Tuesday, 27 July 2010 16:18

Whirlpool member horrified by Telstra's 'wireless rip-off'


A member of the well-known and popular Australian broadband and ISP news site and forum, Whirlpool, has written to iTWire expressing extreme frustration at Telstra's recent price drops for wired broadband, because while they're welcome, there have been no price drops to match for BigPond or Telstra wireless broadband!

A member of the popular Australian site Whirlpool has written to iTWire with a letter detailing why Telstra's recent price drops for broadband have done him and his family no favours, because those price drops went AWOL when it came to mobile broadband.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous, so we'll respect that wish, and publish their letter in full here for you to read, and for Telstra people (hello Telstra people!) to ruminate upon, hopefully resulting in some long-awaited decent price drops for wireless broadband, especially at the upper end of the scale.

Note: before we go on, the writer below is specifically talking about BigPond Wireless Broadband plans, none of which go beyond 10GB before dropping you to an almost criminal 64Kbps shaped speed.

Telstra Business wireless broadband plans are available in sizes beyond 10GB, but at $159 for 20GB per month, all the way up to $600 per month for 120GB of data, and with no access to BigPond's unmetered content through a Telstra Business connection, there's a massive price disparity between wired and wireless connections, as usual.

Perhaps Telstra won't bother to change its prices much until Ericsson has completed the rural and regional network for Vodafone within about a year's time, but Telstra is as capable as surprising us with better prices as any company is, so fingers crossed there'll be some real action on this front.

Finally, and for the record, I agree with the sentiments the anonymous writer has written, especially where the writer has cleverly transposed a Telstra spokesperson's comments with actual reality, and has shown how the two simply aren't in sync.

So, here we go:

'I have read your article [about Telstra finally dropping BigPond prices, but is it enough?] written by Alex Zaharov-Reutt and would like to provide these comments to possibly be used in part or whole to a follow up article. For privacy reasons I have not included my full name or address as I have already stirred up a fair bit of controversy on Whirlpool forums on the topic.

'What I would like to see is the industry recognise that wireless users are being left too far behind. The problem is that Telstra sees anyone using Next G as a mobile user, when in fact many people use wireless as their fixed service as they are unable to be serviced by ADSL or Cable.

'Telstra's new plans are great if you are fortunate enough to be serviced by ADSL or Cable, however if you're not you are paying up to 28 times more per GB than what ADSL or Cable users are.

'A quick look at the top available plan for ADSL and Cable sees a user able to get 200GBs of data from as little as 35 cents per GB. On comparison anyone on wireless is only able to obtain a maximum of 10GB per month at a whopping $9.95 per GB. That is up to 28 times more than what ADSL or Cable users are paying.'

Continued on page two, please read on!

Our anonymous writer continues: 'At the Telstra announcement [on BigPond broadband price drops], Telstra Executive Director Consumer, Ms Rebekah O'Flaherty says: 'The better value plans were timely in light of new Telstra research which showed internet access along with food and heating were the three things Australians would least like to spend a day without.'

'The average Australian household has entered a new age of online connectivity. Telstra's research reveals more than half of all households now feature four or more types of internet enabled devices - from wireless laptops to smartphones, the T-Hub, game consoles and internet TV PVRs such as the T-Box.', continues the quote from Ms O'Flaherty.

Our intrepid wireless user continues: 'However this does not include wireless users, especially those that have to use wireless as their fixed broadband service. We are a family of five and we have more than four internet capable devices also, however we cannot use them due to the limitation of 10GB per month at the very high cost.

'Even if they were to bring in a 20GB plan [for BigPond Wireless] at more than the 10GB current price it would just be too expensive to have. However we apparently are not an average family.

'Telstra's O'Flaherty says that: 'With information, entertainment and news being enjoyed across multiple devices in the house, it's not surprising that consumer demand for speed, simplicity and value from their broadband is growing.'

Continuing, Mr Anonymous says: 'This growth is for everyone, the internet does not stop growing for wireless users, it is the same internet and is getting so rich in media that my family is not able to enjoy the fullness of the internet.

'For example we cannot allow downloads unless I give the OK, my children cannot watch YouTube videos or any other videos. They are not allowed to play online games. We cannot video Skype family back in Perth and we have to be careful of the sites we visit to ensure the data to load those pages is not too high. We rarely make it to day 15 before we get shaped to 64k which is not much better than dial-up speeds.

But back to Ms O'Flaherty, who says: 'Telstra realises customers' needs are changing, which is why our new BigPond broadband plans deliver greater data allowances at lower prices, allowing household members to do more on the internet for less.'

Well, retorts our anonymous reader: 'They don't deliver any of this to wireless users, no increases in quota or lower prices. Wireless members cannot do more on the internet for less, we have been ignored and that in my view is discriminatory to those users that are not serviced by ADSL or Cable.

'While there appears to have been a small saving added to wireless of $10 per month that is a smokescreen that is actually no discount at all applied as those discounts were already available but have cleverly been marketed to look like they are added discounts. For example we already get 10GB for $99.95 as we get a single bill discount from Telstra so the new discount is not correct at all.

'I have suggested a possible additional solution to Telstra by way of a new broadband delivery service be setup called 'Fixed Wireless' which is as the title suggests, access to Telstra Wireless (Next G) but from a fixed location only.

'The Fixed Wireless service can be set so it is ONLY made available to households that cannot access Fixed Line services such as ADSL or Cable of which can be verified by a Telstra Technician.

'The Fixed Wireless service cannot be used for mobile purposes and is restricted to the physical address of the household location (this may be up to three towers to ensure continuity of service if a tower close by goes down).

'The Fixed Wireless service is then priced similar to that of other fixed broadband access services like ADSL and Cable.'

Concluded on page three, please read on!

Mr Anonymous continues: 'If anyone that has a Fixed Wireless service wants a mobile service they can as ADSL and Cable users do, sign up for a mobile service at an additional cost at the current Wireless prices.

'I feel the introduction of a Fixed Wireless service will remove the inequality of services provided to those that cannot get ADSL or Cable and will bring about a fairer system for all and choice for all to use what they want based on the plan they choose to use each month.

'While I understand there are possible issues relating to congestion there are other options for Telstra to overcome this by upgrading equipment or installing DSL or Cable services where they currently do not exist. I get emails from many that say the only reason they cannot get ADSL is because of the lack of ports, so if ports are added then the number of users on wireless will surely drop and reduce congestion.

'There is also the rural and regional areas where congestion would rarely be an issue as the numbers would be nothing like they are in the major centres or cities, therefore those locations could handle additional loads quite effectively, however again if not, then maybe those areas need to have DSL services extended to service a greater number of people in those areas.

'While I also appreciate that other providers do not service us at all, there is little I can do about that, however Telstra do service us but charge excessive amounts in doing so as they know we have no other choice.

'Finally I am not after like-for-like plans for wireless to ADSL, as I know this will not happen, but even 1/4 or 1/5 the quota at a similar price would be a good start. For example provide 40GB or 50GB for $89.95 (before discounts), provide 20GB for $69.95 (before discounts, provide 3GB for $39.95 (before discounts) and then wireless users can start to enjoy the internet as ADSL and Cable users do, not completely - but a step closer.'

There endeth the letter from the anonymous Whirlpool member that wanted to get his views across to us - and undoubtedly to Telstra.

Clearly Telstra will have issues on its network if wireless broadband users suddenly get much higher download limits than they currently enjoy, but with the world moving to ever greater data density, increases at affordable prices of current download limits is an inevitability.

After all, I remember when Telstra first started offering a 10GB plan for BigPond wireless at all, but fast forward to mid-2010, and it's no longer enough, especially when you have a family and there are no ADSL or cable services in the area to choose from.

In one sense it's a great big plus for the NBN, which looks set to be canned by the Liberal Party should it win Federal office in Australia.

While canning the plan would save Australians tens of billions of dollars, the reality is that Australia needs a national broadband network of some kind as quickly as possible.

The current Labor Federal Government has the NBN build-out still up to 8 years away, so if the Liberal Party wins, I expect them NOT to stop the NBN, but find ways, using the very latest technologies, of building it much faster - and much cheaper.

So'¦ Telstra'¦ the wireless pricing ball is in your court. Will you swat it aside and continue sucking blood out of people's wallets as you wait for Ericsson to complete Vodafone's network, or is there a secret plan to unleash cheaper wireless broadband pricing onto an unsuspecting and long suffering, massively overcharged Australian public... sometime soon?


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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