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  • News, Telecommunications - Written by on Saturday, March 24, 2012 12:25 - 18 Comments

    Exetel releases $55 ‘Fair Use’ unlimited ADSL plan

    news National broadband provider Exetel has once again dipped its toe into the ‘Unlimited’ broadband plan market, launching a new offering at $55 and $65 monthly price points (including telephone line rental) that will see customers who exceed average usage patterns requested to reduce their downloading habits.

    The ‘Unlimited’ style of broadband plan is popular in a number of major countries such as the US internationally, but only a small number of broadband providers offer them. They see the monthly quota on users’ accounts removed, with users theoretically being able to download as much data as they want. Other popular providers in the Australian market with unlimited plans include TPG and Dodo, which are both cut-rate providers.

    Exetel has had a long-term on-again, off-again relationship with unlimited plans dating back most of a decade. In the earliest years of this decade, for example, before the onset of ADSL2+ speeds up to 24Mbps, Exetel offered a number of unlimited plans at various speeds. However, at one point it cut them, before reinstating them in December 2004. This was a pattern which the company would repeat over the years, with the most recent flirtation with the unlimited idea occurring in November last year, when then-Exetel CEO John Linton mooted the idea of bringing the plans back.

    Following Linton’s untimely passing earlier this year, his business partner Steve Waddington has taken over the business. Late yesterday on his company blog, Waddington noted that Exetel had had “a sudden brain storm” with respect to Unlimited plans.

    “We were talking about ‘unlimited’ plans on offer in the market, and how they all have one or more asterisk, tilda or some other super text that points to a ‘fair use’ policy that explains how ‘unlimited’ doesn’t really mean unlimited. And why the ACCC. for some reason, requires ‘unlimited*’ actually be ‘unlimited’,” Waddington wrote, referring to the regulator’s long-term suspicion of the term ‘unlimited’ being used in marketing material.

    “So, why not, we mused, just call the plan ‘Fair Use’ up front – flat rate, no metering, no shaping, except in conditions where it is required – which is what the fair use policy says,” Waddington added. “Just instead of ‘hiding’ it and hoping no one notices the tricky conditions of ‘unlimited*’, have fair use up front, and explain what makes it unlimited. In fact, do away with any word as possibly misleading as ‘unlimited’ and state plainly what is being offered.”

    “Maybe there is something we all missed in this, why no one does it? I guess we will find out. The ‘soft release’ of our Fair Use $55 and Fair Use 65 plans will be on the web site later today. It will be a limited time offer, and we will see how it goes.”

    As Waddington noted, Exetel has launched two new fair use plans on its website, at $55 and $65 monthly price points (including $20 worth of line rental for a compulsory bundled telephone line). the $65 plan also comes with 9,000 call minutes included on the telephone line. The offers are broadly competitive with similar offers from other ISPs on the market, but those interested in signing up may want to read the ‘Fair Use’ fine print.

    In the fine print associated with the plans, Exetel notes that it regularly monitors average usage statistics of its users. “… if you are deemed by Exetel to be exceeding the average, Exetel will request that you reduce your usage,” Exetel’s terms state. “Persistent breaches of our Fair Residential Fair Use Policy may result in Exetel terminating your service.” Exetel has not extended the unlimited plans to its National Broadband Network pricing.

    Ah Exetel. Such an inconstant beast there never was. If the company proves to be as fickle with its pricing as it did during the Linton years, I expect these new unlimited plans to hang around for a few months (perhaps as much as six months) and then disappear. The company loves to tinker with its pricing constantly. If you’re interested in them, jump on board quickly before they vanish.

    I am also pretty suspicious of the so-called ‘Fair Use’ policy which Waddington made such a big deal of in his blog post. To be honest, it’s incredibly vague, and for now pretty much states that Exetel can warn any customer they please about downloading too much data on its fair use plans, without disclosing what that actual limit it. In practice, Exetel must have some idea of what quota average usage hovers around — is it 200GB? 300GB? Why not disclose this on its web site from month to month, so that customers would have an idea of how ‘unlimited’ its ‘fair use’ plans truly are? Now that would be the definition of ‘fair’.

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    1. Posted 24/03/2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Ahh, so they’re still doing the “download too much and we kill your account thing”. Exactly who and what is considered “excessive” is going to be a minefield.

      Exetel: “1TB is excessive.”
      User: “No it’s not!”
      Exetel: “Yes it is!”
      User: “Prove it!”

      Very. Vague – (as always)…

    2. jingo
      Posted 24/03/2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

      hmm perhaps its more than a fair shake of the sauce bottle but less than a fair crack of the whip

    3. MarkD
      Posted 25/03/2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink | Reply

      I always find these “top 10%” and “exceeding average” terms very confusing. Isn’t there always a “top 10%” and isn’t there always an “above average” usage, by definition?

      If you slice off the “above average” customers in March, then in April you still have a bunch of customers using more than the April average. The only difference is the average lowers each month.

      Of course “average” isn’t defined, so it can be anything they want it to mean (pun not intended).

    4. socrates
      Posted 25/03/2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink | Reply

      This sounds like an interesting marketing policy:

      First you diss some of the other providers who have been nicked for advertising ‘unlimited’ (or ‘unlimited*’) plans when clearly they were not;

      Then you say that you are going to offer plans that allow uncapped usage;

      Then you add that if the uncapped usage exceeds a certain amount, the access will be capped.

      Have I got this right?

      • Steven
        Posted 27/03/2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink | Reply

        You forgot that there is “no metering” except the metering used to determine if you warrant a warning.

    5. Paul Krueger
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 12:07 am | Permalink | Reply

      Sounds like Optus’s early offerings, where the top and bottom users were removed, and you have to be within whatever else was left, or banned. Even after 1 and a half decades the memory of constantly monitoring the days average, and hoping not to exceed the moving goal posts still leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

    6. Greg Sims
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink | Reply

      Is Exetel an ISP or the stock market? their plan changes up, down sideways in the middle. on and off peak plans, no off and on peak plans, unlimited on and then unlimited off.

      Its like a pack of drunks in a fish an chip shop trying to decide what to have.

    7. Camm
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink | Reply

      Is there any point when TPG will offer you the same for $60 without any of this ‘fair use’ crap?

      Don’t get me wrong, theres factors like congestion, etc – but if you want unlimited, its something your going to have to deal with anyway.

    8. Jean W
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink | Reply

      I don’t see why anyone is surprised. It’s Exetel.

      They can’t specify a figure (like 200 or 300GB) because they don’t have one. They won’t know until they see how people actually use the plans – and when.

      They will shape or terminate as needed to prevent the users of these plans from affecting the quality of service for other users, but otherwise let them download what they want.

      It will be “interesting” to see how it goes.

    9. Brendan
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

      This is attempt #234 at the same plan, designed to hook customers, and then attempt an up-sell if you go over any ‘fair-use'; if you don’t accept, they kick your service and disconnect you.

      How many times has this happened? Hardly news. Standard operating procedure. :)

    10. Brendan
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 12:49 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I’m surprised the ACCC hasn’t decided to broaden the finding against Optus’ repeated use of “unlimited” to cover this sort of plan, really.

      I have nothing against people wanting “unlimited” plans. But they’re typically anything but.

    11. Disgruntled Loner
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Not to be overly critical but I think the article would have benefited from less use of the word ¨unlimited¨. Even in the article you admit that there are several definitions of the word ¨unlimited¨, with the ACCC´s definition being the only valid one. The point to the article seems to be that Exetel has a new product named ¨fair use¨, which on the face of it sounds good as it would comply with ACCC rulings and would be less likely to result in customers purchasing a service which does not provide what the name implies. Exetel´s new ¨fair use¨ product would in my opinion be less compliant with ACCC rulings if they included with the product description the term ¨unlimited¨, and it is not clear from the article if you have used the term ¨unlimited¨ to describe Exetel´s ¨fair use¨ product, or if Exetel themselves are using the term ¨unlimited¨ to describe their ¨fair use¨ product.

      • Posted 26/03/2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

        It’s a fair point. I used it in the article because Waddington framed it that way in his blog post.

    12. xanto
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

      this is how I see it:

      $50/m = 200 GB (OT-100)
      $55/m = ?
      $60/m = 1000 GB (OT-500)

      yes they need some plans in between 200-1000 , but this is a silly way to do it.

      (i’m on OT-500, and use 400-500GB/m)

    13. Tank
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      “…… And why the ACCC. for some reason, requires ‘unlimited*’ actually be ‘unlimited’,” Waddington wrote

      Perhaps the “reason” is that under the Trade Practices act you are not allowed to engage in misleading conduct, and calling a plan with a limit “unlimited”. Seems about as misleading as you can get.

    14. Andy
      Posted 26/03/2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink | Reply

      This is hilarious. By definition they will send out warning to half their costomers!

    15. Greg Sims
      Posted 10/04/2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink | Reply

      Looks like they have removed that plan before 30th of april even though it shows up in their “current specials”

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