Telstra takes aim at $15,000 data roaming bills

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Telstra takes aim at $15,000 data roaming bills

Pay $1800 for one gigabyte instead.

Telstra has added five international data roaming packs for mobile broadband use, including a gigabyte of data for $1800 while travelling in one of 25 supported countries.

The new plans are expected to minimise bill shock increasingly suffered by businesses and consumers through inadvertent data usage while overseas.

In addition to existing $29 and $160 data packs - which provide approximately 10 MB and 60 MB of data quota, respectively - Telstra has added more expensive data packs that provide approximately five times their worth under standard data roaming rates.

Heavy data users can purchase a gigabyte of data for $1800 in order to avoid what would otherwise be a $15,000 bill.

The telco currently charges 1.5c per kilobyte - or $15.36 per megabyte - for data roaming in popular countries.

The new data packs expire after 30 days, forfeiting any unused data allowance after expiry.

The values are also available as plans for regular travellers.

New Telstra international data roaming packs
Data Pack $29 $85 $160 $350 $550 $1050 $1800
Included Value $150 $450 $900 $2250 $3750 $7500 $15,000
Approx. data value (MB) 9.8 29.3 58.6 146.5 244.1 488.3 976.6

The move to new plans follows calls from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and efforts by industry body Communications Alliance to make information about international data roaming more easily accessible to users.

Telstra's new data plans are expected to provide relief to businesses worried about excessive inadvertent data usage while employees are overseas.

iTnews has learned of companies contemplating a shift away from iPhones and towards more easily locked down smartphone fleets such as RIM's BlackBerry over concerns surrounding international data use.

Where data roaming packs were previously restricted to those on Telstra's newer, Siebel-based billing system, the revamped data plans will be available to the older system as well, where many of the telco's legacy business customers remain.

Self-interest?

Even though the new pricing is likely to minimise the number of bills exceeding $15,000, it is expected to benefit Telstra.

Those who willingly take up the new data packs are less likely to dispute expensive bills after travelling overseas, reducing chances Telstra will bear "bad debt" from waiving disputed bills.

The company was saddled with between $70 million and $90 million of debt over the 2009-2010 financial year and had looked to simplify bills and communication in order to prevent "bill shock", which ultimately led to Telstra taking the financial hit.

"We're pretty hard on ourselves," former chief financial officer John Stanhope said in describing the debt in 2010.

"Part of our simplification strategy is to make sure that customers understand the plan they have and how it will look on their bill."

Though the company noted a decrease in "bad and doubtful debts" over the past financial half-year, it did not clarify how much debt it currently held as a result of disputed or waived bills.

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