Comparing value: Phone and internet

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.

Broadband

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.

Telstra1

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.

Telstra2

Mobile phones

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.

Telstra3.png

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.

Telstra4

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.

Raw data

Telstra5.png

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13 thoughts on “Comparing value: Phone and internet

  1. Zultan says:

    You’re not considering the exchange rate in your numbers. Does Telstra become better value as the Aussie dollar drops? Also what about minimum wage as a ratio?

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    • No, Im not an accountant, so you would have to do your own comparison if those things (or the situation in other countries) interest you. But from a personal point of view, my suspicion that Telstra charge more for a poorer service has been confirmed.

      As far as I can help, I would say wages in Denmark would be much higher, and in the UK probably comparable (though I haven’t lived there for a long time). Of course, the exchange rate will fluctuate, but that will have no bearing on speed or reliability of service, both of which are poorer with Telstra. The same goes for data allowances.

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      • Zultan says:

        Not saying Telstra doesn’t suck, but you aren’t comparing apples with apples. Infrastructure costs in Oz are far greater because of distances and far less customers. Like I say on the days where the AUD drops does Telstra become better value or more affordable?

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      • Well, in fairness, the only way to compare apples with apples would be for BT and YouSee to come to Australia and set up in direct competition with Telstra, so this was always going to be a fun personal exercise. These conversions were made using this week’s exchange rates and clearly they can change but, and here’s the point — for what I pay versus the service I receive, does it feel like value for money? Nope.

        To your point that Australia is a big place, yes, but Im comparing suburbs within or close to the capital cities — sorry if that wasn’t clear.

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to confirm what I have long suspected too. I was a month without internet when I moved to Canberra in January. They’d sent me a faulty modem to start with (not that I realised it was faulty) and a month passed until a Telstra technician could come to see why I had no internet. And the waiting in line to talk to someone at the call centre who then says, “unplug your router, reset it and try again”. Welcome to Australia! Never mind, it’s not all about technology. Think of our wide open spaces and sunshine!

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  3. It appears to me that Telstras strategy is genius. The longer to can shut off the rest of the world through the withdrawal of internet provision the less opportunity there is for its suckers (sorry, customers) to discover there are totally different standards elsewhere. I believe this is known as “Mushroom Management” – Keep them in the dark and feed them s**t.

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  4. Lindy says:

    Hi there Reading your blog of the past few months I detect that you are all a bit homesick for Denmark and/or the UK. I agree that the Australian telecommunications industry is poor in comparison but many goods and services are much more expensive in Denmark and the UK than in Australia. And the weather is so much worse there for much of the time. I guess you can’t help continually comparing and contrasting and wondering if you have done the right thing coming here. If I were you I would try to stop doing it as you will never have any peace of mind and will never really know for sure anyway. We did that in a minor way coming from Tasmania to live in Canberra. I was always in doubt until a wise friend told me you have to bloom where you are planted. Since then we have never looked back. Anyway each person has their own journey…Good luck!!

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    • Thanks for the good wishes. We have good days and bad days, that’s true and, having emigrated once before, we know it’s a long journey of bumps and brilliance. I think one of the things I missed before we moved here was an honest information source that compared and contrasted things so that we could embark on our journey with objective information on what was great and what was not so great. I hope that by continuing to analyse things in that light, these posts will occasionally help others who may be in a similar position. It’s a personal observation of mine that, for many Brits especially, Australia has come to represent something of a ‘promised land’ where the sun always shines, life is easier and everyone has a ready smile. There is some of that here, but there are also frustrations, and I hope I capture them both in equal measure. Your comment helps me to know that perhaps I’ve swayed a little too far towards comparison and a little away from the plusses of our new life, so thank you for that too.As a final point, you may be right in that, as long as another path remains open to us, we will continue to assess whether this new life is forever or just another chapter in a longer story. This blog will inevitably reflect that until the question becomes irrelevant or another path becomes impossible. I guess that’s just the way of working these things out. Thanks for dropping by and for your insightful comment 🙂

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  5. I think you are absolutely right. Australians do not realise how dudded they are on many things, including telecoms, travel and access to things at prices afforded to the rest of the world.

    As an example, I buy most of mine and my sons clothes online from Next. I’m sure you would know that brand. I lusted after Next clothing as a teen when it was considered the higher end of the market. Happily for me, these days they have repositioned to suit the majority. The reason why I don’t really shop for clothes anywhere else is that from the point where my order is processed online I know that barring some major event, it will be on my doorstep in 5 days – usually 4 – direct from the UK. They have an international telephone line, 24 hours a day and returns can be sent to a Sydney address. It’s a huge company, but they serve their customers well and their products are of a very decent quality.

    Contrast this with my wine delivery. I order, it comes from Sydney. At times it’s taken up to two weeks to arrive. Last week I ordered three bags online and was reassured by a sign on the website about express delivery if required. But oh no. Turns out that the owner is on holiday, can’t change their website, so having parted with my cash, I now have no guarantee of a delivery anytime soon. I was offered a refund, but it was a birthday gift, so I’m loathe to have to go back to the drawing board having decided what I want.

    And don’t mention telecoms…took me 12 weeks to get connected with iiNet….and that included three of my own workdays spent at him (lucky I could work from there), being told that apparently I wasn’t home, when in fact Telstra kept failing to turn up. Iinet are good and we get 1000gb for $80 a month. Not too bad, although they could have better add ons which would mean I wouldn’t have to have other plans when I leave the house and want to use a device.

    Back in the eighties, according to Alan Wicker ( remember him?), Australia was the place to go. The place where even the guy who collected your rubbish could live like a king. It may have been then, but successive governments have really dropped the ball, and Australia is lagging. No point in having high or at least reasonable wages if what we have to buy is expensive or not even available.

    Yes, the weather is great (just not today!), and the standard of living is high (although we pay for it), but a country can’t rely on that alone to take it into the future.

    First world problems? Absolutely not. And not to say that things don’t go wrong in other countries.

    Of course it doesn’t mean that you can’t live an extremely good life here and absolutely value those open spaces, beaches, sunshine etc. And it doesn’t mean that you should immediately get on a plane and go back just to get a better phone plan. Equally it doesn’t mean we should not voice our irritation and demand better services in line with other countries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aah, Next, I think my whole wardrobe came from there at one point. I’ve shifted my allegiance to Fat Face these days — really good quality stuff that lasts, not something that is easy to find here. And yes, you may be right that these are first world problems, but when you are being charged first world prices, you expect first world quality services and products. If a gap has opened up between the dream and reality of Aussie life, then it’s probably there. Back in the 80s, the shortcomings were compensated for by the fact that the cost of living was much lower. Now, I think that equation has been taken away.

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