'Unlimited' Pre-Paid Mobile: What Do You Really Get?

Just how 'unlimited' are Australia's unlimited pre-paid mobile phone services? We compare the small print of each telco to see how much phone usage is actually permitted — along with your chances of getting disconnected from the service if you overstep the mark.

Phone picture from Shutterstock

Earlier in the week, Kogan Technologies came under fire for dumping customers from its unlimited pre-paid mobile phone service for what it claimed to be “unreasonable” usage. As we noted at the time, this shouldn't have come as too much of a surprise to anyone who took the time to read the terms and conditions before signing up.

However, it did get us thinking about how upfront Australian telcos are on their websites when it comes to fair usage policies. Here's an overview of each company's 'unlimited' T&Cs.

Kogan Mobile

According to Kogan's website, Kogan Mobile offers unlimited Australian calls and texts and 6GB of data on a Telstra network for $29 a month.

The Kogan website is pretty slipshod when it comes to the T&Cs — on certain pages of the website, you can only access usage information through a 'members-only' area, while other pages provide access to a PDF summary.

The critical information summary states that customers must not:

use the Service in a manner where your volume of calls or texts within a single 30 day period exceeds the volume of calls or texts made by 99% of users of the same type of Service within that same 30 day period, as reasonably determined by Kogan.

Furthermore, customers are restricted from downloading/uploading more than 400MB of data on three days in a 30 day period or downloading/uploading more than 1GB of data on a single day.

Aldi Mobile

The Aldi Mobile 'Unlimited Bolt-on Pack' purports to offer unlimited national calls and text, plus 5GB of data for $35 a month. It also comes with $10 credit for international and premium services. However, a perusal of the service's critical information summary reveals the below disclaimer:

The ALDImobile Unlimited bolt-on is provided for the benefit of residential users and is not for commercial use or for use as a permanent connection. Further, data included PrePaid bolt-ons are not designed to replace a home Internet connection or for regular download of large files.

Delving deeper into the Acceptable Use Policy document unveils the following:

You must not stay connected to the Service continuously for an unreasonable amount of time, or download or upload an unreasonable volume of data, given the purposes for which the Service is provided to you and the usage patterns of other users (for example, staying connected continuously for several days, or downloading gigabytes of data in a short period)

The document goes on to state that Aldi reserves the right to disconnect users that breach these policies. It may also place time or download limitations on the service or suspend use of the service for a specific period.

This is all pretty clear-cut, although the definition of 'unreasonable' is not specifically spelled out in terms of phone usage. The policy is also somewhat buried from view on the website — it requires four mouse clicks to get to the actual policy details.

Amaysim Unlimited

The Amaysim 'Unlimited Offer' claims to provide unlimited national calls and text, unlimited access to social networks and 6GB of data for $39.90 a month. International call rates start from six cents per minute.

At the bottom of its website, Amaysim states that its unlimited plan is "for personal use only" — but neglects to provide any other details. Its T&C page adds the following:

If we determine that you are using amaysim Unlimited other than for personal use or if we determine that you are using the Plan in a way that does or may, in our opinion, adversely affect the network we reserve the right (at our option) to transfer you to the amaysim As You Go Plan, or to immediately suspend or cancel your access to the Service.

Red Bull Mobile Unlimited

Red Bull's 'monthly Unlimited pre-paid plan gives the user unlimited national calls and text, access to the Red Bull MOBILE Portal and 4GB of data for $39.

Interestingly, the Red Bull Mobile Unlimited critical information summary does not make any mention of unreasonable usage (at least, not that we could find).

Boost Mobile

Boost's 30-day pre-paid 'UNLTD' unlimited plan claims to provide unlimited national calls and text, and "up to 3GB data" for $40.

Boost Mobile is the most upfront about its unlimited policy, with a prominent disclaimer under the heading 'Things You Need To Know:

For personal use only and subject to Telstra Fair Go Policy on unreasonable use.

An actual link to the aforementioned policy is not provided, however. Boost's Terms and Conditions — which are also handily displayed on the main webpage, provide the following details:

We may suspend or cancel a service for a number of reasons– including when you are in breach of OCT (such as using your service in a way which we reasonably believe is fraudulent, poses an unacceptable risk to our security or network capability or is illegal), in an emergency, if we're legally required to or if we need to work on our networks. The amount of notice (if any) we give you depends on the circumstances.

So there you have it — most unlimited pre-paid mobile plans come saddled with plenty of terms and conditions, although the transparency among telcos differs. Delving into the small print can be tedious at the best of times, but it will help to avoid disappointment. Like most things in life, when a mobile phone offer seems too good to be true, it most often is.


Comments

    Taking Kogan's example, If you can't download more than 400mb/day on 3 days through the month, that means the maximum you can transfer (upload or download) per 30 day month is 399mb x 27 days + 999mb on 3 days = 13770mb
    Therefore, the maximum data transfer is 13770mb/month, therefore not unlimited, and therefore false advertising.

      No, the maximum is 6GB per month. What aren't you understanding? The calls and texts are meant to be unlimited. NOT the data.

      great example of a user not actually reading or looking at anything making himself look like a complete idiot!

      Stevo - Its not really false advertising when the ad clearly & explicitly states that you get unlimited calls & texts as well as 6Gb data. The numbers you provided demonstrate that a user could easily use all of their included data twice over during the month and therefore you may be guilty of false reading/comprehension.

    Im with TPG we have a bundled internet connection with them I get I pay $15 per month pre pay there pretty good i havn't had any problems with them i did get a better deal than is currently advertised but we where quick when they first started with mobiles . the downsides are Super Value Plans exclude Calls and SMS to 19 numbers, Premium SMS, Optus Zoo services, Third Party content, International Video Calls, International Roaming, Directory Assistance, Calls thru to connect services (eg 124YES) and other Enhanced Services. I reckon there pretty good any objections. :D

    Kogan is trying to fool people into thinking they didn't read the fine print now. Check this archived page from 8 February 2013 out: http://web.archive.org/web/20130208175850/http://www.kogan.com/au/mobile

      Since they are able to change their T&Cs whenever they like and you are Not locked into a contract, it's not really a huge deal.

    Re Kogan - How can any of us be expected to know what "the volume of calls or texts made by 99% of users of the same type of Service within that same 30 day period" is.

    Re Amaysim - "If we determine" - the choice of words seems to give them carte blanche to decide what they want, when they want.

    Seems like Red Bull is the best option. and Boost should get credit for being clear about things.

    Also, it strikes me that the telcos seem to be more concerned about data heavy usage rather than voice call heavy usage? Personally I'm mostly interested in a value service for voice call heavy usage.

    I'm thinking that if the telcos are concerned about data heavy usage that new technology should calm those concerns over the next few years or so. Maybe we can expect genuine unlimited, or high value services within a few years.

    Would be interesting to hear more about the other service providers (not necessarily just pre-paid) that offer unlimited services.

    Can you give a link to where you found the restrictions on Kogans data access? From the picture above and on their website t&c's all I can see is "download or upload more than 400MB of data on a single day on three or more occasions in a 30 day period" not the "more than 400MB of data on three days in a 30 day period or downloading/uploading more than 1GB of data on a single day" in the story above.

      The full list of Kogan T&Cs can be found here -- https://www.koganmobile.com.au/legals/terms

        Thanks but it's just the 365 plan that has that wording, the other plans are more restrictive on the daily data limits.

          Nope. Jager is correct in the article.
          The section regarding limits on data usage are identical for bothy the 30, 90 and 365 plans.
          Aside from the thing about "you can't recharge multiple times on the 30 day plan"; they are the same.

            Thanks Jimmybadsol, you are right and Jager is correct. It's very odd though because I read the t&c's the day this went up and what I put in my comment was cut and pasted from the 30 plan on the kogan website. They were definitely a few days ago!

    cool, so kogan will kick off the top 1% of users every month until there is no one left. good plan.

      That's exactly what I thought - there's always going to be a top 1% of users who, by virtue of being in the top 1%, are going to be using more than everyone else!

      Even better: technically it says more than the other 99% of users for either calls or texts, so they can remove 2% in total each month.

      Also, if they prune the users that use that excess amount, assuming the existing userbase as a whole uses the same amount on average, the "cutoff" will be 2% less each month. That means in 2 years time, the call/text limits could be cut down to around half of the original cutoff.

      But it actually makes sense for them. They will almost certainly continue to gain customers as time passes (faster than the ones they cull), so if they continue to increase (or even retain) their revenue whilst giving the highest network users the chop, they are going to avoid network overload (potentially minimising running costs) while still turning a profit.

      That's all theoretical, of course; I'd be surprised if it's remotely as drastic, but the potential is there.

      Last edited 22/03/13 7:02 pm

    Check Vaya unlimited 45$ plan as well:
    http://www.vaya.net.au/?option=Mobile&4Gsimonly

    What about Optus $2 days? That is pretty much unlimited calls, SMS, MMS, internet as long as you don't breach their T&C, e.g. put the SIM in a 3G modem. Works out to $60 a month, give or take, but I know what to expect.

    It's breach, not breech. I wish you so-called journalists, the so-called wordsmiths, could actually get the basics of spelling and correct word-usage right. Is it so much to ask? Is it really?

      Thanks for the spot, fixed now. Incidentally, I'd argue your usage of a hyphen in 'word usage' is incorrect in the context and could be better expressed.

        It appears that Brea the Proofreader put a round in the breech and shot himself in the foot"

      I think you'll find our strike rate is better than the majority of our competitors. Very occasionally, an error slips through the net. (Oops, now I'm mixing my sports metaphors. Worst journalist ever.)

        Hear hear!
        And their typo rate is far, far lower than random Internet commenters ho call themselves 'proofreaders' and complain about how they could write a way better article if only their job wasn't so demanding and they didn't spend all their time making whiny comments about single words in extensive articles that they completely missed the point of.
        I may be reading to much into that.
        And now I've made a sentence too long!
        'Wurst comment evvar'

      Shut up, dude. Calling this bad journalism because one typo is present every every no and then is ridiculous.

      Why do people equate grammar with intellect? I have known illiterate people who are more intelligent than scholastic persons. One is not equal to the other.
      Why do any of us care about this? Surely there are more important things to care about in this life. None of us are more or less than any other, no matter what any person (or their egos) may say. Different does not equal more, or less.

        101% correct!

    It seems straightforward. If unlimited mobile plans aren't actually unlimited, why are they allowed to be called unlimited?

    Providers are being disingenuous, just like they were with 'cap' plans (until the ACCC stepped in). One provider offers an Infinity plan, which is infinite BS. Another disconnects the top 1% of users.

    But if you're reading this I'd like offer you a job paying $225,000 pa*

    *Not really.

    I'm on Optus $2 days. Also an unlimited plan that was missed here. Unlimited "mobile internet" is included however whilst I get speed tests of over 5MB's and >30MB's Telstra 4G on speedtest.net app (4S, iOS 6, evasi0n) I can never watch a YouTube video from start to finish. Optus caps streaming services on this unlimited plan.

    The solution? Evade their packet inspection technologies and use a VPN service. Anything, even the insecure PPTP protocol will be enough to trick them. The result? Clear sailing, all day. Stream, tether, download. Go for gold. Currently using ~6gb per month.

    The words "Unlimited" and "Subject to Fair Use" are contrdictions in terms and therefore should not be used together!!

    Any word on what Kogan does if you sign up with the 365 plan and breach the 400MB/day limit, ie: 500MB in one off day - do you get your entire service for the year cut off with no payback?

    How can I get directory assistance with Kogan? I tried the Telstra number and it didn't work.

      Kerry, You can add a bolt on of $14.99 per month to access Telstra directory assistance, international call and premium calls/SMS.
      However, you should be aware that if your bolt on runs out of credit, every single call and SMS you make will result in a nag message being received to tell you that you have run out of credit on the plus pack and to add more by visiting the website or dialling the number to recharge. I have been on Kogan for 2 months and I added a bolt on to make an international call. There is .09c left in the actual bolt on balance, however, every time I use the phone, I receive an annoying text message from "MyAccount" to tell me I have no credit and to recharge. So far, the count is up to 368 messages. I have attempted to contact Kogan by phone and by opening support tickets, one of which has been open for since the 9th (after being given a 48 hour expectation) and still no response. Calling support just leave me on hold for 16 minutes before being told they're too busy. The TIO are involved, but it seems Kogan are in no hurry to resolve these issues.

      At this point, $29/month isn't worth the hassle - and before anyone decides to crucify me about my comment or tell me you get what you pay for - my hard-earned money every month is just as valuable if I pay $29 or $299 per month. I shouldn't expect a lower grade of service just because as a company wants to offer a more competitive rate for a service.

    No way I would go with Kogan... How dare tell you how to use your 6gb of internet per month... When its gone its gone... why should they care how you use it... STUPID !!!
    And Unlimited Calls is not unlimited. Its acceptable use according to them only.

    I believe Kogan sorted this out and successfully filed a suit against their MVNO - ISPOne (Telstra's wholesale business arm). ISPOne must now provide full services to Kogan Mobile users and not terminate anyone for whatever they deem is "excessive usage". Excessive my arse lol.

      TELSTRA is crap no matter how you access it.

    Aldi has just halved their data from 5 to 2.5 gig per month. Here is my point, I pay for a certain amount of data per month and they just CUT ME OFF today for exceeding the DAILY usuage amount. Told me to find a new provider.

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