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