A new broadband plan is offering a 3G and ADSL2+ allowance for one fixed monthly price, and will also offer a novel "reserve tank" of gigabytes.
If you travel regularly for work or study, you'll probably have considered getting a mobile internet connection. However, that extra monthly cost hurts on top of the existing home ADSL2+ or cable internet connection, home phone and mobile phone bills.
To date, telcos haven't been willing to offer a 3G broadband service as part of the same plan as the home broadband, instead trying to extract a separate hunk of cash for the 'additional' 3G service -- even though ISPs have been offering free dialup with broadband accounts for years.
Brisbane based telco Gotalk plans to turn that on its head. Rather than forcing customers to take multiple products with different service contracts, Gotalk will be offering customers the opportunity to purchase an internet contract wth a data allowance that can be used with a USB dongle and ADSL service.
Of course, being a telco product, it's not quite as simple as we'd like. GoTalk Group Manager Pauline Sabin describes the slightly convoluted way it will work:
Customers will be able to buy a fixed amount of bandwidth — let's say it's a 10GB bucket. When customers are using their allowance at home over ADSL the 10GB bucket will empty at a particular rate. When they're on 3G with a notebook, the 10GB bucket will empty faster.
The reason the 3G data isn't a 1:1 usage ratio is because Gotalk is on-selling the 3G service from a telco, and it costs more to provide than the ADSL data.
Steve Picton, the CEO of Gotalk, explained "It's really differential rating. The trick is to make the service available anywhere at any time on any device. It's convenience that people are fundamentally driven to. It gives customers the choice on how to use their overall allowance".
Gotalk's Sabin also told APC about a new service for all existing customers at no extra cost -- a "reserve tank" of gigs that lets people keep downloading at full speed when they'd otherwise have been slowed to dialup speed for exceeding their allowance.
Sabin said she had the idea after listening to a friend complain about how her children ran the monthly download allowance down every month, leaving the net connection running at a snail's pace for mum and dad. Thus the "reserve tank" idea was born.
A fixed portion of the monthly allowance, planned to be 20%, will be set aside and can only be unlocked by the account holder. Ms Sabin says that Gotalk is looking at offering options to un-shape the account for "30 minutes, 24 hours or some other options". That 20% would be "ring-fenced" she says. Mr Picton likened it to "the reserve tank of a four-wheel drive. The fuel gauge may say empty but you know that there's still some more fuel there". This won't be an extra service — it will be made part of Gotalk's standard product offering at no extra cost.
Internode floated this idea some time back but it wasn't popular with customers, who felt that getting access to their full allowance might inconvenience them. GoTalk's different target market and approach of providing more flexibility on how the additional allowance is used may make the difference.
If the monthly allowance, even after using the "reserve tank" still isn't enough, customers will be able top up their monthly allowance by purchasing one-off blocks of data to get them through to the end of the billing period. Gotalk told APC that the extra data blocks would be reasonably priced rather than costing the extortionate amounts used for 'excess data' by some telcos and ISPs.
Gotalk is also now reselling Telstra ADSL2+, giving access for 90% of Australians to Gotalk ADSL2+ services. Picton says "The combination of the quality and reach of the Telstra broadband network and Gotalk's innovation and low cost delivery offers the very best consumer proposition to the widest possible audience".
In other words, the "reserve tank" and combined mobile and fixed internet access isn't just for folks in the big cities — it will be widely available -- though at a cost. He expands to say that "the only real competitor in many areas will be Bigpond" (though we should add: or other ISPs reselling Telstra). Plans will start at $40 per month for 10GB with more plans to be announced at Gotalk's site on 2 March 2009.
All of these services -- the "reserve tank", combined mobile and fixed internet access and the ability to purchase extra data blocks, and new network QoS for Gotalk's VoIP service, will be built into plans without customers having to choose one option or the other.
Gotalk also revealed that although their call centre is based in the Philippines, it is wholly owned by Gotalk and not a separately owned outsourced service provider. It also said that for those concerned with using a smaller service provider, Gotalk has three times as much cash than debt and has been profitable for the last four years.