Optus has hiked the prices of its prepaid wireless broadband service -- up to double the price on some plans -- just weeks after launching the service.
The number two telco will now charge $30 for a 1GB recharge, where it previously offered 2GB for the same price. The $40 will now offer 2GB rather than 3GB; $50 is 3GB rather than 5GB; $70 is 4GB rather than 6GB, and $100 is 6GB rather than 9GB.
The price rises range from 33% to 100% depending on the recharge value.
The service was already controversial -- we noted on its launch that Optus has a nasty sting in the tail built into the plans: charging in 10MB blocks rather than the 1KB blocks used by every other internet service provider.
The new pricing brings Optus in line with Telstra's prepaid Next G wireless broadband service at the top end of the plans, with both networks offering 6GB for $100 (though Telstra has some catches of its own).
Optus is still better value at the low-end of the plans -- $30 only buys 150MB on Telstra compared to Optus' 1GB. However, users at the broadband discussion forum Whirlpool noted that Optus' charging in 10MB blocks compared to Telstra's precise per-KB charging meant its plans looked better than they really were. "In effect, Optus will actually cost more than Telstra come November due to its policy of charging in 10Mb blocks. Telstra charges in 1Kb blocks," said user "cable99".
"Why on earth would customers pay Telstra-style prices to Optus for a vastly inferior "construction in progress" service? What ARE Optus thinking? This all looks and feels like a poorly researched, botched product release to me," the user continued.
Optus has come under heavy pressure over the poor performance of its 3G network. APC's own testing in the October 2008 issue showed that Optus was prone to packet loss and latency of up to one second -- by far the slowest-performing network of the four competitors.
Users at the broadband discussion forum Whirlpool were angry with Optus over the changes, agreeing that Optus' poor network quality made the increased prices even worse value.
"I reckon they've had a big shock, either from the poor performance of their network or the current financial circus. Now they're jerking around like an amputated limb, haemorrhaging customers and clutching around for something to stop the bleeding.," said one user, "jenkinsr".
Some users concluded that the price increases were a crisis-management technique at the company to throttle back network usage in the face of customer anger over slowness and unreliability.
"Maybe their technical people are fighting back. Their marketing people keep coming up with new plans and services that Optus is not capable of delivering with any degree of quality. When they dropped the Wireless Fusion product it was an admission that they were offering something that they couldn't deliver. So, by putting the prices up maybe they are hoping to decrease the strain on their network," said user "zaxapod".
You can view the full detail of Optus' price hikes for prepaid wireless broadband here -- effective from 24th November.
Optus also announced that from 1 November, all prepaid customers using their mobile for internet access will now pay in 60KB usage blocks rather than being charged per KB, at a rate of $1.32 per 60KB or part thereof. The only exception is iPhone customers.
Optus' explanation for the price rises was that the prices it had been offering were "introductory" and that the new prices offer 15% bonus value for people who recharge online (though this is offset against the large drops in value.)