Since last year Telstra has said it will charge some customers for 5G from July 1, 2o20. Optus also kept the door open for charging since it announced the roll out of its own network. Vodafone has been the only Australian telco to say it would not charge for 5G access. But it now looks like Vodafone 5G has changed its stance.
Vodafone 5G might cost extra
The Vodafone 5G roll out was officially announced in December, 2019. At the time, Vodafone told Gizmodo Australia that it would not charge for 5G.
“We will be announcing our 5G plans early next year and we have no plans to charge customers extra to use 5G,” a Vodafone spokesperson said in an email on December 30, 2020.
The telco has now backflipped on this with a vague statement on June 12, 2020.
“During the roll out phase, it is important to recognise that 5G coverage is not ubiquitous and customers therefore may or may not be accessing 5G services from time to time. So for the foreseeable future, Vodafone made a clear decision not to charge extra for 5G on current phone plans,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo Australia.
A Vodafone spokesperson said in a follow up phone call that it would be fair to say that the company is not ruling out charging for 5G on future plans. Vodafone has declined to comment further.
Following in Optus’ Footsteps
Vodafone’s new stance mimics that of Optus, which would not rule out the possibility of charging for 5G when it announced its 5G network in November, 2019.
When Gizmodo Australia asked Optus CEO Allen Lew about this, he admitted the possibility.
“As a network operator we’re always looking at how we can monetise our investments. But we also need to look at the customer experience and what we’re delivering for customers before we get too enthusiastic about charging them for all sorts of things,” Lew said.
“This is something we’ll watch very carefully and we’re very conscious of the fact that we should put the customers first. At the right time we’ll talk about charging customers, but today it is more about making sure that the people who want the technology and faster broadband at home get those services.”
Optus has stayed the course when it comes to 5G. While we don’t know if or when the telco will pop 5G onto a phone bill, it is still keeping its options open.
“Like any business, we are constantly reviewing our pricing structure to ensure we remain competitive in market, offer our customers the best value for money and make an appropriate return on our substantial investments,” an Optus spokesperson said to Gizmodo Australia on July 15, 2020.
Charging for 5G in Australia
Vodafone’s comments around 5G not being ubiquitous is correct. This is most likely why Telstra and Optus haven’t charged for it yet. But beyond access, there are other reason why 5G might cost Aussies extra eventually.
The introduction of mmWave 5G over the next few years (Telstra is already trialling it) will result in different types of 5G. Certain 5G tiers could potentially be charged for, though this is just speculation.
What we do know is every major Aussie telco is at least considering charging for 5G. Whether they actually do it or not is a different story. Still, this is something that didn’t happen with predecessor networks like 4G. It’s unclear whether telcos need to make up for more than just the simple ROI of building a new network. As landlines become increasingly redundant for some and mobile plans come with more for less, perhaps that lost revenue needs to be made up somewhere.
This story has been updated with Vodafone’s response to our request for further comment.