Optus is offering a 'free' broadband connection with 50GB of data a month if you sign up for a 24-month contract on one of its home telephony or mobile services. While that sounds like a potentially tempting offer, it's worth considering carefully before signing up.
Optus is offering the free broadband service to customers who sign up for either the $89 Timeless plan for mobile users or the $59.95 Home Advantage Plan for home telephone services. Its broadband service with 30GB of data costs $54.94 a month, a so at first glance that seems like a sound deal.
However it's worth considering the details (and the fact that the more expensive 30GB option probably largely exists to persuade you to buy the alternative, the familiar practice of the decoy effect). While getting broadband bundled might sound tempting, and it could be a cheap way of getting home broadband, both options carry risks.
The Home Advantage plan includes unlimited calls to fixed line numbers, but not mobiles. Called to mobiles are charged at 20 cents a minute for Optus mobiles and 37 cents a minute for others plus a 45 cent connection fee. The total charge is capped at $1 for 20 minutes if you call an Optus mobile, or $2 for 20 minutes if you call an Australian mobile serviced through another provider. (That said, a 3-minute call to an Optus mobile will cost you $1 anyway under this plan.)
The Timeless plan covers fixed lines and Australian mobiles (but not 13 or 1800 numbers, something that won't be changing for a while). It also includes 2GB of data each month.
On either plan, there's no peak/off-peak distinction for the home broadband, but your connections will be shaped to 256/64Kbps if you exceed the monthly limit. (Optus doesn't specify a maximum speed for the plan, in part because that will vary depending on your location.) It's also worth noting that once the contract ends, your broadband also will end; you can't continue on a month-to-month option, but will have to sign a new contract.
For mobile customers, the big risk is that you're stuck on a 24-month contract, which is rarely the approach we advise with mobile phones. Getting a 24-month contract for a landline is also risky if there's any chance you might move house in the interim; you might well be better off getting a mobile broadband dongle instead. If you're in an area where the National Broadband Network will be connected in the next few years, you also might not want to be tied to a broadband contract.
Finally, it's worth bearing in mind that while this offer is cheaper than Optus' standard broadband offering, it isn't the cheapest deal out there. Exetel, for instance, will offer you 1000GB a month and a bundled phone line for $55, and won't sign you to a contract for that. That could be a better deal if you download regularly but don't use a home landline.
Ultimately, as with any communications deal, you need to assess your own usage patterns and work out if the deal makes sense. Don't let an apparently 'free' inclusion drive you towards a package that isn't suitable.