Late last year, Kogan entered the Australian telecommunications business as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, offering a number of attractive plans that promised to deliver services to Australian consumers at a rate befitting the company’s name. Could Australia’s disruptive entrepreneur, Ruslan Kogan, break into one of the toughest spaces and make a name for himself?
The service was unique at the time – while other MVNOs piggybacked on Optus or Vodafone’s networks, Kogan was one of the first companies to purchase access to Telstra’s wholesale 3G network – this isn’t the same network that runs Telstra’s Next G service, though, and Kogan purchases their access to the network through a wholesaler called ispONE. This sounds complicated, but it’s an important distinction.
When Kogan originally announced pricing for their service, I decided to join. I was with Vodafone on an expired contract and was waiting for a service to really push me over the edge to prompt change – after all, I was a hapy Vodafone customer with a number of services to my name.
What made me change? Two things: Price and Coverage. Let’s get into what makes the Kogan Mobile an attractive deal — and a good one, at that.
- Cheap Pre-Paid deals
- Unlimited Access & large data allowance
- Great Coverage
- Great mobile app
- Slow customer service
- Porting related issues
- No 12 month Data Only option
The thing that dawned on me straight away was Kogan’s extremely simple sign up process. Once you have received your SIM – which costs $4.99, and also gives you 100 minutes, 100 SMSs and 100MB of data – you go to the Kogan Mobile website, click on Activate Your Sim, follow the prompts and within 5 minutes your service is ready to be provisioned, and will normally be activated between 15 minutes to a few hours from that point.
Porting your number is easy, and is also done during the signup process. You can either select a Pre-Paid plan during signup, or select the trial offer and change to a Pre-Paid plan at a later date – either online, through your newly-created account, or through the Kogan Mobile App available on the Google Play store.
Plans and Pricing
Kogan offers customers 2 main deals – an all-inclusive offer (voice, text and data services), and a data-only plan. The all-inclusive deal is available in three variants: ACCESS 30, ACCESS 90 and ACCESS 365. As the names suggest, they provide the same deal – Unlimited Calls, Unlimited Texts and 6GB of data per month – for either 30, 90 or 365 days cost of $29, $79 and $299 respectively. The data only plan (“DATA 30”) provides you with 2GB of data for 30 days and costs $9.99 – surprisingly, it’s only available to purchases in 30 day intervals, unlike the all-inclusive plans.
The Companion App
Kogan offers iOS and Android apps, through which you can recharge and make changes to your account. You’re given a complete readout of your account-related information: days remaining until your credit expires, voice minutes and SMS remaining on the trial plan, or the amount of data remaining from your 6GB on an all-inclusive plan. For some reason, it also gives you access to Kogan’s online store.
The app suffered some serious issues in their early days – it would crash upon login on a number of handsets including my Galaxy Nexus, but once this was fixed the app was a joy to use.
You can do just about anything you could want to through the app… except, lodge a support ticket. I’ll talk about support tickets and customer service a little later on.
Coverage is the other main reason for my change, even though Kogan only uses about 6,600 of Telstra’s 850Mhz ‘NextG’ 3G towers (about 1,500 short of Telstra’s entire network), the coverage is great. Speeds aren’t as fast as Telstra’s network either, as it’s capped at 7.2Mbps. This means no Dual Channel HSPA, and of course no 4G LTE.
That said, the service still manages to provide decent speeds, and covers about 98.5% of the population. This is better than Optus’ and Vodafone’s current network coverage, and considering the price it’s possibly the best deal going around right now – even with Aldi entering the fray.
On a trip from Pinjarra (80km souht of Perth) down to Denmark, I lost coverage maybe 3-4 times for a period of 5 minutes each – not that bad really, and much better then the Vodafone iPhone my other half had with her (which barely had coverage outside of major towns).
Kogan has had fairly well-publicised problems with their recharge processes since launch, and I found myself right in the middle of it all.
I’d ported my number from Vodafone, and the porting process had completed in about 20 minutes (a normal timeframe). The phone worked fine – voice, text and data were functioning without issue – but when the 10 days expired and I tried to recharge, my credit was put into what they called Pending status. I recieved a message on my phone through the app that my credit would be applied in 30 minutes but 2 hours later my credit this hadn’t happened yet, and I was still “Pending”. I decided to call Kogan to try to resolve the problem.
After listening to Maneater 5000 times (the only music they have on hold), after 50 minutes I was still waiting to talk to someone. The recorded on-hold message suggested I submit a support ticket as this was the quickest way to fix and address any issues, so I did.
At about 8:30AM the next morning, my recharge had still not been applied, nor had I recieved a reply from my support ticket (the quickest was to fix and address any issues, remember?). It was a Saturday morning, and I assumed that it would be applied on Monday. Within the next few hours though, the credit had finally been applied but I still had no response to my support ticket.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I received the following response:
Dear Lucas Burnett,
There was a fault with your service that was escalated to the network carrier.
I trust that this has been resolved and that the Access30 plan has now been added to your services.
I apologise for the delay. This was a network provider issue affecting the transfer of your service from the starter pack to the Access30, and will not be an issue for your future extensions of your access.
With cheap services like this, there’s always going to be something that is skimped on – most of the time, it’s customer service. In Kogan’s case, this is a double-edged sword. You can really only talk to their staff via the Support Ticket system, as calling can be extremely hit or miss. However, when they have an issue with the wholesale provider (in this case, ispONE), it seems there is little they can do other than wait for their network provider to fix the issue. It’s also notable that they’re referring to their provider as “the network carrier” instead of referring to them by name.
The other issue that has surrounded Kogan’s service concerns data and call usage. There have been incidents of some users being cut off or disconnected due to an apparent violation of Kogan’s “fair use” policy. Most carriers have some kind of policy in place, but it seems that Kogan’s is quite strict.
Kogan’s main limitation applies to data usage – if more then 400 MB of data is used per-day for 3 consecutive days, the customer runs the risk of being disconnected. A number of people have raised issues with this, and Kogan themselves have taken the wholesale provider ispONE to court – a battle they won – after they forcibly disconnected hundreds of customers, and flagged others as “ineligible” for renewal.
I have nothing really bad to say about Kogan’s service – the coverage is good, the speed is good enough, and other then the fuss surrounding my recharge issues, I’ve had no problems with the service. The mobile app works well, and gives me access to all the information I need, but it does need the ability to raise support tickets – this should be an easy fix.
If you need good decent coverage at a rock bottom price, Kogan currently beats out all others.
Final word? Go and get it, it’s worth every cent for a pre-paid plan.