OVO Mobile, Boost Mobile and others provide ‘data free’ streamed audio as part of their plans these days. ‘Data free’ means you won’t pay (from your phone plans’ data allowance) for the data you use streaming audio services.
Introducing free music streaming in your phone plan
- Phone plans and phone companies are being broken down in to different tiers.
- Optus and Telstra’s postpaid plans now sometimes include free streaming video content from services like Netflix, Stan or Presto.
- Similarly, OVO Mobile offer free streaming access to gymnastics and Australian Drag Racing (among other things.)
- Some phone companies, notably MVNOs offer core phone plan services alone –
- Strategically, these are incredibly important steps for the telcos.
- Initially, these free / low cost service elements to your phone plan might seem like too much.
What is streamed audio entertainment in a phone plan
The best way to relate what streamed audio content in a phone plan means it to talk of the services you may know, which are used to deliver it. Almost everyone in Australia will have heard of one of these streamed audio providers. Spotify and iTunes / Google Play music are names you’re likely to know.
You will have started to see these names pop up on phone company websites in the last couple of months.
Virgin, Optus and Telstra all provide data free streamed audio services now, as part of their phone plans.
Free streamed audio is where:
- Your plan includes access to the streamed audio service:
When you buy your phone plan from one of these phone companies, it comes with access to one or more of these streamed audio services.
- You can then listen to music on your phone:
Streamed audio services like Spotify and the rest of them allow you access to music through your phone. They do this by transferring the tune to your phone over the data network the phone company offers.
- You won’t be charged for the data you use accessing the music:
Many phone companies (including those we’ve shown here) realize that streaming audio can use a lot of data from a phone plan. So, most (including those we show here) ‘zero rate’ that music.
- Let’s say that again so it’s clear:
In simple terms, if you have one of these plans, you can listen to a lot of music using your phone, and you will not use up any of the plan data inclusion.
- An example which might help is:
For example, if you have a plan from Optus which costs $40 per month and includes free streamed audio, you can listen to Spotify for an hour a day, every day and you will not reduce your 8GB of data. You still get to surf the web for as long as you like.
The new Australian Tiered phone plan system
This subject sounds complicated but it’s not. We’ve covered the new Entertainment options being provided by Australian phone companies in some detail. What we haven’t done yet is explain what free streamed audio in a phone plan is. That’s what this article is for.
There are now a number of tiers of phone plan. If you just want the basics, voice and SMS, pick a smaller phone company. If you like value added services like data free audio streaming, pick a bigger phone company.
As you can see from our diagram above, tier 3 includes ‘streamed audio’ on cheaper plans.
- Optus and Telstra:
Both Optus and Telstra each have their own version of ‘included’ streamed audio services on their plans. Both Optus and Telstra offer access to streamed audio content on their SIM Only or prepaid plans.
- Virgin Mobile is a bit different:
Virgin, a subsidiary of Optus, offer streamed audio on their postpaid (SIM Only) plans. We can only suppose as to why this is the case. Virgin already offer a suite of Virgin benefits that their customers get for signing up to plans. They also need to compete for customers which are different to what Optus would have gotten anyway (because they are a subsidiary of Optus) and so probably can’t come out with exactly the same deal as Optus themselves.
What if I don’t want streaming audio in my phone plan?
Well, we’re with you. It seems like not many people actually do want streamed audio as part of their phone plan right now. We cover some of the potential reasons for that, below with some ‘technology adoption curves.’
If you are a standard customer, a tier 1 customer who just wants access to voice, minutes and SMS then you can save a great deal of money by avoiding these plans with streamed content inclusions from the higher tiers. We recommend these plans with everything you want and nothing you don’t.
Is streaming audio limited in any way ?
There are three ways that streaming audio is limited from a practical perspective. None of them are anything to worry about.
- It’s just the stated stations:
Choose your plan carefully, especially if you already have access to one of these streamed audio services. If you go with Telstra for example, you can then ‘only’ use their Apple Music subscription as your ‘included’ streaming audio service. If, for example, you already had a Spotify account, you would be better going to Optus or Virgin because their plans (prepaid and postpaid respectively) do not charge for those services.
- It doesn’t include other URLs:
Streamed audio content is zero rated (not charged for) by the phone companies using technical gubbins we won’t go in to here. Their technical teams filter the data traffic as it comes through the internet and goes to your phone. When they see that some of the data is coming from a URL which includes, say, ‘Spotify’ they don’t charge for it. If, however, during your streamed audio session, Spotify calls up a voice over advertisement from an audio advert service which doesn’t include ‘spotify’ then you might get charged for the data included in presenting you the advert. This is such a small amount of data it is almost negligible and you shouldn’t worry about it.
- It is subject to a fair use policy:
Check the small print on most of these included streaming audio offers and you will see that usage is subject to a fair use policy. Fair use is a pretty standard telco catch all statement which means they can turn your service off if you use it outlandishly. If, for example, you ran a pub and bought an Optus SIM just so you could stream Spotify all day and night to your guests, they might close you down. Any normal user will not be infringed upon this way.
Does streaming audio include use of the service?
The answer to this is a nuanced ‘no’. When you get access to free streamed audio through Optus, Virgin Mobile or Telstra, the service itself is not included. That is to say, if you want to listen to streamed Spotify on your phone, you will need to have a Spotify account first.
When it comes to video content Telstra, especially, has been offering both the service and the data – but only for a trial period.
Summing up streaming audio
If you have an account with Spotify, iHeartRadio etc. then you probably know about it. These are services charged for by the month with no contract so if you’re using them, you want them (or you’d have stopped using them and stopped paying.)
New facilities like data free streamed audio can take a while to catch on.
Encouraging others to use services like streamed audio – the non early adopters, might prove hard. Optus has had little success adding customers to it’s services since the acquisition of the rights to EPL. But then the majority always do take a long time to convince. It took a long time to convince people to use mobile phones in the first place.
And this is what the phone companies are hoping will happen:
As the internet makes access to new services like streamed audio easier to find and use, the speed with which we get used to and adopt new technologies is increasing. Despite a slow start to their EPL content Optus, Telstra and the rest are hoping that we will all get used to streamed audio as part of our phone plan very quickly.
From a telco perspective, the strategy element of what they are up to here is strong. They are teaching people now to pay for services not data. When it comes to the essentially limitless throughput of 5G technology in the future (most analysts’ agree 5G could be with us as early as 2020) by then, The telcos will need to find a way to charge us for services, not data.
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Other relevant resources:
We have separate articles on Optus’ approach and Telstra’s approach too.