Naked ADSL Buying Guide

Naked ADSL gives you broadband Internet without pesky line rental fees. We explain what you need to know before making the leap.

Naked ADSL (or Naked DSL) is a relatively new type of broadband service. Like ADSL2+ broadband Internet, Naked ADSL services are delivered over the copper lines normally used to deliver telephone calls. However, whereas ADSL2+ broadband is tacked on top of an existing phone service, Naked DSL services can be delivered over a "vacant copper pair" — a line that doesn't have a phone service already attached. This means you can have a broadband connection without paying for a landline telephone service.

Naked ADSL benefits

Unless they have family and friends overseas, many people don't use their fixed line telephone at home very often. However, even if you don't make many calls you are still paying a rental fee on the telephone line, often as a base monthly charge included with other features like call waiting, forwarding or voicemail. At its cheapest, you're looking at $20.95 per month on Telstra's HomeLine Budget plan, and that's only if you use BigPond as your Internet service provider. If you use a different ISP (such as iiNet), Telstra will charge you $27.95 as the minimum line rental.

Naked ADSL means you no longer have to pay line rental, as the Internet service can exist on a telephone line that doesn't have a phone service attached. The line rental fee isn't completely gone: ISPs are still charged by Telstra for using the copper line to your house, and they often pass this cost onto consumers within the price of the Naked ADSL plan. However, even taking this into account, Naked ADSL often works out cheaper than a traditional broadband plan with a typical Telstra phone line rental fee.

If you still want to make telephone calls from a home phone, many Naked ADSL ISPs also offer a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service. VoIP calls are much cheaper than regular landline calls — especially if you are calling overseas — and you can even use your existing telephone by connecting to your router through a small adapter. Many ISPs offer a VoIP account for a small fee (or for free) with a Naked ADSL service. You can also use a third-party, software-based Internet telephony service, such as Skype.

Naked ADSL downsides

There are a few technical disadvantages to Naked ADSL. For instance, you can't make telephone calls without power. As well as disconnecting you from the Internet, power loss means your VoIP connection will cease to function, which means you won't be able to make 000 emergency calls. This often isn't seen as a major drawback these days because most people own mobile phones. In addition, many people tend to have cordless phones that rely on a powered base station anyway, and so can't be used in the event of a blackout. Ensure that you have alternate means of communication in such a situation before considering a Naked ADSL service.

Because Naked ADSL uses a phone line without a dial tone, you can't use a regular fax machine (which needs a dial tone). Additionally, faxes cannot be sent over VoIP reliably due to data compression. Some VoIP providers, such as Engin, have trialled a fax service over VoIP, but this has proved to be unreliable. If your business still relies on faxes, and you also want to make the switch to Naked ADSL and VoIP, then you can look into a Web-based fax service (such as Utbox) that sends faxes for you and also allows you to receive them via e-mail.

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Data allowance

There's no doubt that Naked ADSL is often good value for money, as you will only have to pay the ISP for the plan that you are on. For example, a regular ADSL2+ plan from iiNet, which costs $69.95 per month and provides a 55GB data allowance, really costs you $97.90 when you factor in line rental. If you were to choose a Naked ADSL plan for around $90, you would get 120GB of data allowance as well as a VoIP service. Or, if you wanted to only spend $69.95 on a Naked DSL plan, you would get a 60GB data allowance; still better value than a standard ADSL2+ plan.

It is important to also note when and where your data is being counted. For instance, some ISPs like iiNet count uploads as part of your quota on naked plans. If you regularly upload YouTube videos, use file sharing programs like BitTorrent or access your home computer remotely over the Internet, this is likely to affect your quota.

Some ISPs also offer Web sites and services that you can access without it counting towards your monthly quota. iiNet, for example, allows users to watch ABC's iView service as well as any services included in its Freezone without it chewing up your monthly data allowance.

Large data quotas are often split up into peak and off-peak times. How these quotas are split up and when the peak and off-peak times are differ between ISP. Some ISPs split the day evenly into peak and off-peak periods, while others only offer as little as five hours per day in which to use the majority of your data allowance. If you'll be using the Internet mostly during the day, it's worth considering a plan that does not have separate peak and off-peak data allowances (such as Internode), or one where more data is offered during the day than at night.

If you go over your quota, most ISPs will shape your Internet speed to a set limit, often at 64 kilobits per seconds (Kbps) or dial-up speeds. Some ISPs allow you to purchase more data if you breach your monthly quota; Exetel is one such provider.

Naked ADSL speed

Naked ADSL runs at ADSL2+ speeds because it is connected to ADSL2+ enabled equipment at the telephone exchange. This means you can get speeds ranging from 1.5Mbps (megabits per second) to 24Mbps on your line. The speed you get will vary due to the condition of your copper wire and how far away it is from the telephone exchange. The farther away it is, the slower your speed is likely to be. Some ISPs say that speeds will suffer greatly (or you might not be able to get the service at all) if the copper line is more than 4km long, while other ISPs like Internode say they can supply fast speeds up to 7km. The distance from your home to the exchange is not a good indicator of the length of your copper wire, as it is not usually a direct path between your dwelling and the exchange. When selecting a Naked ADSL plan, you won't need to pick a speed; all plans will work at up to ADSL2+ speeds. All you will have to select is the data allowance that you require per month, as well as any additional services you might require.

Set-up fees

The cost of setting up your Naked ADSL account can be a deal-breaker in some instances, as it can range from $40 up to $240 depending on the ISP. Some ISPs discount (or waive) the set-up fee if you opt for a 24-month contract; this is a good option if you own your home and know that you won't have be moving in a certain time. The set-up cost covers the call-out fee for a technician to enable the connection at the telephone exchange.

Equipment

Any ADSL modem can work with a Naked ADSL account, and you can either supply your own modem or purchase one from your ISP at the time you sign up for your account. If you use an ADSL1 modem, then the maximum speed you can reach will be 8Mbps; if you use an ADSL2+ modem, your modem will be able to support speeds up to 24Mbps. Unlike a regular ADSL2+ connection, you won't have to use any filters on your phone line, as the modem will be the only device on it (filters are only required on regular phone lines between the line and your home phone).

If you plan to use VoIP, then you will need either a modem with a built-in VoIP function, or a separate analog telephone attachment (ATA) that plugs in to your ADSL router and allows you to use VoIP with a regular phone handset.

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Availability

Naked DSL isn't as widely available as standard ADSL2+. A key requirement of the service is that your chosen ISP has its own DSLAMs (digital subscriber line multiplexer — they facilitate fast ADSL2+ speeds) installed at your local telephone exchange. Though ISPs can resell ADSL2+ over Telstra's own DSLAMs, they can't offer Naked DSL without their own equipment. Your options then are to choose another ISP that offers Naked ADSL in your area or to get a regular broadband account and pay a line rental fee to Telstra.

Getting Naked ADSL can also be difficult if you live in a large apartment complex (which is sometimes referred to as a multiple dwelling unit — or MDU). While ISPs have no problem determining if standalone homes and small blocks of units will be able to get a Naked ADSL service, units with a vacant copper pair in large apartment blocks can't be easily connected. This is because in some cases the ISP can't accurately determine the exchange you are on and also can't verify whether your vacant copper pair is attached to a main distribution frame (MDF) in your building.

Some ISPs might refuse your connection unless you can guarantee them that you have a vacant copper pair that runs from your unit all the way to the MDF. In some cases, the ISP can perform these checks itself, but be sure you understand the terms and conditions and whether any extra fees will be involved. Sometimes ISPs recommend that you first get a phone service enabled on your vacant copper pair before applying for Naked ADSL, as this makes it much easier for the ISP to enable the Naked ADSL service. The drawback here is that you have to pay Telstra to put a phone service on the line, which can cost up to $130. If no copper wire connection exists between your apartment and the MDF, then you will need to notify the body corporate of the problem and proceed from there.

If you are on a Pair Gain System (PGS), in which the telephone line is split to go to different dwellings, this won't support a Naked ADSL service. A check on the line can be carried out to see if a procedure called 'transposition' can be performed, which removes the pair gain and connects your dwelling directly to the telephone exchange. Some ISPs can initiate this process for you, which can take six to eight weeks and won't cost anything. It's not always possible to be removed from a PGS. This is equally true of homes connected to a Remote Integrated Multiplexer (RIM), which is often used in areas where there is no existing copper line, or if a copper line cannot be physically attached to the home.

Jargon Buster

POTS/PSTN

POTS is an acronym for Plain Old Telephone System, while PSTN means Public Switched Telephone Network. Both refer to the traditional system of delivering telephone services over copper lines — the system that most have been using for decades.

VoIP

Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) provides telephony services over an Internet connection. It is often a cheaper way to make telephone calls than PSTN or mobile telephony — particularly for international calls — but currently has issues with emergency calls and delivering faxes.

DSLAM

Each local telephone exchange contains multiple DSLAMs (digital subscriber line multiplexers) which connect residential telephone lines to an Internet service provider's greater network. Originally, ISPs had to rent lines from Telstra and Optus in order to resell Internet services, but providers have since installed their own DSLAMs, allowing them to sell cheaper ADSL2+ plans and offer Naked DSL.

ATA

An analog telephone adapter (ATA) allows you to connect any traditional telephone to an Internet router for VoIP telephony. These are often small devices that look similar to ADSL filters.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which ISPs provide Naked ADSL?

The following ISPs currently offer Naked ADSL plans in select areas:

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Are Naked ADSL plans good value?

Naked ADSL plans do not incur a line rental fee, which means you can save up to $27.95 per month. Additionally, ISPs offer different data quotas to traditional ADSL2+ broadband plans and often provide better value, particularly once you take the total cost of a broadband plan and line rental into account. However, some ISPs also count uploads toward the data quota on Naked ADSL plans, which can effectively halve the data allowance for heavy uploaders.

Will I still be able to make telephone calls?

Naked ADSL works over an existing telephone line that does not have an active service or a phone number attached. This means that any home telephone connected directly to the telephone line will not receive a dial tone and will be unable to function.

However, the voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) allows users to make telephone calls over an Internet connection, using computer accessories or traditional phones. Many ISPs offer this as an additional service, with a set number of usable minutes per month. In order to use your existing home telephone, you must purchase an analog telephone adapter (ATA) from your ISP or a retail store. This will allow you to plug your telephone into the Internet router.

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