Vodafone and Optus in mobile broadband war

Vodafone and Optus in mobile broadband war

Summary: Mobile broadband is taking a price dive this Christmas, with Vodafone and Optus trotting out low priced plans with high download quotas. But Telstra says its competitors' networks are too slow and offer limited coverage.

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Vodafone and Optus are offering low-cost mobile broadband contracts with high download limits this Christmas, but Telstra says its competitors' networks are still "too slow" and offer poor coverage.

Vodafone announced a AU$39 per month 5GB (uploads included) mobile broadband plan on a 24-month contract, which Vodafone's data-marketing manager Tim Cowan touts as "five times more value at almost half the price [than competitors]". The plan will only be available until the end of December, leaving little time for indecision.

A Telstra spokesperson criticised the "low cost" offer on the grounds that Vodafone's network is too slow and offers limited coverage. "Telstra's networks are double the speed and double the size of the other networks," the spokesperson told ZDNet Australia.

However Cowan pointed out that consumers need to evaluate the importance of coverage outside metropolitan areas. "The customer's own value equation needs to be 'how many times do I travel outside the city?'," he said.

Vodafone's 3G broadband network uses High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology to deliver speeds between 600kbps and 1.5 Mbps to the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Adelaide and Perth, as well as all the major airports across the country.

Outside of these metropolitan areas, Vodafone mobile Internet operates at slower access and download speeds on Vodafone's GPRS network.

The USB modem and E800 Expresscard -- the user gets either one free with the 24-month deal -- operate currently on the 3.6Mbps network standard, but are capable of operating on the 7.2 Mbps standard, so customers will not need to buy a new device when Vodafone upgrades its 3G network, said Cowan.

The new plan hits "the sweet spot" for consumers, Cowan said, adding that it "ends the traditional view that mobile broadband is the exclusive domain of business customers".

Vodafone has "made allowances" for existing customers. Current Vodafone customers are able move to the new plan while keeping the contract terms of their old plan. There is no cost to move from plans of lower value, but customers on plans of higher value will have to pay a penalty of AU$15 per forfeited month.

Optus has also jumped on the low price mobile broadband bandwagon, offering a 2GB limit for AU$39.99 a month, but only when linked with an Optus mobile or business phone.

Cowan said there are "no hidden catches" such as linking with other services necessary for receiving the Vodafone deal.

The Vodafone deal also has an edge over the Optus one, he said, in that the Optus USB modem, although free, is on a rental arrangement, while the Vodafone USB modem or Expresscard is owned by the user.

The "unique to Vodafone" data optimisation service, available on all Vodafone plans, is also an advantage of Vodafone broadband, Cowan said. The service compresses downloaded data up to a third. If a user downloads a 100KB site, it will only be 66.6KB after being compressed, so the user is able to use less of their download quota.

Optus was unable to comment by publication time on their pricing comparative to Vodafone.

Topics: Telcos, Mobility, Optus, Telstra

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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6 comments
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  • misleading info

    "Vodafone's 3G broadband network uses High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology to deliver speeds between 600kbps and 1.5 Mbps to the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Adelaide and Perth, as well as all the major airports across the country."

    nup, that is the 3g coverage, not the HSDPA coverage...
    anonymous
  • Research

    Might I suggest that you fully research what you are talking about before making a comment? Vodafone's HSDPA network DOES cover the areas mentioned, and not only display's it in coverage maps on the website, but is also available as printed material in stores since July. Granted, the current HSDPA network doesn't completely cover the existing 3G network.
    anonymous
  • Vodafone 3G/HSDPA Coverage

    Maybe off the topic , but often in Sydney so hooked into the 5G 24 month Vodafone offer
    Staying in Coogee, find the speed delivery intermittent, great in the morning, can use Skype to phone home, in the afternoon''s forget it. Is thisoverload in the area? Then this raises the question is the network up to it?
    anonymous
  • "can use Skype to phone home, in the afternoon''s forget it. Is thisoverload in

    No, this is due to the automatic data optimisation that Cowan Speaks about. Skype and the like are not guaranteed for this reason.
    anonymous
  • Behind on the times

    Why is Australia so behind on mobile/land broadband technology??
    anonymous
  • Soul offers better value with its 1GB wireless plan for $19.95 per month

    Hi,
    Apart from Optus & Vodafone there is Three & Soul who also have fantastic wireless 3G broadband plans. Both the players have great deals for the Budget concious customers.

    Although Three customers need to be very careful of their Excess roaming charge if they go out of the 3G coverage zone. Since the charge is very high $1.65 per MB. Check their plans on www.three.com.au

    On the other hand Soul (powered by the Optus network) have launched a wireless plan at just $19.95 for 1GB download & the best part is that there is no roaming charges nationally.
    You can see their plans on www.WirelessInternet.net.au

    One other thing that needs to be kept in mind is that customers should always make sure that they are in 3G coverage zone before signing up to the service. This is essential if they would like to receive good broadband speeds.
    anonymous