Kogan Mobile is the newest virtual telco in Australia . They resell Telstra 3G (not NextG or LTE) and while their coverage isn’t as good as the full Telstra service it’s more than adequate for my needs as they provide 3G coverage to 97% of the population and 2G+3G coverage to 98.5%. Their coverage is probably a lot better than Three who had the worst record of network coverage in Australia yet managed to always provide coverage where I wanted it – I was a happy Three customer for more than 6 years.
Kogan’s main selling point is that they offer unlimited calls to Australian mobile phones and land-lines and unlimited SMS for a pre-paid fee of only $300 per annum ($25 per month on average). My parents have been getting unpleasantly large phone bills which have considerably more than $25 of calls to mobile phones every month so an obvious solution for them is to sign up for a Kogan mobile phone and use it for all such calls. There are other ways my parents could save money on calls (such as VOIP) but a mobile phone is easiest and offers other benefits such as running Android apps (when compared to using a non-smart phone).
6G of Data!
Kogan also offers 6G of data per month, the down-side to this is that they bill in 1MB increments per “session”. I was worried that this might be per TCP connection or something else silly but I decided to sign my parents up for it as they aren’t going to use a lot of data (they claim that they don’t want to use the Internet on their phone but I know better). I’ve done some tests on the SIM I got for my parents. For testing purposes I installed the Kogan SIM in my wife’s new Nexus 4 and had it provide Wifi net access to my phone while we were playing Ingress.
So far after 2 days which involved a reasonable amount of Ingress (I reached level 7) as well as all the usual stuff that happens in the background for two phones (checking email, news, weather, etc) Kogan considers that 177MB have been used out of the 6144MB for the month, which means that even with what is an unusual amount of traffic for us the account in question still isn’t going to use half the quota for the month. Now that 10 days have elapsed with less intense usage Kogan considers that a total of 1373MB have been used.
Kogan also don’t seem to mention whether they bill for transmitted data. I used the 3G Watchdog app to measure the amount data transferred, the above table has the amounts of data that 3G Watchdog considers were sent and received along with the amount that is listed by the Kogan Android app. My past experience with 3G Watchdog and Virgin Mobile is that it’s usually quite accurate but has been over-reporting the data transfers recently (I think that Virgin is only billing me for downloads while 3G Watchdog counts uploads). So the relatively small difference between the 3G Watchdog report and what Kogan thinks I’ve done means that either rounding the “session” up to the nearest meg doesn’t make any significant difference (which would imply that a “session” can be a long time) or that Kogan isn’t counting uploaded data and the session rounding up only adds about 40% to the total recorded transfer.
My current plan with Virgin Mobile gives me 1.5G per month of quota, so as long as Kogan’s rounding doesn’t increase the recorded data transfer by a factor of 4 I will still be able to transfer more data with Kogan while paying less. One disadvantage of using Kogan is that I might have to tweak programs like my email program to poll less frequently to avoid excessive session charges (a program polling every 5 minutes would use up the 6G quota in 21 days if each poll counted as a session) – although current tests indicate that this won’t be necessary. But the up-side is that there are no extra fees with Kogan, they merely restrict data access – for my use and that of most people I know it’s better to have data access cut off than to receive a large bill.
The Kogan Android App
Kogan has an Android app that will give the status of your account and allow you to change the plan etc. This is quite nice but one major disadvantage is that it’s also a sales app for the Kogan online store. This is bad for the user as some aspects of what I consider the core functionality are limited (for example there’s no way to force a poll of the data usage count or determine how current the data is). But there’s an obvious advantage to Kogan in providing a way to sell their goods that is going to be used by every customer of Kogan Mobile.
The sales part of the app isn’t very functional IMHO, it doesn’t seem to have basic functionality such as sorting a list of items by price.
Benefits of Kogan
6G of data is a lot!
$300 per annum is quite cheap, anyone who makes any serious use of phones will be paying more than that in Australia.
Lack of extra fees means that there is little need to restrict net access. I can risk getting cut off near the end of the month but I can’t risk the potential for hundreds of dollars in excess fees.
The Kogan app shows me the data used so I will probably uninstall 3G Watchdog, having one less program running is a good thing.
You get a free SIM (value $5) when you buy a phone from Kogan.
Disadvantages of Kogan
They are new to the Telco business and admit that their customer service is lacking due to unexpected demand.
If you order a SIM now they state that it will arrive in April. Apparently they are deliberately delaying orders because they can’t cope with demand.
The included call quota doesn’t include international calls. While unlimited free calls in Australia is great if you make many international calls then this could end up costing you more. Other mobile telcos such as Lebara offer good deals for International calls, it could be an option to use a Lebara SIM with an old non-smart phone while using Kogan for your smart phone.
I am concerned about the lack of detail about how data is accounted. If the definition of a “session” changes then 6G could turn out not to be enough. As Kogan is reselling a Telstra service it is possible that Telstra could change the deal without Kogan being able to stop them.
I will move my phone and my wife’s phone to Kogan ASAP. My general idea is to sign us up for Kogan about 2 weeks apart, so if one phone runs out of the 6G data quota then the other phone can be used as a Wifi access point for 2 weeks. If the phones don’t both have their quota end at the same time then there is less chance of both phones running out during a high traffic month.