The nation’s biggest telco Telstra has revealed plans to start throttling data speeds on its customers’ mobile phones once they exceed their monthly quota, in an effort to avoid the so-called ‘bill shock’ phenomenon that can occur when post-quota data is charged in increments.
Historically, customers have received a certain amount of monthly data quota with their mobile phone plans, or even none at all, in some cases, but the popularity of data-hungry smartphones with video and multimedia capabilities has meant that some customers may have exceeded their quotas without realising it.
Rate-limiting has long been a feature of the fixed broadband market, and Telstra’s mobile broadband plans designed to be used with a USB dongle also use the feature — so that speeds are throttled to 64kps, similar to a dial-up connection, when a customer’s allowance has been exceeded.
In a statement released late last night, Telstra finance chief John Stanhope said customers deserved to be able to enjoy the full capabilities of their Telstra mobiles on plans without fear of a large, unexpected bill. “By slowing data speeds once a customer has exceeded their data allowance, and not charging for the extra data, customers stay connected without fear of a hit to the hip-pocket,” the executive said.
Customers will also be able to top-up their quota directly from their handsets, and will also receive “near real-time” SMS alerts when their data quota hits 80 and 100 percent.
In addition, Telstra is also planning to improve the way it notifies customers travelling overseas of their data usage. Another common way that mobile phone users receive large bills is if they are roaming onto another carrier’s network while in another country. “To help them stay on top of their data usage, Telstra is introducing regular SMS alerts that provide advice on the volume and costs associated with data they are consuming,” said Stanhope.
The move was immediately welcomed by communications regulator the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which claimed credit for the Telstra initiative, stating that it came on the heels of its Reconnecting the Customer project to improve the way Australian telcos dealt with their customers. ‘The ACMA is highly gratified that the RTC strategy is already bearing fruit,’ said ACMA chairman Chris Chapman.
The regulator added that Telstra’s announcement was consistent with the type of pro-active industry responses that the initiative was intending to provoke and that it looked forward to seeing what additional measures telecommunications companies will introduce to assist their customers. The report from the ACMA’s initiative is due next Wednesday 1 June.