Sunday, 30 May 2010

phone bills: relief from Australian overcharging

back when we were in Finland one of the things we were definitely not looking forward to when we came back to Australia was the "rapes" (you can not call these charges rates) that mobile phone providers stick you with.

After being DNA customers in Finland where our mobile calls were between 3c and 7c per minute (my wife and I were using different plans) with per second billing and no additional "get-into-my-wallet" farcical charges like "call connection fees" we were definitely not welcoming a return to 38c call connection + 38c per 30 seconds (yes, that's right 78c per minute) and so called "caps" which defy all the reasonable and linguistic definition of a cap.
a brief aside: in 2006, when I was on Telstra prepaidpus I was able to call Finland from Australia for 66c per minute while the call costs within Australia were 76c per minute. I found it absurd that international GSM calls were cheaper by 10c per minute than local calls. In fact as at today its cheaper to call the UK from Australia on your Telstra Prepaid than to call locally within Australia ...

As a VOIP user back in Australia (for my landline) I was suggested to look at PennyTel by a friend (I normally use WorldDialPoint for my home voip) who noticed that they have a SIM mobile phone service which is carried by Optus.

This SIM for my phone (has to be an unlocked phone) is 16c per minute with a 8c call connect. So far its been quite good with the only possible gripe being that the billing takes about 5 working days to appear on my web portal.

This means that a 1 minute call is 24c vs $1.14

Simple, no cunning advertising speak such as "caps" (which aren't) "my time" or other wank to distract you. Just good prices.

But it gets better ... the company offers accessing their internal VOIP system, meaning that I can get at VOIP phone call rates from my mobile ... for instance:


yes, that's a 2 minute 51 second call to an Australian land line costing 4.5 cents and a 40 minute call to a colleague in China's mobile for 58 cents

Since GSM phones (and even 3G) digitize the voice anyway (at the handset) the data stream goes nicely onto Optus's backbone it fits nicely to be shunted off to the VOIP providers existing infrastructure. Better yet, you (or in this case I) did not need to invest in anything more than I already had ... my GSM (Nokia) handset! No Netgear SIP to configure!


So far I've only mucked with the entry plans (because they cost less for a low volume user ;-) and have found that in the Free Access (no monthly fee, nothing included pay as you go) has two type:
*per second billing
*fixed fee 8c to Australian landlines per second billing to other destinations

Having tried both, I've gone with the per second billing one as I found that the call quality is slightly better than the 8c flat fee (after all, you are paying per second). As you can see above its working out cheaper for me too, as I don't normally make long calls anyway. So a 4.5 cent fee for a nearly 3 minute call from my mobile is pretty darn good if you ask me.

To get at these really cheap rates one has to use a WWW interface (or your iPhone) to pre-configure some "smart dial" numbers ... these are essentially an internal PennyTel number which connects to a "normal" phone number. You go to the WWW site, click on make a new smart dial number; it gives me a number to use and I give it the number to call. I put that number into my phone's memory and dial that when I want to call my friend / associate.

I only use this for my frequently dialed numbers (like my Dad, a few friends) and also only for land lines or international numbers. All the rest I just call them ... it is diminishing returns to go to the hassle of the WWW interface for a number I will only call once or twice ... I'd rather just call it. After all I want this service to continue, so I'm happy to pay something to keep it going.

Good one PennyTel.

So, in my personal spirit of working with assisting the "invisible hand" of the free market I'm mentioning what I think is a good deal. I do not onsell this product, so don't call me, contact them!



LensBubbles said...

I always thought Canada has the highest cell phone rates, as they are controlled by 3 large mobile phone companies. After reading your post, I guess it's not so bad after all, but still very high compared to other countries. We are starting to see cheaper rates from other companies trying to break into the near monopoly cell phone market. Since I don't make many calls, I opted for a $20 per month plan with 50 day time minutes and 1000 weekend/evening minutes per month, plus 50 text messages. It works out well for me.

obakesan said...

one of the things I've found interesting in my life is to observe how the same thing is sold and provisioned differently around the world.

One day I should start a site on that.