Amaysim aims to 'Steven Bradbury' the competition with new 4G plans

Amaysim is gambling that it's better to be late to the 4G mobile party with strong plans than arrive early with weak ones, according to Julian Ogrin, CEO of the mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

The four-year-old Amaysim today launched its first 4G plans on the Optus network. The MVNO will offer users up to 6GB of data for prices that are in many cases cheaper than its larger rivals, many of whom launched 4G plans more than a year ago.

Illustrating its slow-but-steady-wins-the-race philosophy, Amaysim for its marketing has teamed up with the Olympic speed skater Steven Bradbury, who in 2002 famously won a Gold medal from behind after the skaters in front of him collided and fell on the ice.

"There was a real early rush to 4G," Ogrin told Computerworld Australia. "We always said we weren't going to come to 4G until the market was right and we could offer a great product to our customers.

"It was sort of like [competitors] were tripping over each other to get the early lead on price and we were just sort of sitting back and watching it."

Customers have been asking Amaysim for a year when they would release 4G plans, acknowledged Ogrin. "We have in the last three or four months started to see a real lift in communication from our customers" asking Amaysim to provide 4G.

However, he said that Amaysim did not see a significant number of customers ditching the company for greener 4G pastures.

Amaysim didn't believe there was enough 4G coverage or devices last year to release plans at that time, he said. Last year, Optus coverage was about 80 per cent of the population -- most of it outdoor coverage -- and only 30 per cent of devices were 4G, he said.

The landscape has changed since then, Ogrin said. Optus coverage will be 90 per cent by April, and the network operator in January commenced deploying the 700MHz spectrum it won in the Digital Dividend auction, he said.

Read more:Vodafone finishes rollout of 4G carrier aggregation

The lower frequency of 700MHz, compared to the 1800MHz band initially used for 4G, means that the wireless airwaves can travel more easily through buildings and provide better indoor coverage.

Also, Telsyte estimates that by June this year, 4G users will represent 50 per cent of the mobile market in Australia, Ogrin said.

Amaysim 4G plans

The Amaysim 6GB plan includes unlimited calling and text in Australia for $54.90 per month. For $10 less, customers get 4GB of data with unlimited calling and text. For the budget conscious, Amaysim will sell a $29.90 plan including 1.5GB of data plus unlimited text and 500 minutes of standard voice calls.

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Also available is a "flexi" plan for $19.90 a month with 500MB, with users charged 9 cents per minute for calls and 9 cents per text message. An "As You Go" plan costs 7.2 cents per MB, 12 cents per minute and 12 cents per SMS.

The latter plan used to cost 5 cents per MB, but Amaysim used to round up to the nearest MB. With the new plans, Amaysim has changed how it bills data -- moving from a per MB system to a per KB system that should provide more precise bills for users since their usage won't be rounded up to the nearest MB.

This follows a trend of telcos moving to KB pricing after complaints by customers and consumer advocates.

"We always want to listen to our customers and listen to the market, and our customers were very much saying that when you move to 4G, we want the kilobyte routing," said Ogrin.

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Amaysim deleted its existing $44.90 3G plan offering 5GB and unlimited voice and SMS, but existing customers will be grandfathered in for as long as they want, said Ogrin. However, these customers will still only get 3G service and be charged on a per MB basis.

Amaysim plans to offer two data top-up plans. In the coming month, it will offer a 1GB data pack for $9.90 that is valid for 30 days from purchase. Soon after, Amaysim plans to release a 300MB data pack for $4.90.

Existing customers do not need to order a new SIM card to access the 4G network.

Like other MVNOs on the Optus network, Amaysim will have full 4G access and benefit from Optus network upgrades as they occur.

US expansion scuttled

Amaysim is no longer considering expansion into the US, Ogrin said.

In late 2013, the company revealed it was exploring the American market. However, Ogrin said the company decided it would be too difficult to break in and has decided to focus on Australia instead.

"What's going on in the US with T-Mobile really shaking it up and then you have Verizon and AT&T responding, that's an enormous deep pockets price war. You don't want to launch a business ... It's like walking into a hurricane."

Amaysim will focus for the next two to three years on capturing the bring-your-own SIM card market in Australia, he said.

The company has explored the possibility of offering fixed broadband services, but has no near-term plans to release fixed plans, said Ogrin.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) could allow companies that hadn't sold fixed services before to enter the market. But Ogrin said that option is a long way off.

"The NBN, as an example, still has a way to go before it becomes a real commercial platform."

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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