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Choosing a mobile Internet plan

Being able to access emails, documents and websites while on the road is a wonderful business tool. But there is a downside to it as the cost of getting your plan wrong can be very ugly indeed.

A recent report that Australians are wary of the costs of mobile broadband is hardly a surprise. So it's essential to choose the right plan before exploring mobile Internet.

The nastiest shock comes in the form of excess usage charges. Itís easy to run up a bill into the thousands if you donít choose the right plan.

The key is to choose a plan that suits your Internet use. Some providers have better regional coverage while others have more generous data allowances. Here's a summary of what's currently on offer.


If you are in a regional area, it's impossible to go past Telstra. Their Next G network is by far the most comprehensive of the all the mobile phone carriers. Unfortunately it comes at a cost.

Their pricing is complex. Internet access is treated as an add on to their mobile services so you have to buy an additional Browsing Pack to your standard phone contract.

To further complicate things, Telstra split their data plans under four headings which range in price from the expensive to the extortionate.

Browse as a modem

This is the Telstra plan we would recommend given the high data limits available. The $89 and $119 plans are acceptable for 1 and 3Gb data limits. Excess usage is charged at 25c per megabyte.

Browsing Pack Plus

The Browsing Pack Plus packages are designed for pre-paid mobile subscribers. We would only recommend the $89 for 1Gb plan.

Browsing Packs

These are the standard add on packs and we're reluctant to recommend any as the data limits (5, 20 and 80Mb) are ridiculously low and the excess use charge of one dollar per megabite is unacceptably high.

Pay As You Go (PAYG) Pack

At an extortionate $2 per megabyte this simply is not an option for mobile users. We cannot recommend these plans under circumstances.

Given Telstra subscribers are automatically charged PAYG rates if they access data without an add on pack, we'd strongly advise Telstra subscribers to be very careful with what they do with their phones.


Like Telstra, Optus offer data as an add on. Their most generous offer is $35 for a derisory 75Mb. If you go over that 75Mb you will be walloped $300 per megabyte.

It is simply impossible to recommend these plans to anyone. We would suggest any Optus subscriber wanting mobile Internet should consider switching to another provider.

Three Mobile

Three has the most generous allowances, but their coverage range is restricted and their roaming rate when you are in an area which doesnít have a Three service is a pricey $1.65 per megabyte.

We quite like the $69 Combo Plan but we'd strongly advise you to make sure you will use this plan only in areas where the Three service is available. Three have network maps on their website and you should check these before committing to any plans.


Determined to be different Vodafone offers a timed rate of an outrageous $12 an hour. The pain is eased as the usage is counted against your monthly plan, so Vodafone subscribers need to choose a plan which includes a sufficient spend to cover both Internet access and standard mobile use.

Vodafone also offer data bundles similar to the other providers for those not on qualifying plans at similar prices to Telstra, although they are substantially cheaper if you commit to a 12 month plan. Their cheaper excess usage rates of 10c per Mb mean they are a better choice than Telstra.

Like Optus, Vodafone's mobile browsing speeds drop in regional areas and their coverage is patchy outside the major population centres.

Choosing a mobile carrier is arcane and complex and it's even more so when you add a mobile Internet plan. When shopping around you need to be sure of your needs and usage patterns.

By shopping around and seeing what your mobile provider can do, you can and should take advantage of what mobile broadband offers businesses. Do your research and watch your bills very closely.



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©Technology Publishing Australia, 2008