Mobile phone use gets more expensive

Using a mobile phone is going to be more expensive in 2002 than it has been over the past few years.

The decline in competition during 2001 from the collapse of One.Tel and the departure of Orange from the GSM market means there are three carriers left in the market –Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.

But with Vodafone struggling to gain enough market share to be an effective competitor, analysts are describing the market as a near-duopoly now, dominated by the big two, Telstra and Optus.

Telstra’s decisions as market leader to phase out handset subsidies and raise the cost of SMS and flagfall charges are only the beginning. Rises in timed call charges are expected to soon follow as both carriers find it easier to lift profitability in the current market and recoup their investment in network infrastructure.

There is not a lot subscribers can do about this. Shopping around among mobile dealers or the range of service providers in the market that act as resellers of the Optus network are two options.

However the difference in offers is not going to be great. Resellers are limited in how much they can compete on the various rates and charges because they in turn have to pay Optus wholesale rates.

InfoChoice advises subscribers that the same tips apply when looking for the best mobile deal, but the task is getting harder: Look for an offer with the specific features you find valuable; special rates for same-network calls, cheaper off-peak rates, a hands-free kit, for example. It will be more important than ever to look for a plan that best suits your call patterns.
See InfoChoice's Mobile Phone Tips & Tricks

For those already on a contract and a particular plan, it is unclear just how many are going to be immediately affected by any more rises. While there is little to stop the carriers varying charges at will for existing customers, previously they have tended to wait until current contracts and service agreements run out before imposing higher charges on such customers.

However, Optus’s recent decision to apply increased call charges to customers on some of its old plans suggests no customers can consider themselves immune to increases.