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.


Comments

    "but it’s neither Telstra’s 4G nor Telstra’s “NextG” 850MHz service; this is the much older 3G service"
    If Kogan Mobile doesn't use 850MHz, what band does it use? I thought Telstra's only other 3G band was 2100MHz which it shut down earlier this year?

      It's 850Mhz, but the speed doesn't scale up the way NextG does. Cheaper but slower, in other words -- hence my comment that in congested periods, having a slower service already might not be ideal.

        It's 850Mhz, but the speed doesn't scale up the way NextG does.
        Then your article is very confusing, it sounds to me like you say this doesn't run on 850MHz. What is the difference between Telstra's "Next G" 850MHz and non- NextG 850MHz?

          I agree that the wording is poor. From my understanding, NextG is primarily about speed. NextG will have access to HSDPA+ speed potential while the standard 850mhz signal which Telstra wholesale will not have as high potential speed. I think that coverage will be almost identical between the two, the max theoritacal speed is the big factor here.

            So is it a different network or is Telstra throttling the service its reselling to prioritise its own customers?

              As this seems to have caused confusion -- my apologies -- I've added a paragraph above which should explain the difference.

                Please don't spread misinformation. NextG is 850. NextG is the all encompassing trademarked name that Telstra has branded their 850 network as. Regardless of whether it can permit DC-HSPA or not does not change that it is still NextG. Most resellers are limited to HSDPA only, so as not to impact Telstra's premium service.

                  Please don't spread misinformation. NextG is 850. NextG is the all encompassing trademarked name that Telstra has branded their 850 network as.

                  Not it's not. NextG is the name given to Telstra's 3G+, or HSPA+ 850Mhz network. It's effectively "3.5G", which is why they have made the distinction and given it a different name to regular 3G. They still run a regular 3G network, and this is what resellers like Kogan are using. If you sign up to Kogan, who won't have access to NextG speeds.

                  @schmoak2010 that's an interesting point of view, and one that Telstra doesn't share with you.

                  Luke Hopewell recently quoted Telstra responding to the rumours that Kogan was getting special treatment above and beyond other Telstra Wholesale resellers. Telstra said:
                  The 3G mobile services which Telstra Wholesale resells use parts of Telstra’s 3G mobile network and provides a 3G coverage footprint of 97 per cent of the Australian population with a typical download speed of 550 kbps-3Mbps and upload speed of 300kbps-1Mbps (peak network download speed of 7.2Mbps).This is different to Telstra’s NextG mobile service. End user speeds will also vary due to factors such as device capabilities, location, distance from the base station, local terrain, user numbers, hardware & software configuration, download source/upload destination and network management measures.
                  http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2012/12/telstra-were-not-in-bed-with-kogan/

                  Last edited 13/12/12 9:53 am

            The coverage maps indicate the coverage is far from "almost identical".
            It looks like they're restricting coverage to roughly match Vodafone. ie roughly highways and regional centres, but not much in between.

      It is 859mhz as I mention bellow. Author just has some facts confused. Check out the About Us section in the Kogan Mobile website (http://www.koganmobile.com.au/about-us/) for more info on the network

        *850mhz

      Telstra do have a 2100MHz deployment, which is used in addition to 850MHz 3G in areas of high demand. Dunno whether this service can use it.

      I don't know how the "7.2MB/s" limit has been arrived upon. Perhaps Telstra shape the IP traffic, or perhaps the SIM card authorization process is capable of specifying to the network which release of HSPA should be supported on your service.

    While it isnt NetxG speed... It does use Telstra 850mhz bandwidth. Specifically mentions the 850mhz 3G signal in the "Network Services" section on their About Us page (http://www.koganmobile.com.au/about-us/)

      I sense a sock puppet, but that aside, not sure which "facts" were confused; it's not as though Kogan Mobile goes out of its way to explain the difference in any case. Regardless, a paragraph has been added to cover the differences in more detail.

        No affiliation with kogan, used this name to comment plenty of times over lifehacker and gizmodo. Dont cry sockpuppeting when someone pulls you up on something... Initially your wording made it look like kogan wasn't using 850mhz at all. The update you have added makes it alot clearer for everyone now, so thank you

          Might have to agree to disagree on that one -- there was a reason why I'd put "Next G" in quotes, but clearly some people were confused. It certainly wasn't deliberate.

            Not at all implying you we're trying to deliberately trying to confuse. The point just wasn't explicitly obvious for anyone who hasn't got a faily high understanding of mobile technology. All good now though.

    Another alternative for the slightly more budget conscious is Vaya (vaya.net.au). $11 per month will get you $500 of calls and 1.5gb of data - using the Floptus network (which despite the rumors, is meant to be available in NSW). For most users, that should be more than enough.
    For those with a big appetite, Kogan's deal looks very good.
    Note: On a recent trip to NSW, I could get Floptus coverage - it was just very intermittent ;)

      Wow, that is a good deal. Unlimited is better for me, but if it weren't that'd be a very good option.

    This sounds amazing for my grandmother.

      Check out the coverage map before signing.
      In the areas I frequent, going by the coverage maps of each provider, the Optus coverage is significantly better!

    There is no separate "older" 3G network. It is the same network - Next-G on 850MHz UMTS.

    The only difference is that Telstra don't offer the full suite of HSPA+/DC-HSPA on their wholesale offering, so throughput is not as high as if you were a Telstra customer.

      The problem is, many people are confused about this since the Telstra wholesale providers can't use the nextg name (which is fair enough) yet telstra are distancing themselves so far that they're almost giving the impression that you're on some completely separate, independent network..

    Sorry if it ends up being a stupid question, but is there any way that 'bill shock' can arise from a deal like this? I'm already paying $30 per month postpaid with Virgin and I've had a couple of shockers.

    Common sense tells me that with a prepaid card there's no way I'll end up paying more unless I run out of credit, but I'm wondering if there are any other loopholes?

      Nope, all prepaid. You could setup an auto recharge but that's about it

        Agreed; as noted it's designed to combat that kind of thing in theory (subject to the "change terms and conditions" clause noted in the story above)

      I would say that the only "loophole" is that on a post-paid plan you typically get a top notch new smartphone if you pay for unlimited calls, whereas on Kogan or Red Bull Mobile you won't. On a side note Red Bull Mobile are quite punitive with unlock fees on their mobiles. My wife got the $365 plan and got a HTC Explorer for $1. She liked it quite a lot, until she got the Galaxy S 3. But to unlock the HTC Red Bull want $80 or so. Bit annoying because that's a perfectly good phone which is now fundamentally useless. If it were unlocked we could use it with another SIM, but no, Red Bull want to contribute to the ecology by virtually forcing us to purchase an entirely new phone altogether. Miny rant over.

      Make me wonder if Kogan will have some tasty (imported) phone deals for subscribers. Let's hope their unlock fees (if they are locked) aren't prohibitive.

      Actually another loophole might be a fair use policy - anyone know about that with Kogan / Telstra?

        Or you could unlock it for free, just go to https://unlock.vodafone.com.au/voila/handsetunlock/self-service.html;jsessionid=BB0295D29B4B5651EC10C6F279F72BBD?method=selectService since it is actually technically a vodaphone phone and has the vodaphone start up branding, and yes it works as I have done it myself....

          Thanks Man - I'll give it a go - need to do the same with my Galaxy IIs (Vodafone)

    What are the available speeds compared to the other networks?

    I'm with vodaphone right now and I know they aren't the fastest 3G network, but if the sped difference isn't that great I'd be mighty tempted to jump.

    Proof of the pudding... why not forget the numbers and accept the Kogan offer of a free trial (less postage costs) and see if it works for your particular location. And no I'm not a hand puppet, sock puppet or stooge for any company. Just someone who remembered this same sort of endless argument and suspicion when Amaysim first entered the mobile market.

      Free trial?

      I must say, well played Kogan. It does appear that they've trumped the closest competition (Red Bull Mobile as far as I can tell), by a fraction under 20% lower cost, a reliable (the most reliable?) network, an additional 1gb data (for what it's worth) AND they're giving a free trial.

      They have gone up in my estimation by leaps and bounds. Free is good. High value is good. Besting the competition in their first try deserves applause. Bravo.

      If they're making a profit on this, and encourages more customers to buy other Kogan products then it's a very smart move. Wonder if JB could jump in the game too?

      Last edited 13/12/12 10:43 pm

    Does anyone know of any comparable deal that offers as much data per month (plus calls and texts)?

    OK, so how does this plan stack up with the competition?

    $299 Kogan (Telstra, 850mhz, 6gb, no phone purchase offer) vs $365 Red Bull Mobile (Vodafone, ?mhz, 5gb, subsidised but locked phone offers).

    I've had a lot of problems with Vodafone before, but in the last 6 months reception has improved a lot. Telstra apparently has the best reception. Kogan seems the better option for me as I typically use the wi-fi for internet and I barely use a couple of hundred mbs a month. That might change if I get a tablet nut 5gb would be plenty.

    I'd like to know how Vodafones standard 3G compares with the 3G that comes with the Kogan plan. If they're roughly the same then Kogan would be the better option for me.

    I'll look into Kogan Mobile next year when my pre-paid Telstra mobile data (iPad) is up for renewal. As we often do country miles, we want access to the Telstra network. A quick comparison -
    Kogan $9.99/month, $119.88/year. 2 GB/month, 24 GB/year
    Telstra $15/month, $180/year. 1 GB/month, 12 GB/year

    $10 for a 1 month trial to see how the speeds are should be fine, I think?

    I am currently on an iPhone 4 on a 2 year old Telstra 3G plan. Sorry if this is a dumb question but I am not up with all the Mhz and HSPA etc terminology. How would the kogan network compare to the data rate I get on my current 3G plan?

      Little bit Slower I would say as they will restrict you from next G and just give you 3G speeds still most likely totally useable and u might not even notice it, just get the $5 sim and trial it u got nothing to loose

    I have been looking at the Kogan Mobile prepaid deal and it is very attractive. The only thing that concerns me is that there is no mention of how you can recharge apart from supplying your credit card details, which I am not fussed on. Amaysim can be recharged by voucher from 20,000 retail stores Australia wide or by topping up with your credit card one off or auto debit. It would seem that service providers love to dip into your credit card once they have the details. If anyone has more info on this matter and know of another way to recharge once the service has been activated please let me know.

    Currently with Woolworths on an old iPhone 3GS. Thinking of getting a 5 but Woolys have no Nano sim, so Kogan is a pretty good option on price/face value. Anyone with any opinions between Woolys and Kogan for coverage/data speed?
    Thanks

    Had huge trouble with reception down the south of Wollongong at Tullimbar with Optus had to go to the street to make a call now with Kogan unbelievable reception inside and fantastic internet speed can now utube there and FAST!!!

    I was looking forward to trying Kogan Mobile. I received their SIM card early January and have been unable to active it. Kogan customer service is nonexistent! (Check their facebook page for confirmation of that!) They don't read emails and IF (and a very big IF) one receives a reply it's simply a generic off-topic email. I'll give Boost a try.

    I have just done a bit a research on Kogan Mobile. I am not a customer and they were a little aloof with regards to their service coverage. They kept repeating they cover 97% of the population but when you look at their actual coverage map they have far less rural/outback coverage than the standard 3G Telstra network. Also you cannot sent international text or calls or access operator assisted calls. I checked out boost and they are migrating over to the Telstra 3G network in March 13 and will use the entire network. But as mentioned preciously check you own area and primary use to see if it suits. Boost customer service is pretty good. I'm currently with Amaysim which is on Optus network and offers cheap overseas calls. So courses for horses. I will still with prepay for a while.

    I have an old Samsung Galaxy S phone on the Optus network. Will my phone work with Kogan? The problem I have with Optus is that I am unable to use my phone inside my home, with the exception of standing near a window in my lounge. Will I receive indoor coverage?

    Before anyone jumps in to kogan mobile, you need to read some of the horror stories on whirlpool.net.au about them, sims not being sent out on time, now being held back, porting issues, recharge issues, customers suspended for no good reason, little or no customer service from staff who don't have a clue. seems this is a bit of a debacle

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