My parents have just got a mobile phone with a Lebara pre-paid SIM . Lebara advertise free calls to other Lebara phones but have a disclaimer that they charge a 25 cent flagfall and charge 15 cents per minute after the first 10 minutes – which is still cheaper than most mobile calls although not as good as some other mobile telcos such as Three that offer completely free calls to other phones with the same provider.
Lebara’s main selling point seems to be cheap international calls, half a cent per minute to Thailand, 1 cent per minute to Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore and 3 cents per minute to Bangladesh and China. Strangely calls to the US are 5 cents per minute and to Japan are 7 cents per minute, I would have expected that calling developed countries would have been cheaper due to better infrastructure and more competition. The trend of more developed countries having less expensive calls seems clear, some very undeveloped countries cost as much as $2 per minute! Note that all these rates are for calls to land-lines (calls to mobiles cost more) and are based on the new prices that apply after the 13th of July (it’s slightly cheaper for the next 8 days).
It seems really strange that calls to land-lines in Australia cost 15 cents per minute which is more than twice as much as calls to the US and Japan. In theory it would be possible to redirect calls to Australian land-lines via the US or Japan to save money. In practice it’s probably possible to do so by setting up a PBX in Thailand, Hong Kong, or Singapore.
But what I think is most noteworthy about Lebara is the fact that the call credit lasts for 90 days (this is in the FAQ). The cheapest top-up is $10 so therefore the minimum cost for mobile phone service is $40 per annum. Given the importance of owning a mobile phone to job seekers I think that with the current state of the economy there are a lot of people who could do with such a phone.
If anyone knows of Australian mobile phones that provide cheaper calls to other countries or a cheaper minimum annual fee then please let me know via the comments section.
For international readers, all prices are in Australian cents – which are worth about 85% as much as US cents.