Large data plans could serve as an alternative to the National Broadband Network (NBN) amid widespread congestion during peak times, according to telecommunications experts.
This follows the announcement that local telco service provider OVO has introduced Australia’s largest ever prepaid mobile broadband data plan, pitched as a substitute to fixed broadband.
Its less-than-subtle dig at the NBN references the company’s acronym: “Fixed broadband – Not Bloody Necessary”.
OVO’s new plan provides internet users 100GB of data, priced at $100 for 30 days.
As a point of comparison, Optus’ largest mobile plan is 20GB for 28 days at $50.
Mobile communications expert Dr Philip Branch of Swinburne University told The New Daily it appeared to be a reasonable offer.
“One hundred dollars a month sounds good. Telstra offers 20GB a month for $70, so the price is impressive,” he said.
Dr Branch said that if there was to be a high-demand response to this kind of data plan, it could over time lower prices to NBN plans.
But he noted that a 100GB plan would not necessarily be enough to support upcoming technologies such as virtual reality (VR).
“Applications like VR chew up a lot of data so having 100GB a month is a good start. But that’s only the start,” he said.
RMIT associate professor in network engineering Mark Gregory said the data plan was a reasonable option for a business customer who was struggling with peak-hour congestion on the NBN or for people without the NBN who are prepared to pay $100 a month.
He said the streaming standard in Australia was 5 Mbps which meant a one-hour TV show would use about 450MB. Meanwhile, watching a one-hour Netflix show would require about 144MB.
“I think, for a start, $100 a month is out of reach for most residential consumers,” he said.
“But it’s definitely a good deal and it will put pressure on the bigger telco companies.”
However, Mr Gregory warned that data plans were by no means an ongoing solution for Australia’s digital future.
He said that while this was a larger, relatively cheaper plan compared to others available in Australia, data was “not a practical improvement” over connecting to the NBN.
“If more customers move solely onto a data plan, they’ll experience congestion like everyone else because there will be a cluster of people trying to use 4G at the same time, connecting to the same mobile phone tower,” Mr Gregory said.
“Wireless is always constrained, whereas we will all eventually get fixed access to the [NBN] network that meets our needs.”
OVO chief Matt Jones said the telco planned to continue adding “even larger” data offers over the coming months.
“Australia’s fixed broadband network is one of the worst in the developed world; Akamai’s 2017 State of the Internet report ranked us 50th globally for average fixed broadband speed. That same report placed Australia seventh for mobile data speed,” he said.
“Despite the billions being spent on upgrading Australia’s fixed broadband infrastructure, it remains slow and expensive by international standards.
“And I speak as one of the many, many Australians who are sick of hearing about why that is and who’s to blame − we just want it to work, where and when we want it.”
The New Daily gave NBN Co the opportunity to provide a response but it did not wish to comment on the new OVO plan.