Key issues to consider before getting VoIP | ACMA

Key issues to consider before getting VoIP

Emergency calls

Providers of two-way VoIP services, which would allow you to make and receive calls, must provide you with access to the emergency call service. Providers of one-way VoIP services that allow you to make calls only, are also obliged to provide you with access to the emergency call service unless they clearly inform you that such access is not available and you acknowledge this limitation. If it's important to you that you can make emergency calls from your VoIP service, check with your VoIP provider about access to emergency calls.

The quality of service provided over some broadband connections can be variable, which may impact on the ability of an emergency services operator to communicate clearly with the caller.

Locating you in an emergency

It is important to note that, as with mobile phones, emergency services can have difficulty identifying the location of a call made over a VoIP service. This is because calls from many VoIP services are capable of being made from anywhere in the world where a broadband service is available, rather than being in a fixed location like the regular fixed home phone. As such, when a call is made to emergency services from a VoIP service, it is likely that the emergency services operator will ask you to provide specific location information.

It's also worth being aware that if your VoIP service doesn't give you a number for receiving calls from regular phone lines, emergency services also won't be able to call you back after you've made an emergency call, in the event they need further information.

Power

VoIP services are dependent on access to the internet, either through a computer or a broadband modem. If there is a power outage that affects the power supply to the computer or the broadband modem, the VoIP service will not be available. This includes calls to emergency services on 000 (or 106 for people with speech or hearing impairments that use a TTY or modem).

This situation is not unique to VoIP services. Mobile phones and cordless phones are also dependent on a power source, and households which rely on such phones as their primary means of making calls often have a regular, non-portable fixed line phone that can be plugged directly into a phone socket. These phones receive power direct from the phone network in the case of a blackout allowing ongoing availability of phone services, including calls to emergency services. A similar back-up arrangement is worth considering in the case of VoIP services.

Last updated: 12 June 2014