mnot’s blog

Design depends largely on constraints.” — Charles Eames

Wednesday, 3 January 2007


Connectivity in .au - Help!

So, no that we have a place to live, there are a few choices;

Phone — Since we’re keeping jobs as well as friends and relatives in the States, we’re going to be making a lot of international calls. Rather than pay line rental, I’m very tempted to go the VoIP route with someone like MyTel; for $5.95 a month, I get a lot of features and calls to the US for less than AU$.03/minute.

Is this the way to go? Are there better VoIP providers? The traditional alternative is to go with Optus’ HomeOne + WorldSaver; for $65 a month, I’d get calls to the US for about the same rates.

Internet — There are lots of options in AU, but if we don’t have a traditional phone line, cable seems like the best option; with Optus (again; I’m not terribly inclined to give my money to Telstra unless it’s a much better deal), I’d get 20G of data (plus 40G more in the first 12 hours of the day, when I’m most likely to use it) for $69 a month. I know that cable is controversial (and maybe a bit unreliable) in the States; are the AU experiences good, or is the extra cost (i.e., access + phone line) of ASDL justified? We don’t need a tremendous amount of bandwidth, just reliability.

Mobile Phones — Right now we’re on Optus Prepaid (we have two unlocked phones), and somewhat happy; I’m planning to go to their Cap plans, with a bit extra for data. Any reason not to?

Cable — Foxtel seems like the only game in town; assuming that I use them for other things, one of the Optus packages seems to make sense.

Tivo Replacement — This is probably the most difficult. Foxtel has iQ, whose main problems seem to be a) cost and b) lack of program data for channels 7 and 10. I know about ozTiVo, but don’t really want to do the work; I try not to have to administer extra boxes at home. Anything else out there?

Any thoughts/advice/experiences/other options appreciated; we move in Friday.


Alastair said:

Second the above recommendations for Phone and ISP (ie cheapest Telstra line + Internode ADSL + Internode VoIP). I have all of these as well and am very happy.

For mobile service I am with 3 and am moderately happy. Capped plans are definitely the way to go. You may even find it pretty economical to use these for international calling.

Agree also about digital free-to-air TV + bittorrent being a mostly adequate substitute for Cable. And yes, there does not seem to be an adequate Tivo equivalent.

Good luck and welcome (back?)

Thursday, January 4 2007 at 2:22 AM

Dean said:

I don’t have anything to recommend strongly but I’ll tell you what I use as a data point.

Phone: I pay Telstra for the cheapest package they offer. That gives me an incoming number and a backup line. Everything usually goes out via VOIP, from my ISP (Internode).

Internet: I’m fairly certain I can’t get cable (as in, a real cable) but I can get Transact (available only in Canberra). However ADSL is faster and cheaper so I’m happy with it. I’m with Internode and I’ve found them to be fantastic (very few outages, very quick responses to support, and a bundled VOIP). I’ve heard good things about iiNet also. I used Telstra Bigpond for a few years and it was shit.

Mobile Phones: I’m on Vodafone with a data plan but no voice cap. I just pay 1c a second for voice but I don’t think that deal is available any more. We travel around NSW a fair bit and have found GSM coverage lacking outside major cities and highways, which is a pain. I’m tempted by Telstra’s NextG although I doubt I’d be able to convince myself into giving them any more money. I’ve been thinking about getting a cap deal for a while but I don’t use my mobile that much. It gets a lot of use when I’m overseas, where the charges are not included in any plan. My SO has an Optus cap and is quite happy with them (other than the poor remote coverage mentioned above).

Cable: The regular free-to-air (via DVB-T) plus Bittorrent is enough for me.

Tivo replacement: I think you’re out of luck. I built my own system with a few DVB cards, but you said you’re not keen on that.

Make sure to tell us what you decide upon.

Thursday, January 4 2007 at 9:06 AM

Phil McCluskey said:

I’ve used Optus cable internet at a couple of different residences and have never had any problems with it; it’s also nice and speedy.

Thursday, January 4 2007 at 9:24 AM

Dean Jackson said:

I forgot to say that for US calls I have a Vonage subscription. It’s about 20 USD a month for unlimited calls to the US.

Saturday, January 6 2007 at 11:21 AM

spuds said:

What’s wrong with skype out for long distance?

Sunday, January 7 2007 at 11:19 AM

Adam Fitzpatrick said:

After nearly four years as a Foxtel customer (and having lived in a house with Foxtel and/or Optus for a few years before that), I decided last year to ditch it. Eventually I realised that they just weren’t broadcasting anything I wanted to watch that I hadn’t already watched. (In those four years I managed to watch almost every episode of Law and Order from seasons 4 to 10 at least twice - and I saw most of them only in the periods between contracts, when I was at home during the day.) After I moved last year, I started spending that money on DVDs instead, and I haven’t ever regretted it.

I’m an Internode customer too; I didn’t expect there to be two comments already mentioning them. When comparing VOIP service prices, bear in mind that Internode has neither a minimum monthly spend nor a monthly service fee for their VOIP product, so which product comes out in front depends on exactly how much “a lot” is. On the other hand, you also need to consider telephone line rental costs if you’re comparing Internode ADSL to cable (because you still can’t get ADSL unless you have a local phone service). Finally, you should find out if you can get an ADSL2 service, because (due to the crazy regulatory environment) they’re often cheaper than cable or slower ADSL services. If you haven’t already, check out the ISP forums at before you commit to a contract.

Have you looked into whether it’s even possible to get a cable service in your flat? I haven’t touched cable in about five years, but before ADSL was competitive in Australia, having either Telstra or Optus cable already installed was on my list of criteria when I was looking for a flat, because it was just that much of a pain in the arse to get it installed (permission from landlord to drill holes in the wall for one thing, and back then the cable companies wanted to either wire up the whole building or not bother at all, which meant dealing with the body corporate too).

I’m not arguing against cable. I used to work with a guy who I recommended Internode ADSL to; there was something screwy with his phone line that made the ADSL service intermittently unreliable in the evening, so he ended up switching to Optus cable when after a few weeks there was no sign that the ADSL problem would get fixed.

Monday, January 8 2007 at 1:31 AM

Luke Mewburn said:

(I’ve discussed some of this with Mark already.)


Until recently, I telecommuted from home for almost six years, and I needed to make a fair few calls to the head office back in the USA.

I originally used calling cards for the international calls, and migrating to Engin when it first came out, using their “locked” OEMed Sipura SPA-1000 analog telephone adapter (ATA) and a separate handset from the home phone line or the work phone/fax line.

I don’t need that setup any more, but I’m considering getting a new ATA and using the VOIP provided by Internode (my current ISP), so I can get cheaper outdial calls for the occasional STD (timed national) or international call we still make. Higher end modern ATAs support auto-switching PSTN and VOIP calls to a single handset and having programmable dial plans to determine which outbound service to use (multiple VOIP providers in some units). The benefit of this approach is that you can retain your home PSTN number for indial and swap VOIP providers for outbound as you desire, without having to worry about VOIP provider number portability.

I had considered a Sipura SPA-3000 (or its Linksys name), or upgrading my DSL router/access point to something like the Billion 7404-VGO-M… We use the latter at my current employer.


I’ve been using Internode ADSL for a couple of years. Their sales customer service could be a tad more responsive, but their tech support is very good, and they’re run by clueful people. The SAGE-AU member discount is handy too ;-) I have a plan that provides me with a static IP, because that’s a feature I desire.

Internode are about to upgrade our exchange to ADLS2+ with annex-M. It will be great to get a faster uplink than my current downlink.

I was using iiNet ADSL prior to that. Their customer service wasn’t too bad, but tech support was less clueful.

I originally used Bigpong Cable. It was relatively fast for the day, and “when it worked” it was reliable, modulo the lossage in the (IMHO unnecessary except for pointless marketing requirements) authentication service. Unfortunately, when it failed, I was out of action for a few days, because for some reason, Foxtel / Telstra don’t put the same priority on fixing CATV faults as POTS copper faults … Bigpond was also pricy, and their tech support is crap (unless you’re a commercial customer paying serious money).


Foxtel is your ownly option at Kia Ora; Optus isn’t connected. Or you could stick with free-to-air, with a digital STB rather than the analog aerial. And deal with lack of content, ads, and family aggro.


I use ozTiVo. It’s pretty good; certainly less mucking around than the mythTV option, and a better GUI than either the Foxtel iQ or the yumcha brand DVRs you can buy (that don’t work with Cable TV anyway). However, it does have design issues of the series 1 TiVo: analog input from the (possibly digital) STB, and the IR channel changer…

Monday, January 15 2007 at 1:41 AM

Matthew said:

Phone — Get $20 a month home phone plan with Telstra, and get ADSL with another provider. Use or for Australian calls. I suspect getting a US based VoIP provider for US calls will be a good option too.

Internet — Do not get Bigpond (Telstra) cable - way overpriced, and uploads count towards your limit. Optus cable is OK, but you will likely be better off with a $20 Telstra line and going ADSL - for $49 a month ($69 - $20 for the phone line) there are heaps of ADSL options.

Mobile Phones —

Cable — cable TV in Australia isn’t worth it. Seriously. Get Quickflix (like Netflix) or something else instead.

Monday, February 19 2007 at 8:16 AM