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Shaky times at Savvytel

Savvytel has to be one of my favourite prepaid mobile plan providers. I have been using their services since the day I began the prepaidplans.com.au website, in fact they where also the first prepaid mobile plan on this site. Over the years they have moved their business from reselling Vodafone to Optus services and whilst the move benefited many (including themselves) it also resulted in much confusion and loss of customers (new sim cards). Since then however, the plans have expanded and many customers have returned.

Earlier this week, customers trying to recharge their plan where told that the service was shut down over August and might not be returning. New sales where also closed. The rumour mill is saying that the business is likely to close and that customers would be losing their credit and possibly mobile numbers. The website however remains active and there has not been any formal communication to explain the interrupted recharge service. I have two services with them and have not received any news.

Whilst I hope there is a reasonable explanation to what is happening and the result is not a Savvytel shutting, if you are looking at some replacement options I have done the homework for you. Checkout this range of prepaid plans with credit expiry ranging from 365 and 180 days and credits never expire.

Savvytel Shutting Down?

Savvytel is a mobile provider that i have been promoting for several years now. In fact i still have two active sims at the moment used by my parents. several years ago they went through a massive transformation moving from Vodafone network to Optus and whilst the change brought benefits and opportunities, the changeover confused and lost them lots of customers.

Through the various forums yesterday, there was talk that their customer service staff were advising customers that they where shutting down. mind you this is not the first time i have heard this rumour. last time it circulated was last year.

The difference this year is that the competitive landscape has changed and customer needs around voice and data is also changing.

Savvytel offers two popular plans, Credits Never Expire plan and SavvyLite. Both really good value offers and it would be a real shame for the market to lose them.

What the forums are saying is that customers have been told that they can no longer start new plan nor recharge. What this means for existing customers with an active balance is yet unknown. the website is still active and no communication has been issued.

The business could in fact be shutting down, it could be in the process of being sold. There could also be some other explanation linked with their Optus relationship.

Hopefully we don’t lose them or atleast their plans. If they are to shut down, let’s hope that customers are given 60-90 days to use their credit rather than simply losing it.

As a promoter of their services, I can say that I have noticed a complete stop to sales of Savvytel and was puzzled why, given the numbers where always rather consistent. I suspected that something might be happening with tracking codes being removed. The website however never stopped working.

I also recharged a family members prepaid account only 2 weeks ago and all was good.

More on this over the next few days.

Having invested in a Samsung S4 4G smartphone, I thought it was time to review what the 4G experience was like. My intention is to test both Telstra and Optus 4G side by side.I decided to purchase my Telstra sim from a Woolworths retail store. My ID was checked as usual and the whole experience was quite easy Telstra prepaid 4G usage chartreally.Activating the sim card was a little harder however. This is the second sim I have activated with Telstra this year and the second time I have had to use the chat service to complete the activation. As I already have a prepaid mobile broadband sim card with Telstra for my iPad, I decided to activate under this account. Because I had logged into my account there did not seem to be any ID requirement. The activation request was sent almost instantly. The problem however was that almost as instantly, I received an email from Telstra advising that there would be delays in my activation. I waited 24 hours and nothing.I jumped online via the chat service and the young lady activated my sim pretty quickly. My ID was requested. Not sure why my activation was lost (no explanation was given).Once the activation came through, I inserted the sim in my phone and all was ready. Lucky for me my home (eastern suburbs of Melbourne) had 4G access and this appeared on my phone.

Coverage

Given 4G is still limited to Metro and inner city regions (see map) 4G across will cross over to 3G when it needs to. I experienced this in the train on the way to work in the morning. Now you see it now you don’t.

Speed TestTelstra 4G Coverage

The difference between 3G and 4G speeds is significant. As an example, using my Optus 3G sim in my Samsung S4 can achieve a ping of 46ms, download speed of 4.70Mbps and 1.16Mbps upload. Using the 4G Telstra sim, I reached close to 20Mbps download and 3.5Mbps upload (3 – 4 x better). However, the results do bounce around from test to test, but the differences even at the lower levels are significant.

– Read the rest of the review at: http://prepaidplans.com.au/2008/07/telstra/

There has been significant talk in the media and social media circles regarding Kogan’s apparent bait and switch tactics following the price rise of about 10% this week. As a longterm commentator of the prepaid mobile market, I firmly believe that a god portion of the customers that switched to Kogan are transient and really likely to move away just as easily as they moved to Kogan (easy come easy go no matter where they are). So whilst 110,000 customers is a major achievement, a good portion of it was because the price was ultra-cheap compared to the market and with the change, these same customers are likely to look at alternatives that offer less restrictions eg daily limits, a better network and better service. The prepaid market is fickle because it was designed to be that way.

The point of today’s article is that unlimited prepaid plans have dominated the market over the past 24 months and whilst they seem to offer great value, there is a cost that goes with using them beyond what is leaving your bank account.

What mobile phone companies do by giving us unlimited plans is condition us to use our phone more and more. Yes the more we use the less they make but over the longer term, you become used to using more and ultimately find that it is very difficult to use less. Should the price of unlimited gradually rise, you are stuck in an expensive situation with a lifestyle that demands more mobile use.

The phones themselves don’t help nor do the apps that are gradually allowing us to do almost anything from our mobile phone. Get used to using your phone for everything, get used to fast internet, use your mobile phone instead of your landline and the mobile carriers have us where they want us. The cost of supporting such growing mobile use should actually drive call and data costs down, but with only 3 carriers we could see a situation where they all gradually increase pricing.

Kogan with its 6GB of data even with the 400MB data daily limit is guilty of these tactics. Yes Kogan Mobile gives you greater value, but by giving you so much more than anyone else, you get hooked on using so much more. The price to pay for this usage pattern is the regular promotional emails Kogan sends to buy everything from their store and the risk of yet another price rise (maybe in 12 months time).

Given Kogan can make money from product sales through his online store, it is unlikely he would start a regular pattern of price rises but a 12 monthly review would certainly be on the cards.

On a 12 month basis, Kogan is about $150 less expensive than any of the 30 day expiry options. The 30 day expiry options are priced at $39 – $40 across the board. I wonder why they don’t offer a 12 month prepaid option. When Red Bull Mobile was offering prepaid plans, their 365 day options was $1/day at $365. For this you received 5GB/mth and your unlimited calls and TXT/MMS. This is the closest to Kogan that you can get. Aldi is another to consider with their $35/mth for 30 days options and 5GB on the Telstra 3G network (same network range and speed to Kogan). At $35 your annual charge would be $420. Dodo also had an unlimited offer at $39 with 5GB data and bonus data as well but this plan is being terminated at the end of August.

So if you are hooked on the unlimited offer, the only remedy I can recommend is a mobile phone detox which might see you leaving the phone in the draw in the kitchen rather than beside you bed every night.

Arthur Koulianos

www.prepaidplans.com.au