Telstra, Optus offer free data during pandemic
AUSTRALIA'S two largest internet service providers are offering additional broadband and mobile internet access free of charge during the coronavirus pandemic, with Telstra besting an offer from Optus to provide unlimited downloads until the end of April.
But analysts and politicians are calling on the National Broadband Network to at least match the companies' offers as more Aussies are asked to work from home.
Telstra chief executive Andy Penn announced its new effort to assist customers during the pandemic, just days after directing the company's workforce of more than 20,000 people to work from home.
Under the new scheme, Telstra broadband users will be able to access unlimited downloads from this Thursday until April 30.
Telstra postpaid mobile customers will also be given an extra 25GB data allowance if they apply for it within the Telstra 24x7 app by the end of March, and some prepaid customers can access an extra 10GB.
Mr Penn said the extra data was to help customers "who find themselves having to work from home".
"As people around Australia increasingly begin working and studying from home or self-isolating as part of the national response to COVID-19, demand for connectivity is rising rapidly," he said.
"COVID-19 is a global challenge, we are all affected, and we all need to play our part in the response."
Pensioners with a Telstra landline phone will also be granted free local, national and 1300 number calls between Thursday and the end of April.
Telstra's deal followed a similar mobile offer from Optus, giving its postpaid smartphone users access to an extra 20GB of data during April, and 10GB for prepaid users.
Optus chief executive designate Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said the offer was in response to "unprecedented times".
"Access to data is critical so we are playing our part in helping the community with our additional data offer," she said.
But NBN Co has yet to deliver its own discounted offer during the coronavirus crisis, despite a call from telecommunications analyst Paul Budde for the network to let providers deliver higher speed broadband access for no additional charge.
Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland joined the call today, saying NBN Co should consider "temporary capacity charge relief" to support Australian's growing remote workforce.
"If COVID-19 social distancing measures, such as teleworking and school closures, result in increased peak traffic demand over the NBN, it could lead to congested speeds or higher wholesale costs for retail providers," Ms Rowland warned.
Late Tuesday, NBN Co said it was monitoring changes in internet demand, making contingency plans, and "studying data consumption patterns in other countries that have been significantly impacted by the pandemic".
The company said it would also limit "non-essential maintenance" and "planned outages" in the coming weeks but stopped short of meeting the calls for greater speeds or capacity.
"In terms of the expected requests for additional CVC capacity, we will work with the industry to find the best solution. Clearly we all need to play our part," NBN Co chief executive Stephen Rue said.
"We are actively working with retailers and have the complete support of our government stakeholders to ensure we do everything possible to optimise the NBN to support the expected increase in residential use."