It seems a free modem is no longer enough to entice people to sign up for broadband. Optus is the first telco to offer $0 laptops to customers who sign up for two years of wireless or DSL broadband.
It seems that a free modem isn't enough to tempt people to sign up for broadband these days.
Optus is the first telco to start selling laptops like mobile phones, at $0 upfront, along with 24 month contracts for wireless broadband or DSL.
It's not quite as appealing as the heavily subsidised handset deals where the network literally pays the cost of your mobile phone and recoups the cost through your call rates, though.
Optus is still charging the full cost of the laptop, but slicing up into 24 payments (from $49.95 to $139.95 per month depending on model), which is then added to the cost of the broadband plan chosen.
What's unique about the deal is that customers won't have to enter into a contract with a finance company or sign up for some dodgy credit card with a 27% interest rate. Instead, Optus will bill the laptops via customers' existing mobile or internet accounts.
And, Optus points out, if you have the appropriate "Rewards" bundle of home / mobile or pay TV / internet with them and you're prepared to go with a very low usage broadband plan, you can get a laptop with broadband bundled into a fee of $69.90 per month.
What's interesting, though, is the wide variance between how much Optus is charging compared to what HP says the official RRP for the units are.
For example, Optus' deal on the Compaq Presario v6002AU is pretty good. The RRP from HP is $2199, and over the 24 month period, Optus sells it for $2158.80 -- a saving of $40.20. Of course, that's not to say you couldn't get it for less in other shops, but considering there are no interest payments or finance company hassles, you're paying for convenience.
(The Presario v6002AU, incidentally, is a pretty decent laptop, sporting AMD Turion 64 X2 1.6GHz, 1GB RAM, 100GB HD, 15.4" widescreen, DVD+-RW-DL, Geforce Go 6150, 2 year courier pickup/return warranty and XP Pro.)
But at the other end of the spectrum, Optus is charging a whopping $1359.80 on top of the RRP for the HP Compaq NX6320. The RRP stated by HP for this is $1999, and over the 24 month period with Optus, you'll pay $3358.80.
The difference with the laptops that Optus is charging extra for seems to be the inclusion of a 3 year onsite extended warranty and Microsoft Office 2003 basic.
See a comparison of all the models on offer - HP's price vs. Optus' price [24KB PDF]
We asked Optus some questions about the deal and got the following responses:
APC: Is there any process for customers to switch from DSL to Wireless Connect within the 24mth term if they wanted to?
OPTUS: The customer could take Wireless Connect as well as separate product, however if they wanted to stop their DSL and start Optus Wireless Connect instead, this would involve a cancellation and starting a new plan. You cannot transfer the notebook between DSL and Optus Wireless Connect or vice-versa, however you can transfer the notebook from DSL to Cable or vice-versa and stay on the same contract.
APC: The fine print on the back of the retail brochure [196KB PDF] is a bit confusing. At the end it says "included in this offer is 36 months on site warranty" however, it also talks about 12 month and 24 month courier pickup and return for certain models. Can you clarify which models the 36 month on site offer applies to?
OPTUS: The 36 months on-site warranty is on the Small Business range [240KB PDF]. On the Consumer range, the entry level comes with a warranty enhancement to 1yr courier pick-up and return HP Care pack (vs 1 year return to base as standard), and the V3020 and V6002 both come with a 2 year HP courier pick-up and return care pack vs the 1yr return to base warranty as standard.
APC: When Optus Wireless Connect was launched, we confirmed with Optus that it was included in Optus' coverage guarantee... e.g. if a customer can't get coverage they could return the product for a full refund. How does the notebook + wireless broadband deal fit into that guarantee?
OPTUS: The coverage satisfaction guarantee extends to cover this bundle
APC: Will the notebooks come with the Optus Wireless Connect software preinstalled, so all they have to do is slot in the wireless card? (Obviously, for customers who take the OWC deal.)
OPTUS: Customers will simply install the CD, then connect the modem when requested.
APC: The brochure mentions that combining a home phone and/or mobile phone with the deal provides extra benefits. Are these just the regular Optus Rewards, or something else?
OPTUS: Yes, Customers will continue to receive ‘yes’ Rewards if they bundle their broadband (DSL / Cable) with their Home phone or eligible Mobile. That is a $10 discount on the standalone monthly price and “Yes Data”.
Example: If you bundle the “Easy Start” $29.95 Broadband plan with your home phone or eligible mobile the broadband price will become $19.95/mth and then when you add a V2656 $49.95/month notebook, you would pay $69.90 /month for both your notebook and broadband, over 24 months (+ cost of home phone or mobile service).
The offer is of course open to existing broadband (fixed and wireless) customers and standalone broadband customers, I.e. plans would start at $79.90 /month over 24 months for both Broadband (fixed or wireless) and the V2656 notebook
APC: It's interesting that you're not using a financing company for this and simply tacking the laptop monthly fee onto customers' monthly bills. What sort of credit checks will you run on customers to see if they're a good risk for this deal?
OPTUS: For all new customers and existing customers who have had an account for less than six months, we will conduct a credit check. However if a customer has already been with Optus for more than six months we will simply review their past payment history.