Virgin succumbs to Optus blues

Last week I discussed some issues regarding the decline in quality of mobile broadband in Australia, despite the lower prices and increased competition. A large chunk of these issues relate to Optus, which has been blamed for increasingly poor network performance and mediocre speeds over the past few months.

It was somewhat interesting then to find out that Virgin Mobile has decided to stop selling its Broadband at Home service via general retail stores. Instead, it will only sell the product via direct channels, its own stores, and its Web site and call centre. Of course, this is interesting because Virgin’s mobile and broadband services are provided by Optus’ 3G network.

The official Virgin statement said the changes in sale are a result of Virgin being “committed to guaranteeing the best possible service”.

Or if you read between the lines, basically it is their way of saying the mediocre Optus network can’t cope with so many users, so they now have to pick and choose who is able to subscribe to the service.

This isn’t all bad news. I agree with Virgin in that these changes should be able to guarantee potential users at least a passable level of service. Previously, you could walk into a shop and purchase the Broadband at Home package, with no details required.

Now, Virgin is able to check your address details and coverage area before selling the service. If they can’t guarantee a passable quality of service, they won’t sell it to you.

It’s still a ridiculous situation, without a doubt. The fact that we are almost at the end of 2008 and people are being turned away from mobile broadband services due to poor coverage and network performance is a joke.

It’s sad that it has come to this. The current market continues to dip in price at a consumer and business level, while competition has never been fiercer — all which should result in better service.

But the greedy telcos, led by Optus, have put the dollars before their reputation by continuing to add new subscribers while failing to address their flagging network issues.

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

PC World
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