COMMENTARY: Do anaemic iPhone plans make ANZ broadband backwaters?

iPhone plans are (almost) all out across Australia and New Zealand, but none feature the all-you-can-download schemes on offer elsewhere in the world. All are, in fact, more expensive for less data, leading TechTarget ANZ to ask why we pay more for mobile data.

Mobile carriers are used to charging some pretty astounding rates for mobile data.

SMS, for example, is charged at around $AUD1million a gigabyte.

Data for the iPhone is charged rather a lot less.

But the plans on offer are still weak compared to those sold in other nations.

02, the carrier Apple has partnered with in the UK, offers unlimited data even on its entry-level, £30 ($AUD62) plan. AT&T, Apple’s US partner, is said to be offering unlimited data for $US69.99 ($AUD72.90) a month.

But in this part of the world, all-you-can-eat plans are not on the agenda.

And the heftiest plans, which allow for just 1 gigabyte of monthly mobile downloads, are more expensive than the unlimited plans on offer overseas.

Vodafone New Zealand is charging $NZ250 a month for a plan that includes one gigabyte of data.

In Australia, Optus’ cheapest 1GB plan is $AUD149 a month, although the carrier (and Telstra) both say their iPhone users will be able to access unlimited data through their WiFi access points. Vodafone’s 1GB plan costs at least $119 a month. Telstra offers a plan for 1GB of data a month at $AUD89, but that is on top of calling plans.

We imagine four reasons for the hefty prices being charged here, compared to the deals available overseas.

One is that local telcos are milking iPhone customers' enthusiasm for the new device. It's a not-unreasonable hypothesis given that Vodafone, for example, offers 5GB of data on a mobile broadband plan for just $39 a month.

The second is that the networks constructed in our part of the world are not ready for devices like the iPhone that see users consume a lot of mobile data, so prices have to be high lest rampant iPhone users degrade the experience for users of other phones.

We’d like to think that this explanation is inadequate, given carriers’ chest-beating about their technical excellence (and flag waving about the importance of broadband and innovation in our remote nations) and the existence of plans like the Vodafone mobile broadband deal mentioned above.

A third is that telcos are protecting their investment in their own content. All of Australia's mobile carriers offer their own content. Giving users cheap, easy access to the Internet may not be in their interests.

A fourth possibility is that the sheer cost of doing business in ANZ means that these plans are justified.

TechTarget ANZ understands that Australia and New Zealand are very different to the UK and the USA. Our nations’ size, population density and rugged terrain make it expensive to operate telecommunications networks. We also understand that businesses must be profitable and that investment in telecommunications networks involves substantial sums of money and considerable ongoing operational expense.

But even with our hardest business head on, we can’t shake the feeling that the price of mobile data is still excessive hereabouts.

And we’d love to know why!

Do you have an opinion about mobile data charges in Australia? Let us know!

Read more on Wireless networking