New kids on the telco block Yatango Mobile are set to make a splash in the market by “harnessing the power of social media”. I know it sounds cliché and in some aspects it is, but when we looked deeper into the offering it was hard to step back and write them off; there’s some real sense to this business model. To sign up with Yatango you’re required to have a Facebook profile setup and “connect” using it.
As a SIM-only virtual operator (i.e. they do not have their own network; they resell the Optus network and coverage), like others entering the market they don’t offer subsidised handsets: Just mobile service!
Signing up and plan options
The signup process is simple and painless, it took me less than 10 minutes to sign up online in 4 easy steps, including payment details:
- Who are you?
- What service do you want?
- Review your order
Linking to Facebook means that you only have to fill in a few details to confirm your identity. Of course, you need to fill in any details that you’ve not got attached to your Facebook profile (if you’re smart, given the reputation Facebook has earned regarding privacy, you might not have much on there).
The big choices come when you look into the plan options, unlike the big 3 carriers (Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone), Yatango offer a no-commitment postpaid option where you can change your plan on a month by month basis, including a $0 monthly commitment PAYG (Pay As You Go) option with no penalty for doing so. In keeping with the other telcos, the more you commit to spend, the cheaper your calls, SMS and data become.
If you decide to keep it simple and only pay for what you use the costs are:
- Calls are 15c per minute to non Yatango users, 8c to Yatango users, with no flagfall
- 5 cents per meg of data used — yes that’s $50 per gig!
- SMS are 12 cents each
- MMS are 50 cents each
- Voicemail retrieval is 15 cents per minute
In the grand scheme thats not too bad compared to the other carriers, in fact it compares quite favorably with most of them, except for the data cost which seems quite high.
So what’s the attraction?
Like most people, I know I spend too much on my mobile phone and I actually went up a plan to get extra data when I didn’t need the increased call or SMS inclusions. The fact you can tailor the plan to your needs really excites me and I know this will excite a lot of people out there too. Rather than be forced to do as I did, you simply choose a larger data quota and drop your phone call requirement, staying inside your budget and making the service work for you.
The real motivator for a lot of people is going to be the “get something for nothing” carrot that’s dangling tantalisingly close. A $5 credit for every friend or family member you bring to Yatango is fairly attractive, if you get a batch at once you could potentially have a free month’s mobile access, or a steady stream will get you cheap access for 6 months as well as discounted calls when you contact other Yatango users.
Receive 7¢ Yatango credit* per min on calls to your connections on our ‘PAYG’ rate. Meaning you will only pay 8¢ per min. How good is that!
If you have a ‘Voice Pack’ you can earn 0.5¢ Yatango credit** per minute on calls to your Yatango connections.
An interview with Yatango’s Andy Taylor
We took the opportunity to discuss with Founder and CEO of Yatango, Andy Taylor, some of the finer details of the service and asked some of the hard questions that were posed when the social media link was put in front of us:
[n2]Andy Taylor[/n2] [ans]Nothing unsolicited, the only way they’ll receive any correspondence from Yatango is either by opting in or if you specifically invite them. Essentially the same as any app or game on Facebook. There is no ability for the Yatango system to reach people directly.[/ans]
[n1]Ausdroid[/n1] [ques]Will you ever sell devices, or are you planning on remaining with the BYOD (Bring your own device) model indefinitely?[/ques]
[n2]Andy Taylor[/n2] [ans]We are planning on taking on tier 1 providers in phase 2 of the business roll out. The biggest problem we have is Apple and their exclusive relationships with the carriers. The only possible sidestep on this is doing a deal with Mobicity or another parallel importer.[/ans]
[n1]Ausdroid[/n1] [ques]Can you clarify your data billing rates please? There’s been a bit of controversy lately with other carriers changing the way they charge for data, so could you spell it out for us: Are you charging per session, per kb or per MB (or part thereof)?[/ques]
[n2]Andy Taylor[/n2] [ans]We’re charging per MB, this is by design of the Optus system. We’re pushing for changes soon which will happen down the track.[/ans]
[n1]Ausdroid[/n1] [ques]Is your “Unlimited” social media option really unlimited? Or is there a fair use policy hidden somewhere in the fine print?[/ques]
[n2]Andy Taylor[/n2] [ans]It’s truly unlimited to these networks:
[n1]Ausdroid[/n1] [ques]Following on from that, are customers required to use the official apps for the network they’re connecting to?[/ques]
[n2]Andy Taylor[/n2] [ans]You are segmented into the apps that are provided by the networks, that’s due to the way the URL monitoring occurs.[/ans]
[n1]Ausdroid[/n1] [ques]You’re using Optus, there’s no secrets there! Is 4G on your radar? Is it something you can offer, or is there something in your contract with Optus preventing you from accessing that particular service?[/ques]
[n2]Andy Taylor[/n2] [ans]We’d like to think early Q2 but confirmation is in the pipeline.[/ans]
Andy went on to tell told Ausdroid:
Yatango Mobile is a new online mobile telecommunications utility that allows people to customise their own mobile plan, manage & monitor their usage and earn FREE reward credit in order to save money on their monthly mobile phone bill.
Traditional telcos thrive on complexity and fear, relying on low utilisation to deliver record profits from a lack of transparency around usage.
We are revolutionising the telecommunications market by empowering people to take control of their mobile needs and dictate better rates through the power of community. It’s collaborative consumption at it’s best. For the first time, people know longer need to purchase an insurance policy in the form of a cap plan and under-utilise. They can take advantage of real-time transparency and pay for what they use!
We are about to launch a 30 day free trial offer that will allow people to ‘try us out’ and get a true understanding of their usage so they can pay for what they need. This will launch later tonight. We are also in the process of finalising an iOS & Android mobile application.
We are looking to prove this concept in Australia before rolling out the platform to the rest of the world with local telco partners. Conversations are already underway to expand later this year.
How’s the speed and coverage?
As you can see from the Speed Test picture to the right (taken just outside the Adelaide CBD late morning using a GSM Nexus S) Yatango is no slouch when it comes to speed despite only being on the 3G network offering from Optus at this time. With 4G on the horizon, it’s sure to improve in the not-too distant future.
The coverage that Yatango offers really isn’t any surprise to anyone, it mirrors the Optus coverage. The Optus coverage map is quite accurate to my testing, giving coverage to fringe areas and even showing (although I’ve not had the opportunity to test it) what appears to be single towers up in areas such as Coober Pedy, Roxby Downs, the Flinders Ranges, Broken Hill and funnily enough Longreach up in Queensland. While I’d be happy to do a tour of rural towns, Ausdroid’s budget for device and network testing isn’t quite up to it (yet).
As a result of having the coverage that Optus has to offer, Yatango also has the voice call quality that Optus has. While it’s (being brutally honest) not the same voice quality that the Big T offers due to their network coverage, it’s pretty darn close. I’ve had a couple of instances where I’ve had to do the old Optus 2 step while on a call to get the sound to level out and stop distorting but overall it’s nothing I’ve not experienced on other networks recently.
The potential for danger out of all of this is the customer service model. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that they’re avoiding providing customer service but it might not be the type of service that some users are looking for.
Support is through their community based forums where you can ask a question to the community and wait for an answer… Both the “Support Forum” and “Contact Yatango” links both end up in the same place: http://support.yatangomobile.com.au/ which for most basic queries could and should work just fine.
However, some users will want to speak to a person and get an answer now, even if that means waiting on a phone queue. That being said, the type of customer that are going to link their mobile service to Facebook are the type of customer that are more likely to be comfortable and, no doubt, familiar with community support models and discussion forums.
Does a telco with this type of model have a place in the market? Personally, I say yes! Whole heartedly, unreservedly YES! It’s about time someone had the balls to stand up and say “You tell us what you need from your phone” instead of dictating what you can get for your money, after all it’s my money why shouldn’t it work for me instead of just landing in some faceless company’s pocket?