Customers have a range of options if they're unhappy with Telstra's prepaid mobile international call price hikes, including switching to Voice over IP (VoIP) services, according to the government.
Telstra has announced that, from 2 August, it will change how much it costs to call people overseas from their prepaid mobile, with the price going up in many instances. Calls to New Zealand have raised the most ire on the broadband enthusiast website Whirlpool, with the cost of calls going from 66 cents per 30-second block to $3.49 per one-minute block. Calls to the United States went from 33 cents per 30 seconds to 99 cents per minute, while calls to the Solomon Islands went from $1.43 per 30 seconds to a massive $19 per minute.
When queried about the price rises today, Telstra defended its decision.
"This is the first time Telstra has increased its base pre-paid IDD [international direct dial] voice rates in 10 years, and it will see some of our rates are going up, while others are coming down," Telstra told ZDNet Australia, adding that customers using the Pre-Paid Cap+ offer would have bonus credit that can be used for international calls, but others will cop the price rise.
"Customers who are on our Pre-Paid Weekend+ and Cap+ offers will see an increase in their international calling rates; however, the impact will depend on their calling pattern and the countries they call, and they can still use their bonus credit to make these calls. This impacts a small percentage of our overall customer base," Telstra said.
Telstra said that it would be reviewing its product offering, and was looking to release a new pre-paid offer that would discount call rates to commonly called countries.
While the office of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy declined to comment on Telstra's decision to increase prepaid IDD voice rates, stating that it was a commercial decision for the company, it said that Telstra customers could seek out other options if they were unhappy with the price rises.
"There are a number of alternatives available to people wishing to call New Zealand should they not be satisfied with Telstra's pre-paid call charges," Conroy's office said, adding that using VoIP services such as Skype, international calling cards or just seeking out cheaper deals from Telstra's competitors were all options available to unhappy customers.
By comparison, Vodafone offers calls to New Zealand for $2.16 per minute on its Flexi Cap offer, while Optus charges $1.79 or $1.99 per minute with its Turbo Cap prepaid offer, depending on whether the call is to a mobile or a fixed line.
The move comes as Telstra has also shifted call charging from 30-second blocks to one-minute blocks. This was adjusted on post-paid mobile phone plans when the telco announced that it would throttle download speeds for customers who had exceeded their monthly data quota, rather than hitting them with excess usage charges.
The Federal Government launched in April a Trans-Tasman investigation with the New Zealand government, looking at how best to rein in the massive costs associated with calling home while abroad in either of the two countries; however, Telstra's most recent price rise won't be looked at in this review, as the increase isn't for roaming calls.