3 Things to Get Around To Know You’ve Got the Time – COVID-19

COVID-19 Do's and Don'ts

You now have a lot of time on your hands – use it well

The COVID-19 outbreak is like nothing we’ve seen before on such a global scale. Governments worldwide are responding with extreme measures, shutting down schools and business, restricting civilian movements or effecting outright lockdown orders, and so on.

Australians, in large numbers, are now either working from home, self-isolating themselves indoors, or both, all in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus and stay safe. This means you have a lot more time on your hands than you did prior to this global coronavirus pandemic, so why not use that free time to get around to researching some important things about your telco that you’ve been avoiding for a while?

Your phone and plan is very important to you during these trying times. You rely on these things to communicate with friends and family while locked away in your respective homes. You’re going to be using a lot more mobile airtime and data than you did before COVID-19. So taking the time out to know exactly what your agreement with your telco is and on what terms, whether its a good deal, and how your telco is contributing to the fight against the virus, is a wise decision.

In this post, we’ll suggest 3 things to get around to now you’ve got the time, to really know your telco, and your plans, and whether they’re right for you.

#1 Read through your telco’s terms and conditions, or simply go through your plan’s CIS, or both

When you purchase a phone, plan, or both from your telco, you enter into an agreement with them. You’ll get a bunch of documents whether it was an online purchase or a store purchase. Be sure to read those documents to know exactly what the terms of your agreement with your telco are.

However, reading lengthy documents isn’t very pleasant for a lot of people. So there’s a great chance that you never had the time to read them, and this is a great time to do so. However, if you’re still not willing to spend the free time you have now on reading the terms and conditions of your agreement, then be sure to read your plan’s Customer Information Summary.

Your telco is obligated by law to provide a Customer Information Summary (CIS) for each plan they advertise. The CIS is a much shorter document than a full length terms of agreement document, and it tells you everything you need to know about the particular plan you purchased or are interested in. You can read the CIS online – it’s located wherever the phone plan is advertised, usually directly underneath.

So what should you look out for in your agreement documents? Here’s a few important places to start:

  • MTC
    The Minimum Total Cost (MTC) is the minimum amount you’re expected to pay for your service. Your agreement shows you this figure, but many customers might mistake it to be the actual monthly or total cost that you will always pay throughout the life of your contract with your telco. In reality, though, this is only the minimum – you can accrue extra charges for things like exceeding your plan data, voice and data roaming, international calls, MMS, and more. Take a close look at your MTC and find out exactly what is included in it to get a good idea of exactly how good your deal is. While a telco may advertise a very attractive MTC, you may end up spending a lot more than you bargained for if the services you really want aren’t included.
  • ETP
    If you’re on a contract plan and you decide to cancel before the contract expires, there might be fees for that. These fees are typically referred to as ETP, or Early Termination Payments. Usually, you’ll have to pay the MTC from the data of cancellation to the date the plan was supposed to expire before you can leave the contract.

There are many other terms to consider, and reading your telco agreement’s TOS (Terms of Service) and your plan’s CIS are the best ways to know it all – literally. Now, you have the time to do so.

#2 Take the time out to find out if your phone plan is a good deal

So now that you’ve reviewed your telco’s TOS and your plan’s CIS, do you think you’re getting a good deal from your telco? Or could you do better? Here are a couple of things to consider.

  • Large telco vs MVNO
    Australia’s telco market is crowded – there are the three large telcos (Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone/TPG) and a bunch of smaller telcos referred to as MVNOs. Those MVNOs resell the larger telcos’ networks on plans of their own, and their plans are usually very competitive, leading to their huge growth in Australia. So figure out whether you want a larger telco plan or an MVNO plan.
  • Postpaid vs Prepaid
    You also want to figure out whether you want a contract plan or a prepaid plan. Contract plans generally offer more data for now, in exchange for you being locked in for months or even years. But note that data inclusions increase rapidly, and so does your data usage. Next year, your data demands will likely be a lot higher than they are today, considering the fact that apps get bigger, phone screens get bigger, and so on, leading to more data usage.

growth in data inclusion

Between December 2015 and December 2016, data inclusions at the $30 and $35 price point tripled. If you entered a 24-month contract plan in 2015, you likely missed out on a lot of extra data. src

So if you get into a 24 or 36-month contract with your telco, you’re stuck at the amount of data they give you today for the next 2 or 3 years. Meanwhile, prepaid plan data inclusions will continue to increase during that period, at the same price points, and there lies their advantage. On a prepaid plan, you get the choice of switching plans whenever you notice a better deal, without any penalties.

Now that you have a lot of time on your hands, go through our reviews of the best SIM Only plans and prepaid plans to figure out which route to take. We’ve also compared all the best phone plans side by side, from both large telcos and MVNOs, so be sure to check that out as well.

#3 Research how you telco contributes to society during a crisis, and factor that into your decision

We’re experiencing a very unusual crisis right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted literally everything, and everyone has to contribute in one way or another to repair our communities. Even when you stay at home and practice self-isolation, you’re contributing to society by preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

But businesses should contribute, too. Looking into the role your telco is playing to mitigate this crisis for all of us should factor into your decision on whether they’re a good fit for you. Also consider past situations where telcos went beyond their bottom line with unselfish investments into the betterment of our communities.

So far, all three of Australia’s major telcos have contributed to the community during this COVID-19 pandemic. Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone pledged bonus data throughout the month of April to their customers, and there were some provisions for free calls and data-free access to government phone numbers and websites. Another example is Optus Stadium, which has been converted into an emergency response center by the West Australian police to help fight the coronavirus.

Even before COVID-19, there were the bushfires, and telcos responded to that as well. We saw most telcos waive some fees associated with having to leave home, offering free call redirection, service cancellation with no fees, bill waivers, free data, and more.

Knowing just how much your telco contributes to your community should tell you about their service. When a company goes beyond its bottom line, perhaps the extra buck or 10 they charge should be looked at a little differently. But you should also research how your telco handles service disruptions during a crisis like The COVID-19 pandemic, which can congest networks and result in poor service.

Final words

Most of us have a lot more free time now, so let’s make the best of it. You’ll probably use your mobile phone a lot more this period to communicate with friends and family you can’t see, or even to work from home. So look deeper into your agreement with your telco now that you have the time, in order to find out whether you have a good deal, or whether there are better options out there.

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.