How Telstra’s free data day ‘backfired’



Telstra’s plan to offer customers free data on Sunday has backfired with some customers, after thousands took to social media to lambast it for internet delays.

The telco spent hours fielding complaints from frustrated customers wanting to take advantage of the free mobile day, which it had offered to all customers as compensation for a series of network outages.

Many early risers reported they were unable to access the internet at normal speeds, with heavy demand causing delays in some areas from 9am.

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Tom Croucher, 38, a small business owner in Albany, WA, woke up extra early to try to beat the crowd on Sunday morning.


Several customers vented their frustration after experiencing slow download speeds. Photo: Getty

“When I woke up, I was sceptical that it would get congested, and it did,” he told The New Daily.

“We got up early to get some data in, and it lasted about half an hour before everyone else woke up.”

He said only apps such as Facebook and Twitter were loading properly; everything else either took hours to progress or failed to start altogether.

As a small business owner in rural Western Australia, Telstra is the only option for the Croucher family, who “pay through the mouth” to use 60 gigabytes of data each month.

“We rely on mobile data as our primary internet, and there’s no streaming, no cloud back-up, nothing.”

Telstra’s decision to allocate Sunday as its free data day was a “misguided” decision, and the compensation scheme would have been better served in the form of credit, or at least staggering the free data days, Mr Croucher said.

“It makes me question if anyone there knows how people actually use the service, how data-hungry people actually are.”

Many others vented on social media. “Good one, Telstra. Getting <10% of my usual speeds. How about no more free data day c**p please?” said one Twitter user, while another pointed out that “free data Sunday” would have been more aptly called “data-free Sunday”. Another Twitter user, Gemma, said she “never thought my home Optus ADSL would triple Telstra’s 4G speeds”, and dubbed “free data = useless on a jammed network”.


Unfortunately for the telco, customers couldn’t connect – leading to free data days. Photo: AAP

Telstra’s Facebook pages were also inundated with annoyed customers, and Reddit users – so excited about the free data they started a forum – soon realised a day of unlimited movie downloads was not to be.

“Already suffering slow down. From 80+ in tests prior to 0:00, down to ~20Mbps now,” wrote one user, while another lamented the fact they could “not even get to dial-up speeds in Canberra today”.

Telstra acknowledged the service failure, telling customers on Twitter: “We are seeing significant demand and have implemented software changes to stretch resources in the area to provide relief. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Sunday is the second free data day offered by the telco to compensate for a spate of network failures in February and March.

On March 17, up to eight million Telstra users across the country sporadically lost internet, phone and SMS service from about 6pm (AEST).

Four days later, half a million people in Victoria and Tasmania were taken off the grid again, this time only for a few hours.

The first free data day occurred on February 14, which saw Telstra customers download the equivalent of 2.3 million movies or 5.1 million episodes of Game of Thrones, making Valentine’s Day Telstra’s “busiest day ever”.


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