Optus plans aim to cut the bill shock, but may not do enough

The issue of international roaming and subsequent bill shock is one every telco is beginning to have a serious look at, and with Vodafone announcing a new plan of action last month, now it’s time for Optus to do something too.

Going into play from mid-September onwards, the Optus solution is to divide the world into zones. Two of them, in fact.

Most of the places people go to on holiday and business are in Zone 1, including Europe, UK, the US, Canadia, Asia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands. Zone 2 is everywhere else, with Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East – if you’re heading to Antarctica, your needs may well be out of what Optus can offer.

With two zones comes two set of prices depending on where you’re going, with Zone 1 adopting 50 cent messages, $1 per minute phone calls, and data charged at 50 cents per megabyte. Zone 2 on the other hand nabs text messages at a buck per, talk at $2 per minute, and data at $1 per MB.

Those are the the new rates for travellers on both Optus prepaid and postpaid, with the amounts being charged on top of your regular plan, which is worth factoring into your overall cost

Also available is a special plan for postpaid subscribers, with a $10 per day plan providing unlimited text, unlimited talk, and 30MB of data every day, but only in Zone 1 locations. This special pack won’t be available until November this year, however.

“Optus understands that people want to use their phones while travelling, so we’ve made our prices fairer and simpler for the whole world,” said Vicki Brady, Managing Director for Customers at Optus.

“We want our customers to feel confident in using their phones overseas and know that they don’t have to worry about their phone bill when they return.”

The real question with these updated rates and packs is if they go far enough.

Given the recent changes to Vodafone’s international plans with a $5 daily extra fee allowing a plan to continue overseas, one might argue that the new Optus rates don’t really do enough to maximise the dollar, especially since both 50 cents per MB still isn’t that cheap, and still means that five megabytes of data is going to cost you more overseas than it probably should.

Email, social networking, and web surfing will rip through that in no time, and even a 30MB per day limit on the travel pack still seems like nothing, especially in an increasingly connected world.

That said, it’s better than nothing, but we’d really like to see more data overall.

Now we just have to see what the other big telco has in mind for international travel. Your turn, Telstra.