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Optus plans download limit
OPTUS is preparing to follow Telstra's lead by introducing download caps on its cable internet accounts.
Sources say Optus has almost completed its framework for a new pricing structure, which is likely to be released in April.
"It's just the details that need to be worked out," one source said.
Optus@Home has long been viewed as the last refuge of home internet users who want large, fast downloads.
Its Acceptable Use Policy allows users up to 10 times the average download.
But that is about to change. Sources close to Optus indicated the Optus@Home service, which has received several industry and consumer awards, will cap downloads at either 3GB or 5GB monthly for the existing price.
Telstra caused outrage late last year when it capped user downloads on its most popular home cable and ADSL accounts to 3GB per month.
Optus users now pay between $69.95 and $74.95 a month, and they can download up to 9GB monthly without incurring additional fees. This is a bargain in comparison with Telstra's 3GB plan, which costs $94.95 for ADSL users or $87.95 for cable.
But Optus marketing has not taken advantage of the high regard for its unlimited downloads, prompting speculation in user group forums that it would follow Telstra's lead.
Most other ADSL providers have similar constraints on downloads, although the pricing and configuration of additional data has begun to vary as Telstra changes conditions for resellers.
On reaching the cap, Optus users would be able to continue downloading, but their speed would be reduced to the equivalent of 28.8Kbps modem.
They would be able to pay extra for up to 10GB monthly, but this would be priced at about $200.
Sources said a small percentage of users at the upper end of the download limits - around 18GB - were costing Optus about $200 each per month.
Average downloads have grown by about a third since Optus bought out Excite@Home, its joint-venture partner in the home cable product, last September.
Sources said most of the infrastructure for the new billing system was in place, but decisions had yet to be made about a launch date and the billing schemes - such as whether billing would be from the same date each calendar month.
The Optus@Home terms and conditions state that Optus can change the contract conditions at any time, with 30 days' notice, and can change its Acceptable Use Policy - which governs download limits - on shorter notice.
An Optus spokesman said the company's position had not changed since January, when consumer and multimedia department acting general manager Martin Dalgleish said Optus was "constantly looking at changes in the market", but it had no plans to introduce a download limit.
"Our position hasn't changed," the Optus spokesman said yesterday.
"We reserve the right to increase prices as necessary, as has been our policy for all our products."
Analysts have warned that the Australian telecoms industry is becoming a duopoly after Optus hiked prices for its mobile phone SMS text services in January, shortly after Telstra did so
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