Telstra will text customers within seconds when they've reached their mobile download limit.
Australia's largest telco said it is the first in Australia to roll out real-time alerts to help customers avoid bill shock.
The service will send real-time mobile data usage alerts to eligible Telstra customers within seconds of when they have used half, 85 percent, and 100 percent of their included monthly data allowance, in an effort to help them control their monthly mobile spend. Presently, alert texts are delayed by up to 48 hours.
"Our real-time alerts will deliver our customers the information they need about their mobile data use when they need it," said Telstra mobile chief Scott McGibbony. "It will allow people to grab a data pack or switch to Wi-Fi if they are nearing the end of their monthly data allowance."
McGibbony said Telstra had invested tens of millions of dollars in technology capable of handling hundreds of thousands of data sessions every minute to introduce the service for customers.
"We have worked with our partner Matrixx to deploy this new real-time rating solution," he said. "The solution is software-based and integrates into our network and existing infrastructure to rate data usage as it occurs and updates the billing system and customers usage meters."
Complaints about excess data charges rose by a third in the latest financial year, as other mobile phone complaints fell, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.
Telstra is also working to improve the timeliness of data usage information available on its Telstra 24x7 app, Telstra One app, My Plan Manager, and My Account tools by updating data usage every 15 minutes. Previously, the updates took up to 48 hours.
It is also introducing a new mobile data alert for customers who incur excess data charges. Customers will be alerted for every AU$50 of excess data charges they incur.
The rollout of the new real-time mobile data usage alert system is expected to be complete by the end of November. Plans are in development to extend a similar service to business customers.
The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has welcomed the new offering, with the organisation's CEO Teresa Corbin urging other telcos to follow Telstra's example.
"We'd like to see real-time alerts being offered by all of the Australian telcos so all consumers can reap the benefits," said Corbin. "48 hours is too large a gap to inform consumers they have reached their limit. We encourage the other telcos to follow suit and implement real-time alerts as soon as possible.
"Excess mobile data charges continue to be an issue for consumers, with the latest Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Annual Report showing that the number of these complaints has grown by 27.2 percent in the last 12 months. We hope the alerts help consumers more easily track their usage," she said.