Telecom pulls all-you-can-eat broadband plan
[UPDATE: See Telecom statement on alternative plans end of main text]
Ralph! We miss you already!
Hot on the heels of Ralph Brayham's resignation, the Big Time uncapped data plan championed by the Telecom head of home services has got the chop.
The news - yet to be made public - was broken early this morning in a letter to members of Geekzone, who had been complaining about performance of connection on the "Big Time" plan (see full letter below).
The letter is from Geekzone member "Doozy", who works days as a member of Telecom's broadband product team, fellow forum member Simon Biddle* told NBR.
The plan was launched on July 1 last year, and cost $69.95 a month, or $59.95 a month if bundled with other Telecom services.
Overseas, uncapped or all-you-can-eat data plans are the norm. New Zealand is one of the few OECD countries where capped plans are universal.
Ironically, Telecom's fully-owned Australian subsidiary, AAPT, has recently made consumer market inroads by pushing uncapped, unthrottled plans.
Just too hard (and too unappealing?)
But on this side of the Tasman, apparently it just did not work out.
The letter to Geekzone members states that traffic management was just too difficult.
And traffic did have to be managed, for most Telecom customers remained on capped plans. And, complicating things further, Mr Brayham openly admitted that Big Time connections would be "shaped" or throttled, during peak times.
It seems it all got too complicated.
Another possible factor: the type of power-user attracted to an uncapped plan would also be turned-off by the slo-mo potential of throttling. It's likely this phenomenon hindered uptake. (Telecom has never revealed Big Time numbers. Today a spokeswoman told NBR that the "numbers on the plan [are] a very small portion of our complete broadband base of more than 500,000".).
How much more simple - and successful - Big Time could have been if Telecom had followed the uncapped, unthrottled model of its Australian subsidiary.
Cynics will wonder if the difference was that AAPT faces more competition.
This morning, a spokeswoman for Telecom could only offer that "AAPT and Telecom operate in different markets".
Second time around
Big Time was Telecom's second stab at an all-you-can-eat data plan.
It's previous effort, Go Large, was pulled three years ago after a Consumer complaint about undisclosed throttling led to a Fair Trading Act prosecution.
In December 2009, Telecom was fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to 17 breaches of the Act.
Now, keen internet users - or anyone jealously eying the uncapped plans that are commonplace overseas - will be wondering if they'll ever be a third.
Mr Hospital Pass
The departing Mr Brayham must feel at times like Mr Hospital Pass. His employer has handed him some of its hairier assignments, including the flawed Ferrit, with its incomprehensible browser-with-us-buy-elsewhere model; the above-mentioned Big Time and the hobbled TiVo.
Still, he also leaves with a big gold star on his CV, and for the metric most central to his job. That is, after nearly two years of relentless decline, Telecom's retail broadband market share stabilised at 57% under his tenure - and has held there, against the regulatory tide.
* Name changed to protect Geekzone member's identity.
UPDATE: Telecom has released the following statement:
"Customers using the Big Time plan will be communicated with in the coming months and given advanced notice before we need to move them to another option. We will look at their average data usage and recommend the best option for them.
"Those with high data use may suit the Pro plan so from July we are adjusting the price of overage on our Pro plan (monthly plan price of $79.95) which has the largest monthly data allowance (40GB) – previously it was $20 per Gigabyte (GB) and it will be $2 per GB (or part thereof).
"We appreciate that there will be a small number of extreme users who will not be happy with this outcome".
Telecom's letter to Geekzone members:
I wanted to let you know that Telecom’s Big Time broadband plan will be removed from sale.
We are conscious we have a number of customers who enjoy using a plan with no monthly data allowance, that’s why Telecom is the only ISP that has made successive attempts to give customers this innovation. Unfortunately it is simply proving unviable.
The management of traffic on the plan has become particularly difficult and we simply cannot keep it in market.
If you are on the Big Time plan you will receive a letter from us in the coming months with your options and giving you advanced notice before we need to move you to another broadband plan.
If you would like to make a change to your plan today you can call us on 0800 22 55 98 to discuss your options. Otherwise you can sit tight with your Big Time plan until you receive our letter.
Again, we’re really sorry to have to stop offering this product - we tried to do something different and sometimes these things don’t work out.
I will do my best to answer any questions you post here, should you have a question that you feel is not appropriate for posting in the thread feel free to email me on this site