Optus boss warns on bill shock

Optus chief executive Kevin Russell had urged telcos to tackle the problem of bill shock head on as more customers take up 4G services or risk repeating the mistake of overcharging customers for international roaming services.

Optus chief executive Kevin Russell had urged telcos to tackle the problem of bill shock head on as more customers take up 4G services or risk repeating the mistake of overcharging customers for international roaming services.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are banking on more customers switching to 4G networks to boost their revenues as growth in mobile subscriber numbers dwindles.

"We do believe there is a huge growth potential for 4G in the marketplace," Mr Russell said.

"But if you get penalised if you go over your allowance and you stop using or you change your behaviour as a result that is going to, in my view, stop this growth opportunity."

The Optus boss believes the key to winning the 4G race is giving data-hungry customers certainty over how much they will pay for their data usage. He said telcos needed to put in place a plan that encouraged or allowed customers to use their smartphones as much as they wanted to.

This meant telco plans, especially regarding pricing, needed to be predictable and affordable so customers could download or use data on the super-fast 4G network.

Telstra is leading the charge in rolling out 4G. Its network is expected to cover 85 per cent of Australia by the end of this year. Optus will cover 70 per cent of the metropolitan population by mid-2014. Vodafone launched its service in June.

The Optus boss said telcos ran the risk of repeating their mistakes in handling international roaming charges if they did not pre-empt the brewing concerns over data usage as more people sign up to 4G.

"International roaming is a fascinating case study for the industry," he said. "There has been a high price point, increasing customer concerns on high roaming bills. Industry has not addressed it.

"Now less and less people roam when they are overseas. I think if we don't address data breakage head-on in 4G the same will happen in 4G."

Mr Russell, who is trying to revitalise the country's second largest carrier after a period of stagnant growth, predicted the shared data plan, which allows subscribers to use a single data pact for multiple devices, is the future.

"I don't believe in a market where you have a separate subscription for every single device. I think that is very un-customer friendly, not consistent with where the market is going to go," he said.

"I think you as a customer will have a single subscription, which you will use and access from multiple devices and you will share that data plan from multiple points."

Gordon Ballantyne, Telstra's senior executive in charge of customer facing business, said it would introduce shared data plans in coming months.

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