly into the voice vlan that the Cisco handsets use and currently only in one office. The only voice quality issue is the quality of the mobile network… but since it’s for calling other mobiles only then that’s not too much of a concern for us.

        Though our next trick will be pushing national calls down the NodePhone SIP for untimed 18c calls across Australia.

        In all of this our biggest issue is not being able to push our main phone number out for caller ID. (this sucks for single number reach between desk phones and mobiles also) In Australia we can only write the last two digits rather than all 10 digits for a number you own… hopefully that will change :)

        • If you do the right deal with your carrier, you can set anything you like. You’re not ALLOWED to, but you can.

          We had a SIP service a few years back from our primary carrier where we could set anything, including “impossible” numbers, such as area code “06”, mobile numbers, and even letters.

          Our Sales Exec at our backup carrier said it wasn’t possible, so we called him on his mobile, with his mobile number set as our caller ID.

          Never heard a more freaked out Sales Exec on the phone in my life…!

          I bumped into him a couple of months ago, and we still laugh about it.

  2. Working primarily in the VoIP arena over the last six years, I can say this is not the first time I’ve seen a story like this.

    The biggest problem confronting the serious penetration of VoIP into the market is two-fold. Bandwidth, and QoS.

    It is quite common for your backhaul providers and/or ISP to strip out any QoS tags you have added to your traffic to priortise your voice packets, to suit their own network management purposes. They see a tag that’s not theirs – it comes out.

    A common partial workaround is to do your own “QoS’ing” within a GRE tunnel, and the problem is lessened somewhat – it’s an improvement, but the carriers will still QoS the traffic as a whole, and ultimately your packets drop to a speed less than required for realtime.

    Bandwidth is an issue – though this has improved, and will continue to improve in the world of the NBN.

    The big difference will be that voice packets will be natively QoS’d at the highest priority right across the network – something that VoIP providers could only dream of right now.

    Serious VoIP – (the sorts of stuff we do) – is really only currently viable (in terms of equal quality to PSTN) – if you have complete control of traffic priorities across all links involved with the delivery of the voice packets, and enough bandwidth to cope in high traffic times, when other traffic is competing for the route, and your voice might get shaped down to fit.

    Very difficult in today’s environment.

    • Precisely — you just said in much more technical terms the problem with many consumer VoIP solutions in 2011. Corporate IP telephony is often so much more rock solid precisely because they can control so much more of the underlying network.

      • Corporate IP telephony is normal restricted to one location too and connects directly into their PABX, from the PABX to the carrier it’s the same old standard OnRamp (Telstra), Multiline (Optus), etc, service.

        • Not if you have SIP upstream. One of our biggest clients at my previous employer had Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane numbers all terminated to our Melbourne softswitch.

          VoIP numbers are not location specific. I had a phone on my desk at home with a Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth number directed at it. When people wanted to call me, I gave them their closest number. I believe I even had an Albury number pointing at it!

          Because they are not location specific, ACMA proposed some years ago that ALL VoIP services move into the “05” area code – (largely unused) – but that proved unpopular in the industry – both with VoIP providers and customers.

        • Maybe 10 years ago. Now it’s distributed across many locations for redundancy and includes SIP trunks to providers rather than old style PSTN connections

          • I can’t speak for Telstra’s products, but the Optus Multiline supports VoIP via a CS2K. Same product name, it just has the ETSI and VoIP flavours depending on what the carrier end of the connection is.

    • The biggest problem confronting the serious penetration of VoIP into the market is two-fold. Bandwidth, and QoS.

      I actually had an argument on this topic last year with David Braue over on ZDNet, where he attempted to flatly compare the VoIP services of Optus, Internode and Engin, and question why one was more expensive than the other.

      Moving into the NBN world this is going to be an important issue, in that case of those 3 providers Internode is really just PSTN so we’ll ignore that one. Optus is VoIP, but has QOS and guaranteed bandwidth back to it’s own DMS where it hits the switched network, Engin uses the normal internet so there is no QOS or guaranteed bandwidth

      From a customer service standpoint, Optus and Internode you can call, Engin, I have no idea.

      Really it all comes down you get what you pay for, and it’s probably advisable for businesses running VoIP over the NBN to stick with one of the major carriers (Telstra, Optus, whoever else provides there own DMS), as their VoIP service will very likely have a much higher quality than the cheaper ones.

      ZDNet Article .. http://www.zdnet.com.au/voip-the-default-for-optus-hfc-customers-339302201.htm

          • Just so people understand why NodeLine exists; if you have Agile DSLAM ADSL (Spectrum Sharing Service), you’re not allowed by Telstra to convert it to naked DSL. Read this if you think I’m lying or being cheeky: http://www.internode.on.net/residential/adsl_broadband/easy_naked/transfer/convert/
            So what you have to do if you want to save money with NodePhone is cancel your Telstra voice account, get NodeLine line rental and Internode give you a discount to ease the pain.

            Bring on the NBN when tricks like that and the “cabinets are full except if you sign up with Bigpond then it’s all good” trick (http://www.zdnet.com.au/telstra-fined-18m-for-exchange-capping-339304833.htm) will hopefully be gone.

          • Correct, it isn’t the VoIP product, I was referring to the products David compared in his article.

          • From memory, I inadvertently referenced the wrong Internode product in that piece and thought I had corrected myself there. Internode offer both resold PSTN and what I assume is a heavily QoS-engineered on-net VoIP service.

            You are entirely right about Engin’s Internet-based VoIP but a year on, I can say that even Optus’ on-net VoIP isn’t without its flaws. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to unplug the cable-modem router, then plug it back in just to get a dial tone on the home phone. This, as one can imagine, has direct WAF implications especially since the router is high and out of reach without the help of a chair. Suffice it to say that your advice – that it’s best to stick with a major carrier – is not bad advice at all. But even then, YMMV.

          • That sounds more like rubbish hardware then a rubbish service pe se. Still, if they provide the hardware then its kinda the same thing.

          • Yeah, in hindsight given the date of the article I think you can be forgiven for being a little “foolish” :-)

            In regards to your problems I have to agree with Bryn, it sounds more like a hardware issue than anything. My folks have a similar setup and they’ve never had to reset anything. If I was you I’d be giving Optus a call and getting it looked into.

      • “…Engin uses the normal internet so there is no QOS or guaranteed bandwidth…”

        Or guaranteed connection! ;)

        We had a customer who flatly insisted on wholesaling from us, completely over the internet. They kept complaining to us that our call quality was shitty, and that they had constant dropouts – the fact they were coming inbound through their network, over the internet and into our network didn’t seem relevant to them.

        I had to give them a hand-holding internet 101 lesson to demonstrate that it was their “cheap-skatedness” that was causing the problem.

        Eventually, in the midst of all their jumping up and down, it was discovered they were in the same DC as us, so we strung some CAT6 between our core switch, and their core switch, did some NATing to keep the networks apart, and presto their problems were instantly solved.

    • I agree with your comments regarding the difficulties in good end to end QoS. I’ve set up several medical centers ( busy centers with 4-7 GPs).

      A couple have an open source Asterisk PABX and snom desk phones. Because of their big call volume ( some months 3000 calls) I stopped messing with QoS and just set up a dedicated 512/512 ADSL connection ( probably not on offer any more). More recently a couple have switched to Intetnodes node phone after a successful trial and went back to a single ADSL 2 connection. They save heaps without having to negotiate crappy 24 month contracts with a telco.

      The QoS Internode provide seems to be good enough for most sites if you stick with them for VoIP and broadband.

      A busy medical centre is probably also in a way easier than say a home office. Competing use on a link is usually moderate. ( Medicare claims, bit of web and email). At home I can have 3 people trying to steam video at once for large chunks of the day

      VoIP can be great in business, but there are plenty of potential pit falls.

  3. I’ve been using NodePhone for a while now. I had terrible issues when I was using a Sipura SPA3000 behind a Netcomm NB6Plus4W but now that I’m using the FRITZ!Box it’s been largely bulletproof even through long calls.

    • I would like to try NodePhone … but after this experience, given the PSTN costs $29.95 a month or less (a trivial cost for my business) and *just works* …. I don’t really see the point. The PSTN is the safest option and I’m tired of wasting time.

      • And fair enough, really. =)

        The only suggestion I could make is shifting across to Internode with NodePhone enabled and trialling it for some stuff, but that’d only be if you had the energy to do that and the upside isn’t really that huge when you’re talking about a business with a small line count.

        • I moved from iiNET to Internode, and I found the VOIP to be far superior. I have 2x NodePhone. First one is my home phone and the 2nd nodephone is my “work number” as I work from home. I’ve found it to be pretty reliable and I’m on it quite a lot. The only time it hasn’t been reliable is when ADSL has dropped for some reason, which is not very often.

      • Yup.

        When it comes to running a business, image is everything – and if your phone calls drop out, become scratchy or jittery, it’s a bad look and your have to spend more to improve.

        Above consumer VoIP, on a quality per cost basis, PSTN is the next best option. It’s only when you’ve got a chunk of money to spend can you do VoIP and get PSTN quality, and small business – (when the economy is already difficult enough) – can’t afford to lose business opportunities when the phone drops out.

        You get a reputation as being hard to communicate with, and that hurts your business.

      • Renai LeMay writes:

        >I would like to try NodePhone … but after this experience, given the PSTN costs $29.95 a month or less (a trivial cost for my business) and *just works* …. I don’t really see the point. The PSTN is the safest option and I’m tired of wasting time.

        You obviously don’t make that many STD based calls. Internode’s Nodephone product offers untimed national (aka STD) calls for 18c a pop as well as providing $40 credit for $20 spend. Not bad if your glued to the phone and make a number of these calls each day.

    • @Benno Rice

      “but now that I’m using the FRITZ!Box it’s been largely bulletproof even through long calls.”

      Don’t forget to factor in the rolls royce pricing of the Fritz box – $299-$499 depending on the model in the cost of your ‘cheap’ VoIP service.

      • I think you want me to actually do the math here.

        Let us assume you are talking about TOC of an ADSL2+ connection with a reasonable (150GB of data) with a phone service, since the poster wasusing NodePhone we will also assume you are using Internode for the services. We will also assume a 2 year contract.

        So first off the monthly service charges:

        Easy Bundle (PSTN)

        Easy Bundle S, 150GB, $79.90p/m x 24 = $1917.60
        ADSL2+ Router with WiFi (NetComm NB6Plus4W) = $119
        Phones (assume using existing handsets) = $0

        TOTAL = $2036.60

        Easy Naked + NodePhone
        Easy Naked S, 150GB, $59.95p/m x 24 = $1438.80
        ADSL2+ Router with WiFi and VoIP and DECT handset (FRITZ!Box 7270 + MT-F DECT handset) = $399
        Extra handset (MT-F DEC handset) = $129

        TOTAL = $1966.80

        Total saving over 2 years = $69.80

        And this is not even including the savings made from cheaper call rates. Oh and did I mention you don’t even have to buy the MT-F DECT handsets if you just want to use your existing handsets by pluging them into the back of the FRITZ!? Saving you a possible further $229?

        • How silly of me, I seem to have forgotten actually include the VoIP service charge:

          NodeLine Basic $5p/m x 24 = $120.

          Total loss therefore is now: $(50.20).

          Okay, so we’ll have to get into call charges then to make up the extra cash

          Let’s say you, on average, make a standard national call three times a week and that is it. This call lasts on average 15 minutes. (An odd example, I know, but not implausible, since it appears national calls are where the majority of cost savings will occur, local calls are 18c untimed in both cases, and mobile and international rates are pretty much the same)

          On PSTN

          (15c per minute)
          15 minutes x $0.15 x 3 calls x 104 weeks = $234

          On VoIP

          (18c untimed)
          $0.18 x 3 calls x 104 weeks = $56.16

          Hmm. Okay, that makes up for the extra cost right then. Again sorry for the mistake with the maths.

          • Umm… how did I make that mistake twice? First example should be: $702. I forgot to account for the 3 calls per week. Really? Ouch.

            Oh and I didn’t notice this little gem:

            All plans include a monthly call credit – ranging from $10 monthly credit on the $5 per month Starter plan; right up to $40 monthly credit on the $20 per month Premium plan! This credit is applied to all types of NodePhone VoIP call charges – including local, national, mobiles and international.

            So that… brings the cost of the first example down to $0.

            Okay. I think I just kinda proved my point. Again sorry for the second oversight. I should probably not do this while I’m getting ready to go out.

          • I think you should quit now and sign up for PSTN, it’s simpler than reading your corrected corrected corrected posts.


  4. Interestingly, Internode specifically mention that NodePhone traffic is QoS prioritised through their network while iiNet make no such claim anywhere I can see regarding iiTalk or Netphone.

    • QoS’d through their own network, I would certainly hope so, but at some point the voice traffic has to leave their network and cross over to the PSTN – this is where many voice quality issues are introduced, because you’re contending with every other provider trying to do voice through that upstream carrier.

      • Michael Wyres writes:

        >at some point the voice traffic has to leave their network and cross over to the PSTN – this is where many voice quality issues are introduced, because you’re contending with every other provider trying to do voice through that upstream carrier.

        Not to dismiss your claim, but can you provide any evidence to better support and explain this point?

        In my experience, I had over 3 years of feature rich uninterrupted service using a single providers infrastructure (through a naked based product), network and VoIP services however since moving premises I’m now currently using the incumbent’s infrastructure in order to connect to my previous providers network. The issues both described by Renai LeMay and myself having experienced can only be put down to network connectivity between my router and my ISP’s VoIP services through the incumbent’s infrastructure, otherwise would not the whole VoIP community of a provider be up in arms?

        • If you use your VoIP service to call someone on a non-VoIP service – (ie: a PSTN service) – the call MUST cross that threshold somewhere…

          • Michael Wyres writes:
            >If you use your VoIP service to call someone on a non-VoIP service – (ie: a PSTN service) – the call MUST cross that threshold somewhere…

            Yes granted VoIP to PSTN must cross some threshold, but I’ve not heard a VoIP provider claim that voice quality issues are introduced at the cross over to the PSTN. I’m just asking if you can provide any evidence to better support and explain this point?

            From what I understand and have recently read, a vast majority of such connectivity issues stem from the ‘under-investment by Telstra in backhaul’ (Simon Hackett, Whirlpool – http://whrl.pl/RcHVQa) from the client to the relevant endpoint.

          • It’s a difficult one to explain.

            Most (if not all) interconnects from pure VoIP systems to the PSTN are ultimately done with ISDN, with the ISDN card – (or an array of ISDN cards) – in a softswitch (or array of softswitches, of any flavour).

            If your upstream SIP provider has 100 customers contending for access to that softswitch(s), each of whom might be trying to pump out a few hundred simultaneous calls, network access into that softswitch is going to be highly contended, and it can be a delicate balancing act between how they scale that solution, what codecs customers can and cannot use, and QoS policies.

            You can have the best QoS mechanism in the world, but your bandwidth is still ultimately finite, and therefore there will always be a “possible” load condition that will max it out, and start seeing call bandwidth shaped down from the ideal level.

            It’s completely up to your SIP provider to scale their solution properly to cope with reasonable peaks in load. The Telstra’s and AAPT/Powertel’s of the world have this stuff right. Others do not, and there is where problems occur.

            Certainly, it seems that in the example you’re citing from, the upstream carrier has the solution right – but in my experience, there are plenty who don’t.

  5. Yeah, this is a common issue with poorly implemented VoIP :).

    I do it as Nodephone running off a Siemens C470 for home use, a Fritzbox for slightly higher feature set/home office use & Talkswitch (with Talkswitch handsets) for business and its FLAWLESS.

    I’m porting to clients PSTN numbers to Nodephone this week because after using it for months, they think the VoIP sounds better then PSTN.

    Nodephone really is better. Better audio quality & easier to setup (no port forwards, ever- plug in a C470 & it works).

  6. I had the same issues. Delays when picking up the phone, dropped calls, unreliable VoIP connectivity, etc. I spend time making changes to the VoIP config on my Sipura box but nothing improved. I was about to chuck out VoIP when my cordless Panasonic phones died.

    So I went and bought some cheapie cordless phone and guess what. Now I have rock solid VoIP. It’s running the way it should, no dropped calls, no delays with answering calls, and the sound is crystal clear. Nothing else has changed. Cables are all the same, just the Phone Basestation and Handsets changed. It was a problem with the handset all the time…. not the VoIP service.

    I was quite surprised by that.

  7. I’ve been using VOIP solidly for over 3 years now and the experience has taught me a great deal.

    Firstly, not all VOIP providers are created equal. With PSTN it doesn’t matter who you pay for the call, it’s done using mostly the same equipment and you get the same result. With VOIP the quality and performance of the servers differs greatly between providers. MyNetFone tend to offer a superior service while PennyTel has dropped of late.

    Secondly, not all VOIP codecs are created equal. Again unlike PSTN there are several different protocols that VOIP equipment can use which mostly balance bandwidth and quality. By default a lot of VOIP software and hardware solutions are configured for efficiency, not quality.

    Thirdly, research is the most important thing you can do with your time. Most VOIP adopters have never heard of QoS or using a router designed for VOIP communication rather than one that merely supports it.

    From your article it would appear that you researched on a cost basis alone and not on the technology itself.
    iiNet doesn’t have a great reputation as a VOIP provider and depending on when you purchased this, were probably provided with a substandard piece of hardware.
    It would also appear that you never stepped foot onto Whirlpool and read the wiki, reviews or even asked questions.
    A simple browse would have revealed the ideal hardware, software and provider so that you would never have encountered these issues.

    A properly researched and configured VOIP operation is indistuinguishable from a PSTN one, anything less would indicate a problem outside of the VOIP system.

    In my opinion the greatest problem with VOIP in the current environment (and especially as we approach the disconnection of copper in the NBN age) is the lack of regulation regarding the transfer of numbers to and from VOIP services. This certainly merits more investigation and problem solving.

    • I take all your points, but I did do my research before I purchased; in addition, I am a technically proficient user ;) former sysadmin.

    • Mem writes:

      >Most VOIP adopters have never heard of QoS or using a router designed for VOIP communication rather than one that merely supports it.

      It’s just not the devices you use that should support QoS, it’s also your ISP and their network. A number of networks, especially including the incumbent fail to support such features which degrade VoIP services, especially during peak usage times.

  8. I hope the switch goes well for you!
    Relatives of mine took over 12 months to get the phone line back to a normal Telstra connection after having horrible experiences with VOIP and the provider.
    regards, Dave

  9. Going voip internally here as we control the bandwidth between our sites but lack of competive options on our outbound links means we will be sticking with ISDN pairs for phone. Can’t wait for the NBN so we are not just restricted on what comms can be offered over telstra copper.

    • Voice going out of your network does not need to be on copper. Even ISDN can be delivered over Fibre and a lot of carriers do this because it;s cheaper

      You could do SIP over Bonded Copper or Ethernet over Fibre to your provider. Even Telstra offer SIP trunks over fibre

  10. I too have a similar story, enjoying the freedom that naked broadband & associated VoIP services brought to my family and small business venture, only to move premises and although maintaining my account with my ISP, found that the incumbent telco’s infrastructure fails to provide a similar service.

    Weather this is due to a lack of spending maintaining infrastructure (including increasing backhaul in congested sites) or simply mismanagement or a wholesale network, it’s yet another reason why Australia is in need for a more modern, better managed network.

    I was in nirvana enjoying over 3 years of feature rich uninterrupted service but now like Renai LeMay’s experience, calling parties continuously complain about echo, delays and that’s if their lucky to get through or if I’m making an outgoing call, if it remains connected for over 10 minutes. Although I’ve maintained my VoIP service, I’ve since increased the dial plan & monthly spend on my mobile and use it as my primary source of communication.

  11. My setup has resulted in a better-than-PSTN SIP VOIP experience: reliable Internet (internode adsl) + Nodephone Service + Gigaset 685IP Handset.

    Also, I’ve ditched the ATA router unit supporting my old ‘narrowband’ standard telephone, and have set the High Definition Wideband audio codec (G.722) to be the first preference codec to be used by the Gigaset.

    I recently had 3 weeks in Europe. I unplugged the Adelaide home phone, put it in the suitcase, and fired it up in Germany and noone who called me knew I was 16000km away. With a ping to sip.internode.on.net of 300ms (home 50ms) it was fine calling people in Australia and continental europe.

    Interestingly, my friend’s 3 year old 02 phone service in Germany sold as a consumer bundled phone+ internet package was just a SIP VOIP service via an O2 supplied and branded ATA/router/modem/WAP unit (zytel p2602hwn-d7a). That is analogous to Telstra providing you with a SIP phone by default when you ring them up and ask for a normal phone service 3 years ago.

  12. I’ve recently rolled back to PSTN from residential Naked DSL + VoIP, because I was offered a better PSTN bundle by my ISP. However, I was generally happy with my VoIP service (most of the issues I experience were with incoming international calls) and for the moment I’m keeping it as a cheap 2nd line – great for teleconferences as it keeps the main line free.

  13. Sorry but you need to understand what is the “crackly” pstn and “ageing” copper before you jump onto IP.

    IP is better, its CHEAPER.

    Circuit switching provided dedicated bandwidth and rational contnetion and subscription. Im quite tired of so called newb engineers think fibre and ip is the future of everything

  14. My landline has heaps of static to the point it’s almost unusable, so I don’t use it. However sometimes people ring me on it and then I think time to ring Telstra again and complain.

    My Siemens VOIP is just brilliant, much better than the landline.

  15. belkin modems are the problem had the same issue for yrs and replaced with a netgear dg834gv completely problem free,so its the belkin modem they are crap

  16. Current PSTN voice service will actually theoritically always be better then VOIP in terms of quality, its a CVC network that delivers guaranteed bandwidth, so as long as the line condition is physically fine, you will get great quality phone calls

    VOIP, since it uses IP, is a packet switched network (standard internet core). This basically means that packets have a risk of getting dropped, or delayed. Although you can use QoS to get around this, its more of a stop gap measure since you need QoS in so many levels of the network

    • Not always true, you can get dedicated SIP trunks back to the telecomms, which means while it is still a packet switched network, its not necessarily passing over the same internet as everyone else.

      I believe that is the situation for the SIP trunks work is getting installed right now.

      Though the fight with our sip PABX provider about basic configuration gives me headaches at night sweats (they don’t seem to actually understand networking. I am scared that they will be maintaining our pabx.)

      • I should add that as an actual comment on your comment – rather than my ramble above, that the bandwidth provided while not technically “guaranteed” like the copper, has effective minimum operating bandwidth in all cases well above the expected bandwidth available on copper in similar voice situations.

        by that I mean, whatever technology the sip trunk uses to go back to our telecomms provider, the bandwidth may vary (if its some kind of S-DSL ) but the minimum value will always be greater than the bandwidth allocated to voice on copper.

        Though, if they wanted telecomms providers could offer some pretty fantastic call qualities on copper, if they upgraded the exchange end! (since, any bandwidth available to DSL is obviously available to plain old copper, but you’d need to upgrade the exchange end to actually *use* that)

  17. I Use Internodes Nodephone VOIP with a new fritz box modem and the handset that goes with it.
    Up until recently the local exchange was congested. and ithe incoming voip was a shocker between 5pm and 11pm. However since the congestion has been fixed the VOIP on the new phone and modem is simply amazing. The STD cost for me is not an option.

    • Sniper writes:
      >However since the congestion has been fixed

      How do you connect to Internode’s network? Who identified and fixed the congestion in your local exchange?

      In my experience, VoIP and other low latency products works a treat when all your internet connectivity is handled by a single provider, such as in this example Internode, however if your reliant on the incumbent’s infrastructure in order to connect to your providers network, then your changes of a good experience are greatly diminished.

  18. In the end you get what you pay for, I am sorry but it is as simple as that.

    As Skype and iiNet have shown it is possible to use the consumer grade internet links as a toll bypass mechanism to get free or cheap calls, but it comes at the cost of consistent call quality. Whilst in you might be willing to live with this when you are calling your mum, the novelty wears off very quickly when you look to use these same services in a business context. Most calls might be fine, but you can’t guarantee it and it can make your business shop front look shabby.

    To say this experience is the only VoIP experience is wrong though. I would liken this experience to buying the $50 printer for the office and complaining when people are wasting time trying un-jam it. VoIP in business is not about cheap calls, its about efficiency. It is about using the team you have, no matter where they are, to efficiently service your clients. IP sets voice free to not be bound by networks or devices, but to find the right person at the right time no matter where they are.

    My tips to looking at a voice service are to: find a trusted provider (ask for references from business like yours); communicate to the provider what you do and where and how you do it, focus on the business let them focus on the technology; beware of providers that focus on the cost of call or give away phone systems rather than help your business be more efficient. At the end of they day if you can make a business more efficient by consolidating reception functions for instance, it is a lot more financially beneficial than a couple of cents saved on a phone call.

  19. Hold the phone Renai – Telstra has the ideal solution coming your way – a voice-over-broadband where the calls don’t drop out. Check out my blog on Telstra Exchange – you and your readers can be among the first to try it if you’d like. Be good to know how it compares with the earlier attempts that our own research shows, haven’t delivered business-grade reliability.

  20. We use NodePhone exclusively for our Business, and it works very well with real IP Phones and an Asterisk PABX (no echo, no quality problems).

    But there is a potential problem – we are reliant on the quality of the telstra copper, which suddenly started playing up one day, and now our sync speed is half what it was before. This is cause for concern, as our VoiP service will be affected if the line degrades anymore (and it’s hard to get Telstra to fix it).

    If the NBN makes it to our area, then we could once again relax and know that VoIP will work perfectly.

  21. I know what the word means, I was asking what you think is spammy about my post? Given it relates directly to the subject matter of the article and provides a solution to the stated problem why would you consider it spam? Spam by definition is unsolicited, usually irrelevant and a mostly illegal activity. What is it you find so offensive?


  22. Renai what is the quality of your DSL line? Does it suffer congestion and high latency? (The number one killer of VoIP).

    I couldn’t use VoIP up until last year when Telstra finally fixed our RIM’s with optic fibre which removed all congestion.

    My old connection used to get 10KB/sec and 1000ms pings. Now 850KB/sec and 14ms pings and VoIP works perfectly.

    • Both ADSL lines are excellent quality, my home and my office are both close to the exchange and we get great latency as well as throughput. I play StarCraft II on it every night :)

  23. Why would you rely on such a sub-standard service????
    Skype is a ‘best effort’ service which means it will do its best effort for call quality etc. Without getting too technical, it uses supernodes to ‘route’ your call. this could be someone’s home pc!

    If you want voip, i would suggest a Digital phone line (ISDN) that terminates into an Asterisk@home box. From here you have a GUI to configure but you can have all the features that you want, and if skype integration is so highly important, if can interface to a skype account (for $5/channel, once off fee) and then you decide how you want your calls routed. best of all this is the best of both worlds, its a digital connection (ISDN) still a voip solution, with skype connectivity, that is backed by a telco. That means SLA’s, technical support, etc etc etc

  24. Must admit that I have skipped most of the comments, but in terms of a business case for voice comms I don’t think you can really go past the “mobile only” solutions for 1-99 users for business purposes – these days the plans and rates not only competitive but you can fix the per user per comm’s equation and get a flexible AND mobile workforce. Quite honestly I have been suprised how much all the telcos are prepared to drop their pants to sign you up these days – and lets face it voice is still as important as email to MOST businesses

    A smartphone mobile only solution still allows the business to deploy skype/sip client/viber/gtalk/insert equivalent across the fleet to minimise overseas overheads.

    Sure there going to be some fixed line solutions in the mix – people STILL send faxes, and conference phones etc that are hidden in meeting rooms across the corporate mix will need to go on existing – but you can easily wrap that up in the overall telco solution with on-net agreements… oh well my 2cents are up

  25. As with a number of the other posters, I’ve had a largely faultless experience with Siemens IP handsets (c470) and both Internode and iinet. I’ve generally used Gotalk for SIP (now renamed) with very few problems.

    I also use video conferencing across the internet as part of my job, again with very few issues – far fewer than I’d have expected.

    Now PSTN does “just work”, but my experience has been the opposite of yours in that I’ve come to completely trust the Siemens iitalk / gotalk combo. It really has worked.

    The other problem I have with a PSTN conversion is the costs are only low for a one man band. As soon as you need 2 or more lines, VoIP costs win easily.


  26. … and my relatives complain they can hear an echo on the line.

    I suspect that although you have convinced yourself that you are “living in an all-digital world” you have in fact hung onto your old analog handset and are connecting through an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter). If you are going to go via the ATA way of doing things you really must get the impedance settings right, Australian handsets run a different impedance to US handsets and typical ATA’s will default to US settings. Did you go with iiNet’s pre-packaged “Bob” or did you piece this together yourself?

    If you really go all-digital with proper VoIP handsets then echo will not be a problem. There are all-digital VoIP cordless DECT phones available now (such as SNOM m3 for example).

  27. Renai, you don’t need a Rolls Royce phone for reliable VoIP.

    My guess is that your problem was with Skype, not VoIP per se.

    Five households in my family have been happily using VoIP on an all-in-one modem like the NetComm NB9WMAXX with their old cordless handsets for a few years now. Some even had 256 Kbps Bigpond accounts in the early years and they still worked.

    If you use a VoIP-cabable modem-router it will ensure QoS (Quality of Service) of the voice traffic ahead of data traffic. MyNetFone has been our provider and always given excellent quality calls and great rates.

    There really is no reason to revert to paying telcos copper prices for your calls, especially STD and overseas.

  28. Don’t let a retarded former sys admin who does karate, can’t use VoIP and takes cash from tel$tra fool you!!

  29. Another problem with VOIP is the contention issues of many ADSL providers. TPG is terrible, Internode and MyNetFone (naked ADSL) are good. Try a good – low contention – ADSL provider, with a VOIP provider that supports G711 codec, with a good VOIP handset (eg Siemens Gigaset) and then you’ll understand how VOIP should work.

    I have a tiny SOHO, and the MyTel SOHO VOIP works very well for me.

  30. I have engine and it works very well and i haven’t had a problem and i have a fax printer and they go through fine but i use optus cable and i have another engin at my perrents beach house with engin and no problems on the gold coast and that is on bigpond cable and both houses get about 7 mbps and the person i call doesn’t no i’m using voip but when there is a black out i have them setup to dervert to the telstra landline in both houses at least i can change the settings online telstra you can’t but engin have there servers in australia and a lot of voip servers are overseas with austrailan phone numbers and phone calls are untimed anyware in australia except mobiles overseas call are cheaper then to mobiles. http://www.engin.com.au

  31. Get rid of your Belkin router ! It is utter crap for VOIP . I was about to also give up on VOIP for the same quality and unrelability issues, and I was using the iinet Belkin modem/router. Then I switched to a Linksys PAP2 to do the VOIP thing. And now it’s perfect!
    I still have the crappy Belkin router for the ADSL connection but disabled all the VOIP on it. And turned on Quality of service, whatever that is.
    The problem with VOIP is that it is a nerdy technology with millions of unintelligible settings…

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