Tuesday, 24 July 2018 22:56

Which telco will be first with an unlimited 1.5Mbps plan for under $40?

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COMMENT Vodafone has the cheapest unlimited mobile data plan in Australia, offering a set amount of high-speed gigabytes, then capping to 1.5Mbps, but who will be first to do better?

It's official – Vodafone offers the cheapest unlimited mobile data plan at $60 per month for 40GB on a month-to-month basis or 60GB on a 12-month contract, after which you are shaped to 1.5Mbps speeds.

This beats Telstra's 30GB for $69 on a 12-month contract unleashed this week, whereupon 1.5Mbps shaping will occur, with both telcos suggesting you could be slowed further in peak times.

The thing is, I want to know when someone will offer an unlimited plan capped at 1.5Mbps or faster speeds at under $40.

Yes, I know - TPG said back in May it would offer a free unlimited plan with full speeds for the first gigabyte and then capped at 1Mbps thereafter, which is kind of what I am talking about, except TPG's will apparently only be available in a very limited set of suburbs, and starts off at "full speed" before going down to 1Mbps. 

What I want to see is someone challenge that with a 1 or 1.5Mbps or faster speed plan from the start, at a cheap price, without offering any full speed component, to keep things cheap, cheerful and available across a telco's entire Austalia-wide network.

Will it be an MVNO challenger like Kogan Mobile, Amaysim, Catch Mobile, Vaya or even Boost Mobile, which is the MVNO that doesn't consider itself an MVNO but effectively is one anyway?

I pay for a Telstra MX plan on a 12-month contract with 15GB per month for $39, and last month I upgraded my Vodafone plan to the $60 month-to-month plan with 40GB data then capped to 1.5Mbps, as I was going overseas and I wanted this huge amount of data available to me if I wanted to use it for $5 roaming per day. 

I made sure to use all 40GB over the last month very quickly once I was back in Australia, primarily by uploading videos and video interviews I recorded and conducted to YouTube, and then was "stuck" on 1.5Mbps for about 15 days on Vodafone.

Actual download speeds according to Ookla's Speedtest app was slightly above 1.5Mbps, with upload speeds going to around 3Mbps while capped.

Vodafone actually let me download several extra gigabytes of data before they shaped me to 1.5Mbps speeds, and although my plan isn't due to reset until tomorrow, according to the My Vodafone app, the download speeds have already ramped back up to between 10 and 20mbps up and down, which would be much faster were I closer to the CBD than I am as I type this. 

But what was it like being capped at 1.5Mbps?

Well, it was perfectly fine. Browsing was normal, I was able to stream Sky News via the Foxtel app is perfectly clear and non-fuzzy definition – it looked sharp and clear, in fact, it was great! Unlimited streaming of live TV, YouTube and more if I wanted it, wonderfully watchable, even at "just" 1.5Mbps. 

I was able to stream 2GB, ABC and other radio stations without issue.

I used the personal hotspot feature to connect to my Mac, other iPhones and Androids, all at the same time, and didn't have a problem.

Now, I didn't try watching 4K Netflix or download huge files, but while Netflix obviously wouldn't have streamed in 4K, large file downloading would have worked just fine, it just would have been slower than a 10, 20, 50 or faster Mbps connection.

So, the question is, which telco or MVNO will be brave and be first to offer a low cost unlimited data planned capped at 1.5Mbps, with a higher price per month for someone who might want a 5Mbps capped speed plan, or a 12Mbps capped speed plan?

Such a plan, 1.5Mbps unlimited capped speeds, would be a perfect plan for my Mum. She's nowhere near a heavy user, she barely uses the 7GB she has now per month on a Kogan Mobile plan, but she listens to a lot of Apple Music via HomePod at home.

If she had an unlimited data SIM at a cheaper price, she could and would use her phone for data a lot more than she does now.

Also, as time goes by, and as ever closer 5G networks not only start arriving, but start getting built across Australia (and the world), we'll see more and cheaper unlimited data plans on 4G networks at ever faster capped speeds.

The network will have to be able to handle all those faster capped speeds with more users on it, but 5G networks connected to all that fibre backhaul underpinning the NBN and telco's own backhaul networks will have to grow to continue handling it all.

I'd love to see a $40 plan with unlimited data at 1.5mbps speeds, or obviously even cheaper still, with unlimited voice and text in Australia too, of course.

Will it be Kogan? Amaysim? OVO? Boost? Catch Connect? Vaya? Aldi Mobile? Belong? Lebara? Someone else like TPG?

My bet is someone like Kogan, OVO or Amaysim will be first to offer such a plan, if they can only convince their telco partner to let them do it.

I'm sure this will happen. The only question is when, and who will be first to do it, and then how fast will all that MVNO or telco's competitors will rush to copy the plan?

We've already established that unlimited data plans are now available in Australia. Now we're just haggling on price, and if time, true competition and real capitalism teaches us, the price will only go down or you'll get more for your money.

C'mon Kogan... Amaysim... OVO... Boost... Catch... Aldi... someone out there.

Bring forth the unlimited data, voice and text plan for those who have zero interest in downloading huge files from whatever sources these files are downloaded, for the people of all ages who just want everyday browsing but without having to pay $60+ per month to do it.

Will it happen in 2018? Does anyone have the guts to make it happen? Is it affordable though, can MVNOs and their telco partners still make a profit?

Hint, hint, figure it out! People just want the "peace of mind" without having to pay $60+ per month to do it, and while this speed will be too slow for millennials, they aren't the bulk of the market who care about such things. 

We also want this on a month-to-month basis, without 12- or 24-month contracts!

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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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