Time to step up their game ... Optus, Telstra and Vodafone gave a cautious but positive response to the report.
Like Telstra's network but hate its pricing? Kogan and Boost Mobile could offer the best of both worlds.
Optus and Vodafone have let other companies rebadge their mobile services for years, which has certainly helped contribute to the congestion which has plagued both networks. Now Telstra is opening up the HSDPA components of its Next G mobile network to the likes of Kogan Mobile and Boost Mobile, although Telstra is reserving LTE access for its own customers. The move comes as Telstra's HSDPA network is already groaning under the weight of Optus and Vodafone refugees in search of a more reliable network.
Kogan made headlines recently as the first mobile provider to rebadge prepaid access to "parts of Telstra's mobile network", albeit via a Telstra reseller (quite possibly ispOne, they won't say) rather than a direct relationship with Telstra. Kogan Mobile is using Next G's primary 850 MHz network, not the older 2100 MHz service, but isn't permitted to call it "Next G". It's simply a branding issue rather than a technical limitation but you can be sure Telstra's marketing team will pounce on resellers claiming to offer Next G access.
Kogan's coverage is limited to 97 per cent of the population, which is more than Optus or Vodafone offer but slightly less Telstra retail customers' 99 per cent coverage. The 2 per cent difference seems to be due to the fact that Telstra retail customers can still tap into 2G coverage in a few remote areas -- something that's not likely to affect most people.
Kogan Mobile's pricing is much more competitive than Telstra's own retail pricing, but the big catch with Kogan Mobile is that customers are throttled to 7.2 Mbps HSDPA access. Even with these limitations it still seems like a tempting option for those abandoning Optus and Vodafone for something better but not willing to pay Telstra for a full Next G service. In theory if you're using an old HSDPA handset, are outside the metro area or just don't care about speed then you might not even notice the 7.2 Mbps speed limit.
This week Boost Mobile went one better by unveiling unthrottled prepaid access to Telstra's 42 Mbps HSDPA network, although there's still no LTE access. Boost Mobile has struck a deal directly with Telstra, rather than through a reseller. Access to Telstra's Dual-Cell HSDPA in the cities is pretty tempting and, to be honest, with good coverage you're unlikely to notice the lack of LTE in day-to-day use. It seems Australians are clearly tempted by the offer, with the traffic spike taking down Boost Mobile's website when registration opened yesterday.
Budget Next G access would seem the perfect solution for those burnt by Optus or Vodafone, although they could end up back where they started as Telstra runs the HSDPA network into the ground while putting all of its efforts into LTE for its own retail customers. Telstra claims it ignored the Nexus 4 because it lacked LTE and it seems determined to move customers to LTE as soon as possible.
In some ways Telstra's wholesale 3G strategy makes sense. It's sort of like launching its own budget rival, like QANTAS's Jetstar, but with less risk of a run-in with the ACCC. There's also minimal risk of cannibalising its own retail customer base which retain sole access to Telstra's LTE network.
Are these budget Next G deals what you've been waiting for? Would they lure you away from the competition, or even away from Telstra?