Earlier today, iiNet announced plans to offer a spin-off brand, Jiva, which will offer just one product: a $79 a month plan that includes unlimited ADSL2 broadband and free landline calls. That sounds like an appealing deal, but there are some limitations to be aware of.
The official iiNet line is that Jiva is as much about simplicity as it is about saving money: it's a single plan designed to appeal to people who don't want to mess around with extra options (whether that's quotas or Fetch TV or email services). In practice, charging $79 a month for an unlimited service means Jiva will be compared with the other ISPs who offer those kinds of services.
Arguably the most prominent of those is TPG, if only because of its relentless outdoor advertising. When we rounded up the available options in a Planhacker table last month, we identified nine different players offering some form of unlimited broadband. So it's a competitive space.
The first point is that 'unlimited' is never entirely unlimited; every single ISP with this kind of service will have an acceptable usage policy, which gives it the right to cut off anyone who goes massively over the odds. But that's a rule that applies to everyone in this space. What about Jiva itself? While we don't have full details of the Jiva offering, what we do know suggests five areas where caution is advised.
It will only be on offer through exchanges with iiNet equipment. This isn't surprising; it's almost impossible to make an unlimited ADSL2+ plan work if you're paying wholesale rates to someone else (TPG has the same restriction on its plans). But it does mean Jiva won't have a truly national footprint at launch, if ever.
The support won't be the same as iiNet. iiNet's own support team is very well-regarded. The staff working at Jiva have been drawn for that team, but Jiva is being run as a separate outfit, with a greater emphasis on self-service; you may not see such iiNet niceties as a promise to call you back within a fixed period, or round-the-clock support.
You have to use the supplied equipment Part of the reduced support package is the idea that you'll use the standard supplied modem/router. That won't concern a great many people, but if you want a more complicated networking setup at home, Jiva is not going to be for you.
The phone offering doesn't include calls to mobiles. Jiva offers unlimited calls to Australian landlines, but not to Australian mobiles; for that, you'll pay an (as yet unspecified rate). This is true of the majority of competing plans (some unlimited broadband deals, especially the cheaper ones, don't offer calls at all), but it's worth pointing out that TPG's similarly-priced unlimited deal does include calls to mobiles. This is worth thinking about: how often do you actually ring a landline? I'd definitely want to see those rates before signing up. Bottom line: if you ever actually use the landline component, the odds are good you'll pay more than $79.
You have to sign a 24-month contract. Again, this is far from uncommon -- Telstra, Optus, TPG and every other major player (including iiNet under its own name) tends to push 24-month contracts. But we're not fans; you're locked in to a provider for a very long period of time, and in the current competitive and rapidly-changing market, that's not always worth the saving. Another key point: as far as we can tell, you won't be able to transfer from an existing iiNet contract to a Jiva contract until the iiNet contract expires.
None of these issues mean Jiva is necessarily a bad deal. If you already have a unlimited deal on your mobile, you probably won't be fussed about the phone component, for instance. They simply remind us that when you're signing up for an ISP, you need to be very careful of the fine print -- especially if you're tying yourself to a 24-month contract. We wait with interest for further details in September, but we're not sure that this is going to be the ultimate choice for every single person who is sick of end-of-month shaping.