Tuesday, 25 June 2019 15:17

Telstra: $15 a month extra for 5G

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Telstra has revealed its new "simpler and more transparent" consumer and small business plans – with some interesting inclusions and exclusions.

It's hard to believe that Telstra used to have 1800 different phone plans for consumers and SMEs, but we'll take the company's word for it.

Now there are just 20, it announced on Tuesday, although strictly speaking there are actually 19 with one more to be revealed "in the next month or so." More on that below.

This winnowing has been achieved a year after the announcement of Telstra's T22 strategy.

There are five mobile plans, ranging from XS (2GB of data) for $40 a month to XL (150GB of data) for $100 a month. Telstra points out that there are now no excess data charges when used in Australia, but did not explain whether that means you have to do without mobile data once you've used your allocation for the month, or if subsequent use is speed restricted.

5G access is only included in the $80 or $100 plans – it involves a $15 surcharge on the others, although a free trial period lasts until 30 June 2020.

Exactly why you'd pay $40 a month when other providers offer unlimited calling and SMS plus a basic amount of data for as little as $10 is left as an exercise for the reader, although it could have something to do with the inclusion of live AFL, NRL and netball streaming. Unfortunately, there's no provision to drop that in favour of a lower price.

It's a similar situation with the mobile broadband (including tablet) plans, which range from XS (5GB for $15) to L (100GB for $75), with 5G access included after the trial period only on the $50 and $75 plans.

There are just three PAYG plans: regular and long life for mobiles, plus one for mobile broadband. Inclusions depend on the recharge amount, varying from $10 for seven days of unlimited calls to specified destinations and 2GB of data, to $300 for 12 months and 150GB (confusingly, the latter is not considered a long-life plan).

Long life plans start at $20 for 45 days with calls at 30c a minute, 30c per SMS and 10c per megabyte, to $50 for 186 days.

The fixed plans may be simplified, but they are still confusing because while you can get a voice-only service (for a whopping $55 a month for consumers or $60 for small businesses), you can't get an internet-only service – you have to pay for voice as well.

Three voice plus internet plans are available to consumers: $60 for 25GB (which is a very small amount of data these days), $75 for 200GB, or $90 for unlimited data.

Small businesses have Hobson's choice: the $100 a month Telstra Business plan with unlimited data for $100 a month.

The 19th plan is specifically for use with the Microsoft eSIM, currently free on a trial basis and offering 30GB of data.

Among the good news is that there is no lock-in with any of these plans. Customers are free to vary their plans from month to month, or even go elsewhere whenever they choose, subject only to paying off any devices purchased on monthly terms.

And if they prefer to receive their bills on paper rather than electronically, Telstra no longer imposes a $2.20 surcharge.

Our guess — perhaps hope would be a better word — is that Telstra's twentieth plan will be for use with eSIM-capable iPhones and Apple Watches.

Telstra chief executive Andy Penn said, "Customers expect to be able to personalise their experiences and only pay for what they want or need."

Assuming they don't want a fixed Internet connection without a phone service, that is...

"They also want to be able to change their mind month-to-month as their individual needs change. I am extremely proud that Telstra now offers customers that flexibility, so they can tailor their plan to suit their lives," he continued.

"This might mean upgrading your mobile plan around school holidays, adding a sport package for footy finals season, adding international data for that overseas holiday or, for our business customers, scaling their plan with the peaks and flows of their business.

"The launch of our new plans coincides with the roll out of the first 5G devices on our network and the ongoing rollout of Telstra's 5G network. There has never been a more exciting time for Australians to consider the role technology has to play in making the most of how we work, live and play. We want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to embrace this new era with more freedom and flexibility across our plans."

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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