Introducing Belong Mobile
60 second overview
- Belong Mobile have been around for a while in Australia as a fixed broadband provider.
- They’re owned by Telstra.
- In October 2017, Belong released their new SIM Only plans for mobile phones.
- Belong offer access to the Telstra Mobile Network.
- Their launch plans offer market leading data allowances.
- These plans appear to be targeted at beating the best of the competition on data value.
- That’s quite a change in approach from Telstra who usually charge a premium for their service.
- Belong also offer innovative plan structures including something new to Australia, continuous Data Rollover( which we explain below. )
Belong Mobile’s launch offers on data appear to be the best in market
Telstra’s new SIM Only and Prepaid plans were revised in early September 2017. Data inclusions in those Telstra branded plans went up but so did the price in many cases.
In response to it’s late 2017 share price decline (see below for the reasons that has happened ), Telstra has released a new Mobile Phone Plan brand – Belong Mobile. Belong’s plans are exceptionally good value, use the Telstra Mobile Network, include a ‘fair’ way of dealing with data and recognize that the way we’re using our phones has changed. Their data inclusions are the best available at the price point. Interestingly, they make you consciously choose whether you want unlimited voice and SMS added to the data component of the plan – a different way of looking at things. We speculated about this sort of ‘data led plan’ a couple of years ago and now it’s arrived.
Belong’s Plan Features
Let’s start by looking at the average Australian mobile phone data requirements, using the results from our late 2017 WhatPhone survey.
Reviewing Belong Mobile’s plans show that they have data allocations to cover a broad range of needs.
Above : Source : WhatPhone Survey
You can see from this chart (above), taken from a recent WhatPhone survey, that people’s data usage varies enormously. The type of phone you have, how new it is, whether it’s 4G or not, whether it’s an iPhone and how big the screen all influence the data requirements people have as much as their personal preferences do.
It’s quite remarkable then that Belong’s two plans appear to cover everyone on the chart.
Belong have only two plans to pick from.
- You start with the data :
Belong make you pick your data allowance before anything else. Their best feature is their data pricing and a new type of facility, a data rollover which rolls-over for ever. To your core data allowance, you can, if you’d like, add a voice pack. We explain those below.
- Belong have a $25 plan offering 5GB of data per month :
As you can see from our graph anpve, around 25% of people want a data plan with 5GB or less each month. That means Belong’s lower end plan containing 5GB of data would cover the lower usage end of our chart. This plan is likely to appeal to feature phones users, 3G phone users and people with very old phones.
Our Belong Mobile Review shows just how competitive Belong’s data allocations are at each price point. Here, Belong vs competitors at $25 per month.
Above : Source : WhatPhone Analysis
- Belong have a $40 plan offering 15GB of data per month :
15GB would cover almost every other possible data use identified on our graph. Even very high users will struggle to use a 15GB bundle.
- These plans are the best data allowances at these price points :
See below for a comparison between Belong and other’s mobile plans.
Our Belong Mobile Review shows just how competitive Belong’s data allocations are at each price point. Here, Belong vs competitors at $40 per month.
Above : Source : WhatPhone Analysis
- What is the ‘Data Rollover’ in Belong’s plans ?:
When it’s this competitive, new entrants to the market for phone plans (like Belong and the 2 plans they’ve launched here) need to bring something extra to the game. Data Rollovr is a term which has been around for some time. Optus offer it on their prepaid plans. The particulars of how Belong manage their data rollover are a bit differene,t however. Belong do data rollover the way your data allocation SHOULD work. The approach they’ve taken is currently unique to Belong Mobile in Australia – although we hope other phone companies, having seen this plan features, will offer the same thing. With Data Rollover from Belong, when you buy your data, it’s your data. If you don’t use it in a month, you keep rolling it over forever until you want to use it. Imagine that Belong paid you your data in to your phone plan as if it was wages in to a bank. If you don’t use your data / wages, it just sits in the bank as savings until you want to use it. Data Rollover from Belong is essentially an eternal Data Rollover facility.
- Data Rollover is good for you and them :
There will be times in the next few months, for those who take these plans, when people will use less data than they expected to. Their ‘balance’ of data in the balance will grow. It’s not hard to imagine people having 50GB or 100GB of data in their data rollover balance after a few months with the company. That makes it extremely cheap to operate your phone. Remember, once you join, it might be hard to leave.
Struggling to figure out what you need data wise ? Read our article : How can I work out how much data I need in a plan ?
Things to be aware of with Belong’s plans
- You’ll pay extra for voice :
Belong’s innovative plan structure recognizes some of the fundamental changes happening in the way we use our phones. You will get the data we’ve mentioned in a phone plan from Belong – by default. But do you need it ? Take a look at the graph below. This is the proportion of people who claim to have made / not have made a voice call from their phone in the last week. At the same time as the number of these standard voice calls is declining, usage of data / voice services such as email, social media and even VoIP calls have been rising. If you’re one of these people, it could very well be that you do not need to take the voice pack. If you do want to add voice, it’s only $5 for unlimited national calls in Australia to other Australian numbers.
- Belong offer 2 voice packs:
- $5 per month for unlimited voice and SMS in Australia to Australian numbers :
- $10 for unlimited calls and SMS in Australia to Australian numbers and unlimited International calls from your mobile to overseas numbers. (23 countries.)
- Either voice pack can be added (or not added) to either data plan.
- So, if you want 5GB of data plus unlimited national calls, it’ll cost you $30 a month.
- If you want 5GB of data plus unlimited International calls to one of the 23 countries they cover, that’ll cost you $35 per month.
- If you want 15GB of data plus unlimited national calls, it’ll cost you $45 per month.
- And, if you want 15GB with unlimited International calls, it’ll cost $50 per month.
- Both / either of the voice additions can be added or removed from the Self Service App.
Interestingly, our Belong Mobile review shows that the company is the first to offer voice and SMS as an add on to the plan.
Above : Source : Deloitte
Other good things about Belong Mobile
- Extra data is cheap : You get to choose if you want to add it!
Belong charge $10 for 2GB of extra data if you reach your plan inclusion threshold. $10 per GB is the industry norm and, as our recent survey showed around 30% of people have sustained this sort of charge for extra data in the last month. Belong’s charges here are obviously good value. Tied with the ‘data rollover’ facility they have, this ‘auto-add data’ scheme solves some of the problems inherent with the scheme offered by others. The major problem these alternative systems present is the automatic addition of data towards the end of the month. An extra GB provided on the last day may be hardly used and is then lost when the plan resets at the end of the month. Obviously, with a data rollover in place, that’s not the case. If you don’t use the data on the last day of the month, you can just use it when you need it in the future. And remember, with Belong, you have to consciously decide to add extra data before it is put on to your bill and plan. With the others, it’s just automatically added on.
- They have a Self Service management app at launch :
Self Service apps are now a fundamental part of working with phone companies. Using them makes self service activities (especially data management) easier. Belong managed to have one of these for the launch of their service – something most companies fail to do. The app is pretty accomplished, too. You can add voice and SMS packs (or remove them) from the app each day.
- Voice to text message service :
Belong offer a free voice to SMS service. If you get a voicemail of 10 seconds or less, they will try and turn that in to an SMS for you.
- When you reach your data threshold, the speed will fall to 64kbps:
When you run out of data, the speed of data you get to your phone will fall to 64kpbs. That is going to be frustratingly low. It’s worth bearing in mind that this is how the data service will work. If you don’t know this, you might well think there is a network problem and call their support team. The solution, if this does happen, is simple. Just go in to the app and buy another 2GB for $10.
- You can ‘gift’ your data :
With Belong, you can ‘gift’ data. You can only do this to other Belong Mobile users of course, the person you want to pass the extra data to has to have a Belong plan, to enable your transfer. However, you can move data, from your account to theirs, with no charge, whenever you want to. This is another facility offered from the self service app and another great thing about Belong’s data management.
- Their checkout is fantastic :
You’ll be in and out in 2 minutes – no kidding.
Signing up to Belong Mobile is an extremely fast process.
Not so good things about Belong Mobile
- You won’t get the full Telstra network :
People often skim the inclusions in these plans. Their eyes light up when they see they’re getting cheaper access to the Telstra network. In reality, when it’s resold (as Belong are doing) you don’t get the full Telstra Network. Belong’s access extends to 98.8% of the Australian population with 3G data speeds. They cover around 95% of the population with 4G data speeds.
- No pedigree yet :
It’s hard to tell whether Belong will solve some of the problems that it’s parent company, Telstra have. Belong is entirely owned by Telstra. It’s effectively just another department at Telstra’s offices. At launch, we have no way of knowing how good Belong’s customer support will be.
Belong started with fixed Broadband
8 per cent of Telstra’s profit margins currently come from fixed line broadband. But the arrival of NBN is about to change everything for every Australian. The NBN has not only purchased all of Telstra’s networks but is also going to charge Telstra back for renting the network again. Earlier, Telstra would charge a premium for other mobile retailers to lease and provide their service over Telstra’s networks. Now everyone, including Telstra, have to pay NBN this leasing fee. The fee drops for other retailers but creates a new hole in Telstra’s profit margins – a $3 billion one to be precise.
It’s a tough time to be a telco and with the movement to the NBN, it has never been tougher to be Telstra. The price we pay for our telecommunications services fell 3.8% in the year to June 2017. Telstra’s profits have been hit hardest. They fell by 33% this year, compared to last, coming in at $3.9 bn.
Smaller phone companies like Lebara, Kogan, Moose Mobile and OVO are agile, innovative and far more competitive than the big boys on the data inclusions they offer. They’re chipping away at Telstra’s profits. Telstra, typically charge a 30% premium for their service but have suffered a number of outages on their network, disappointing customers and seen rivals Optus and Vodafone spend huge sums to improve their 4G networks.
Rival TPG is set to launch a new mobile network in couple years’ time. They have already hinted at some aggressive marketing strategies to entice customers and have announced a target of reaching 80% Australians. TPG has been known to undercut competitors and go so far as to flag the first six months free in order to get new customers on board. Telstra can’t afford to have more competition eating into profit margins further.
Belong Mobile offer core plan inclusions with none of the entertainment extras some phone companies now provide.
Above : Source : WhatPhone Analysis
“By 2020, budget conscious will be 30% of the market.” Andy Penn, CEO Telstra
Andy Penn, CEO of Telstra believes that the value end fo the market, that’s the tier 3 & 4 area in the chart above will make up around 30% of the market by 2020. That’s in the next 2 years. The value segment currently make up about 20% of the market. The customers that join these tier 3 and 4 providers will come directly from the big phone companies. Belong has been started specifically to target the lower end of the market.
And check out the chart below. At the moment, Optus owns the majority of those value providers.
You can see why Telstra are investing in Belong Mobile. Telstra’s share of the cheap phone plan market is small, compared to their competitors.
Above : Source : WhatPhone Analysis
Belong – The potential risks.
While launching Belong Mobile is being touted as a good move it does come with potential risks. The launch of it’s mobile broadband services has been less than stellar. It hasn’t quite got the traction needed. To now, it has only been able to capture 150,000 customers, which is less than 5% of Telstra’s fixed line broadband base.
The likely reason for the lower than expected uptake is the pricing structures used by these smaller players. Most broadband plans from Telstra are purchased in a bundle along with other services like landlines, mobile and Foxtel. In the last year alone, 88% of Telstra’s broadband customers signed up for a bundle. There is no such bundling for Belong’s fixed NBN broadband / their new mobile service, and hence no incentive for existing Telstra customers to sign up.
Another reason could be that Telstra was probably not prepared for the challenges of the price sensitive market segment. The level of customer experience expected is much higher, and margins are very thin when you are competing on cost. Amaysim, a big player in the low-cost broadband space, has captured one million subscribers through excellent service. They have only a few hundred staff. They have a self-servicing platform that is unmatched in delivery. Competing at this level will probably not be easy for Telstra’s business model.
Will Belong help Telstra recover?
Belong’s plans are great. Our guess is that Belong’s new plans will affect the entire industry. Literally every other phone company is going to have to raise their data allowances in response to this.
Yesterday, it was a tough day to be Telstra. Today, it’s tough to be everyone else. Belong Mobile are the biggest change to Telstra’s set up we’ve seen. Their approach is no nonsense – they quite simply offer more data than anyone else and they do it on the Telstra network.
Belong’s version of Data Rollover is a long overdue feature in Australia. We are likely to see more of these plan components which offer an increased level of fairness when it comes to data and data management. Our view is that includes a focus on the management of data using phone company Self Service apps.