iPhone in Australia – now for the bad news

Welcome folks from round the interwebs – this article seems to be getting widely read.

If you want to know a little more about what we do (run conferences for Web Professionals) take a look at our upcoming Sydney Conference. And please leave your thoughts on the issue of mobile data pricing plans in Australia.

Update: And in Episode 19 of the Annals of Gutless Cluelessness, on the eve of the iPhone release, Vodafone have finally released their pricing plans.

Further Updates. iPhone Atlas has details of plans from around the World. The good news – the Danish have even higher data prices than Australians. The bad news – well, everyone else in the world gets a better deal than us. What’s interesting is that in several countries, there are exclusive deals – and yet we, with competition among 3 carriers, are the worst off. Anyone from the Chicago School care to illuminate us as to why?

Original Article

There’s clearly a tonne of excitement in Australia (and elsewhere) about the imminent release of the iPhone. Personally, I think it is a beautiful device, and in particular it revolutionizes the user experience for the mobile web. In the US and elsewhere is has driven up the adoption of mobile web browsing enormously. And that is what has really excited me about the advent of the Phone.

A huge part of that increase in mobile web use has been driven by the arrival of affordable mobile data pricing. In the US, with a single carrier having exclusive license to sell the iPhone, mobile data plans start at $30 for unlimited bandwidth.

So, what’s the story here in Australia? Well, information is not that easy to come by – as per usual, mobile providers hide their plan details behind a welter of caps, small print, and details. Telstra even had a press release of pricing details, but for the life of me I can’t find anything other than news stories about the press release on the web.

So, I am currently assuming the data and mobile plans for the iPhone at Telstra and Vodafone are the same as for their other handsets, while Optus at least publishes specific information regarding plans and the iPhone (which may indeed be the same as for other handsets).

In short it’s extremely disappointing to say the very least. If this were my personal blog you’d be reading expletives right now. Here’s how it stacks up.

First up, the single largest contract block you can purchase is from Optus for 1GB (probably barely acceptable for serious on the go all the time web and data use). This will set you back at least $150 a month (and as much as $180). And as mentioned there’s no option for any greater data contract, and I’m not sure what happens if you go over 1GB.

Over at Vodafone (disclaimer I’ve used Vodafone for years, for mobile, and more recently 3G data modem for my laptop), I have to assume that the mobile data pricing is what we’ll get with an iPhone. As an indication, the maximum fixed price block of data you can get is a paltry 100MB, for $11.95 a month. Vodafone claim 4000 web pages for 100MB of data, I’d argue this is a pretty big overestimate. Safari developer tools tell me the front page of the SMH is over a MB! And it will auto refresh every few minutes. Vodafone’s own front page is 500KB, so you’d get about 200 views of that for 100MB. So I’d say in the real world, I’d put the number of page views in the hundreds, not thousands. Now, Vodafone do have a 5G data plan for $40 a month, on a two year contract. You can only get this for your laptop with their 3G modem (included in the contract price). If Vodafone were to make this an option for the iPhone, by rights they should have a lock on the market.

The last of the Australian carriers to have the iPhone from July 11 is Telstra. For non Australians, Telstra is the AT&T of the country – a former state monopoly, now uneasily part public, part privately owned. Telstra’s plans, while the subject of a press release that had widespread coverage, are not easy to find. The closest thing at their site I can find is for mobile data packs – where 10MB will set you back $85.

That makes every visit to the Sydney Morning Herald’s homepage $8!

Business users appear to be able to get the same amount of data for $29, but frankly, these prices make mobile web, and even email completely unrealistic, particularly with excess charges of $1 a MB.

Also, all of these plans, other than Optus, are for data only, and don’t include calls, SMS, and MMS. There may be better plans out there, but other than Optus, none of the carriers seem to keen to cut through the confusion, and tell us straight up what’s available. I’ve searched repeatedly both locally at these company’s sites, and with Google, and found nothing that tells us in any detail what plans there are that come with the iPhone.

So, how does this compare globally? Well, starting with the US, AT&T charges either $30 or $45 for unlimited data (personal versus business). Over in the UK, £30 (about $62 at today’s rate) gets you unlimited data, plus voice, SMS, etc etc.

Even in Canada, where there has been very public outrage over the charges on Rogers, they get 1GB for $100 (including voice, text, etc etc) or 2GB for $115. So, if they are getting ‘rogered’ in Canada, what are we getting here?

So, is this really a big deal?

OK, in the scheme of things, this is not really a huge deal. World hunger is a big deal. But, this is not just the lament of some yuppie who wants a cheaper phone deal. To me this will actually have a huge impact on Australia’s capacity to become a serious player in the next wave of web innovation – mobile web applications and services. People simply won’t use mobile web services (except the “free” access to carriers own services – my bet is that this will come soon enough). Which means little if any incentive for local companies to innovate in this, a space with almost limitless potential. In markets with inexpensive data charges, all the innovation will take place, and when affordable mobile arrives here, those innovators will be ready to swoop on our market, with local companies in no place to play catchup.

This is an area in which Australia already punches above its weight. Google Maps started life in Australia, and a significant part of its engineering team still works here. Mapping will grow phenomenally with the advent of affordable mobile web services – mapping is so much more relevant when you are actually out and about than sitting at your desk. Remember the Milk, just won the first ever Apple Design Award, from Apple itself, for the best iPhone Web Application, beating out folks like The Associated Press (AP).

But to me, all that will be a thing of the past.

So, what to do about it?

First up, I’d not sign up to a contract until this changes. You’ll be locked into ludicrously expensive rates for a year or two, rates that we can only hope will come down. Hopefully too, the fewer folks who buy an iPhone right away will put pressure on the carriers to make realistic data plans available, and hopefully bring some pressure to bear on Apple to help persuade the carriers that it is in everyone’s best interest (carriers included) to make data plans realistic. I’d go so far as to say most of the plans I reviewed are essentially false and misleading advertising. 100MB is in no way a usable data plan for even lightweight mobile web usage, and customers will find themselves very quickly going into the extremely expensive over usage charges that will see horror stories of thousands of dollars of data charges in the coming months. Right now the carriers have a golden chance to get a large number of people using mobile web services. They look poised to cook the goose, rather than benefit from years of golden eggs. If even one of them does something like Vodafone’s 5GB for $40 for laptops, then they will own this space in Australia. Who has the guts to do that?

Then, well, I don’t know whether petitions are of much use, but feel free to leave a comment here that might indicate some level of agreement – maybe even committing to not get an iPhone until this is addressed. Frankly, you’d be mad to do so. We have promised an iPhone to one person who signs up to the conference by July 11th, and of course we’ll honour that, but we’ll happily translate that into your money back for the conference – basically you get to come for free, which translates into about the unlocked price of the iPhone.

Apple themselves have a huge financial interest here too – not just in iPhone sales, but with Mobileme subscriptions. Mobileme is the successor to .Mac, and makes data-synchronization of emails, contacts, events, and more across multiple web connected devices a total no brainer – but it will use a lot of bandwidth – in Australia you’d be close to insane to sign up for this (something I was going to do on day 1, right after getting an iPhone). That will be on hold now.

I had optimistically held out the hope that our carriers practices of horrendously overcharging by world standards was going to be addressed here, as it has been with the launch of the original iPhone in the US, UK, and the rest of Europe. Sadly, this is very very far from the case. I had hoped this would spur a huge burst of Australian innovation around mobile web services and applications. With the cynical Australian business culture, all we’ll hear is how there aren’t any customers for your great application to help people find the cheapest petrol at any given moment, wherever you are, because “no one uses mobile web”.

A year or two from now, this will doubtless be addressed. But it will be too late by then. Disruptive moments don’t have large windows of opportunity before the early adopters turn that advantage into market dominance. That creaking sound is the sound of that window of opportunity closing.

No responses to “iPhone in Australia – now for the bad news”:

  1. I agree with every word – but I’ll still be getting mine on day one – and I suspect regardless of the plans, they will sell out – on day one, unfortunately. Apple couldnt give a stuff and until the government steps in (dream on) and sorts out broadband in general (before we’re all drawing our pension), then we’ll be stuck with the same rip-off, 3rd world broadband we’ve had so far. Telstra is a joke, Optus are no better and its about time, the government invited in some serious UK or US-based competition to really give the big boys a rip-up. It happened in the UK in the 90’s and there’s no reason it cant happen here.

    For now, however, I’ll be getting my iPhone – and paying well over the $199 Steve promised everyone would pay – and sticking to using my wireless network at home for as much as possible – working from home I’m lucky enought to be able to get away with this and use the mobile data when I (rarely) head out and about. I do however massively sympathise with the road warriors etc who this could have been a priceless tool for, who will now be disappointed.

    Telco’s in Australia are a joke – not sure what the real answer is but I suspect it lies with the government and nothing much will be done about it.

    • By: john
    • July 3rd, 2008

    Hi Damian,

    I don’t doubt that they’ll sell hugely right away. And then, wait 6 weeks for the horror stories of $4000 data bills. Is there a prediction market where I can bet on that prognostication?

    In a sense, you are right that Apple probably doesn’t care, as they get their upfront payment from the carrier – but you wonder if the honeymoon period won’t be shortlived, as the horror stories come out.

    What I really care about is that this will put us at a competitive disadvantage as a nation in the mobile space, as more and more populations move into an always on world, while we eak out every last kb.

    • By: Chris
    • July 3rd, 2008

    If you seriously need a ton of bandwidth, buy the phone from Optus, pay $80 to unlock, then take it to Virgin mobile who have data blocks of 1GB for $15.

    Only downside is if you exceed your paid for blocks, Virgin will pulverise you with $15/MB whereas Optus will merely slap you in the face with .35c per MB.

    • By: Chris
    • July 3rd, 2008

    Correction 35c per MB.

    • By: Jason Foss
    • July 3rd, 2008

    Unfortunately, in regional Australia you can choose between Telstra or Telstra. The other carriers have a presence here, but not nearly the same coverage. What good is a phone that only has a signal half the time?

    So, for me, the Telstra prices are the only ones that matter.

    According the the SMH, Telstra is offering a $30 plan (but no mention of how much data… not much I’d expect) – and even then you’re locked in for 2 years after having to pay much more than in the US for the actual phone itself!

    The lack of pricing transparency here is the real issue. I think the Telcos keep it confusing for a very good reason.

    • By: john
    • July 3rd, 2008


    where’s this 1MB for $15 option?!? That’s a lot better than any option I managed to find.

    Jason – Agreed, there has never been transparency in pricing in this market. I’ve long felt that someone who had a no BS, straightforward transparent approach to pricing in the mobile space would do very well – but that’s for another day.

    I suspect the $30 plans come with little if any data – other than maybe use of Telstra’s own services – like Yellowpages. We’ll see.

  2. I’ve been using a mobile data plan with Three for a few years. I can’t remember the details but I think it’s something like 1Gb for $29 / m. Doesn’t help much with the iPhone though, as they don’t have it. The fools. I’ve had it with them anyway, they are crap. As for the other plans, sounds like they well and truly suck. I’ll still be buying one though I guess. Sigh. Damn you Jobs.

    • By: john
    • July 3rd, 2008


    3 do have reasonable plans – their coverage though is less than some of the others.

    I’m not sure Jobs is entirely responsible for this one though ;-)

  3. A couple of quick points the US “unlimited plan” is only on a 2G network and if you used too much data in AT&T opinion on a personal plan they could move you to the business plan, no questions asked.

    Mobile data for phones is stupidly expensive in OZ. 3 offer 1Gb + a 2000 free minutes on Skype for $30 a month (or 2Gb/4000mins for $40 or 500Mb/1000mins for $20) but at the moment no iPhone and excess data is 10c a Mb. Vodafone were offering 500Mb for $15 a month but excess data was in the 1c a kb range.

    Hopefully competition will change that. About This time last year, the cheapest mobile broadband was $49 for a 1Gb a month, now you can get it for $15 a month or $40 for 5Gb

  4. Couldn’t agree more John. Vodafone are already prepared to provide 5GB of 3G data for $39, so if they can just get the left hand (mobile internet for your laptop) talking to the right hand (internet on your mobile) in the next few days, they can absolutely own the inner city market.

    Much to the surprise of my friends and family, there’s no way I’ll be signing a contact on day 1 unless Vodafone (who I’ve been with for years) changes the game a little. Give me a decent voice plan (paying $40-50 now, doing fine), add in $39 for 5GB of data you’re already offering elsewhere and I can stomach that kind of pricing. It could be way better of course, but at least I know I’m getting the same deal someone else is for the same service.

    • By: john
    • July 3rd, 2008

    Hi Nick,

    the AT&T plan quoted is for 3G – not sure what separates business from personal, you may be right re bandwidth, though they mention things like intranets, exchange server and the like. See the link above. The Business unlimited is only $45, and the O2 UK plan is basically all you can eat everything for one third Optus price for their most generous allowances.

  5. Just by the by for any 3 customers not wanting to get an iPhone. Give them a call and tell them you want to close your account as you want to change over to an iPhone. I did this yesterday and found that they will give you just about anything not to lose you. Don’t say I sent you :)

  6. Given the option of Telstra, Optus or Vodafone – I would take Vodafone every time. Our demand for coverage is primarily inner city which creates an advantage for Vodafone.

    That said, I am with you John & Justin. We won’t be considering iPhones for our team until Vodafone offers consistent and fair pricing for its mobile internet for both phone and laptop.

  7. It’s not about the iPhone but about internet in Australia.
    I’m Italian, but I’ve been living in Sydney for almost one year. I have to fight everyday with a 3 mobile internet at home cause we don’t have a landline. We had to buy the modem outright (200$) not to be committed to a long term contract. Before I used Optpus cable in a shared house, when the cap was over you had dialup speed.
    In my experience it’s difficult to access internet in oz, and the service is unreliable and most of the time unsatisfactory.

    If there is a a real structural problem behind this (somebody told me there are few internet backbones that connect Australia with the other continents)? And if so will it really be addressed in a couple of years?

    Am I going to buy an iPhone? Not with this internet mate.

    • By: john
    • July 4th, 2008

    Absolutely Enrico,

    I’ve commented on broadband in Australia before- the paltry caps, the high pricing, the variability of service. Then throw in the paucity of free or inexpensive wifi, and the ludicrous charges for internet connections in hotels, and compare this with other developed countries, and you have a picture of a very backward landscape when it comes to internet connectivity.

    I doubt backbones have much to do with it. The traditional lack of any real competition in telecommunications is more likely to be the biggest part of it.

  8. Hi John

    Sorry my AT&T facts where a little out of date. When the iPhone was originally released, I saw a lot of chat about the three AT&T “unlimited” data plans. Somebody claiming to work for AT&T said, the 1st plan for $20 a month I think, was for non-smart phones, and was not intended for iPhone users and it you did sign up for that plan and used “excessive” data, you would get shifted to the $30 a month, personal plan which was intended for smart devices like the iPhone. And if you used “excessive” data on that you got bumped to the business plan at $40 a month.

    You will not see “unlimited” plans in Australia, simply because most Australian traffic is to/from the US and traffic across the pacific costs. You just need to visit Whirlpool and listen to the ISP reps, it is expensive, though not as much as traffic to/from Tassie.

    The telcos are trying to make money while the sun stills shines and gouge the public for as much as they can get while data to the mobile is new and an uncompetitive market.

    Look at what has happened in the mobile data for modems market, 18 months ago 3 cut the price for 1Gb from $99 a month to $49. Now it is $15 a month on 3, or $39 for 5Gb on Vodafone or Optus, who a little over a year ago want close to $150 for 1Gb. So hopefully the data for mobile market will change as quickly, however it did not happen when 3 introduced their X Series.

    As for staying with 3, Maxine how much of an incentive is it? When my contract ends with them early next year, I will switch to data only on my phone (or unlocked iPhone) and use Skype or similar for outgoing calls. I hardly use any telephony now, it is mainly data. So a couple of gigs of data is better for me than any cap.

  9. The thing that you might be forgetting John, is that we are the uber geeks – the early adopters that don’t mind paying for new stuff. Eventually the market will catch up, and the telcos will catch on, the price of stuff will come down when it needs to.

    Ignoring the rogering you get from Telstra, I’m sure the other providers have worked out their price points based on the current market, as can be seen by the recent price fall on the USB dongle plans – 12 months ago the prices were double what they were now – more customers == bigger market == more competition. It has happened with a lot of electronic goods: Plasma TVs, Laptop computers, blackberry data plans (Telstra and Optus are surprisingly cheap on this).

    It’s just not a big enough problem at the moment for the masses to take notice – I’d be surprised if Apple ship to more than 2-3% of the Australia population, and as we all know, the minority rarely gets heard. The day my muggle sister wants to browse the web on her phone is the day we’ll see nose diving mobile data plans.

    In the meantime, enjoy your shiny toy – because the lustre will be lost as soon as the masses become interested :)

    • By: Christopher Barham
    • July 4th, 2008

    I agree these plans are awful, for the tiny data allowance and for the lack of transparency – Optus’ page is so confusing with MyThis/MyThat – I studied it and can spot a couple of clever things – the $4,000 horrendous bills you mention will not occur until the end of September – because iPhone data is free until end of August – clever, suck you in; make you want to use it, then you pay :-(
    The other point is that data usage is not really going to be controllable by the user because of MobileMe and push Email – web browsing obviously is under the owners control, but if the device is used as intended.. well, it’ll be very expensive. It’s such a shame, people enjoy checking their facebook pages twice a day, but some of those pages weigh in at over 4 MB – can you imagine the bills!

  10. I’ve already been burnt by Telstra data plan. I spent over 2 hours sifting through PDF files because the brochure and contract that came with my i-mate JAMin didn’t actually say the amount of data included in my plan was only 500kb!! I was being charged $22 per MB! Daylight robbery. Having actually used 42MB the bill was larger than usual! Telstra did the right thing and removed the excess charges after I complained that I had specifically asked for a data plan for web and email access. Mobile providers hide their plan details – it’s shonky behavior and should be stopped.
    As for the iPhone I hope it is not as flakey as my iPod Touch… great when it works.

    • By: john
    • July 4th, 2008


    thanks for the heads up on “free” data for until September – have you got a link? If that’s so, then it will really come back to haunt the carriers in September/October, as the bils start coming in.

    You are right too about a lot of the traffic being passive – synchronizing and push email. The latter can in fact be very hard to turn off, by a number of account I’ve read – it’s not a big deal where you have large or unlimited data – mostly its made headlines in roaming mode, where data charges escalate sharply. But in Australia, almost everyone who uses the iPhone with email will be in this boat.

    • By: john
    • July 4th, 2008


    I expect the carriers will start getting a lot of these kinds of calls – there go the support bills ;-)
    100MB, is, IMO, utterly useless for even the most casual mobile web use. It’s 100 page views of a major newspaper.
    Lastly – what dramas has you touch given you? Apart from totally dying, and being replaced with anew unit, mine’s been great. In fact, until this situation is resolved, I’ll be keeping it, along with my old ld handset for calls. I’d love to have always on web access, but I’m not paying 100-1000 times what I pay for domestic bandwidth for mobile bandwidth.


    • By: john
    • July 4th, 2008

    Hi Myles,

    point taken, but to me this was a big chance to get folks playing with the mobil web. Now, the story will be about how expensive it is, etc etc etc. This will set back adoption by years – those kinds of perceptions can take a long time to overcome.

    I repeat my free advice to any carrier out there brave enough (is it you Vodafone?) – get a reasonably priced large allowance, say $39 for GB, like you have for laptops, and you will own the early adopter market here. And then they’ll be the path by which their friends, families and colleagues follow.

  11. The big kicker with the iphone and data is also that the phone will encourage users to download things… (i.e tv shows and music from Itunes!) Think how expensive that is going to get. As both the Optus and Telstra plans announced do have free data, it is only to their local sites such as bigpond music and Optus zoo. Neither of which an Iphone user is naturally going to go to once they have Itunes installed.

    • By: Sue
    • July 4th, 2008

    Trawling though the details from Optus I see it is possible to buy a prepaid from them then unlock it for an extra $80, a total upfront cost of $809 for the 8GB iPhone. As a relative noob to this market is it then possible to take said unlocked iPhone to 3 or whoever to take advantage or the lower data rates? This scenario works out dearer when compared to the Optus 2 year contract rates but only if you don’t go over the allowances and only if, as you say, data charges don’t go down in the next two years.

    Thanks for the analysis.

  12. I held off purchasing the 2G iPhone and patiently waited for the 3G iPhone to be announced. I need a new phone and want to start using web and synchronisation services (mail via IMAP, …) but honestly with these rates I won’t be purchasing an iPhone come July 11.

    I’m currently overseas and won’t be back in Down Under until the end of the year, and have thus been doing some scouting here in Germany for plans, prices and decent providers. More importantly actually is the ability to purchase an unlocked phone—what good is a phone that’s locked to an overseas provider for two years.

    The state of data plans, providers and the range and coverage of the 3G networks is pathetic even in Europe. T-Mobile is the exclusive carrier in Germany—think AT&T or Telstra.

    Belgium is being Rogered too by Mobistar, who haven’t even rolled out a full 3G network yet promise a golden rainbow to their prospective clients. See Veerle’s blog: http://veerle.duoh.com/blog/comments/apple_mobistar_fail/

    Overall: the plans by telecom companies worldwide are shameful and insult this beautiful device.

  13. Remember the telcos are seeing the iPhone as the shiny new toy for the early adopters, the exec with cash to burn. They are going to ride the gravy train and gouge the public until the market segment moves in the younger and hip general market that will not be conned by the shiny new. By then we will see a price drop. Like Nick said, don’t expect this soon, maybe a 6 months to year or so out.

    Myles – as for all of us being able go out buy the shiny new, this is debatable, we may want to. Doesn’t mean we will, especially at the data rates. Remember the early adopters are savvy too. Well especially those that don’t have excess cash to burn.

    Only way I can see relief is if someone works out how to take the unlocked phone (why anyone would buy a locked phone) and is able to shop around for a cheap standard data account.

    Personally, being the only uber geek in AU that didn’t get an iTouch, do I want an iPhone, Yes, well I’m out of contract in a few months and would dearly like to kiss my crappy N80 (worst phone ever) and the BS telco goodbye, but not at the current proposed data prices.

    So it looks with all reality that I’ll be waiting for the market catch up or to get some real competition to Vodaphone.

    I still can’t understand why 3 haven’t taken up the iPhone. Surely it’s young shiny and hip! :)

  14. Gary,
    The reason iPhone isn’t available on Three yet isn’t that they don’t want to offer it, but they haven’t been able to strike a deal with Apple. They have a petition page running, trying to get Apple to take them on board.

    For myself, I’ve put off getting a new phone (my Three contract ended some months ago) or an iPod Touch, on account of waiting for the iPhone to come to Australia. The iPhone 3G is everything I’d wished for except those dammn data rates! Fortunately at my workplace and university, where I spent most of my time, there’s free WiFi, so unless I start streaming media on the train to/from work, a 500MB limit on one of Optus’ $59 cap plans should be ok, though I’m very interested to see what Vodafone put on offer! They now have the competitive advantage, having seen what Telstra & Optus are offering, they can offer something to blow away the rest of the market. Please Vodafone, please!

  15. Actually (in reply to my previous post which seems to be in moderation) the OpenMoko phone support 850/1800/1900, so it works fine in Oz, Europa and the US. And I decided I can live without 3G for the time being. So now I am the proud owner of an OpenMoko phone.
    Next: checkout what FON is all about.

  16. John,

    100% agree with your views. It’s a shame that Australia continues to be held back by ridiculously high costs of communications due to lack of competition.

    Your insight into the real cost – Australia losing its ability to capitalize on emerging online markets to due the inability to commercialize innovation – is a blow to Aussie competitiveness.

    I recently spent a few weeks in the US. Broadband WiFi is basically available for free at every hotel and many business venues. This improves business productivity for American.

    Why don’t Australian telecommunications providers understand that their greed is hurting all Australians and the competitive future of our nation?

    It can’t always be about maximising profits. Telstra should be leading the way to stimulate innovation and take new content services into the global market. Or just continue to be greedy and let innovations like Google Maps slip overseas.

    Goodonya Telstra!

  17. Nick Cowie July 3rd, 2008 at 10:32 pm
    A couple of quick points the US “unlimited plan” is only on a 2G network and if you used too much data in AT&T opinion on a personal plan they could move you to the business plan, no questions asked.

    Ahh sorry Nick…..Bzzzz wrong.

    I dont use an iPhone but I do use the Cingular 8525 (otherwise known as the Tytn and other brand names).

    This is a 3g data phone and I’ve been suing it since launch last year in Jan 2007.

    Cingular data plans truly are unlimited and I’m yet to hear of anyone being booted for excessive usage – it they did they would certainly be coming after me.

    Dean Collins

    • By: Vuong
    • July 6th, 2008

    I’m with Chris (July 3rd, 2008 at 9:44 pm)

    It doesn’t matter if you have an iPhone or any other web-enabled phone. The Virgin deal is the best value out there.

    I’m with Virgin on the $10 for 300MB/month. This is not locked in. That is you can opt out any month you like. And you can wack this on top of any of your post paid contracts.

    Lets do some Maths:

    $20/month calls ($50 worth of calls)
    $15/month data (1GB data)
    Total: $35/month of mobile web bliss.

    Plus. If you have Optus land line, and have free calls to Optus, call to virgin mobiles is also free. Because Virgin uses the Optus network. (Note: while this is the case right now, I can’t verify that it will always be the case in the future).

    PS. I’m not a Virgin employee or affiliated in anyway shape or form

  18. […] all the (justified) doom and gloom about data plans and pricing, one lucky person is still going to win an iPhone courtesy of Web Directions this Friday morning, […]

    • By: Vuong
    • July 6th, 2008

    Oh and here’s the URL:

    The 1GB plan is relatively new. I dare say probably only about a month old.

    • By: Mark
    • July 6th, 2008

    Why does everyone downplay Telstra offerings?

    Dont use the $29 plan as an example when you know the $89 plan jumps to 1GB with 25c per MB thereafter. (then $119 3GB)

    Plus the Telstra iPhone is the only one that gets 3g coverage over the entire (and largest Australian) network at full 3g speeds. The coverage and speed is serioulsy worth a premium for those if us that leave the CBD. It’s when you don’t have coverage that is the time you really need it so whats a couple bucks more.

    Price really reflects performance in today’s 3g market in Australia.

    • By: john
    • July 6th, 2008

    Hi Mark,

    you got a link for these telstra prices and plans – I looked before doing the article, and the bet I could find was $89 for 100MB


  19. Was just in a vodafone store – they have broadband plans at $39 for 5Gb – really home ISP territory. If they brought out that kind of value on their iPhone, they’d certainly get my vote.

    Mind you I still prefer 3, my experience has been great since day 1. I’m sure they’ll do it, probably get that ‘last mover advantage’ thing that often pays off with Apple products ;-)

  20. Thanks for that post John, I was considering getting an iPhone but now I’m thinking maybe I’ll pass.

    @Vuong – I’m with Virgin Mobile too. I agree, it’s the cheapest and best-value service out there.

    • By: David
    • July 6th, 2008

    It is important to read the network speed fine print on the Optus deal. You don’t get 3G where they only have a 900GHz service and the system drops back to GSM. Which, amazingly, includes central Sydney according to their coverage maps.

  21. You can buy a Telstra Browsing pack from $59 per month for 200MB (which I’m assuming comes on top of your regular plan fee) which is a rate of $0.25 per meg.


    • By: Mobicom
    • July 7th, 2008

    I agree in general that the data plans are higway robbery and I’m no fan of the mobile phone companies but ….

    i’ve had a quick look and it seems the optus $79 plan would work pretty well for me. It comes with 700MB of data and since I have wifi access at home and work I’m reasonably confident it will cover my email and plenty of web browsing (based on my experience with a 2G iphone over the past 9 months as well as using a 3G laptop card). The iphone is very reliable and transparent at using the wifi connection ahead of GPRS.

    The Optus plan looks pretty similar to my current plan but with an iphone and 700MB pm thrown in to the mix (for an additional $37 on a 12 month contract) so as long as the call rates are not unreasonable (I haven’t checked this out yet) it seems to be a pretty good deal.

    • By: Mark
    • July 7th, 2008

    Second comment – you can’t even use the iPhone as a tethered modem so the likelihood of using huge amounts of data is minimal. Plus it doesn’t even MMS! I think some people will find this isn’t the “corporate wonder solution” they want it to be. Especially when they drop it a couple of times and have to fork out $800-900 to replace it

    • By: john
    • July 7th, 2008

    Mark (M),

    $59 for 200MB – that’s like $300 for a GB! I think that demonstrates exactly what I am saying.

    Mark – I think the 3G modem and lack of MMS is a good point – it means the carriers can expect less usage than for similar devices. Making their paltry allowances even more strategically shortsighted, IMO.

    • By: Jacob
    • July 8th, 2008

    I was going to buy an iPhone, but as soon as I saw the ridiculous plans I completely reconsidered. I am thinking that seen as I am taking a business trip to the US soon I’ll buy an unlocked iPhone over there and then shop around for a good data and call deal. No way am I paying $849 for an iPhone. I could get a lot more for that kind of money elsewhere.

    I am orginally from the UK and find that Aussies get ripped off for most things. From broadband to TVs, Aussies end up paying more. Food is even quite expensive over here. The only thing that is cheaper is petrol and I use a lot more of that anyway and so that balances it out.

    Anyway I will not be buying an iPhone in Oz on July 11, but may reconsider if Voda offer a decent deal, but until then I will hang out for a unlocked American iPhone.

  22. Hi John,

    good article, good discussion.

    What annoys me is that I am perfectly happy with Three’s mobile data rates (have used them for nearly 2 years now) but my Nokia e61 is borked – I’ve dropped it a few times, it is nearly 2 years old, it is all scarred up, and it takes several minutes (!) to send an SMS. I so want an iPhone – I can either wait until Three gets their act together (and they can be a pack of clowns sometimes) or buy and unlock as suggested by Chris – and while this is an excellent suggestion (thanks Chris!) having to deal with one pack of telco clowns to buy a phone, explain to them that because they are a pack of clowns I just want to unlock the phone, then possibly dealing with follow-on clowns a couple of days later when the level one clowns screw it up just doesn’t appeal – I get frustrated just thinking about how awkward and stupid the whole process will be…

    Interesting thing to worry about. The real question is this: can I get an iPhone 2.0 compatible cradle for my Audi? :)

    Cheers, Andrew

  23. Totally agree John. These sales and marketing “strategies” stifle innovation and early user adoption.
    Despite of the – to be expected – Australian telco “connery” surrounding the iPhone plans, I just love the fact that no matter what they do, they can’t run or hide ;-)
    Time to really engage with your customers now boys!
    I bet they’ve never seen anything like it…
    People are dissecting their plans one by one, comparing all available options, using their favourite spreadsheet apps and plotting charts, blogging, commenting, tweeting…
    We are not just talking about gadget geeks here. The iPhone clearly is a device that transcends many boundaries, and not in the least because of it’s superior web browsing experience.

    I’ll be waiting it out though…

    Looks like the cheapest option would be:

    Buy your 3G iPhone “out right” from AT&T:
    US$599 for the 8GB and US$699 16GB

    Then combine it with your choice of Virgin Mobile data plan:

    And slap on a Virgin Mobile voice/text plan of your choice:

    Disclaimer: I am in NO WAY, shape or form associated with any of the companies mentioned above. In this particular issue I will only listen to the reasoning voice of my limited purse…

  24. It’s interesting to all the different Telco pricing models around the world, but most of the time the devil is in the details. Awaiting for Telstra’s detailed pricing (which also includes free Wifi access). In Belgium though, there’s only one operator offering the iPhone, and they don’t even have a fully rolled out 3G network (see Veerle’s post). But we have this consumer law, you know, to protect the consumer, that prevents subsidizing a phone on a plan. They are not allowed to sell the iPhone linked to the service. So the 8GB iPhone is 525 EUR or 865 AUD, full on. No cheap or free iPhone on a 12 or 24 month plan. While over the border, you get one for 1 EUR, on a plan. It might turn out that the iPhone in Belgium will be a legislation changing device…

  25. Oh, and still pay 60EUR/98AUD for a !GB/9h plan… (but no lock in).

    • By: Amerrican
    • July 9th, 2008

    As an American currently living here in Oz, it’s no surprise to me that Australia and NZ are dishing up almost the worst plans in the world. Everyone here is exuberant about a measly 700mb of data from Optus, when in fact we’re just all getting screwed.

    The problem is the lack of “big thinkers” at Australian companies. Australians and now apparently Kiwi’s have no ideas about “long term” business sense.

    It’s been pointed out elsewhere here that Optus and others routinely offer GB plans on their laptop dongles. So clearly they have the bandwidth available.

    You Aussies don’t know how badly these telcos are damaging your economy with this shortterm thinking and data gouging. The use of the Internet in Oz is 10 years behind Asia, the US, and Europe due to the data gouging. You’re all talking about buying iPhones, which are designed to improve your productivity. And then you’re hooking them up to telcos that are inhibiting your productivity by sticking you on absurdly low data plans, all why you’re groveling to be first to “kiss the ring” on the hand of Optus or Virgin or Hellstra. And I’m sure Australia will be the only country to require a widget to constantly display data usage, while one can see the crybabies on “Today Tonight” already with their $3000 phone bills because “they didn’t know how much 700 mb is”.

    At least the Kiwi’s are angry about getting screwed. For that they’re one up on Australia.

    • By: john
    • July 9th, 2008


    I tend to agree re our rolling over on this one. Much better deals in Canada has folks fuming, and tens of thousands of signatures on petitions. Here, we kind of “meh”.

    My take is this.

    Sign up tomorrow for a two year plan, and keep in mind when these plans come down, you are stuck for two years on whatever craptacular plan you purchase. I simply can’t see why folks would do this.

  26. […] iPhone in Australia – now for the bad news | Web Directions: A comprehensive analysis of the available data plans to support iPhone in Australia. Recommends NOT getting an iPhone yet to force carriers to lift their game. […]

  27. […] John Allsop’s analysis points out, on Telstra’s data packages just looking at the smh.com.au home page would cost […]

    • By: Aaron
    • July 10th, 2008

    I called Optus today to clarify how their plans worked, it all seemed pretty confusing to me, but I called the Business as I wanted to get a couple of iPhones for my business. The lady their said that they didn’t even have a business plan yet but you could sign up for a regular plan then swap latter on. When I asked her how I could make this decision without know what the plans would be she suggested that it would be a good idea not to rush in and to just wait and see how things unfolded. She also mentioned not long down the track they would just be selling 16Gb and 32GB iPhones. She also said why would you rush in a buy the 3G iPhone when you could wait and see what technical problems may unfold and how plans may change.

    WOW! Until this call I was definitely going to buy an iPhone tomorrow, then I started to google plans and found this article now I am definitely going to sit back and wait.

    And who would have thought that you would get that sort of honest advise from an Aussie telco?

  28. […] the Web Directions blog talks about how this affects the web development industry more broadly in iPhone in Australia – now for the bad news. OK, in the scheme of things, this is not really a huge deal. World hunger is a big deal. But, this […]

    • By: Vadim
    • July 17th, 2008

    We will get a co-op alternative to Vodafone, Telstra, etc. if we get 10,000 people to join! This would potentially mean lower prices for iPhone plans and phone service in general.


    Please join! If anything it will send pressure to the major telecom companies to lower their prices.

  29. […] last week’s (very popular) post here about mobile data pricing plans in Australia, it’s encouraging to read The Sydney Morning […]