Post and Telecommunications
Australian are highly connected people – we love mobile phones and the internet. This article discusses the internet and telephony in Australia, how to make phone calls and even how to post a letter.
Postal services in Australia are run by Australia Post. They deliver the mail and run shops were you can post letters, collect deliveries, pay bills, buy envelopes, etc. The standard cost to post a standard letter inside Australia is 55 cents.
There is a specific format to post letters in Australia. Firstly, if the envelope has four little orange rectangles near the bottom right-hand corner, these are for the postcode. The postcode is a four-digit number that tells the post office the area the letter is going to. It’s important to get this right and you can search for Australian postcodes online. The first digit of your postcode tells you which state a letter is going to. For instance, Sydney is 2000, Melbourne is 3000, Brisbane is 4000 and Perth is 6000.
You should also capitalise the suburb or town name. You can either include the full state name or the official abbreviation (WA, QLD, NSW, VIC, SA, NT, ACT, TAS).
Your address should look like this:
15 Short St
Your return address is written on the back of the envelope, usually in a single line across the top.
Your return address should look like this:
N. Surname, 1234 Long St., SYDNEY, NSW 2000
Getting Your Mail
Most homes have a letterbox out front, or at least a pigeonhole in a communal area if it is a block of flats. Mail is delivered from Monday to Friday. It is also possible to hire Post Office Boxes from Australia Post. These are rented for an annual fee. You will have to collect your post from a locked pigeonhole at your local post office. This ensures your mail is secure.
If you move house you can ask Australia Post to put a redirection on your mail so that that it is delivered to your new address. A small fee is charged for mail redirection.
Australia Post will usually try to deliver parcels to your door but if you miss delivery they will leave you with a little red and white card asking you to collect it. This will be either from your local post office or from your nearest delivery centre. You can also arrange redelivery at a time when you will be at home.
There are a range of telephone companies in Australia. The largest is Telstra, which is partly owned by the Federal Government. Other providers include Optus, Vodafone and Three Mobile.
There are two basic ways to buy a mobile phone in Australia. The first is “pay-as-you-go”, where the user buys credit - limiting the amount of call time, text messages and data that can be used before buying more credit. The second option is to buy a “plan” or “contract”, where the user signs up to one provider for a set period, usually two years, agreeing to certain conditions. Plans are usually “capped”, so you know how much your basic bill will be each month. Usually, the higher the “cap” the more services you get – like access to more free data, text messages and call time.
Contracts usually come with a handset and there are some good deals around. Shop around for the best deal for you and don’t get locked into the first contract you are offered. Check out the provider websites for an ideal of the deals and caps offered. Also, don’t forget to ask the sales assistant about the charges you will incur if you use more than your allocation of free data, calls or text messages, as these can be quite expensive. It’s probably also a good idea to ask about specific deals to message and call your home country.
Coverage (that is, signal reception) can be patchy at times, even in inner cities. It depends on your carrier and variables like how far you are from a repeater tower (phone tower). In regional areas you may well have no reception. You might find you have a signal in townships but not on the roads between them. Certainly you are more likely have a signal with Telstra in regional areas.
International calls from Australia can be very expensive, so it’s best to shop around for the best deals from the various phone providers – or use a web-based service like Skype, which can cut down call costs dramatically.
If you’re calling overseas you’ll need to find out the appropriate country code. Australia’s country code is 61. You dial 0011 to call outside Australia. So if you were calling the UK you would call 0011 44, then the phone number, minus the zero it begins with.
Another cheap way to make international phone calls is with a phone card. There are many companies that offer these cards offering deals like four hours of talk for $10. You can buy these at newsagents and delis. Make sure you get one which phones the country you’re intending to reach.
Emergency and Information Telephone Numbers
The emergency telephone number in Australia to summon an ambulance, police or the fire brigade is 000. There are fines for the misuse of this number. From a GSM mobile telephone or a satellite phone you can also dial 112. From TDD text phones you can dial 106.
Directory assistance and other information numbers will differ depending on which phone carrier you are with. The universal number for the speaking clock is 1194 and 1196 is for weather reports. The “dial before you dig” number (for people excavating who might contact electrical wires or pipes, etc) is 1100.
Freecall numbers begin with 1800, just as they do in the US. You’ll also see a lot of businesses – everything from pizza parlours to companies selling window dressings – with six digit phone numbers beginning with 13. These are charged at a local call rate. There are also longer numbers, beginning with 1300, and these operate in the same way.
The international telephone code for Australia is +61. Each State then has its own area code.
- 02 for New South Wales and the ACT
- 03 for Victoria and Tasmania
- 07 for Queensland
- 08 for Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory
Any phone number beginning with 04 is a mobile telephone. If you are dialling an Australian number from overseas, you drop the zero from the area code.
The two common telephone directories in Australia are the Yellow Pages, which contains business numbers, and the White Pages, which has both business and residential numbers. Both services have online versions. You can also call your phone company’s directory assistance to get a phone number.
Internet and Email
Australia, a country of some 22 million people, has 10.4 million active internet users (December 2010 figures, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics) and it’s growing all the time. In the same survey, some 4.2 million people had access to the internet through a mobile (or handset) device.
There are also many internet service providers in Australia. You will find many telephone companies provide services. Another of the large independent internet providers is iinet.
There are various ways to access the internet. Dial-up connections are being phased out and broadband is very popular. Many homes are fitted with wireless broadband. More than 80 per cent of access connections are at a download speed of 1.5Mbps or faster.
The Australian Government has also begun a multi-billion dollar project called the National Broadband Network (NBN), which is a nationwide roll-out of fibre connections to homes designed to provide very high speed connections. This is partly to address the quality of services in regional areas, which are often not great.
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