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Kogan Mobile

Kogan Mobile is the newest virtual telco in Australia [1]. 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.

days received sent Kogan
2 127.24 41.54 177
10 959.39 299.6 1373

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.

Conclusion

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.

15 comments to Kogan Mobile

  • Julien G

    NextG is simply Telstra’s marketing name for 3G, not anything else.

  • Nice review. If only they did a low volume plan or allowed multiple connections. My parents won’t even use SMS/MMS let alone Apps so $30 a month while cheap, doesn’t represent much savings. I’d use it myself just for the data plan but I’d mostly for the office and Kogan don’t allow multiple connections.

    You might want to keep an eye open for another Telstra reseller that will be launching soon – Aldi.

  • Brian May

    Telsta NextG is Telstra 3G, Telstra don’t have any other 3G network. Not since their agreement with Three (3GIS) expired last year.

    Apparently Kogan’s 3G network has been throttled compared with what you would get with Telstra NextG.

    http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/article/444517/how_fast_kogan_mobile_network_/

    Also read the comments there, e.g. “First of all, the ‘capital city based 2.1Ghz 3G network’ — which we will call 3GIS (its name) no longer exists. It’s been broken up between Telstra and Vodafone. The Telstra Wholesale 3G product which Kogan uses, uses the same 3G 850 network as NextG. NextG is Telstra’s brand name and you won’t see the resellers using it. You’ll get up to 7.2mbps speeds on the TW3G product. It offers 98.4% pop coverage – 97% 2G+3G, the rest is 2G (GSM/EDGE) only. NextG thru Telstra offers 99.5% pop coverage.”

  • etbe

    Julien and Brian: Thanks for that information, it’s nice to know I’ll get a fast network when I sign up for that.

    Scott: What do you mean about multiple connections not being allowed? Also $300 per year is $25 per month, while they offer it for $30 per month anyone who likes it will end up paying by the year.

    If Aldi starts doing this it will be interesting, that will really force the prices down.

  • Geoff C

    Guys, Thanks for the review and comments, I need all the help I can get.
    The scary part for me is as I do not live in a metro area and coverage is OK under the Telstra 3G in most of the places I go & I might be that 1% that does not get coverage. As I understand it, if I order the KOGAN plan (keeping my existing number)it takes a few weeks to arrive. I still use my current Telstra sim and swap them over when the Kogan sim arrives, will the Telstra sim keep working until I cancel my current plan? that is if the KOGAN plan does not work for me can I just keep going with Telstra and I’ve only lost $30?

  • @etbe

    Kogan Mobile Acceptable Use Policy

    5. INAPPROPRIATE USE OF RESOURCES
    5.1. The Service is provided for the benefit of residential users and is not for commercial use or for use as a permanent connection. You must not:
    c) attempt to make more than one simultaneous connection to the Service;

    It’s an extremely good deal. While the data prices are cheaper than what I currently pay for mobile broadband (my only broadband connections) the AUP is not – you can’t mirror a repository with it, restore or backup websites, or share the connection with your LAN. Which is perfectly reasonable for a phone deal.

    If only Kogan wanted to compete with the mobile broadband providers…..

    The ALDI deals does offer a 365 day low call and data usage mobile plan that I’m signing myself up to. Aldi use the same network as Kogan – but for those that use a lot of data on their mobile phones the Kogan deal is still better.

  • etbe

    Geoff: If you get your number transitioned to Kogan (or any other telco) then your Telstra SIM ceases working. If you wanted to go back to Telstra after that you would have to get a new contract with Telstra and apply to have the number transferred.

    Scott: We have to hope that they interpret the conditions in a sane way and don’t try to prevent me from paying for my parents’ service. They also have conditions against copyright/trademark infringement and infringing any laws relating to censorship!

    Let’s hope that such insanity is just lawyer stuff that won’t apply IRL.

  • AJ

    This may sound like a stupid question but can you still RECEIVE international calls on Kogan WITHOUT the bolt-on package.

    Would be great if someone could let me know. I’m looking at going for Kogan.

  • etbe

    AJ: I don’t believe that there are any restrictions on receiving calls. In Australia it’s always free to receive calls (apart from “collect” calls) so there wouldn’t be any reason to do otherwise.

  • Tris

    Hi guys and gals,

    Any word on receiving international SMS? Is the bolt on needed to just get them in even if it is free?

    I have just ported over and find that I can’t receive from foreign phones.

    Thanks in advance

    Tristan

  • Update on Kogan limitations (the same does not apply to ALDI):-

    Dear Scott Ferguson,

    Kogan Mobile would like to advise you that our records show that during a 30 day period prior to today you exceeded the allowed daily data limit of 400MB per day on 3 or more occasions.

    Kogan Mobile strives to provide its customers with the best value mobile and data plans in Australia.

    Our Acceptable Use Policy is designed to ensure the integrity of the mobile network, so that it is fairly available for all our customers

    We understand that excess usage can be accidental. As such, we do not propose to take any further action at this time, other than this email notice.

    Please ensure in future that you comply with our Acceptable Use Policy.

    Future breach of our Acceptable Use Policy by downloading or uploading more than 1GB of data in a single 24 hour period, or more than 400MB on 3 or more days within any 30 day period may result in appropriate action under clause 6.2 and 6.3 of the Acceptable Use Policy.

    For handy tips on how to reduce your data usage, please have a look at this article.

    Thank you for choosing Kogan Mobile.

    Kind Regards,
    Kogan Mobile

    P.S. the wait for the $5 trial SIM cards is now 6 – 8 weeks unless you pay and additional $10.

  • etbe

    Tris: I have no problems receiving SMS from other countries.

    Scott: Thanks for that information. In regard to the 6-8 week wait, I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 from Kogan and my free SIM arrived less than 3 weeks after placing the order. Maybe people who buy expensive phones get priority service.

  • @etbe
    Maybe – it’d make sense (to me). When KoganMobile first launched my $5 SIM (also) took 3-4 weeks to arrive and there was no “expedited delivery” for an additional $10. The 6-8 week delivery time and the expedited option only recently appeared (as did the clarification on download limits).

    @trish
    I receive international SMS (I’ve won both the Microsoft and the British Tobacco lotteries!) and I’ve never had the Premium Service addon. But I did have to manually configure one phone to enable MMS and data, SMS and calls worked “out of the box”.

  • etbe

    Scott: I just tell people not to send me MMS. As every phone is capable of email it’s a much better option to email pictures in full resolution than to send MMS which are reduced quality pictures that can only be viewed on a phone, cost excess fees, and are generally annoying.

    In regard to international communication one advantage I have is a standing account with clickatell.com that I use for Nagios messages. On the rare occasions when I need to send an international SMS I can usually ssh to a server and send it via clickatell. I haven’t yet needed a direct reply to an international SMS.

  • @etbe
    I currently use gsms for scripted (free) SMS, though it relies on a, um, commercial calendar provider. But I’m looking at self-hosted calendar options and clickatell could be useful then. Thanks.