Last week’s mini-rant about Australia’s dominant telecommunications company, Telstra, got me thinking. Are they really ‘behind the times fleece merchants’ or am I just looking back to Europe with rose-tinted lenses?
To check if my ire was justified, I decided to compare my experiences – of cost versus quality of service – to see how Telstra stacks up against companies of a similar type in other countries.
To personalise the exercise, as comparators, I picked the last two countries I lived in – Denmark and the UK. And to make it even more relevant, I shopped for quotes at my last addresses in each country.
To keep the playing field even, I only went to major telecoms companies in each – rather than the budget providers who may have lower overheads than the former state-owned mammoths.
In the meantime, after the five-day outage of my phone and internet service, I braved the long customer service line queues to see what Telstra would be doing by way of redress. “We can offer you $15 off your next bill,” they ventured, and then dug their heels in.
Really? $15 for five days of no phone, no internet, and no updates on when they might be restored? $15 for the hour upon hour spent waiting to reach a call centre in the Philippines staffed by people who had no clue when it would be fixed either? Five days of “unplug your router, reset it and try again,” every few hours? From a company that claims to be a leader? Yep. So how do their services really stack up against others in a similar position?
I took a look at two services – home broadband and personal, sim-only, mobile phone contracts – and I looked at them in two ways. First I checked what their entry level contracts cost and offered, then I looked at what I currently pay Telstra each month – $95 for broadband and $50 for a mobile service – and asked what that money would buy me in the other countries.
The results confirmed my suspicions, that Telstra are not only expensive, they’re not very good either.
Telstra’s entry level ADSL broadband service costs $75 a month and gives you 100gb of data. The download speed I get averages at just below 6 mbps. In the UK and Denmark, entry level prices are about a third cheaper, offer unlimited data and speeds that make Telstra’s network look like an asthmatic ant carrying some heavy shopping. It’s not a good start.
But what if I pay a bit more? What can I get then? Well, for the $95 I pay Telstra, I get 500gb of data and the same 7 mbps download speed. In the UK, you can increase that speed tenfold, in Denmark more than 50-fold. Plus the companies concerned will throw a free TV channel at you and other goodies besides. Oh dear. It really does seem like Telstra is scamming us.
Okay, maybe that’s unfair. The broadband network is in the middle of an upgrade and I’m sure things will get better soon, as long as Telstra remembers not to press the button that says ‘kill the internet for the whole of Australia’ again any time soon.
How about mobile phones? Telstra prides itself here on being the premium carrier with the widest, most reliable network in Australia (expect on the days when it presses the button that says ‘kill the mobile phone network for the whole of Australia’).
So how does that service stack up?
For someone bringing their own phone, entry level contracts are still the most expensive – nearly double that of the UK but only $5 dearer that Denmark, and hey, who’ll miss that if the service is as premium as they say.
Oh. But wait. For nearly half the price, the UK matches Telstra’s mobile data allowance, includes slightly less call time but offers unlimited texts, a free sports channel and a gift card. In Denmark, for $5 less, you get 8-times as much data, more calls and unlimited texts.
Okay, you’re a premium company Telstra, talk me through your premium package. What if I pay you double – a whopping $50 a month. Go on, wow me. Oh, really?
At the $50 mark, Telstra offers a quarter of the data on offer for the same money in the UK and half what you get in Denmark for nearly $10 less. You get a big calls and data allowance but in both the other countries there is no cap. Meanwhile those loveable, gift-happy chaps in the UK will throw in a sports channel and a $160 gift card.
So, end of term report? Denmark, go to the top of the class. UK, here’s a ‘highly commended’ certificate for your excellent effort. Telstra? Perhaps this is all a bit much for you and we should talk about home tutoring. You know, just to recap the basics – service, value, reliability?
What’s that? You’re not interested. No, I suspected as much. I’ll look into changing my ISP and phone company then.