Mobile broadband

In Australia, mobile broadband is outrageously expensive. In March 2014, I moved into a house which had no copper, cable or fibre connected, so mobile broadband was the only option. After much research, I signed up for a 10GB post-paid plan on a month-to-month contract with iinet. At $35 per month, it was actually better value per GB than both the 15GB plan ($55) and 20GB plan ($75). This pricing anomaly is also why a friend of mine has four iinet 10GB SIM cards, which he cycles throughout the month. Because the plan is month-to-month, iinet doesn’t charge the usual $29 fee to upgrade or downgrade, so over the last 10 months I have made use of 10, 15 and 20GB as my needs changed.

iinet’s mobile broadband runs through the Optus network. Optus have identically priced Biz Data plans. The only difference is Optus doesn’t charge you for the SIM if you order online (iinet charges $20) and Optus charges an eye-watering 10c per MB if you go over your cap, whereas iinet charges 2c per MB. Do the maths: with Optus the first 10GB cost $3.50 per GB, then the price jumps to a surely-this-must-be-illegal $100 per GB. A hundred bucks! Seriously, why does the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman allow this kind of extortion?!

To make matters worse, iinet’s usage monitor officially lags by up to 48 hours. In my experience, it can actually be up to 60 hours. So, as you approach the last couple of days in your billing cycle, you really have no idea if you’ve gone over the limit.

At the start of December 2014, I was using the 10GB plan, as I knew I would be away on holidays for the final two weeks. While I was away, a housemate updated the operating system on his phone, which put me over the limit by 1.1GB a week before the end of the month. No problem, I thought, I’ll just bump it up to the 15GB plan. But, the plans had changed. The 15GB and 20GB plans have disappeared, and the 10GB plan is now $60 per month. So, that 1.1GB phone update cost me $21.61, and I started looking for a new provider.

iinet supposedly negotiated a good deal with Optus originally, but Optus won’t offer it to them any more. That doesn’t really make much sense because, at the time of writing, Optus still offers the Biz Data SIM-only plans at the same prices.

I’m now with Virgin Mobile. I have two 12GB per month post-paid SIMs, which cost $40 each. Virgin also go through the Optus network, but they don’t charge excess usage data fees, so there’s no bill shock. Virgin shapes for the next 250MB, and then the service stops until the start of the next data cycle. Because I have two SIMs, I can confidently use up all of the data on one SIM if I need to. Virgin’s data usage monitor updates within hours, rather than days, and Virgin assigns a proper public IP address, where iinet assigns a NAT-based private address, which was sometimes a pain. Virgin’s data cycle also starts on the day you activate the SIM, while the billing cycle is always on the 17th. I took advantage of this, delaying activation of my second SIM so they are about two weeks apart.

Cons for Virgin? Getting the first SIM was a real pain. They wanted copies of a driver’s licence and passport, and then had the audacity to ask for a Medicare number as well. They were only risking $40. They also refused to mail the SIM card anywhere other than the billing address. It’s a mobile broadband service, guys. It’s not going to be used at the billing address.