Tuesday, 17 November 2020 19:59

TPG's 'felix' sets the cat amongst the telco pigeons with an endless $35 voice, text and ‘up to’ 5Mbps speed offer

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The introduction of felix may well mark when the endless wireless data revolution truly arrived at last, with competition whipping up faster “speed caps” at affordable price points, as expected and predicted, where we’re heading to an eventual world of wireless data ubiquity all around us, from 4G, 5G, 5.5G, WiFi 6, various high speed satellite broadband networks and eventual 6G and faster connections.

felix. It’s TPG Telecom’s new, digital, eco-friendly, certified carbon-neutral MVNO challenger, offering a single $35 plan with “up to 5Mbps” 4G speeds and unlimited national calls and text, making endless speed-capped, worry-free wireless data speeds ever faster and available at ever more affordable prices.

It also bills itself as “Australia’s first telco brand powered by 100% renewable electricity” and an “online-only telco” that “stands out through its sustainability credentials and ease of use”. It is also the newest addition to “TPG Telecom’s portfolio of telco brands including Vodafone, TPG and iiNet”.

Although the speed is “up to 5Mbps” and is subject to the usual fluctuations in network demand, where speeds could be slowed in peak times, and tethering multiple devices to your phone’s hotspot that you’re actively using will slow things down, as felix explains in great detail in what its “up to 5Mbps speeds” claim means in the real world in its “Data Speed Guide” page. However, whichever way you look at it, felix’s new plan is a giant new milestone in the market for price, value and endless data on a great network.

For many people, this will either be a just fast enough cheap connection for a single user, or the perfect plan to switch over to or get a new account for and to keep a device connected with, just for the endless data benefits, even if capped at up to 5Mbps.

Now, we don’t have a telco yet offering a constantly reliable true 1.5Mbps, 2Mbps, 5Mbps, 25Mbps or faster absolute minimum download speeds rather than only “up to” promises on 4G or 5G mobile networks in Australia.

However, this will presumably come too, as seen with Optus which already offers a minimum 50mbps download speed on its Optus 5G Home Broadband network.

1.5Mbps isn't fast enough anymore, and never really was 

Those slower 1.5Mbps speed capped plans from 2018 were and still are enough to watch video in SD, and surf the web, make VoIP calls and do plenty of things online, but the modern phone, an optionally tethered computer and/or tablet, or even just trying to watch a Netflix show at the best quality up to 1.5Mbps can deliver when you’ve gone over your cap, and you can max out that 1.5Mbps connection instantly.

I asked Telstra’s Andy Penn during the Telstra Vantage media event about when Telstra would increase its capped speeds given Vodafone has increased its speed caps to 2Mbps, 10Mbps and 25Mbps, and he noted that I was the only one asking about this as people normally wanted to know abouw the fastest speeds, but given Vodafone’s speed increases, all of which newly beat Telstra, it was a natural question - and if people want speed, they want it everywhere - even at the 1.Mbps end of the equation they wish was doubled, increased to 5Mbps, somewhere in between, or more!

Andy Penn said in the briefing that he’d get back to me - and while a response is yet to come, it might end up being through an announcements that one of Telstra’s own brands like Belong or close partners like Boost is going to offer a similar deal with similar speeds on Telstra’s network, but probably at a higher price point, although you never know - Telstra might just announce its 1.5Mbps speeds are now 3, 4, 5Mbps or better, or for the higher tier plans, but we’ll have to wait and see on that.

In 2020, and as we head into 2021 more connected and online than ever before thanks to the massive acceleration and change caused by the pandemic, the need for speed is indeed not a sign of greed, but of simply reality as our devices, businesses, families and lives generate ever larger amounts of data every year.

Being constantly online from virtually anywhere has been our digital creed for years now anyway, but with ever faster endless wireless speed capped data now freed for end-users taking up these mobile plans, this should plant the seed that your wallet will no longer bleed from a telco having a feed if you used your mobile data as freely as you do in the home and office, as was the case over the last two decades, until 2018 and then now.

The trend to ever faster unlimited mobile data, even at ever faster speed caps, is unstoppable

It’s no great feat of prognostication to predict this change, as you’d expect this would eventually happen. I wondered back on July 24, 2018, in an article entitled: “Which telco will be first with an unlimited 1.5Mbps plan for under $40?”, with the natural request for even faster speeds to come in at that price point if possible!

TPG in the last stage of its pre-Vodafone merger did propose in May 2018 an unlimited 1Mbps service, with 1 gigabyte per day at full speed, and then 1Mbps thereafter, but with Huawei banned from supplying 5G equipment, and TPG working with Vodafone to get a merger approved, which wasn't yet the case at the time, and it got dropped - but felix is certainly a very fitting and modern replacement. 

So, just over two years later, it has finally happened. And with felix $5 cheaper than my originally stipulated $40 price point, it's 5Mbps of unlimited greatness.

With Vodafone's own plan of up to 10Mbps speed-capped speeds, double that of felix's 5Mbps, for for just $10 more - which also comes with that 100GB full speed chunk you use up first, and we can all clearly see how much has changed since 2018 - and from the 4GB per month launch offer from Amaysim a decade ago.

Even Telstra offers 180GB of full-speed data on its $65 plan competing at its own level, and given it is able and presumably likely to surprise with a future increase in the current "up to" 1.5Mbps "peace of mind data speed cap" to at least 3Mbps, 4, 5 or faster. And there are lots of great deals out there, but felix is a clear and obvious gamechanger that I'm sure we'll see emulated and competed with. 

So, in 2020, 4G networks are finally being used to their full potential, 5G networks have finally begun expanding ever faster and already taking some of the load off 4G networks and helping them run even more efficiently for everyone else still on 4G devices or non 5G-coverage areas in the meantime, new 4G and 5G handsets are launching constantly, with even 6G events and 6G consortiums already holding events and having meetings!

It's impossible to miss just how far and fast the market has come in the last two years, with 2020 representing years of change in just months.

Ultimately, the trend to unlimited mobile is as unstoppable as it was with fixed connections.

And, while Telstra, Optus and MVNO competitors like Circles.Life, Boost, Kogan and others will be spurred to giddy up on some renewed competition, felix will surely be the cat who is getting the churn of plenty of new customer cream right now, as many MVNO users are well used to moving to great new deals when they become available.

When others match or better felix’s plans, the usual churn amongst providers will continue as it always does, but living an effectively wireless-first lifestyle has been something we’ve all done since the days of Wi-Fi and is now possible at an ever affordable price on a constantly, almost connected anywhere in populated Australia.

Some have done it for even longer, with 33.6kbps capability on analog mobile phones, through to 9.6k on the first GSM digital phones, through to GPRS, EDGE, 3G, 3.5G, WiMax, 4G, 4.5G and now 5G, all at much more expensive prices, which is a journey I’ve personally been on since 1995 along with many others along the way, while taking advantage of plenty of wired networks with fast Wi-Fi!

So, with unlimited “fast enough” data, which will only increase in speed in the future, you finally start feeling the same freedom you did when voice and text messages were the first thing to go unlimited about a decade ago, if not longer. In addition to home broadband without download limits, of course.

I remember Amaysim’s groundbreaking $40 monthly plan for unlimited national calls and text and a then-huge 4GB of mobile data, and while I’m sure there were all kinds of unlimited voice and text deals by then, it was already a story about how much data you were getting, with smartphones, operating systems, apps and users of a decade ago nowhere near as data hungry as everything is, and we all are, today!

felix: delivering corporate social responsibility and eco-cred on steroids

Beyond this momentous development comes a range of things a modern, digital-only, low-cost MVNO can offer in 2020 and beyond, and that’s a strong sense of corporate responsibility and taking actions that make a difference, like the goal to plant one million trees, and being run by 100% renewable electricity, along with the endless data speed upgrade.

With the company stating it “cares for our planet by planting a tree for every customer”, felix GM of Business Development, Paul Tierney said: “felix’s single plan, app-first approach is part of our goal to deliver a digital mobile brand that starts conversations - through simplicity, outstanding customer experience and by having a positive impact on our planet.

“We are giving customers the option of a mobile plan that not only offers great value but also helps to reduce their carbon footprint, through our commitments to renewable electricity and reforestation initiatives with the goal to plant one million trees.”

The company also states it is “also carbon-neutral certified under the Climate Active initiative and has partnered with One Tree Planted to plant a tree for every active customer, every month they’re with felix”.

Beth Dalgleish, Regional Director AUS & APAC at One Tree Planted said: “We are extremely excited to welcome felix as one of our partners. Having an essential service provider get on board to help achieve our ambitious goals is a fantastic opportunity. We are looking forward to kicking off the partnership with a local bushfire recovery project.”

felix ends with the reminder that “reducing one’s carbon footprint is now as simple as switching mobile providers. Signing up to felix is quick and easy and new customers can choose to keep their number or get a new one.

“Australians can try the new plan by taking advantage of the felix 7 day happiness guarantee. People who are keen to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint can now switch to felix at felixmobile.com.au”.

This is a great move, and I wonder how long it will be before we see even more real competition at the speed capped end of the market, which would benefit everyone, while adding to the burdens our ever growing mobile networks experience in supporting all those users across Australia.

Who will be the first to respond, and when? Affordable, high speed wireless ubiquity is inevitable, it just takes a while to get there, but we’ve never been further down the path to this goal that right now, with the best still yet to come!

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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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