All About Vodafone's Phone Charge Changes

After 15 months, Vodafone has effectively ditched most of its Infinite offerings and "simplified" its contract plans. In practice, that means far fewer "unlimited" deals and the need to add bolt-on data packs to many plans.

Picture by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

I'll be blunt: these plans don't look like very good value, especially when locked in for 24 months on the lower value deals . The charges for calls and texts are higher than rivals, and the data allowances aren't very generous. Given Vodafone's existing reputational issues, I can't see how looking like the most expensive option will help.

Across most of Vodafone's contract plans (for people also acquiring a new phone), standard calls are now charged at 98 cents per minute, plus a 40 cent flagfall. Text messages cost 30 cents each, while MMS are 55 cents. All of these are taken out of the "included value" for each plan. Plans priced at $59 and above include unlimited texting; those at $79 and above include unlimited calls to Australian landlines and mobiles.

There's some included data on each plan, but not much on the cheapest plans. Standard excess usage charges remain high, at 50 cents per MB. If you sign up for an additional "data pack", you get more data. Whether you're on a 12-month or 24-month contract, the data pack contract is 12 months. $5 a month gets you an additional 750MB of data, $10 gets you 2GB, $15 gets you 4GB, and $25 gets you 8GB. Data pack users also get much lower excess usage fees: 2 cents per MB. In practice, you're more likely to buy a data pack for the cheapest plans.

Here's an interactive spreadsheet listing the new contract plans Vodafone now offers, including the monthly, included value and total costs and the basic data inclusions. Note that these represent the absolute minimum cost: depending on the phone you select, you will pay more once handset charges are included. We've also calculated how many 2 minute calls at standard rates you could make using the plans over a month, which is a stark reminder how little you might get on the cheaper plans. (And again it's a maximum figure: any texting, for instance, will reduce the value).

The good things? 12 month plans are still around, though only for some price points and you can expect to pay high handset charges if you buy a phone on contract using one. Free access to the standard social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare) is included. If you really don't make many calls and want data more often, combining a $19 plan with a $10 data pack would score you a fairly cheap phone with 2GB of data.

The bad things? As I said, the call and texting prices are higher than on any other major network. Because rules to make plans easier to understand haven't yet been ratified, the Vodafone site currently doesn't offer details such as how much a 2-minute call will cost — presumably because the answer is $2.36. Yes, it's simpler that Vodafone no longer has two competing plan options, but that doesn't mean the plans are easy to follow. If you don't want to carefully track your usage, Vodafone's answer is to spend at least $79 a month. That's a similar figure to its rivals, but more than you might want to spend.

Buying on contract is always risky, since you're stuck with the same handset and provider for a long period of time. That said, it remains a popular choice for many people, since it minimises your up-front investment. But with these prices, I can't see how Vodafone is going to improve its market share (in a growing mobile market, it was the only major local provider to lose customers last year).

What's your take on the new contract deals? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Lifehacker's regular Planhacker column rounds up the best communication deals.


Comments

    Has the term Vodafail ever been used in a more appropriate sense?

    Absolute stupidity on their part. Worst service and worst plans just doesn't make sense

      actually in Sydney CBD and beyond Optus is now MUCH worse than Vodafone.. FACT ... These plans are meant to put the market back in line and to expand on Vodas existing customer base experience .. Keep what they have .. simple

        Ummm, NO FACT Voda-troll, who are you kidding?

          He might be right, I'm on Virgin mobile (so it is the Optus network) and I can say data speeds and dropped calls have been problem for me on and off for a while now.

          Plan is up in a couple of months though, so I will probably move to the Telstra or Voda network.

    Wish another carrier had international calls bundled in their cap allowance. I'd switch across in a heartbeat.

      I'm currently on the $99 Timeless plan with Optus and they give $100 international call and text credit per month

        No where near enough. One of the main reason I'm still on Voda and not Telstra/Optus is because these two don't include international calls in the cap included value. My next option will be MVNO of Optus like Virgin/TPG, etc

      Virgin has international call value included on every plan, 29 upwards - its been this way for over 2 years.

      i've beeb using pennytel pennysim. by far the best deals for local, national, mobile and IDD on one sim

    Yeah.... I'm thankful I got a business infinite 45 before this happened - I wonder whether they'll let me renew my existing contract in 2013? If not, I think I'll jump ships to Optus... or *gag* Telstra!

      Telstra's BYO plans are actually better than Optus's. You pay exactly the same get exactly the same rates and data... Plus a MUCH better service and coverage!

      Gag? Are you not aware that Telstra is the fastest and most reliable networks in the country? How anyone who travels with work could go anything else is beyond me, when I was on Optus I struggled in simple place less than 60KM from Melbourne to make calls, and Optus's answer was, "You think it's a big town but it isn't so it won't get good coverage". Or are you just one of those cool people who hates on everything popular so you don't conform to the man?

        more likely a previous customer who has had to deal with their shit in the past. No one disagrees that telstras network is better, but the trade off is that telstra are scum sucking assholes. thats why 'gag'.

    After a ~160 million dollar loss I imagine VF global has stepped in a put a lot of pressure to make some money. While it's well and good to bash this as a bad idea. Somewhere they have modelled the entire situation and are basing these plans off what VF global are using in other countries that clearly do work. Just because these changes don't benefit you doesn't mean that it doesn't make business sense.

      Spot on

        You are assuming people are mindless sheep and that these new contracts would in anyway appeal to new customers. It may make financial sense to you, but if you don't attract new customers and those on existing much better value plans, just leave when the contract period ends, you have achieved nothing. This will not stop the rot, but further accelerate it. They have nothing to offer but good value as their service is so pathetic. But go ahead pay high prices for a poor service.

          +1 to this. I originally joined Voda because the plans were cheap, then left in the mass exodus when the large network issues arose and they flat out denied it (and they're spending so much on upgrading the network now).

          There is no way I would join them again, especially if they're making their plans more expensive.

    My question is this - what does this mean for those of us who've recently signed up to contracts with Vodafone on their "Infinite" plans? If they're being scrapped, does that mean our plan details suddenly change, too?

    ( Please no replies of "Well, vodafone sucks and it's your fault" - it's a serious question. I joined up late last year cause I wanted a cheap plan with a lot of call/text features, and Vodafone was the best at the time. If this changes, it's likely I'll be spending money I don't have on a plan I didn't sign up to.)

      You should still be on the Infinte plan you signed up with. Vodafone have to honor that contract. The new plans only affect anyone signing a new contract with VF from today onwards. If you're still concerned just go into a VF store and they can confirm your queries on the spot.

    21 calls for $49 seems rather expensive.

    I just looked at the chart and I was like WTF?? Your 2 minute section you made doesn't seem to be right at all. You've just based it on the actual cost of the plan not the plan's "included value"..

    So if I'm on a $19 plan I can make 2 x 2 minute calls a week? Get real! Even on a $59 plan I can make less than one call a day.

    Someone explain to me why the system isnt as simple as the UK where you buy a bulk of minutes and texts - (to any phone or carrier) with an inclusive amount of data. i.e 200 minutes, 100 texts and 1 GB of data = $50.
    All this 400 dollars worth of calls is bullshit when the call amounts vary wildly. Its a case of 'how long is a piece of string'. Its the most retarded difficult to compare, backward system i could imagine. Idiots.

      I actually think our system is simpler: you're buying a certain amount of "value" which can be allocated however the user chooses to use it. Take the $49 cap for instance with "$550" of value:

      If you use the phone solely for SMS, that's ~1800 text messages.
      Or you could use it just for calls: that's ~233 2-minute calls.
      Or any mix of the two: only make 100 2-minute calls, and you still have enough credit for 1000+ messages.

      Add into the mix international calls, voicemail, directory assistance, video calls and other possible inclusions and it's much easier to have a single "value" number than to buy minutes for each of these different services.

        It's something that's always annoyed me, and it's just there to hide the actual cost of things from the user while adding a sense of value. They're essentially creating a fake currency (phone dollars, lets call them) which isn't directly linked to real money despite using the same units.

        Let's consider two ways of phrasing the same thing:
        -when you buy $50 credit, you get $500 worth of phone money. calls cost 20c a minute, and data is 10c a mb (in phone money, not real money)
        -when you buy $50 credit, phone calls cost 2c a minute and data is 1c per mb

        Personally I find the second option much simpler to understand and compare with other options. The whole "$50 real money is equal to $500 phone-money" deal just doesn't agree with me at all.

          I completely 100% agree with you there. I reckon the system we have (being able to use whatever services you like out of a pool of combined credit) is good, but the "phone dollars" value is just there because people respond to bigger numbers rather than real cost. According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations above a $49 cap with $49 credit would equate to:
          ~2.5c per TXT
          ~10c per minute calls

          Except when you go over your limit, then phone credits become real money as 100% the stated value.

          10 years ago if your bill came to 200 dollars, guess what, you paid 200 dollars. Think of the included value plans as buying in bulk. It was easier to understand when the change to caps came in 2003....e.g what used to cost 550 bucks now costs 49. It was a natural progression

    Vodafone have spent a shipload on "upgrading" their network and have also lost 500,000 customers in the meantime. They can't keep on bleeding and the unlimited plans have not deterred customers from leaving. Will they call it quits and sell off like 3 did? Unlikely? Who knows?

    If heaps of your friends are on vodafone or three which they are for me, things don't change too much.

      It is really a nice and hfeulpl piece of information. I’m glad that you simply shared this hfeulpl tidbit with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

    tried to change my plan to unlimited yesterday and the guy in the vodafone shop said to wait until august (when my plan actually runs out) because plans are upgraded. a$$hole just lost me a good plan, and I don't want to pay telstra or optus prices...my just give amaysim a go via pre paid and see how there service is...

    I'd love someone to explain why raising their "headline" pricing to match those of telstra (ignoring things like international calls and MMS that most people don't care about) is a good idea?
    The new 850 network might be much better, but it's got a long way to go before it matches telstra, and 2100mhtz is clearly still struggling when you can stand in the same spot on the street (no buildings) and get 500kbps with 2100 and 4mbps with 850.
    Their regional network needs a signficant boost in coverage and speed also - having major regional towns like Tamworth on 3G 900 only still is a bit laughable.
    When my contract ends in 2013 I might have to go back to Optus (so long as these 3G900 upgrades for the cities actually help) or across to Telstra.
    The only good news in all of this is that an 8Gb data pack is now $25 a month for 12 months (or $15/mth for 4Gb) - but does not include unlimited youtube & skype like the old data packs did.

    Will they still offer free Vodafone to Vodafone (Inc 3)?

    I actually work at Vodafone, and the way the regional managers sold the new plans to me was "It's easier for staff to remember. Less plans = less mistakes" Of course I told him that no one will like this, and he just looked at me like I was a retard...

    But with phones like the iPhone 4S being an extra $18 on the $50 infinite plan, we found that 90% of the customers were just signing up to the $49 plan, where it's only an extra $10 a month. The Infinite plans weren't as popular as everyone thinks..

      You're partly right. 550 of credit is STACKS for a lot of people. Rationalising the plans just made sense. The infinite shook up the industry for a while and now things are back to normal and is Vodafone being ahead of the recommendations about plan naming etc No such thing as a postpaid cap at voda anymore...

    I am also pretty sure that unlimited social networking has been taken out unless you add a data pack - hmmm

    How ridiculous! I currently am on an infinite plan and maintain that, despite vodafone's poor coverage in some areas, it was FANTASTIC value. Never worried about call costs, going over cap etc. If they don't bring back these plans when the time comes for me to renew my contract, they've lost another customer.

    They have removed free social networking from their plans! :(
    You now have to dish out an extra $5 or more per month for data to get this.
    Their old data plans were so much better too, with free youtube + skype + 700mb for $4 per month over 12 months (Classic pack member)
    Now all you get is 750mb for $5 a month, on an inferior 3g network. Very little value for money

    My infinite plan runs out in December and if they have nothing similar when its time to upgrade I am going to bail onto a TPG $35 infinite plan. Why can't the government regulate a standard phone pricing system to regulate, where the bastards don't say $1000 value and then have 10 times the rate? Why not text messages are 20c phone calls 50c a minute etc and then the Telco's can put whatever number up and you will know what you are getting. The current setup is just about ripping off ill informer consumers.

    The bottom line is, Australian consumers are stupid. The $49 = $550 worth of calls bollocks is like the infiltration of the chicken parma. Once upon a time, pubs used to cook hearty honest food like beef stroganoff, then one day, they all woke up and decided to universally sell parmas. Phone companies all simultaneously decided to sell us this fake money bullshit, and we've all swallowed it. Vodafone offered an amazing deal of unlimited phone use for $45 a phone - and people are too stupid to see a good deal when it's offered. Now it's gone.

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