Best deal for telecoms in the mountains

Monday, April 14th, 2008

In my day job I work for a phone company (AAPT) and sometimes need to analyse call plans for customers.

If you live in the upper mountains, you might have wondered which phone plan is right for you. As a general rule, anybody but Telstra used to be the right choice for your home phone supplier, but in the last few years it has become a little trickier.

For customers living as far west as Katoomba, Telstra offer a plan that has a feature called the Wide Area Call option. This lets customers have a 25c local call as far away as 50km over the charging zone, which happens to take in all of metro Sydney if you live east of Medlow Bath (Medlow/Blackheath/Mt Vic residents might like to contact Telstra to see whether it covers them too). To get this deal you must choose line rental plan “Homeline Plus” and elect the Wide Area Call option. There is another option with capped STD rates called “Regional Call” that is not such a good deal.

For mountains folk with family in Sydney who make few other STD or international calls and don’t call many mobiles, this deal is probably the best among the traditional telcos, however, be aware it has high flagfall (39c) for all timed calls and quite high fixed to mobile charges. This means if most of your bill is calls to mobiles, the saving from cheaper calls to Sydney are unlikely to off-set these high charges.

For everyone else, you probably want a deal that offers low prices on all call types. I personally use the AAPT Anytime Plus, an old fashioned sort of tariff where you just pay for what you use, which suits me as we don’t make many calls (and I get a discount from work).

The main game, though, are the capped plans, although they are a bit of a misnomer as they are not really capped. These plans charge you a fixed fee, like $49 per month, for a large value of included calls, and in some cases, unlimited calls. Even Telstra is offering this sort of deal (although theirs is $89.95).

Soul, GoTalk, AAPT and a bunch of little operators offer capped or bundled plans. All are reasonably close in price if you are an average sort of user (that is, you make a mix of calls, not a disproportional number to international or one number or something). If your phone bill at the moment is over $80 including line rental, it is pretty likely one of these plans will be cheaper. Note Optus plans aren’t available in the upper mountains as they can only be accessed where their network is.

Finally, if you make *very* few calls, say you use Skype or some other VoIP service, or make all your calls from a mobile, the cheapest line rental if you need to have a fixed line installed is Telstra’s HomeLine Budget.

All this is based on people who don’t use broadband Internet and don’t make many calls to mobiles. If you have ADSL and a couple of mobiles in your house, you can probably save a few more dollars by bundling them all together. I’ll do a post a bit later about that.