iPhone: Should I dump Optus for Telstra?

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?


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