House Sitters Online

Posted February 1st, 2009 by admin
One of the dilemmas of house sitting is having access to the Internet and a fixed phone number while moving around. Internet costs are still very high in Australia but value can be found if you look hard enough.
I am a geek and have a couple of websites to look after. I enjoy browsing and using the ‘Net for information. And email is my preferred means of communication.

I have spent an absolute fortune over the years, on fast cable broadband at home and wireless broadband while away. When we decided to pursue full time house sitting, I went in search of a usable, affordable solution. I don’t expect a homeowner to provide me with Internet access, although some are happy to do so. Others are on very limited plans or dialup, both useless to me.

Fortunately, with VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) services now practical on broadband connections, solving the Internet quandary also solves the phone problem.

With my wife and I chewing up our “unlimited” Telstra cable broadband plan at home as though there was no tomorrow, and using around 8 to 10GBs of data most months, we are somewhat spoiled. Our plan allowed us 12GB before being slowed to a crawl. That was adequate for us because we do not download much music and have only tried downloading movies once – to learn not to try it again!

I decided that we could be a little frugal and manage on 5GB a month with care. So we don’t spend hours on YouTube and we filter our email to avoid downloading MBs of videos sent by well-meaning friends.

After a great deal of research, I came across a wireless broadband service that provides 5GB for $37.50 a month. Bargain! Better yet, it has no lock-in contracts, includes free SMSs, a 3 cent fax service, and VOIP for 10 cents per call untimed.

I had eventually succumbed to trying VOIP just over a year ago with Engin, an excellent service. We were paying $19.95 a month to get free calls. But I found that we were only making $5 to $10 worth of calls a month if we paid 10 cents each, so it was a false economy.

At home, we had Bigpond Cable at about $70 a month, some Foxtel channels for around $70 a month, our home phone line at about $30 a month and a Telstra NextG mobile broadband card at a minimum of $60 a month when we were not using it, increasing to $90 or more when we were away from home. Add 2 mobiles on $20 plans and we were outlaying up to $300 a month.

Because we are now housesitting full time, we can’t have Foxtel or Cable or the home phone. And we certainly can’t afford Telstra’s prices for mobile broadband. So, everything had to give.

We have replaced all of that with Exetel mobile broadband and the extra services they provide. We get 5GB of fast wireless broadband from Exetel, delivered by the Optus network – which seems to have better coverage than Telstra in the areas we need it. At $37.50 a month, I am more than happy with that. You can get 1GB for around $20 a month. We can pay for excess usage if we must, but we would probably just take 2 plans if 5GB proves to be too limiting. Use one for 2 weeks and the other for the rest of the month.

Included, we get our own VOIP phone number for incoming and outgoing calls. I forward incoming calls to the home number where we are staying so we get calls with comfort. If we are offline, calls go to voice-mail and are delivered to our email inbox as a sound file attachment. We can also retrieve messages by phone.

For outgoing calls we use a “MyNetFone” USB phone ($30) and free softphone software configured for Exetel. Calls are free to other VOIP users around the world and 10 cents untimed to landlines anywhere in Australia. Calls to mobiles are 22 cents a minute. “13” numbers are 30 cents, “1800” numbers are free. You need a landline phone or mobile for emergency calls. Overseas calls are a couple of cents a minute, depending on destination.

You also get 20 email addresses, limited web hosting, 20 free SMS messages a month from your PC with others 5 cents, and you can send faxes by email attachment for 3 cents each.

The crunch comes with the setup cost. You will need a USB modem which is $195 for outright purchase, or you can pay it off with a 24 month plan. If you have a newish 3G mobile phone, you can use that as a modem if you prefer and pay only $25 for connection.

I decided to buy the modem up front because I am free to switch if something better comes along. I can use it with any other service that uses Optus and it is saleable if I want to go to a different provider.

Exetel also have a range of services for fixed-line and mobile phone customers at great prices.

If any of this has you interested, feel free to contact me if you have questions about the info on the Exetel website.

And the best bit is that if you want to try them, you will get a $15 credit if you use my agent code “LITE818” on your application.

My link for you to use is: http://www.exetel.com.au/a_plan_pricing_new.php?agent_code=LITE818. Place your mouse on Residential and click HSPA Broadband for info on Mobile Internet.

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