NZ Techonverse: How To Get A Very Cheap “Landline” Phone Over The Internet

First published on NZ Techonverse

These days a lot of people are less inclined to have a traditional “landline” phone as Spark will still charge around $30-40 a month to keep providing the service which may be used relatively infrequently. As Chorus are planning to eventually turn off their old copper network in favour of fibre, everyone will sooner or later be pushed onto using internet based services. However, you can already get these services and at a much cheaper price than Spark. We have used an IP phone over an internet connection for many years and currently pay only 2 to 3 cents per minute to make national calls, 19 cents per minute to call mobiles and various rates for international calls (although we make very few of these) and no charge at all for incoming calls. There are no monthly charges on this plan, all we need to do is keep a credit on our account to pay for any call charges we incur. We also need to purchase our own IP phone, which costs about $100.

We have kept a “landline” IP phone for a number of reasons, including:

  • Keeping our mobile number private for only a select group of people and being able to give out our VOIP phone number.
  • Being able to plug a good quality headset into the IP phone and therefore, if we are placed on hold whilst making a call through a call centre, we can keep working on a computer while waiting for the call to go through.
  • Having an alternative to our mobile phone if it goes flat or there is some issue on the cellular network.
  • Having advanced capabilities that are easy to configure. If a voicemail message is left, it will be emailed to us and pop up on our computer screen. Another useful capability is to stop the phone ringing during the night and take a message from the caller during those times.
  • The phone can be connected over a regular computer wireless network (handy if we need it to be used somewhere that we can’t get cable to). We use this capability at home because our entire home network works over a wireless link from another building next door. We used to do school IT and ran phones over wireless links to a number of sites where there was no internet cable.

There are plenty of manufacturers of IP phones out there. We advise that you purchase an IP phone from scratcj. Whilst it is possible to adapt an old analogue phone using a plug-in adapter, this requires additional configuration steps that may be difficult to achieve. We also recommend against plugging an old analogue phone into a port on your fibre modem (many do provide this service). The main reason we suggest buying an IP phone rather than adapting an old analogue phone is you will get a better quality service. However, cordless IP phones tend to cost a lot more than cordless analogue phones, so if you are looking to keep costs down, you would have to accept the relative inconvenience of a corded IP phone. The other caveat is that an IP phone needs to have power supplied to it and needs to be plugged in all the time to supply power. It won’t be able to receive power from the phone line like old corded analogue phones can. We prefer Yealink phones.

So once you have the phone, you need a cloud PBX service to connect to. Some ISPs offer their own services. For use both and home and for requirements of customers when we were doing professional IT support, we have used 2talk, which is a division of CallPlus. They have a very reliable service, and the call prices we quoted above are their current plan charges. Their service scales from people with single lines like home users, to commercial users with their own internal PBX system who require SIP trunks. They have a web based setup that allows you to configure up your connection in a web browser. On the cheapest plan (no monthly charges) you get a phone number that starts with 028 and there will be a small charge for people to call you. The next step up is $10/month for a local number where people don’t pay anything to call you, and where you get allocated free minutes for outgoing calls. Still a lot cheaper than Spark.

So anyway we hope that in this article, we have given you a cost effective alternative to Spark that lets you keep a “landline” phone in your house.

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