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​Telstra slams Choice's mobile plans comparison as 'flawed'

Choice's analysis into how much more Telstra customers are being charged when compared to equivalent or better offerings by other companies has the telco giant fuming.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Telstra has claimed Choice's recent analysis of selected mobile and internet plans offered by the telco giant and the industry is "flawed".

In a blog post, Stuart Bird, Telstra fixed products and services executive director, said Choice's analysis only takes into consideration a handful of Telstra's plans and ignores the rest, including the breadth, speeds, and availability of Telstra's network, and its free offerings available on many of its plans such as unlimited access to AFL and NRL season passes, home broadband and mobile security, and Apple Music.

"It's a misleading back-of-the-envelope exercise from Choice and frankly we think consumers deserve better," he said.

The analysis by Choice examined the so-called "Telstra tax" consumers were paying for their services, disclosing that Telstra customers were paying up to 92 percent more for their broadband service and up to 35 percent for their mobile plans compared to customers on equivalent products offered by Vodafone, Optus, Virgin Mobile, TPG, and iiNet.

However, Choice did point out "to be fair" that Telstra does offer its mobile customers an extra 10GB to use at its Telstra Air Wi-Fi hotspots, and the company recently reconfigured its mobile broadband plans by increasing data allowances or decreasing prices to make them more competitive.

Choice said it analysed over 280 products offered by Australia's telcos, and to ensure it was making like-for-like comparisons, it took products from the other telcos that were at least on par with Telstra's by examining features including data allowance, mobile call allowance, NBN speed tier, contract type, inclusion of a TV streaming device, and whether local and mobile calls are included in the cost, or charged on top of the bill.

In light of the analysis, the consumer advocacy group has reminded consumers they have the option to break their fixed contracts with Telstra, if they been affected by the telco's multiple network outages.

Australian Communications Consumer Action Network's Teresa Corbin said: "If there's been a breach of contract [such as an outage caused by the company], you're within your rights to get out of a contract without paying exit fees."

Corbin, however, cautioned that customers need to go through the processes of cancellation. "You can't just stop paying your bill."

Telstra suffered its first major outage on February 22 that took down 2G, 3G, and 4G services across the country for several hours. The telco blamed the outage on "embarrassing human error", before gifting all customers with free unlimited data on February 14 as compensation.

Not long after, the company was offering another free data day after it suffered an hours-long national mobile data and voice outage on March 17; and on March 22, Telstra was hit with a smaller voice outage.

Telstra then experienced an NBN and ADSL outage in May that resulted in the telco having to send free modems to customers still affected several days later, and a mobile data services outage later that week.

In June, Telstra's broadband service outage affected 75,000 customers, before another outage affected enterprise and business customers across Victoria, including the National Australia Bank and Melbourne's public transport system myki.

The last outage came a day after Telstra CEO Andrew Penn announced the telco giant was investing AU$250 million in its network over the next six to 12 months in a wake of a series of outages this year.

The investment will be made in three major areas: AU$50 million to be spent on improving mobile network resiliency by creating better real-time monitoring and speeding up recovery time; AU$100 million on increasing the core fixed-line network's reliability and resiliency; and AU$100 million on upping its ADSL broadband capacity to cope with demand.

According to chief operating officer Kate McKenzie, Telstra's mobile network now carries 50 percent more data than it did a year ago, meaning it is under far greater strain. As a result of a network review in April, Telstra implemented various measures to deal with this and prevent future issues.

"We have increased the number of redundant links on the nodes which were involved in the 9 February disruption, and we have added new software features that limit the number of customers who would be required to re-register," McKenzie said

"We have also added more capacity to the core network, as well as introducing additional checks and balances to key network element restarts.

"In addition, we now have more resilience in our international connectivity, and we have added another redundant link from Perth to Sydney.

"We have also made other network changes to reduce the impact of international IP traffic on domestic IP traffic that addresses the root cause of the 17 March incident."

Last Friday, Telstra confirmed it was cutting 326 jobs across its sales, service, and national office teams. A Telstra spokesperson said the job cuts would "remove duplication" in its customer service solution, and would "increase slightly the amount of work done by our partners overseas", with work types to be consolidated across Australia and the Philippines.

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