To attract customers into more of their services, internet providers and phone companies create bundled packages that include phone, mobile and internet plans. The big telcos might also package pay TV services.
You'll need to shop around for the plan that suits your situation. When you start to do your research, you’re likely to see ‘bundled’ plans promising discounts, free calls and bonus data usage.
If you're considering a bundled plan, it's important to compare each component to gauge if it's worthwhile. However, many of the bundles are so complex it can be impossible to decipher which plan offers the best value.
Don't pay for more than you need. Be sure to check:
- Installation costs
- The length of the plan
- Penalties for early termination of the services
To compare internet and phone plans, try comparison sites such as PhoneChoice or Whirlpool.
Most households still need a landline telephone service. We rely on the phone to keep in touch, in emergencies or just to order takeaway — and, of course, it’s necessary for ADSL broadband internet access.
When you sign up for a home phone account you'll be offered a range of plans with varying costs and inclusions for local, mobile, national and international calls.
Be wary of deals promising lots of free stuff. The cost of the 'freebies' will be built into the plan somewhere along the line.
For example, a low monthly fee can mean higher call costs; while a higher fee can include a certain value of calls or cheaper call charges, but be sure you'll use the full value of what’s included.
If you're changing providers, write down the number of local, interstate, national and premium services calls you make each month and compare the likely costs for different plans.
Internet + phone
The convenience of internet access at home has encouraged many Australians to get online. Broadband access continues to rise as households make the switch from dial-up or sign up for the first time.
Our internet survey found that 30% of respondents chose their ISP because it was also their phone provider.
A bundled plan may offer convenience and familiarity, but it can pay to shop around for plans from other providers.
Some companies, for example, offer a $10 per month discount for customers who combine a cable or DSL broadband plan and home phone or mobile phone plan. However, the discounts may not apply to low-usage internet plans, there may be a contract period of up to 24 months and it may only be valid for ‘full service’ phone plans that cost more per month.
Some companies offer extra download quota if you bundle.
But you may be charged a fee to change any elements of the bundle.
When it comes to broadband plans, there’s usually a trade-off between the fastest speed, the highest download limit and the lowest monthly fee.
We think that if you bundle you shouldn’t have to sacrifice speed or download limit to qualify for a discount.
Internet + VoIP
Internet providers are starting to offer internet phone call services, known as voice over IP (VoIP). VoIP uses the internet to send and receive phone calls through your computer. It’s appealing because the call costs are significantly lower than fixed line phone services; however, it requires a headset, special modem or special phone. And most companies also charge a monthly access fee.
VoIP is useful if you make a lot of calls to mobiles, interstate and overseas where the savings on call costs can offset the monthly access fee and any hardware costs.
Remember that data sent and received when making internet phone calls will count towards the overall monthly usage limit on your internet plan.
It's possible to make free internet phone calls using internet applications such as Skype and some chat services such as Microsoft Instant Messenger.
A small number of companies offer pay TV services in a bundle with internet, home phone and/or mobile phone plans.
The incentives to bundle pay TV with other services might include free or discounted installation, free calls on home phone accounts or SMS on mobile phone plans.
You may need to pay for a full service home phone plan or choose a certain internet plan, not necessarily the cheapest, to qualify.
Read the fine print carefully and check all the conditions, exclusions and minimum terms before you decide to swap providers because of the discounts offered for bundling.
Choice is an independent, non-profit organization for Australian consumers.