In this Kogan mobile review, PAT PILCHER looks at the pros and cons of the Kogan brand, a new player in the NZ mobile market. A brand which offers competitive pricing, but only online support.
Aussie electronics retailer Kogan has launched a NZ mobile offering. With some very sharp pricing. That said, there are a few catches. But for mobile users wanting to save some money, Kogan Mobile might prove a compelling option.
Thanks to the wonders of number portability, the barriers to switching to Kogan are minimal. Customers can bring their existing mobile number to Kogan, while new customers get Kogan’s 028 mobile prefix.
Kogan is offering aggressively priced promo specials. Starting with a $4.90 plan that reverts to $69.90 after 30 days. Their most affordable plan starts at $17.90 a month and comes with 1.5GB of data.
Unlimited Calls And Texts Across The Ditch
What’s likely to prove particularly compelling is that all plans come with unlimited calls and texts to New Zealand and Australian numbers. These could prove to be a boon for anyone wanting a cheap and flexible mobile alternative to an existing landline – provided mobile data usage is minimal.
I’ve found little in the way of hidden catches in my Kogan mobile review. If a customer decides to end their Kogan mobile subscription, they won’t get hit with an early termination fee. However, the Kogan website states that, “if you terminate the plan before its expiration, any remaining credit will not be refunded”.
Kogan isn’t a household name in NZ. But it’s an Australian online retailer and owns Dick Smith’s New Zealand and Australian online brand.
Because Kogan is an online retailer and not a telco, they’ve not built a mobile network. Instead, they’re reselling a Kogan branded version of Vodafone’s network. In what is known as a virtual network operator deal (otherwise known as MVNO in telco-speak).
The MVNO deal makes sense for Vodafone NZ. They stand to gain subscribers that they’d otherwise find difficult to acquire without a sizeable marketing investment. From a political standpoint, Vodafone also gets to argue that they’re acting to bolster competition in the New Zealand mobile market.
Kogan Issues – 5G Etc
While Kogan’s Mobile plans are sharp, buyers still need to be aware of some issues and consider these against how they use their phones.
While 5G isn’t yet a big deal, it will figure prominently in the minds of buyers as it ramps up from December 2019 onwards. Vodafone NZ CEO, Jason Paris, said that Kogan’s reselling of 5G was undecided.
Less tech-savvy users will also want to look at how Kogan operates technical support. Where other telcos operate phone-in help desks, Kogan Mobile is online-only. While this isn’t a new approach – other budget ISPs and MVNO’s also offer online-only support – it still may give many pause for thought.
Anyone looking to travel will also want to take a closer look at Kogan’s roaming rates. These are not as sharp as its ultra-affordable NZ pricing. But in some cases, roaming is manageable, thanks to optional add-ons. These appear to consist of 500MB of data, 100 voice minutes and 100 text messages in 55 different destinations for $11.90. The catch seems to be that the add-on deal only lasts for three days. Those spending longer travelling may find it more economical to buy a SIM locally.
Roaming support and 5G aside, the multi-million dollar question from this Kogan mobile review is this: will Kogan thrive and survive to build a loyal Kiwi customer base for their mobile offerings? If their track record in Australia is anything to go by, they’re probably onto something. After launching in the Australian market via an MVNO deal with Vodafone Australia, Kogan experienced steady growth, and now represent two per cent of Australia’s mobile connections – around 400,000 customers.
Could history repeat for the New Zealand market? We’re significantly smaller, being both a competitive and crowded place with many existing mobile players. Many MVNO mobile operators already exist in the form of ISPs selling rebranded mobile services. (In 2017, the-then minister of communications, Simon Bridges, asked the Commerce Commission to look at why MVNO’s accounted for under 1 per cent NZ’s mobile market, while being significantly more successful overseas.)
Kogan possesses some competitive advantages that may help them gain momentum in the New Zealand market, however. These include a sizeable online retail presence in the form of the Dick Smith online store. It could provide a robust means for promoting the Kogan Mobile brand as an add-on sale with all mobile phones sold. You could also argue that ISP MVNO’s also have a similar advantage when selling broadband.
Another advantage is that Kogan has accumulated a considerable amount of marketing savvy in the mobile market. And they also have pockets deep enough to invest in building a brand in New Zealand. Then there’s the keen mobile plan pricing Kogan has on offer, which is bound to resonate with price-sensitive Kiwi mobile users. Ruslan Kogan attributes this competitiveness to the efficiencies of his online-only business model.
Kogan Mobile Review – Summary
Sharp pricing will only get Kogan so far, though. If it wants to become a player with a market share similar to Australia, it’ll need to invest in building brand awareness with Kiwis before they gain any real traction.