iPhone: Should I dump Optus for Telstra?

iPhone: Should I dump Optus for Telstra?

Summary: Is it finally time to ditch Optus' buggy network and go back to the dark side? Is it time to take my iPhone to Telstra's Next G and hang my head in shame?


news editor
Renai LeMay

commentary There's only so much that a mere ordinary human can take when it comes to poorly performing technology.

I was a happy camper when I first bought my shiny new iPhone 3G handset from Optus this time last year, lining up for three hours on a Sunday morning outside Apple's flagship Sydney store to do so (although it wasn't too painful, I had my survival rations consisting of McDonalds' and a Nintendo DS).

At the time, I shrugged off survey results from Wired that claimed that iPhone 3G users on Optus' network had the slowest connection in Australia, despite the fact that this also made them some of the worst in the world.

After all, I thought, it couldn't be that bad. With Wi-Fi networks at home and at work, the only time I would really need to pull down a lot of data on my iPhone's connection would be on the bus, or if I were out with friends and needing to pull up a map to the nearest watering hole.

I even discounted the sporadic complaints from readers that ZDNet.com.au received about the poor performance suffered on Optus' 3G mobile network, and the third-party reports from other publications.

How wrong I was.

Over the past six months, I come to regard many geographical areas in my daily life as blackspots where it is simply impossible to use Optus' network to browse the web on my iPhone, or for any other purpose requiring mobile data usage.

One of these blackspots is right outside my workplace; in the middle of Sydney's Central Business District. It extends for about a block towards Hyde Park.

I'm dreaming of a world where my iPhone can always access the internet, it never drops out on me when I'm calling someone

There are several others located conveniently on my bus route to work. Every day it's the same syndrome ... I am happily using the excellent mobile version of Google Reader to catch up with my RSS feeds on the bus, until I hit the same blackspot each day. Then I face a couple of minutes' worth of interruption, followed by a reliable connection for the same time, then back to another blackspot.

In my opinion, the problems are steadily worsening; with the network dropping to a level in some spots where it's impossible even to make normal phone calls. "Your network connection was lost," my iPhone informs me grimly. "What the hell? I'm in the most populated area of Australia!" I think.

For this same six-month period, a little birdy has been quietly but insistently whispering in my ear. "Faster. Simpler. Everywhere you need it," it whispers. "Switch to Telstra Next G."

The ads are everywhere, and the truth is, they're starting to get to me. I'm dreaming of a world where my iPhone can always access the internet, it never drops out on me when I'm calling someone, and everyone is happy, with Care Bears floating everywhere singing songs about happy fluffy clouds and rainbows.

However, ZDNet.com.au and many others have pointed out a few times over the past year that it simply costs more to use your iPhone on Telstra's Next G network.

Then, too, there are other fear factors to choosing Telstra. Many people have suffered at the hands of customer service representatives working for Australia's former monopoly telco. I particularly remember being shuffled around between several departments for each enquiry I put in.

Darth Vader

(Credit: LucasArts)

Furthermore, there's the stigma that comes with being a Telstra customer. You know what I mean. You're at a party and someone asks you what network you're on. If you say "Telstra", they either assume you're not tech-savvy enough to know there are other options out there, or that rich Mummy and Daddy are paying for your sky-high bill.

I'm not sure if I'm willing to put myself through the decline in geek social stature that would come with a Telstra switch.

But, like Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, even Telstra can recant and turn back to the good side of the force if it chooses. There are encouraging signs emanating from the telco that its new chief David Thodey is driving just such a change in its approach.

Maybe it's time to go back to the dark side, just for a little bit. I probably won't get tainted. Maybe I'll even like it.

What network is your iPhone on? How is it performing?

Topics: Apple, iPhone, Mobility, Telcos, Optus, Telstra

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  • Agree

    Oh How you are right.

    I have a dozen black spots I know where I will get drop outs, I know where to place my phone so I get ONE bar.

    When in Sydney, staying on Pitt st, in the CBD, and on the phone, I am constantly breaking up.. IN THE CBD OF SYDNEY!! I get better (mostly) reception at home

    I had a 2nd iPhone 3G. Put a telstra sim in it, next to mine, and it just got 100% Reception everywhere my Optus did

    And the latency, yes, it's horrid.

    I too think one day I might need to get
  • Telstra prepaid

    I have an iPhone 3GS on Telstra prepaid. Often it will give the impression of having no data coverage (has 3G but times-out) until you toggle the Airplane mode on / off. Make sure you wait for the carrier setting below Airplane mode to disappear before toggling back to off - it takes about 2-3 seconds.

    If you're getting no 3G reception at all then yes, it's time to ditch the network. I haven't found a place yet that I can't get at least some NextG co-operation. I was previously with Virgin (Optus) and that sucked. A lot.

    Considering that the Prepaid voice & sms rewards roll over indefinitely, I think Telstra's prepaid is much better value than their post-paid. You use all your credit on data plus packs & the credit bonuses for calls. Your mileage may vary, depending on usage
  • Vodafone is just as bad

    I can be standing with my Vodafone SIM and have next to no signal in the CBD - not enough for making a phone call.

    Use my Telstra SIM... ta da! works perfectly.

    Optus and Vodafone SERIOUSLY have to fix their coverage problems!!!
  • Telstra

    Telstra do charge a small fortune and tethering is an issue. However I guess I'd rather pay the extra for a decent service than get a dodgy one cheaply.
    Telstra could really clean up with iPhone customers if they offered a slightly more competitive package and let people tether for a reasonable fee too.
  • OPTUS are owned by SINGTEL

    Buy Australian. Stick with Telstra!

    NextG is best!
  • No don't give into the Dark Side (telstra)

    Don't you remember how bad The Empires (Telstras) call centers are! (Wookies are great sentient race and all I just have not idea what they are saying).

    I think I would rather wait until Episode Four and join the Rebellion (NBN) or return to the outer rim (Three).
  • Ditched Virgin (Optus) for Three

    After being with Virgin since just Feb with my iPhone, I have finally ditched my phone servcie with Virgin, sold my 3GiPhone on Ebay and purchased a new 3GS via 3.

    How happy am I.

    Optus' network unfortunately stinks. The problem I believe is due to the fact they are madly building their 900-ghost-network (which Apple sadly didn't put a radio in for in the new 3GS) to the neglect of the 2100 network.

    There is a bug on the Optus network too where you only get speeds of 112 - 118kb until you reboot. I saw this on 9 handsets on the Optus network and reported it to as many people at Virgin I could. Denial, unbelief and no compassion followed. So I followed that up by returning the favour and pulling my custom.

    Hello 3, great to see you again and even better, it uses the NextG network in the country - albeit not the best for data (due to the costs) but brilliant for calls and SMS.

    The great 3 network, the brilliant NextG network all at 3's prices.. I'm sold.
  • Telstra is a Media Company

    Telstra owns Foxtel & has rights to NRL/AFL...so depends what your into. Basically there is mopre content with Telstra. At the end of that day the BOTTOM LINE IS CONTENT!
  • Cant agree more

    Have the same problems! Work in Melbourn's CBD and my office area as well as my home (!) are both black holes...
  • Not "Everywhere you need it"...

    Where are you seeing "Faster. Simpler. Everywhere you need it"? Telstra got in a lot of trouble for that line because although Next G covers 99% of the population and approx. 2 million square kms, it is not "everywhere". Over a year ago Telstra removed it from all their advertising (but a quick google shows it still lingers). Their current line is "Australia's Largest and Fastest National Mobile network"
  • Stigma...schmigma

    I was one of those geeks that thought if you went with Telstra you just didn't know enough to do any homework.

    Then I ended up with Telstra on a work phone...and was instantly converted and moved my wife off Optus onto Telstra - if geeks pay you out...they're obviously not tech savvy enough to understand how much better NextG and its free to browse content really is.
  • Dump Optus for Telstra

    Dump them, I did, I even worked for them at one stage!. You have 2 choices, pay a premium and get great service, or stay where you are. I still have mates on Optus and they lament regarding coverage and speed. Put simply you get what you pay for. BTW, you will be charged around $120 to get the handset released from Optus.
  • You pay for what you get !

    Its the old saying you pay for what you get. Sure you could pay peanuts for Optus or Vodafone but you get a monkey made network in return. People need to shake off the old opinion that Telstra = bad. This is a new world for Telstra - one very far away from the old Govt led mentality and one that now is worlds best practice in mobility!
  • Optus blackspot

    Martin Place Sydney, yep, unbelieveable.

    GSM just doesn't cut it anymore, sorry
    Optus - FAIL
  • A little secret - no coverage ast the Optus HQ either

    Standing out on the ring road around the Optus HQ in North Ryde you will often not be able to get 3G internet on the iPhone. It's actually one of the worst 3G blackspots in North Ryde. How ironic.
  • Yes you pay but what do you get?

    I live 25Km from the CBD of Melbourne. Hilly suburban fringe area. Next G coverage is very patchy in the valley. With 4 NextG mobiles in the house, we all find our selves standing by the window or on the front deck just to make or receive a call. Telstra's answer... We need external antennas.
  • I swith from Telstra to Optus

    Telstra service is why I switch.
  • Go to 3

    I use a Nokia E71, I would strongly recommend 3 as an excellent alternative. Web browsing and data transfer are great. Using a phone such as the 3GS which will roam across to Telstra you will be very happy.

    Was with Optus and was dubious about 3 but I have had nothing but great experience with 3 and love the online account management.
  • You switched from Telstra to Optus ?

    You've obviously lost your marbles !
  • I am simply stunned by the comments about Optus

    I have been with 3 for two years and recently got my "parole" after the contract ended.

    I immediately went back to Optus (not Virgin as I beleive virgin uses a "hobbled" connection to the Optus network) and got an iPhone 3Gs and I feel so free I do not beleive it. The service actually works, I have data coverage in far more places than I ever did with 3 for two long years and I have no complaints at all.

    It is so good to not have constant call drop outs and to have data access all the time.

    Telstra Next G must be pretty good if it is that much better than Optus.