Photo Credit: selva via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: selva via Compfight cc

If you are moving to Tasmania from outside Australia, then getting your head around the options you have for phones and internet can take some time. In fact, even if you are moving from another State in Australia there are some differences in Tasmania that you need to be aware of before you commit to a provider for your phones and internet.


Mobile Telephone Options in Tasmania

We wrote a blog post a while ago about mobile phone coverage in Tasmania. Nothing much has altered since then – Telstra is the best option by a long way if you want good coverage outside the main cities. Optus and Vodafone really give next to no coverage on the East and West Coasts of Tasmania so if you are travelling around you really need to choose Telstra. We are certainly not affiliated with Telstra or any of the providers, we just know that we had poor experiences in the past and changed to Telstra when we moved here again permanently.


Fixed Landline Home Telephone Options in Tasmania

Many companies offer you the choice of getting your home phone through them – the traditional companies of Telstra and Optus and most of the internet companies which we will speak about below, also offer to connect your fixed landline telephone. Whether you actually need a landline is a personal choice. We use VOIP (see below) for our home phone and business phones and the service has been fantastic and saved us a lot of money.

Even if you don’t think you need a fixed landline you will need the physical cooper wire connection to your house if you want to have ADSL internet. You can get what is called naked internet connections. This means you get ADSL internet using the telephone copper wires but you don’t have a fixed landline phone connected. Prior to us getting the NBN internet this is the option that we chose. You can then get the equivalent of a fixed landline over the internet, also known as VOIP.


Internet Options in Tasmania

As you would know Tasmania is an island to the south of mainland Australia and unfortunately our island status affects the internet options that are available. There are two companies that own the internet undersea cables that connect Tasmania to the mainland – Basslink and Telstra. Telstra is a private company but previously had a huge monopoly and Basslink is also a large corporation. Unfortunately this means that the cost of transporting data from Tasmania to the mainland is more expensive than going from Melbourne to Perth even though the distance is minimal in comparison. This means that some internet service providers (ISPs) charge more for internet access in Tasmania. It is best to shop around though as many companies have national uniform pricing. You may also get a smaller monthly quota of data in Tasmania.

To find out whether your property has ADSL available we recommend you go to the site Broadband Choice Australia. There you can conduct a search and see what companies will offer you the internet at your residence and what plans are available.

We personally use Internode which is now owned by a very large company called Iinet. We have been very satisfied with Internode – they have been very reliable and very price competitive for the quality of service. At the time of writing they are the number one choice on Broadband Choice.

When you look over the list of internet service providers you will notice a wide range of prices. As with most things in life, to a large extent you get what you pay for and the cheaper companies generally offer a lower standard of service. For example they might have less bandwidth available for customers, get slower at peak times, have a less reliable connection or offer overseas support etc. The only exception to this general rule is that you don’t have to pay the prices charged by Telstra to get quality – Telstra is well known for charging higher prices because of its history as a government monopoly prior to being privatised.

The speed you can get with your ADSL connection will depend on many factors but principally the quality of the copper phone line to your house and your distance from the physical telephone exchange. Just because you signup for an ADSL2+ connection doesn’t mean you will get the top speed available. You won’t know your exact speeds until you are fully connected.


Mobile Internet in Tasmania

If your property cannot get ADSL (we have friends at Richmond who can’t get ADSL as they are just that bit too far from the town exchange) then you may have to choose mobile internet. Again the three major companies Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all offer mobile internet. You really need to test to see what the reception is like at your house to choose which company to go with. There are also resellers of these three companies who often offer better value plans. For example Internode resells Optus mobile internet but at far cheaper prices and with higher quotas than those you can get direct from Optus.


NBN Internet Coverage in Tasmania

If you are really lucky and fortunate then your property will be able to access the NBN. What is the NBN? The NBN is the National Broadband Network and is providing fast reliable internet to the whole of Australia but it is a long term project and not everywhere will be able to get the NBN immediately. Tasmania was the first place in Australia to start the rollout of the NBN and is currently scheduled to be finished in Tasmania by the end of 2015. The NBN is currently going to use a variety of technologies to deliver the internet to homes and businesses:

  • Fibre – this is the best and fastest option. If your property can access a fibre connection then you have the best rolls royce options available. You can choose from speeds of between 12 and 100 Mbps (megabits per second) download and between 1 and 40Mbs upload.
  • Fixed wireless – If the population density is not as great surrounding your property then the NBN may be delivered using 4G wireless technology. This will give you a choice of speeds between 12 and 25 Mbps download and 1-5 Mbps upload. Don’t confuse this with the 4G technology that you hear about for your smart phones. This is far more reliable, offers constant speeds etc.
  • Satellite – for very rural and remote properties the NBN will be provided over a satellite connection. There is an interim satellite available presently and a far superior and faster satellite option is currently scheduled to be deployed in 2015.

To see what options, if any, you have under the NBN then check out MyNBN website.

The NBN network is owned by a Government Corporation but you receive the internet through a range of retail service providers. We personally use Internode and are very happy.

If you can’t currently get the NBN and decide to go with ADSL for your internet then find out what your ISP will charge you, if anything, when you later switch to the NBN when it becomes available. Internode does not charge to switch from ADSL with them to NBN with them.

Not all ADSL companies offer NBN services so you may want to take that into account when choosing your provider.

Also not all companies offering NBN services on the mainland offer their services in Tasmania due to the costs of internet data across Bass Strait. This is unfortunate and there are some groups pushing for a subsidy from the Government to help equalise the services for Tasmania.


Quality of the Internet Service Provider

The quality of your internet connection and support is crucial. The best place in Australia to discuss any internet related issue and specifically broadband and NBN issues is a site called WhirlPool.

On Whirlpool you can see what other people think of your proposed ISP, ask questions about their service and support and much more. There are some very helpful and intelligent people on Whirlpool but there are also some very intolerant and rude people as well. You can gain a lot but do sometimes need a thick skin.


Choice of Internet Equipment – Modem / Router

When choosing your modem/router for your internet connection it is important to choose one that works with the NBN. The current plan is to disconnect all copper phone wiring and hence ADSL when the NBN is fully rolled out in each area and force people to switch over to the NBN. This means your equipment needs to be compatible with the NBN so do check this.


VOIP Usage

VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol and is just a fancy way of using the telephone over your internet connection and usually at very cheap rates (using ADSL or the NBN). Again there are a wide variety of VOIP providers and these are also discussed on Whirlppol. We use VOIP from Internode and have found their quality to be very good. We also have a VOIP service from MyNetFone which is quite good in quality but not quite as good as Internode.

VOIP has two major uses and advantages and is something you should consider when moving to Tasmania. It lets you make calls to landlines at very cheap rates and it gives you the equivalent of a landline service that other people can call you on.

The other advantage of VOIP, which is a little harder to understand, but very useful is that it lets you setup a phone number in another city or region or even another part of the world to enable friends and family who aren’t in Tasmania to call you cheaply. For example we have a VOIP number setup using a Launceston number and this enables Dale’s family in Launceston to call us for a local call even though we are physically in Hobart. You could for example setup a VOIP number in London if you had moved from the UK and let your family and friends call you for a local call cost even though you are on the other side of the world.


The Federal Election and the NBN

The above advice is all based on the current NBN rollout and deployment plan. There is however currently an Australian Federal Election underway. If the Liberal party is successful at the election then it is currently not clear what will happen to the NBN in Tasmania. The fibre rollout may be modified to use different technology and the timeframes may alter but all this will become clearer in the next few months and we will update this article then.


Rental Properties and the Internet

Currently under Tasmanian rental legislation the fixed landline telephone is classed as an essential service and your landlord must allow you to connect the landline telephone. This means that your landlord cannot stop you from getting ADSL internet.

The situation is however far less clear as far as the NBN is concerned. It seems currently that your landlord is required to give their permission for NBN to install the equipment in your premises and this means that even though your property may be able to connect to the NBN, your landlord may be able to stop you.

When negotiating a lease, or a renewal or extension of your current lease, you should insert a clause that requires your landlord to consent to you having the NBN internet connected when available.

For a discussion of this issue in relation to rental properties and the NBN there is a thread on Whirlpool that has some discussion about the issue.