Telstra ditches 5G fee for users not on lowest tier plan

Users on Telstra's smallest plan will not have a 5G option under new plans from Wednesday.

The prospect of users having to pay AU$15 a month for 5G access on the Telstra network, first flagged by the telco in May last year, has been ditched, as the telco shook up its plans on Monday.

Telstra currently offers four base plans -- small, medium, large, and extra large -- with all plans other than small getting 5G access.

"Following the conclusion of the 12-month 5G free trial period on 1 July 2020 we have decided not to charge a separate fee for 5G, and will now be including 5G access for customers on our medium plan as well as our top two tier plans," Telstra consumer and small business group executive Michael Ackland said.

This means users on the telco's lowest quota plan are without an option for 5G connectivity, although the AU$10 shift to a medium plan is less than the AU$15 ditched 5G fee.

Among other changes to its plans set to take effect from Wednesday, Telstra said it would provide data cap boosts of up to 30GB for users and increase the price of its base plans by at least AU$5.

"As a result of the extra data, the monthly retail price of most plans will rise by $5 and we will be progressively migrating customers over to the new plans over the next three months by offering them a credit to help offset the increase for the first 12 months if they upgrade before 30 September," Ackland said.

"Eligible customers will be contacted by Telstra about this offer before this date."

Taken together, the small plan will offer 40GB for AU$55 a month, medium will have 80GB for AU$65 a month with 5G access thrown in, large now costs AU$85 for 120GB including 5G, and the extra large plan will see a AU$15 increase to AU$115 for 180GB with 5G connectivity.

Telstra still offers a AU$30 a month post-paid plan with unlimited calls and texts, and 2GB of data that is capped at 1.5Mbps thereafter for customers with a healthcare card.

The telco said its 5G network now has 1,500 sites and customers have downloaded over 600TB of data on 5G devices.

In March, the telco said it was bringing forward AU$500 million of capital expenditure for its network as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In May, the telco announced it had made available a 5G hotspot capable of supporting millimetre wave (mmWave) frequencies.

The 5G Wi-Fi Pro will cost AU$600, or AU$25 a month over two years, and comes with a colour display, a gigabit ethernet port, USB port, 4500 mAH battery that is said to last nine hours of continuous use, as well as 15 devices on each on its 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks.

Also on Tuesday, Optus said it was testing mmWave technology in the 26GHz band with Ericsson at four locations in Sydney.

"With mmWave technology expected to become available for 5G in 2021 it's important that we start testing this technology now so that we can begin to understand how we can best harness its capabilities for our consumer and enterprise customers," Optus managing director of networks Lambo Kanagaratnam said.

"The enterprise market in particular is expected to gain from mmWave, with sectors such as autonomous manufacturing, mining, and port operations all examples of industries that will considerably benefit from mmWave 5G and its capability to offer higher speeds."

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