As you may or may not be aware, Church Resources has recently moved its telecommunications services from Telstra to Optus (via Ethan Group), a move that has far-reaching telecommunications ramifications for church-based organisations in Australia.
This move is part of a general (and welcome) move towards offering a fully integrated suite of ICT products and services, including fixed and mobile telephony, internet and managed IT services. Church Resources have indicated that this was a direction they have been interested in for a while now. This is being offered in partnership with Ethan Group (as far as we can tell Church Resources doesn’t deal directly with Optus).
Leaving the other services to one side, I’ll here focus on telephony, since the newly negotiated Optus rates were recently announced.
Highlights, if that’s the word, include:
- An increase in PSTN line rental. Gone is the wonderful old $12.41 rate. The new rate is $27.32. This will have a serious impact in the Church space, since these organisation typically maintain a large number of PSTN lines (particularly at small outlying sites).
- Mobile data costs and allowances are vastly more generous, reflecting Optus’ more-aggressive offerings in this space. For example there is now a $33 8Gb plan, which blows anything offered by Telstra out of the water.
- Contracted unlimited call mobile plans begin at $33 per month ($44 for uncontracted).
Coverage is another issue, although one that is becoming less so as time goes by. Optus is currently deploying 4G services to a further 200 regional centres, but in terms of coverage they continue to lag behind Telstra, geographically speaking. On the other hand, Optus will begin rolling out 700Mhz 4G services early next year, which helps signals travel farther and penetrate buildings. (Of course, for that to be of benefit you’ll need a device that can use 700Mhz. The iPhone5S and 5C, for example, cannot).
The long and short of it is that organisations requiring Telstra’s superior coverage should think long and hard about a potential move.
On the subject of Telstra, there is word that Australia’s largest telco is currently working out its own Church rates, which it will offer directly to Church-based organisations (i.e. not through a dealer). Indications are that these rates will be similar (if not identical) to the previous Church Resources rates, but this is only speculation as they haven’t been released yet.
So what will this mean for organisations that currently use Church Resources for telephony? That largely depends on your organisation’s current contract status, and your requirements regarding coverage.
However, some general points can be made:
- Organisations that are currently under contract will remain on Telstra infrastructure for the duration of their current contract, and will continue to enjoy currently contracted rates.
- If for whatever reason you are still under contract but would like to move from Telstra to Optus, you will need to break your current contract. There is no provision for contracts to be waived.
- Any new agreement with Church Resources will use the new (Optus) rates, and will see services migrate to Optus infrastructure. Larger organisations on ISDN10 or above infrastructure will have to migrate those services to Optus Multilines. Multilines are cheaper than ISDN per channel (in this case $27.50 per channel compared to $30+ per channel), but they require additional installation, with can take up to six weeks and be disruptive.
- Relating to the last point, Church Resources will continue to resell Telstra PSTN services to organisations reliant upon that infrastructure, but have yet to reveal the pricing. It may well be offered at SFOA rates ($34.95), which is of course much higher than the previous charity line rental rates.
- Moving to Optus will also entail unlocking any mobile devices that are currently locked to Telstra (this is typically free).
- If you’re at all concerned about coverage issues, we encourage you to obtain a SIM from each carrier and test it out for yourself in all key locations. Telcos are generally happy to do this. Do not rely on the coverage maps!
- If an organisation is not under contract and for whatever reason prefers to stay with Telstra, they will have to enter a separate agreement with Telstra (which will mean no longer dealing with Church Resources for telecommunications services). As mentioned Telstra should soon release new Church rates of its own.
- It is our experience that adding an additional layer of service provision can complicate fault resolution. For example: whereas before a fault would be logged with Church Resources who would then log it directly with Telstra, now a fault is logged with Church Resources who then must log it with Ethan Group who then log it with Optus.
- Whilst I’m primarily addressing fixed and mobile telephony here (and mobile data), I don’t wish to downplay the value of a full end-to-end integrated ICT solution.
If you would like to know how the new Optus-based rates compare to the previous Telstra-based rates, or how they compare to Telstra new standalone Church pricing, please contact Dog and Bone. We can conduct a full market assessment tailored specifically to your organisation’s actual usage, and help your explore the financial realities of moving or staying.