Telstra’s new “Freedom” prepaid plan looks a whole lot like its previous “Cap Encore” plan that I’ve been a keen user of. It would appear that there’s a nasty sting in the new plans if you’re even a moderate data user, however. Update: Now with comment from Telstra.
For a certain part of the Australian population, Telstra’s the go-to network due to its coverage, especially in regional areas where competitor coverage can be a bit hit and miss.
I’ve long been a Telstra customer on a pre-paid basis, largely because it’s a good way to minimise my overall mobile costs while keeping that same level of coverage. My plan of choice, and the one that I’ve recommended to a number of people has been Telstra’s Prepaid Cap Encore plan, largely because if you don’t use your actual recharge credit (as distinct from the call/text/data values that you get at each recharge tier) it accumulates over time.
Indeed, it’s actually how I managed to roam in Tokyo for a week for absolutely no cost at all, as recounted here.
Telstra’s changed its prepaid offerings, however, and Cap Encore is no more. It’s been replaced with what Telstra’s calling the “Freedom” offer. On the surface it’s much as it was before; my preferred recharge rate of $30 still attracts $220 “worth” of calls and texts and 400MB of data, although the cheaper no-data $20 tier appears to have vanished. If you recharge within the month, the credit would still appear to roll over.
What’s not clear is whether or not you can use that recharge credit to buy Telstra’s top up data packs. Social media discussion — and to be transparent, I was put onto this line of thinking and questioning via Twitter — suggests that this might no longer be an option, at least for new SIM contracts. It’s typical for existing telecoms customers to be “grandfathered” — which is to say that you can usually stay on them as long as you do stay on them — but if so it’s a significant blow to the overall value offering.
A specific tweet from the main Telstra account stated that
@peterwells Plus packs are not compatible with the Freedom offer, we are working to release new add-ons soon -Ash
— Telstra (@Telstra) August 10, 2014
They’ll apparently be available “in the coming months“, which is worrying if you’re a prepaid customer who uses a lot of data. Telstra does offer other prepaid options, but they’re exclusively focused on either calls/texts or long expiry of prepaid credit.
To give an example, in theory under Cap Encore you could use all of a $30 recharge to buy 900MB of additional data usage (One 700MB/$20 pack and one $10/200MB pack).
Under the “Freedom” plan, it would appear you can’t do that, and as such as soon as you go over quota you’ll presumably be charged Telstra’s standard $2/MB, which means instead of being able to get 900MB of usage, you’d get a rather paltry 15MB of extra data before your credit was exhausted.
I’ve put a query through to Telstra’s media team to see if they can clarify how long prepaid customers might have to wait for “Freedom” compatible plus packs and to clarify what happens to existing Cap Encore customers.
Update: As pointed out, the support link from Telstra’s site says that existing Encore Cap customers can stay on Encore Cap, but if you choose to change — and I can’t see too many reasons why you would — you won’t be able to change back. Thanks to Shaun for pointing that out!
Update: Telstra’s clarified the issue — somewhat — regarding Freedom customers, telling me that:
“We are currently developing a new rage of data top up packs for the Pre-Paid Freedom offer that we expect to launch next month.”
Which I guess is better than “in the coming months”. The hook with the Freedom plans is meant to be the ability to choose between the “Anytime Bonus” (Free text to standard Australian mobiles and free talk to Talk to standard Telstra mobiles within Australia) or “Nights Bonus” (Free Talk and Text every night 6pm to 6am to standard Australian numbers for use within Australia), but given how important data is in the modern context, those aren’t concessions I’d argue were worth giving up the existing plus packs for, even temporarily.
Update: Telstra’s now offering data packs for Freedom customers – but you can’t use your recharge data to buy them.
Image: Karl Baron