Naked DSL — a broadband connection via a phone line but without paying a line rental fee for the associated voice service — is an increasingly popular strategy for saving money on communications costs. Going naked can help cut down your monthly bills, but before taking the plunge there are some key issues you'll need to consider.Naked services only appeared in Australia in late 2007, but the range of options has increased dramatically, since then as our roundup of naked DSL providers earlier this week demonstrated. In response to that post, several readers wrote in asking for further advice on how to go about getting a naked service connected, so we've rounded up some general guidelines for what to look at before going naked.
Work out how much you use your phone
The evidence suggests that Australians are increasingly relying on mobile phones, so it might seem obvious that you can get by without one plugged into the wall as well. But it is worth pulling out your last few phone bills and working out how many calls you actually make, and where those calls go. Even if you do decide to go naked, those numbers will help you work out how much you can expect to spend on calls in the future (either on your mobile or via a VoIP service).
Also analyse who is calling you. It's still not uncommon for people to object to calling a mobile phone on the principle that it will cost them more. If your parents are in the habit of ringing your home line every day, they might crack it when the line is no longer there. (Of course, in that case you could ask them to pay the line rental instead.)
One commonly voiced concern about going naked (with or without VoIP) is that you won't be able to just dial 000 in an emergency and have your location traced. That might sound scary, but when did you last call 000 anyway — and how likely is it that you'd be calling from home and not able to tell the dispatchers your address?
Check what the VoIP inclusions are
In practice, that distinction won't matter much, because many of the naked packages on offer aren't truly "naked" — they also include a VoIP service which can act as a "replacement" for your landline. If you really don't use your landline phone, this might not be necessary. VoIP rates are generally much cheaper than conventional landlines — rates of 10 to 15 cents for untimed Australian landline calls are pretty much the norm. Check to see if your chosen plan will give you a regular landline number (which eliminates the incoming call issue discussed above), and if they'll let you migrate your existing number. If most of your incoming calls come from another state, it might be worth getting your number "assigned" to that area code rather than where you live.
Research the provider
There are a dozen or more companies offering naked DSL in Australia. It doesn't make sense to sign up with any of them without knowing what you're getting into. Looking at the costs and contract lengths will help you narrow the field, but after that it makes sense to do some specific research. Here's three useful tactics:
- See what actual customers have to say on the relevant forum at Whirlpool
- Trying using Google to search for the company name plus a few relevant phrases (such as "customer service" or "call quality")
- Check the annual reports from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to see which providers get complained about the most
Be prepared to wait a while
By far the biggest downside of naked DSL is that the connection process is convoluted. You can expect to wait for a week or more for the service to get connected, and during that period you may not have any phone or Internet service at all. (Annoyingly, that can be the case even if you already have a standard account with that provider.) This isn't the fault of your supplier, by the way — the paperwork and processes required to get your regular landline "disabled" are just hopelessly arcane and unlikely to improve in the short term. The obvious tactic is to organise connection while you're on holidays.
Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.