How to get a broadband or mobile plan with free calls to mobiles
- Optus Fusion plan offers free calls to mobiles
- Amaysim offer all calls free on the cheap
- Dodo, TPG also provide work-arounds
Telstra got a gift from the competition regulator this week, in the form of a discount on calls placed from fixed lines to mobiles.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has dropped the regulated minimum termination rate, the rate paid by one network provider to another, per minute, for calls made to mobiles from a fixed line phone. The previous rate, 9 cents per minute, has been dropped to 3 cents per minute.
Telstra owns and operates nearly every single landline phone connection, either directly to customers or via leased lines to resellers (for example, on ‘bundle’ lines which carry ADSL2+ broadband). Most revenue made from calls is passed directly to Telstra.
The termination rate for calls to mobiles provide the bare minimum per minute rate in most call plans. Dropping this rate is probably intended to promote competition, but will have the effect of saving Telstra hundreds of millions of dollars, while costing Vodafone and Optus the same.
What Telstra charges for calls made to mobiles
Telstra currently charges 36 cents per minute for calls made to mobiles on all but their most expensive Homeline plans – up from 35 cents per minute in a wide plan change made in the last few weeks. Previously, they would have pocketed 27 cents per minute on each call, after paying Vodafone or Optus for connecting to their mobile networks (calls made to the Telstra mobile network costs them almost nothing).
With the new regulated charges, Telstra now pockets 33 cents per minute, which will save them hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years. Optus, which operates a tiny fraction of landlines but a huge mobile network will lose plenty; Vodafone, which has no landline service at all, will lose even more.
But who uses a landline anyway?
Customers continue to drop their landline services rapidly, with more opting for comprehensive mobile plans. In the last few years this had led to dropping fixed-line broadband as well and opting for a mobile (or ‘wireless’) broadband service as well. The tide is now turning back; customers are starting to realize that they use more data than a mobile broadband connection can offer, and require the greater stability of a fixed-line connection like ADSL2+.
Internet Service Providers like TPG and Dodo have responded by providing very basic phone services to create cheaper bundles for line rental and broadband; some providers like iPrimus and Internode have encouraged customers to take up Naked DSL (which uses the copper line to provider just a broadband service, with no associated phone service).
What if I do want to use the landline to make calls?
TPG has a $10 add-on for free calls, landline to landline (STD or local). Optus has Fusion bundles that come with free calls to landline numbers as well, with more expensive plans that include free calls to any mobile network.
But on the whole, it’s difficult to get cheap calls from landline phones to mobiles, mostly because of that particular regulated termination cost discussed in this article (calls from landlines to other landlines can be easily switched at a carrier-level to make them extremely cheap).
As mentioned, the $109 Optus Fusion Bundle remains the sole comprehensive plan to include free calls to all mobile networks. Cheaper Fusion bundles include free calls to landlines and to Optus network mobiles only.
The other route is to use your mobile to make calls to mobiles. The difficulty here is that you can get into the nitty gritty of cap plan inclusions and exclusions, which can backfire on you if you haven’t read closely enough. There’s nothing worse than going nuts with hour long calls on your mobile, thinking that everything is included in your plan – and then getting a huge ‘bill shock’ later that month because you didn’t read the fine print.
Amaysim (1300 302 942) has a $39.90 plan that comes with free calls to any mobile on any network, free calls to any landline (including 13/1300/1800 numbers) and includes all the text and picture messaging as well. It also comes with a generous 4GB of mobile data for use on a smartphone.
Dodo have a $59.90 Chit Chat plan with the same unlimited calls, text and picture messaging, but with $100 of international call credit included (only 2.5GB of data though). Unlike Amaysim’s plan however, this can be included with a new phone on contract (Amaysim are a SIM-only option right now).
These two plans represent the best option for replacing the landline altogether, at least for the purpose of making calls – you may still want a basic landline connection to facilitate an ADSL2+ broadband connection.