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Friday 3 June 2022 | 10 min read

VoIP on the nbn®: A guide for businesses

A woman talking on a headset

The nbn® network has enabled Australian businesses to benefit from faster speeds and greater flexibility. With the nbn® network spread across most of the country, and ongoing upgrades set to improve the quality of the network, now is a great time to rethink your business phone systems and make the switch to an internet-based VoIP solution.

By rolling out one of the many VoIP phones for nbn® solutions across your business, your entire organisation can benefit from reduced costs, improved productivity, and better security.

But before you get started, it’s important to understand what VoIP is, what opportunities it offers your business, how to get connected via the nbn® network, and what you can expect.

Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know to make the most out of using VoIP for your business.

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What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Technically speaking, VoIP works by converting audio signals of a phone call into digital data that travels over the internet. You can call any landline or mobile number, but you use your internet connection to do so.

To put this into perspective, if you’ve ever used services like Skype, Zoom, FaceTime or any other video app, then you’ve used VoIP.

In the past, traditional phone systems required expensive PBX units that you’d need to install in your office. The PBX (or private branch exchange) was a revolutionary system that enabled businesses to receive inbound and outbound calls as well as make calls internally. It worked like a switchboard operator (which is how it originated), taking in calls and directing them accordingly.

The traditional PBX system ran on old telephone line copper wiring that connected to the exchange. This became problematic as it also served as a kind of gatekeeper to your entire phone system. So, if your PBX unit went down, your entire phone line went down, costing you in lost sales as well as the cost of a high-priced technician to repair the issue.

VoIP still uses a form of PBX, but instead of running on old copper wiring, it uses a much more cost-effective and reliable cloud-based “virtual PBX” or “hosted PBX”. A hosted PBX is where an internet provider takes the PBX and manages it within their own data centres.

Diagram demonstrating how hosted PBX works

Diagram demonstrating how hosted PBX works

Your business then simply pays a fee — usually a per user monthly charge — for access to that service. This makes VoIP a far more simplified and predictable monthly expenditure, with limited technical issues to deal with and no big, expensive pieces of IT hardware to purchase.

Now, let’s take a closer look at what the technology can do.

How can VoIP benefit your business?

While the technology has been around for decades, the advent of high-speed broadband and modern technology has made it far more accessible for businesses. Today, VoIP solutions aren’t just a popular choice for businesses but a smart one too.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of using VoIP is the financial factor. The cost of using traditional phone companies can really add up, with existing cables to constantly maintain, combined with strict industry regulations — all costs that are passed down to the customer. But because VoIP uses the internet, expenses are much lower.

Traditional phone companies usually charge extra for long distance and international calls, call waiting, voicemail, caller ID, and other features. These features (and many others) come standard with VoIP plans at a low monthly rate.

VoIP also provides businesses with far more advanced features than traditional telephone services generally provide. Previously, features like automatic call forwarding, custom on-hold music, call queuing, and an online-based self-service portal were all difficult to set up and manage, and restricted to enterprise-class PBX units that were well beyond the price range for small businesses. Through VoIP, businesses of all sizes can now access these features and gain a competitive advantage.

Other benefits for using VoIP for your business include:

  • The simplicity of setting the service up and easily accessing usage, statistics and account information

  • Improved productivity through advanced features such as soft phones, call forwarding, group voicemail and smartphone apps – allowing you to hire remote workers or create a flexible hybrid arrangement for employees, for example

  • Integrating services with CRM software

  • Remote management and inclusive tech support

  • Easy upgrades

  • Doesn’t require a huge amount of data

Is the call quality better on VoIP?

The quality of your calls will depend on your internet provider. If your provider can connect your VoIP service via the nbn™ network, then your calls will usually be of high quality – often clearer and more reliable than a traditional landline phone.

When it comes to quality, it’s important to do your research into the different plans available. Before making a decision, look into the various features, policies, pricing, and bundle options each provider puts on the table.

While installing VoIP seems like a straightforward choice, it’s still important to make the right choice for your business needs.

Setting up a VoIP service

To get your service up and running, you’ll need the following:

Do you need a special phone for VoIP?

VoIP is a great option for businesses of all sizes due to its flexibility: not just in features, but in hardware options too. So, when it comes to handsets, you have a few options.

Traditional handset

You can use most traditional handsets for VoIP. The only caveat here is that you will need to add on a VoIP adapter or ATA (more on that later). However, while you can use traditional handsets, doing so may mean you miss out on some of the features that other handsets options can offer.

Read more: Traditional phone vs hosted PBX – how do they compare for business?

IP phone or SIP phone

Your best bet for VoIP handset options is an IP phone, also known as a SIP phone. An IP phone is designed for VoIP so it means you can access all the features of the phone system and it offers functionality that other phone handset options won’t.

Soft phone

One key advantage of VoIP technology for businesses is its capacity for mobility. Because the connection works over an internet connection, it’s also easy to set up for employees to work remotely. These are called “soft phones” and they’re not a physical handset, but rather downloadable software that you can install on a computer or device that acts like a handset.

Using a soft phone means that employees can use the business phone system on other devices and aren’t tied to a physical location, like your office. This is particularly useful if you’d like your teams to work remotely or in a hybrid work-from-home and in-person scenario. You can install soft phone apps onto smartphones and tablets using whichever operating system the device is on.

IP handset

An IP handset is like an extension of a soft phone in that it’s designed to connect to a soft hone app on another piece of hardware, like your laptop. These are a more specialised handset option so they’re a little more expensive and require some configuration to set up. Your VoIP provider can help you decide if this is the right choice for your needs.

Do you need a VoIP adaptor?

A VoIP ATA, also known as a VoIP adaptor or VoIP modem, converts signal from landline analogue phone calls into a digital signal that can transmit across the internet. You’ll need the device so you can connect your analog telephone service to the internet.

If you’re using VoIP in your office or on-site, it works just like a standard home phone service. All you need to do to start using it is plug your phone into your VoIP-compatible router or VoIP ATA, and configure it with your VoIP account settings.

Using an adaptor is a simple and cost-effective way to access VoIP for your business without the outlay involved in upgrading all your existing hardware.

But, is an adaptor necessary? 

An analogue telephone adaptor is only really necessary if you’re not using hardware that is designed for VoIP. You may need an adaptor depending on the modem/router you have and the handsets you’re using.

Some modem/routers have in-built VoIP capabilities and won’t need an adaptor. However, this isn’t standardised across all devices, so make sure to check your hardware. Likewise, some phones have SIP capabilities built into them, but it’s not universal, so you’ll need to check these too before jumping in and purchasing an adaptor.

What’s the difference between UNI-D and UNI-V?

When it comes to using VoIP to make and receive voice calls via the nbn® network, there are two possibilities:

  1. UNI-V or Fibre Phone VoIP Services, and

  2. UNI-D VoIP services.

Whether your business uses UNI-D or UNI-V VoIP will depend on your nbn® technology. The main difference between the two is the type of port you will use to connect your handsets.

If you’re using a UNI-D port, your handsets will be plugged into a VoIP-compatible modem router.

On the other hand, if your connection is Fibre to the Premises, for example, you can plug your phones directly into a UNI-V port of the nbn® connection box installed in your business.

Generally, you’ll find that setting up VoIP is straightforward – and you won’t even have to change your existing business phone numbers.

If you’re unsure what kind of connection you have, or how to get started, chat to your internet service provider to see what your options are.

What to look for in a VoIP provider

VoIP providers can vary wildly in terms of quality and service standards. Here are a few things you should keep in mind when determining which provider is right for your business:

1. What services does the provider offer?

The suite of services that VoIP can provide to businesses are extensive. But, as with all things, the more individual services that are loaded into a package, the more the overall service will cost.

Businesses need to determine what services make sense for your employees and customer needs. Then you can avoid services you won’t use and find a package from a provider that offers competitive pricing.

2. Is the provider’s VoIP service secure?

Because VoIP data is transmitted over the internet, it can become a security vulnerability for your organisation if not managed properly. There are some awful horror stories on some of the most popular services that serve as a good reminder to take your security seriously.

That’s not to say that your VoIP service is not secure, but it’s worth talking to your ISP to determine what kind of security they offer for their VoIP solution.

3. Is the internet connection sufficient for VoIP?

VoIP is not an overly bandwidth intensive technology – in terms of consumption it’s generally quoted at between 0.5MB/minute through to 1.3MB/minute. At that rate, even residential internet plans would have no issue running VoIP lines.

However, for businesses and offices, there are a couple of considerations.

Firstly, VoIP technology relies on both download AND upload bandwidth, and with many plans the upload bandwidth is much lower than the download bandwidth. That means you should check your nbn® plan and ensure your business has the upload capacity to run VoIP phones.

Secondly, VoIP tends to get used a lot in an office environment, and every person on the phone is essentially another connection that is “splitting” the overall bandwidth to the office. For these reasons, you may want to consider speaking to ISPs to discuss 1:1 bandwidth contention plans , where both the upload and download bandwidth provided is equal.

An nbn® Enterprise Ethernet connection offers symmetrical upload and download speed plans, so for businesses who need a more reliable connection to run VoIP phone services, this could be worth investigating.

Read more: nbn® Enterprise Ethernet vs Fibre to the Premises (FTTP): What’s the difference?

Make the call

VoIP is the future of telecommunications. The sooner your business switches over to VoIP on the nbn® network, the quicker you can access the benefits and stay up to speed with the latest technologies.

The technology offers a high-quality, flexible phone service solution because it uses your internet connection. With prices that are hard to beat, and features that can improve the overall success of your business, VoIP is a great option to consider.

If you have any other questions or want to learn more about VoIP solutions for your business, get it touch with our local team of experts on 1300 480 905 – they’re always happy to answer any questions you may have.

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The Aussie Broadband Editorial team consists of copywriters, marketers, and subject matter experts across multiple fields. We aim to bring you the latest news, insights, and guides regarding everything internet, mobile, technology, and more...

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