news The nation’s largest telco Telstra has confirmed it will not launch naked DSL as a commercial offering, despite conducting a 15 month trial of the product and rivals like iiNet boasting more than 130,000 naked DSL customers.
The company kicked off a trial of naked DSL services in early June 2010, stating that it would conduct a two-year pilot of the services. Although naked DSL, in which broadband is sold without a bundled analogue telephone line, has been offered by rivals like iiNet, Internode and TPG for years – iiNet had some 131,000 naked DSL customers as at the end of June this year – Telstra has so far avoided offering such a service, continuing its practice of requiring customers to bundle telephony with their broadband. The trial marked Telstra’s first move to dip its toe in the naked DSL market.
In a post on Telstra’s customer support forums this week, one Telstra customer, ‘Paul’, wrote that he had been involved in the trial since July 2010, but had not been contacted by Telstra for his feedback on the experience. He enquired whether Telstra would offer a commercial naked DSL service after the trial was completed in July 2012. The response from Telstra employee Gareth (labelled online as a ‘thought leader’ for the telco) was swift.
“… there are no plans currently to extend the pure dsl trial to a commercial offering,” Gareth wrote. “Once the trial expires, the credit will no longer be applied. I do thank you all however for your participation. I could go into detailed reasons why we won’t be progressing to commercial launch but I think this thread adequately covers nearly all of the reasons for the cessation of the trial.”
Another Telstra employee, Ben (although not an official Telstra spokesperson on the forum), had noted earlier in the forum thread that it appeared as if the difference between incorporating the cost of a landline into a naked DSL service versus simply charging for it alongside normal ADSL broadband would be negligible on Telstra’s plans, and that having a PSTN service made troubleshooting line faults much easier for Telstra. Others on the thread noted it made sense for Telstra to include a PSTN service in its bundled plans, which see telephony, broadband and other services such as mobile broadband or Foxtel pay television combined into a single plan.
It is believed that unlike the systems of rival providers Telstra’s current billing system does not easily accommodate broadband being allocated to a customer’s account without an associated phone line for reference (that phone line does not have to be with Telstra), with the problem having come about due to the historical nature of Telstra’s systems being based around telephone services on its copper network. Gareth wrote that the naked DSL trial had been carried out through Telstra applying credits to the list of customer accounts on the trial.
He noted that the transition for Telstra customers off the naked DSL trial and onto normal plans could consequently be “messy”, and encouraged customers on the trial to message him directly through Telstra’s support forums to assist with the transition.
“In terms of gathering feedback … I think the optimal method is to private message me here (given the points noted above) and I will digest, read and respond (if I don’t get flooded) and make sure its accounted/mentioned in the review internally once the exit is complete,” he wrote. “My strong recommendation still is however to jump the gun prior to the trial’s end, and switch to one of our great value in-market plans which is fully supported by the business.”
Gareth’s comments come in stark contrast to a statement made by a Telstra spokesperson in response to a media enquiry on the issue over the weekend. “Like with any trial we’ll make a decision at the conclusion and advise customers accordingly,” they said. “[The] trial is only half-way through.”
What a total cop-out by Telstra. To be honest, it sounds as if the company was never really serious about its naked DSL trial. It doesn’t appear as though it contacted all of the customers on the trial to get feedback on the initiative, and now, nine months before the whole thing is due to wrap up, Telstra is already encouraging those on the trial to switch back to ‘normal’ broadband.
Meanwhile, rivals like iiNet continue to bolt on naked DSL customers like nobody’s business. What does Telstra find hard to understand about the fact that some 131,000 Australian households/businesses have already signed up for a naked DSL service – and that’s iiNet alone? Presumably there are several hundred thousand more naked DSL customers signed up through TPG, Internode, Primus and so on.
This decision by Telstra – and its ongoing failure to follow iiNet and Internode and launch internet telephony options, which are also increasingly popular in the Australian telecommunications market — stinks of an attempt to continue to lock customers in to its fixed-line telephone world, with high rates and value-added bundles. Frankly, we think it’s not serving customers – and Telstra could do better. The company should be looking to the future and leading the market — not holding its customers back.