Is Telstra’s $5 A Month Visual Voicemail Charge Worth It?

Is Telstra’s $5 A Month Visual Voicemail Charge Worth It?

As we foreshadowed yesterday, Telstra is belatedly adding the visual voicemail feature for iPhone users — but if you want it, you’ll have to pay $5 a month for the privilege. Is that a worthwhile investment? The answer is “maybe”, if you get a lot of voicemail from a fairly predictable group of contacts.In the iPhone implementation, Visual Voicemail presents you with a list of all your voicemail messages, letting you select which messages you listen to and even delete messages without hearing them. That’s a more flexible approach than conventional voicemail, which forces you to listen to messages in a given order and often charges you for the privilege.

On Telstra cap plans, you pay 30 cents per 30 seconds (or part thereof) to retrieve voicemail. (While Telstra has shifted to per-minute billing, that doesn’t apply to voicemail.) The only exception is the $129 a month cap, which offers free voicemail access. (For the sake of this discussion, I’m presuming this arrangement won’t change with next week’s plan revamp from Telstra. Prepaid customers can’t access visual voicemail.)

So the first hurdle you’d need to overcome is how often you ring Telstra’s MessageBank service in the first place. If it’s less than 17 times a month (roughly once every couple of days), then paying $5 a month won’t save you any money. If you’re on the $129 cap, then you can grab as much voicemail as you like and it might not be worth investing.

Even if you’re constantly checking voicemail, whether visual voicemail is useful to you might in part depend on how ruthless you are in paring your inbox. If you regularly find yourself deleting messages as soon as they start, then having the option to do that without listening might be useful. It also depends on functional caller ID: if you regularly get VOIP calls from your mother, they may not show up with an identified caller in your list. In short, there’s no absolute answer to whether you should pay for this: it depends on your existing usage patterns, and how much you care about spending $5 a month.

There’s a palpable sense of outrage from some customers that Telstra is charging for this service, but I think a little pragmatism is in order. No-one seems to have held back on buying an iPhone while waiting for this option, and if you really don’t want to pay for visual voicemail, then you can always use Vodafone. Given its network woes, Vodafone is in no position to start charging for that option, but Telstra arguably has the luxury of at least trying on that approach. And if you don’t want it, no-one is forcing you to buy it. As one commenter on our earlier story pointed out, at least no-one is being made to pay extra for tethering (except some Vodafone customers).


  • Voicemail retrieval is included in my plan($129). I’m not prepared to add an extra $5 a month to my bill.

    Definitely going to skip this option thank’s.

    • thats it, unless this $5 comes out of my cap like my current voicemail charges i won’t sign up although i like the sound of the three email voicemail as attachment option shame i could never get 3g receiption to check my email when i was with them.

  • Australian users on Three can get form of a “visual voicemail” option for free.

    Three will automatically send all your voicemails as attachments to your Three email account. So I set up my Three email account up on my iPhone and whenever I get the “new voicemail” notification I can pop into Mail and listen to the message there.

    I never have to call voice mail to retrieve messages and I can keep/delete messages, selectively re-listen, see who’s left messages when, etc. all within my Three email account (which, needless to say, I would have no use for otherwise).

    Better still, this isn’t restricted to the iPhone. I used to do this on my old Sony Erricsson phone as well.

  • $5/mth sounds like them gaining as much as they can before the technology becomes mainstream. Didn’t we all have to pay for Caller ID when it first came out? Now it’s a given.

  • I was using Visual Voicemail on O2 in the UK last year. Nice idea in theory and I was excited to have it, but the system often reset itself and I often missed messages. You also need a data connection to retrieve messages, and as your connection will come in and out during the day it may actually take a minute or two to download the message if/when you’ve been notified that you’ve got a message. I actually still DIALLED in to get my voicemail to get the messages because it was quicker.
    I would have it if it was free but I wouldn’t pay any extra for it, and I can now see why other providers won’t spend money on implementing it.

  • I missed Visual Voicemail greatly when I switched from Vodafone to Telstra (when it actually worked). I’ve waited so long for Telstra to cough up the goods, that between the joy of it being FINALLY available and the possibility that it would be implemented more reliably, $5 per month seemed a bargain. I’m a sucker like that.

  • I use Telstra’s Voice2Text. It’s far more visual than Visual Voicemail and it works very well. You can sit in a meeting and quietly read the message.

    I’m using it for free by disabling all diverts by dialing a code I got from the Whirlpool forums. This disables the divert to 101 and I think it defaults to Voice2Text. I refuse to use 101.

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