Optus is streamlining its global roaming plans and slashing the cost of overseas voice, text and data as Australia's mobile carriers finally begin to get realistic about roaming.
The telco's move comes ahead of next week's launch by Vodafone of its new Roam Like Home plans, which will allow Australian subscribers to use their plan's voice, text and data allowances in the USA, UK and New Zealand for an additional $5 per day.
From the middle of next month Optus will debut cheaper flat-rate voice, SMS and data and divide the world into just two Optus Travel Rate zones, down from the current handful of five.
Zone 1 will cover Asia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Europe, the UK, the USA and Canada, where most calls will cost a flat $1 per minute with 50c/MB for data and 50c per SMS.
Zone 2 includes Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, with rates double those for Zone 1: calls will be charged at $2 per minute, data at $1/MB and texts at $1 per message.
By way of comparison, under Optus' current AutoRoam plans data is charged at a $20/MB, while the current average call cost for most countries now in Optus' Zone 1 is around $1.40/minute for local calls and $3.20 for dialling overseas. The new flat rates cover local and international calls plus incoming calls.
$10/day Optus Travel Packs
Optus will also introduce an add-on $10 per day Optus Travel Pack for Zone 1 countries. This will let Australian subscribers use their Optus SIM card and number overseas with what the carrier promises as 'unlimited talk and text' plus 50MB per day of data.
If you go over that 50MB daily ceiling you'll be charged at the new Zone 1 data rate of 50c/MB.
However, Optus' current Data Travel Passes offering unlimited data in 10 Asian countries for between $10 and $40 over 1-5 days will be axed.
One key point of difference between the new Optus and Vodafone roaming schemes is that the Optus travel rates are available on all plans, whereas Vodafone will require subscribers to sign up to a range of new 'premium' plans (prices of which will be revealed next week).
Communications consumer action group ACANN has welcomed Optus' new plans, with spokesman Asher Moses saying "it's good to see telcos taking action on the global roaming rip off."
"Consumers are increasingly aware that they are being taken for a ride by providers addicted to the massive profits derived from the global roaming rort. Global roaming charges have for too long been way too high and do not come close to reflecting the true cost of providing the service."
However, Moses adds that "it's likely that buying a local SIM card at their destination will still be a much cheaper option for travellers. Optus' $10 a day bolt on would mean paying $70 a week extra and that's on top of your normal plan fees."
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