Don’t drop your bundle over telcos and internet service providers

The highest bill your household pays now is most likely for your mobile phone, landline (if you have one), and internet service combined, says Teresa Corbin, CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN). Energy costs come second.

“Once you combine the equipment and the charges for multiple services, it really adds up,” she says.

Into play comes a diversity of service levels, offerings, prepaid or postpaid plans, contracts or no contracts, and — of course — changing needs as we age. There are now more than 100 NBN providers and more than 30 mobile virtual network providers (MVNPs) that piggyback on the Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone systems, so the choice is yours.

Confusion a marketing tool for telcos
If you’re like most people aged 50+, you’re probably overwhelmed by the amount of detail on telcos’ websites and perhaps feel they’re pitching to those under 30 rather than you. As the independent consumer advisory service, Choice, says about mobile phone plans: “confusion is a marketing tool”.

And it’s about to get a lot more confusing.

ACCAN’s Corbin says once the National Broadband Network (NBN) is fully rolled out, “we’ll see a lot of different types of services on the market with more options and flexibility”.

“You have to be careful, and clear on what your needs are, what your budget is. Often, in this age bracket of being 50+, we’re time-poor, so you need service providers to make it very simple and easy,” she says.

Tech & Telco Editor at comparison site finder, Alex Kidman says it’s hard to generalise about the “50 to immortal” age demographic.

“You could be working full-time, approaching retirement or already retired, and may have more time for using a service — which arguably makes them more vital. As you get older, your mobility can be impacted, so you might need more access for simple health-related matters or to keep in touch with your family. It could become a vital service.”

Complaints up
While the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) doesn’t detail the age of those who complain, Australians overall are increasingly unhappy about telecommunications services. One in two Australians have had a phone or internet issue in the past year, with about half of them having more than one issue, Ombudsman Judi Jones said in a speech last month.

The TIO received 89,914 complaints from July to December last year, 28.7 per cent more than the same period in 2016. Top issues were about internet/mobile phone services’ charges and fees, provider response, poor service quality, and connection/changing provider.

Age-old question
So, how do you find the best bundle of services to suit you? The problem is, being aged 50+ means you won’t fit into a neat demographic with set characteristics and traits. You might be a late adopter of technology and be one of 2.3M+ older Aussies not online.

Hook into Telstra’s free and self-paced Tech Savvy Seniors’ Program to get you up to speed, but you will (ahem) need to be online to access it. Another sweetener is a subsidy of $38.40 every quarter Centrelink offers to Pensioner Concession Card holders for phone and internet connections.

Cut through advice
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) offers three simple tips for choosing a provider:

  1. Determine what you need and your budget.
  2. Get the Critical Information Summary about the offer that looks best for you.
  3. Shop around every two years.

This video on choosing the right telco plan goes into more detail, and echoes the advice of Harrison Astbury, Telco Specialist from comparison and research website, Canstar Blue. Their comparisons take in up to 9,000 customer opinions and ratings, and will soon have expert ratings available. It shows providers such as amaysim, ALDI Mobile, and Vodafone offer phone plans for $10, $15, and $30 respectively for use over a year. 

“There are no explicit phone and internet plans that cater towards the 50+ age demographic, so you have to do a bit of extra homework as to what’s right for you. Overall, unlimited data is becoming cheaper — particularly in metro areas — at around $60 a month for home internet,” he says.

Customised solution your best fit?
Towards the higher end of the market, companies such as Phone Systems Brisbane (PSB) are stepping up to the plate to customise telco solutions for individuals, businesses, and even aged care centres. NBN & Voice Network Specialist for PSB, Greg Eicke, has tailored plans for RV retailers, for example, who sell to “grey nomads”.

“Travelling within Australia, they should have plenty of mobile data — around 20GB a month suits. Many RV or caravan travellers are using 4G routers fitted to their mobile homes which gives them easy access to a WiFi network,” he says.

One bill to end them all
A trend that’s emerged in the past two years sees providers offer mobile phone, home phone, internet, and even energy services all on the one bill. That takes care of your two heftiest bills. Simple.

Useful links

Before you sign on the dotted line

Not happy?
The ACMA has produced a video on how to make a telco complaint. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman was only able to conciliate in about one in ten cases. It’s a free service, and she can decide the resolution of any complaint up to $50,000 and make legally binding recommendations up to $100,000.

What’s been your experience in hooking into a bundle for your telco and internet services? We’d love to know.