How Does Kogan's Mobile Offering Stack Up?

Kogan announced overnight a very cheap mobile prepaid deal using Telstra’s older 3G network. Is it actually good value?

I’ll give it credit; as mobile plan pages go, Kogan’s plans are almost stupidly easy to read and understand, which makes a refreshing difference to most providers. There’s a pretty clear appeal to those who love to talk or text, or at least there had better be, given the ACCC’s rather stern interpretation of the phrase “unlimited“.

But that’s not quite the same thing as saying it’s without potential catches and pitfalls. Kogan is reselling Telstra (presumably via a third party, given that Telstra was yesterday denying Kogan was a Telstra reseller at all), but it’s neither Telstra’s 4G nor Telstra’s “NextG” 850MHz service; this is the much older 3G service with an absolute download ceiling of 7.2Mbps, although Kogan’s own statements suggest that you’ll more typically see between 550kbps-3Mbps.

Update: To clarify, because this seems to be causing some confusion. Kogan Mobile is using Telstra’s 850MHz 3G, but not the service that provides up to 4G speeds. Sign up to “Telstra”, and you’re only limited by the specifications of your device, up to 4G or the top speeds of HSPA+. Sign up to “Parts of the Telstra Network” (that’s Kogan’s phrasing for it) with Kogan Mobile, and you won’t go above 7.2Mbps at any time; anecdotal testing and Kogan’s own guidelines suggest that 3Mbps is a more likely figure. Another practical consideration here is that if you were switching over from an Optus phone, make sure it’s 850MHz compatible, and not just 900Mhz.

Telstra’s network coverage is largely seen as being the best in Australia, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suffer from both blackspots and a certain quantity of congestion at peak times; having a service with a slower and lower peak speed might only make that worse. Certainly, if you were buying the service with the expectation of getting the same service you currently get on Telstra NextG/4G, you could be in for a bit of a shock.

The terms and conditions leave it unclear what happens if you do use over the 6GB (or 2GB on the cheaper data-only plan) limit. Kogan’s PR informs me that if you do, you’ve got the choice to either wait out the next recharge period, or buy another recharge — there’s no top-up capability to speak of.

Recharge cycles are on a 30-day cycle, but the terms and conditions state that Kogan can change the conditions and plans on a 14 day basis — which could provisionally leave you high and dry for around half your recharge time. That isn’t to say that Kogan Mobile isn’t good value; it’s certainly good to see a robust competitor in the prepaid mobile space. I’m a heavy user of prepaid mobile services, and anything that puts pressure on everybody to compete can only be a good thing.