As of today, there's no reason to pay a second bill for mobile Internet access on your tablet. Optus has announced a number of new plans that let customers pay one combined fee for mobile network access on multiple devices -- like a smartphone and a tablet -- without any additional charges.
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The new My Plan Plus plans from Optus will let you use two SIMs in separate devices, but aggregates the data used into a single account; there's no additional charge for hooking up a second device beyond a $5 one-off setup fee. This new plan structure is also available to existing accounts -- if you're already an Optus customer, you're able move to My Plan Plus for the remainder of your contract.
The new plans also include an automatic data top-up facility, that adds 1GB of mobile data to a user's account whenever they reach the limit of their existing quota, for $10 per instalment.
Telstra has had the ability for its customer to add a second SIM to their plans for six months now, using an aggregate pool of mobile data, although it charges $10 per month per device for the privilege.
Not too many tablets on the market have inbuilt SIM slots and mobile data connectivity; those that do, like Apple's iPad Air and Mini and the Nokia Lumia 2520, cost significantly more than their non-mobile variants. According to Telsyte telecommunications analyst Foad Fadaghi, the plans will largely only impact people who already use their tablets to regularly access mobile data: "3G/4G tablets are typically more expensive than WiFi-only so for the casual on-the-road tablet user, it’s unlikely to make much of an impact –- they will probably continue to tether.
"On the other hand, it might make life a little easier and cheaper for those that regularly use an existing 3G/4G tablet, and currently pay for a separate SIM." Fadaghi said that around 40 per cent of tablets sold last year in Australia were mobile data-enabled.
The biggest challenge for Optus is to convince people that these plans, which split already restrictive mobile data quotas between two devices instead of one, are worth using. To counter this complaint, Optus is increasing the amount of mobile broadband data available on its new plans -- with 2GB included on the mainstream $60 plan. As a comparison, you'll get 1.5GB of data on a $60 per month My Plan and 3GB for $100. Dedicated data-only plans for tablets or hotspots net you 10GB for that same $60, while 4GB of data only costs $30 per month.
The second-place telco is also offering new SIM-only My Plan Plus plans with month-to-month contracts available from 10 June, putting it directly into competition with Vodafone. These plans also include data sharing with up to five devices on the same mobile contract, again for the $5 one-off fee per device.