Tuesday , June 5 2018

Optus has been trialing Unleashed plans, with unlimited mobile data included for $60 per month

Optus has been secretly trialing a number of unlimited data plans in Australia, in what appears – to us, at least – to be the first example of unlimited mobile data plans in Australia. Relatively common in the USA and in other markets worldwide, unlimited mobile data plans aren’t something we’ve really seen here before. Optus probably came closest with its $2 Days plans, which offered (effectively) unlimited data, though the services were later capped when – perhaps – the carrier realised how popular they were (and perhaps how readily that could be abused).

This shows the danger of marketing anything in Australia as “unlimited” – not only will the consumer watchdog come down like a tonne of bricks on anything that isn’t truly unlimited, but anything that is actually unlimited is likely to be abused in some way.

Enter Optus’ Unleashed plans.

From the outset, it was made abundantly clear what was on offer, but before you get too excited, it’s worth noting that these plans were invite only, and after the media caught wind of what was happening, Optus quickly removed every mention of these plans from their website – but not before people grabbed the information to share.

Starting at $60 a month, and reducing to $50 a month for a second service, and $40 for any additional services beyond that, the plans were remarkably simple in their offering:

  • Unlimited Talk & Text to Standard Australian mobiles and landlines, 13/1300 numbers and voicemail. Standard national SMS and MMS.
  • Unlimited Mobile Data for use in Smartphones and some tablet devices only. Music and Video streaming, downloads and tethering at 1.5Mbps. During congestion, heavy data users may be de-prioritised and experience slower speeds. Fair Go Policy applies.

In Optus’ terms and conditions document for these plans, the carrier notes the parameters for the unlimited mobile data. While it isn’t limited by volume (or, necessarily, by speed), usage may be slowed in some circumstances – namely, music and video streaming, and tethering. The full text reads:

Network Management
Music and Video downloads and streaming will be limited to 1.5Mbps which delivers Standard Definition video streaming. Tethering from your mobile phone or tablet connected to this plan will be limited to 1.5Mbps, resulting in slower downloads and uploads. For use in eligible smartphone and tablet devices only. Other devices may be blocked.

During peak and congested periods, we may manage network congestion by deprioritising the heaviest data users on the network. Heavy data users may experience slower download speeds to ensure overall network experience is maintained for all customers.

If at any time we have not enforced network management controls, we may later enforce them without notice to you.

It’s pretty simple, and dare I say, a fairly generous offering. It is worth noting, though, that this change has been a long time coming. Vodafone’s equivalent priced plan, for example, offers 52GB of data for use in Australia which is – for the vast majority of users – effectively “unlimited”, as very, very few users could expect to chew through that much mobile data in a single month.

However, for a carrier come out with the U word is a big, bold step. For the majority of users, these plans will offer no discernable limits or restrictions, and will free heavy data users from having to concern themselves with data limits, or overage charges. Knowing that your mobile bill will be $60 per month, whether you use 10GB or 100GB, is an incredibly powerful thing.

Bravo, Optus, for leading the charge for unlimited mobile data plans in Australia. We hope – and trust – that these plans will eventually be available again, this time to the public, and better, that it drives renewed price competition in the market.

Chris Rowland   Editor and Publisher

Chris has been at the forefront of smartphone reporting in Australia since smartphones were a thing, and has used mobile phones since they came with giant lead-acid batteries that were "transportable" and were carried in a shoulder bag. He saw the transition from AMPS to GSM, loved the Motorola StarTac, and got into Palm technologies in a big way. The arrival some years later of the original iPhone, and then the early Androids, awoke a new interest in mobile technology, and Chris has been writing about it since.

Today, Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

12 comments

  1. The Optus network is still crap compared to Telstra, at least in Sydney, with huge black spots, sketchy coverage in a lot of other places and sub-standard speeds so yeah, bringing unlimited download plans is not exactly going to help this.

  2. So if ‘unlimited’ is defined as limiting tethering speeds to a very substandard 1.5M, this plan is pretty much a scam. It’s time for all telcos to wake up to the opportunity that NBN brings to them for customers itching to drop fixed line broadband for unlimited mobile data. Hell, I’d even pay $120/mo for truly unlimited mobile data and ditch iinet’s ADSL (with metro area speeds akin to dial up).
    To say there’s no commercial case for 4G/5G unlimited mobile data plans is inaccurate, charge a fair price, give the customers what they’ve been begging for and you’re laughing all the way to the bank.

  3. Will be interesting to see if this becomes an actual thing you can choose when you sign up for your service and if/when Telstra will follow suit.

  4. The Telcos get away with calling plans unlimited when they use the “Fair Use” or “Fair Go” policy and the ACCC bends over.

    • From one perspective, I think this is okay. A truly unlimited service would be so commercially flawed that it would never last. Subjecting it to reasonable.. limits.. allows it to be practically unlimited even though some restrictions apply.

      Slowing streaming video and music to 1.5mbit is definitely one way. Wouldn’t affect music services at all, and depending on the service, it could limit HD video depending on the encoding used.

      Where it gets complex is for the user who doesn’t use a lot of data, but does want HD streaming. For them, this kind of plan simply wouldn’t be ideal, but there are plans at a similar price which would meet this use case.

      I think throttling in congestion is, most likely, a means by which Optus can throttle those users who are bordering on abusing the system. The average user, using their phone normally, would be unlikely – you’d imagine – to come across this restriction. Whether that throttling would apply to already speed limited content eg. streaming video is unspecified, but you’d have to imagine it is possible and (for reasons of technical limitations) probably likely.

      Still, it’s a fascinating development.

      • It’s just the terminology I object too. To call something unlimited but still have limits is still wrong. I understand the networks couldn’t handle a truly unlimited plan. We have seen Telstra offer unlimited on a couple of occasions to buy back favour for network outages and just what some people got up to when that was available. Let alone if it was available all the time.

  5. not sure on the fine print re the limited 1.5Mbps speeds. what if i want to stream HD video?
    Also the congestion issue they will throttle unlimited users — even more than that it is already throttled? Beware the fineprint IMO.

    I’m happy with my Vodafone 52GB plan with no throttling, ever

    • I’m with you Scott. I think I’d be more comfortable on a 40+ GB plan with no throttling.

      Then again, not having to worry about my data limit at all does sound pretty comforting. But I mean, if you got unlimited data, you’d absolutely want to stream everything in HD. It’s like buying a brand new 4k TV but only being allowed to watch 720p content….defeats the purpose.

      Anyway, this is an excellent scoop Ausdroid. Great work.

    • I have noticed Voda is slowing down. Reception is dropping and speeds. Am not impressed any more. 9 months ago I had no probls now can’t wait to be rid of them

      • Must depend a lot on the area Chris, I’ve not really noticed any major changes in Vodafone in the places I use it… But that said, Vodafone’s performance away from the major metropolitan areas can be quite unimpressive.

        • Absolutely, location matters. I have seen this though in the sydney CBD at times, central grinds to a halt. In Perth airport I was getting 700 odd mb in 4g+ and it was amazing. Over the weekend in Alexandria it was again dead slow.
          I don’t use a huge amount of data so will see how Aldi goes.

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