VoIP: You don't have to give up your home phone number. Photo: Getty Images
A home phone line seems almost redundant these days, with a mobile phone in practically every pocket, yet somehow it's still easy to rack up a hefty home phone bill. If you really never touch the home phone, you're probably wasting more than $20 each month on line rental.
Many internet service providers (ISPs) offer the option of ''naked DSL'', offering broadband over your copper phone line but no dial tone. If you're on cable or the national broadband network, you also might be able to disconnect your home phone service. If you're not ready to completely abandon a home phone you might consider making cheap calls over the internet. Your internet phone dies if there's a blackout or internet outage, but you can always use your mobile phone.
Free messaging services such as Skype, Yahoo! Messenger and Google Talk offer free text, voice and video chat between computers and hand-held gadgets, but you can also make cheap voice calls to landlines and mobiles. Most don't charge a flag fall when your call is connected, which saves money.
Another option is a dedicated VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) provider such as MyNetFone, Engin or FaktorTel. They provide an adaptor for connecting a handset to your broadband modem so you can keep using your cordless home phones or handsets.
These VoIP providers generally offer free calls between users of the same service, along with untimed local/national calls and cheap mobile and international rates. You shouldn't pay flag fall, but there might be a small monthly line rental if you're allocated a traditional phone number for incoming calls.
Your third option is signing up for VoIP from your ISP, such as Internode's NodePhone, iiNet's Netphone or iPrimus' Lingo. These ISPs offer VoIP-enabled broadband modems with phone sockets on the back, or you can use a separate VoIP adaptor. You shouldn't pay a flag fall when making calls, but VoIP from your ISP still tends to be a little more expensive than third-party VoIPs. In return, the call quality is more reliable because your ISP gives priority to your voice calls over your other internet traffic. VoIP from your ISP shouldn't count towards your monthly download limit or be affected if internet speeds are throttled.
If you want to dip your toe in, it's easy to embrace VoIP without giving up your home phone number. Most VoIP adaptors let you make and receive both internet and home calls from the same handset. So you can still receive calls on your home phone number, but when you pick up the handset to make a call you can choose between the home phone line or the internet. Once you're confident you can trust VoIP, you can gradually migrate friends to your VoIP number. You might even be able to transfer your home number to your VoIP service.
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