Telstra has done a rare about-face on its poor-value iPhone plans, which allowed arch-rival Optus, with its far better plans, sign up customers by the thousand.
Telstra has boosted data allowances on its iPhone plans, signalling that it acknowledges it got its pricing very, very wrong with its original plans.
The iPhone 3G plans Telstra launched offered as little as 5MB of data -- an amount that could be used up in just 22 seconds of full-speed usage an iPhone. The excess fees then ran at an extraordinary $1 per megabyte, meaning a naive iPhone user could run up a bill of hundreds, or even thousands of dollars in a month.
Telstra says it is upping the megabytes included. Plans that came with 20MB of data will now come with 150MB, and plans that came with 80MB will now get 300Mb.
What that actually means to the total monthly price of an iPhone plan is difficult to figure out (we've asked Telstra for the revised list of iPhone plans and will update the article as soon as they arrive). Telstra's iPhone plans are confusingly made up of a data plan and a voice plan put together. Today's announcement raises the $10 data plan from a 20MB limit to a 150MB limit, and the $29 data plan from 80MB to 300MB.
However, looking at the "packaging options" section of Telstra's iPhone 3G page casts some light. For example, if you take a $30 iPhone plan and add a $29 data plan, creating a $59 monthly plan, you will now get 300MB of data rather than a piddling 80MB.
Likewise, you could take a $30 iPhone plan, add a $10 data plan, for a combined $40 monthly fee and have 150MB usage, which (based on our testing of the iPhone) would actually be enough for light usage of the phone throughout the month -- email, web and a small amount of maps. Certainly no YouTube or other streaming media.
The excess usage rates have been reduced, too, which is a positive step for Telstra. On the $10 plan, they are down to 50c per MB, and on the $29 plan, they are down to 25c per MB, meaning another 100MB would only cost $25 more, which is certainly a fairer excess usage fee.
More Telstra price drops must be coming...
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Telstra will be repricing its other data plans soon too -- and hopefully will revamp its iPhone plans more thoroughly than just fiddling with data pricing at the lower levels.
Why is this so obvious? Because Telstra is now offering a $29 data plan with 300MB of data, and a $59 data plan with only 200MB of data. Evidently the plans above the $29 pricepoint are going to need to be revised.
But wait... Telstra capped plans on iPhone!
The other bone of contention for people wanting to buy an iPhone from Telstra is that you can't get capped plans, such as a $49 voice plan that offers $250 worth of calls. For example, Telstra's "$59 iPhone plan" offers only $25 worth of calls, $5 worth of data at casual browsing rates and the $29 data plan, which now provides 300MB of usage.
Optus' market-leading plan, in comparison, offers $350 worth of calls and 500MB of data -- clearly better value than Telstra's plan.
Telstra does offer free WiFi at any of its hotspots with the iPhone, which includes CBD-wide Sydney and Melbourne coverage, and the telco giant is also keen to point out that people can get free calls on their iPhone plan. For example, "free 24/7" gives you free three minute calls to any one Telstra number 24 hours a day; "my hour" gives you 20 minute free calls up to 1,860 minutes a month for a one hour period each day; "per second saver" bills in one second blocks rather than 30 second blocks so you don't waste your credit as quickly, "20 for 10 night" gives you 10 minute calls to mobiles on any network from 8pm to 7am, and so on.
But what if you really just want a capped plan, and don't want to have to jump through Telstra's hoops to get 'free' calls?
It turns out you can get a Telstra iPhone on a capped plan -- it's just that Telstra doesn't promote it. Telstra spokesman Peter Taylor confirmed to APC that if you buy the phone outright from Telstra ($726 for 8GB or $846 for 16GB) you can have your choice of capped plan and data plan combo. So, for example, you could take the $49 capped voice plan with $250 worth of calls, and the $29 data plan with 300MB of data and be paying $78 per month total.
Sure, that's still a long way off the value of Optus, but it's tolerable if you really want the coverage of Next G. It compares well to a Blackberry plan, for example, which is $79 on Optus with $300 worth of calls and unlimited Blackberry data (which, in real terms, amounts to 10 - 15MB usage per month.)
If you take a capped plan on Telstra, you don't get the free access to Telstra WiFi hotspots with the iPhone (though some might ask where the real value in hotspot access is anyway, given the point of the iPhone is always-on internet connectivity through HSDPA 3G.)