I got Foxtel.
Telstra’s new deal basically meant I could pay $15/mo less and get Foxtel included for that price.
So why not, sign me up.
Telsta’s current Hottest Entertainment Bundle is $99/mo which includes 1000gb of internet, home phone (don’t use it, don’t care) and Foxtel base package.
So I pay $20 more on top of that to upgrade my cable speed from 35/1 to ~100/2.5. (Yes I pay a lot for internet – but since there is no NBN here its either 8mbit DSL with whoever I like or ~100meg cable with Telstra).
Since the wife is stay at home mum at present I figured now is a good as time as any to try it.
My Foxtel (and Internet) gets delivered over cable (what they call HFC or Hybrid Fibre Coax – fibre optic cable carries the data from exchange to my area then the coax cable carries the data round my neighborhood to my place). This is different from most people’s ADSL (using phone line) or NBN (which is FFTH or FTTN (VDSL2) ). However to be more confusing the NBN is also purchasing Telstra’s HFC networks also – so eventually my connection will cutover to NBN.
Note that you dont have to have cable in your area to get this deal – they will deliver the internet over ADSL (and upgrade your to NBN when it reaches your area) or existing NBN and Foxtel will come put a Sat dish on your roof for the Foxtel service (Foxtel can be either delivered over Cable or Sat – its the same channels, same quality etc etc). I believe there is an internet only Foxtel service but this is not what you are getting in this bundle (but you can stream over the internet also – read towards the end of this post).
Installation happened last weekend on Sat morning. I managed to get them to waive the installation fee on the basis they could just send me out the box – I can plug in cables and there is a HFC port near the main TV which I used to use for internet, however apparently they need to send someone out.
Its bizarre that you get advertising on a TV service you pay for (all the streaming competition doesn’t have any of course) however the its no where as bad as the FTA channels and a lot of the adverts are for other Foxtel shows which lets you know what else is on I guess. There are no ads in the middle of a movie on the movie channels – only in between.
Your choice of extra channels for 3 months
So Telstra nicely gave us the option of either 3 months HD Sport or 3 months Movies and Drama Packages. Neither of us watch sport, so the Movies and Drama was the easy choice. The standard def channels dont actually look as bad has I thought they would – its very watchable but its still standard def.
The wife and I have spent most of our time watching the documentary and music channels (babies like to bounce around to music already).
Just to try it out, I rang up and asked for the extra Doco package ($10/mo) and HD ($10/mo).
The extra documentary channels are great – discovery science is my favorite. The wife was squealing with delight when she saw the package included the crime channel (she lives for this kind of stuff) – and even more happy that she could set a whole pile of stuff to series record on the IQ2 box we got included and watch when she has time.
What no HD?
In the base package ($26 if you get it on its own), there is no HD. This is CRAZY. I’m sure I have seen that more than 70% of TVs in Australia now are HD (at least 720p capable) and Foxtel doesnt offer any HD as standard? So someone that is going to pay money for TV (as in any Foxtel customer) – you are going to be pretty sure they will have a HD TV – Amazing! You can add HD for $10/mo.
So the way HD works is that only some channels get HD, the HD version is broadcast as a separate channel and once you turn it on the set top box just makes it so that when you go to the non-hd channel it automatically goes HD. This is stupid. Every channel should be HD and if the content isnt HD then thats just fine to leave it as SD. Foxtel HD looks awesome – the IQ2 is outputting 1080i NOT 1080p so this is kinda the equivalent of 720p no? Either way it looks good.
The wife says she has really enjoyed Foxtel so far so its good value on the “Happy Wife, Happy Life” tip.
I would have said that the whole broadcast timetable thing and not getting to watch what you want right now (like Netflix or other streaming services) would be a downfall but there is still something about tuning in and watching whats on to get you to try something new and I’ve found this to be mostly positive.
We have display distortion on some channels which I rang their tech support to log call about – waited 25 mins on hold (just did other stuff with my phone on speaker) – but VERY disappointing you cant do this via online chat – I still had to speak to a very obviously Indian call centre employee. Someone is coming next week to look at this. My gut feeling is that this isn’t a problem at our end but at the exchange or back further but we shall see.
So to the value..
Pretty sure I wouldn’t be trying this if we didnt get it for $15 less than what I was paying for my previous plan so it obviously the bundle being cheaper than my previous monthly fee that’s getting me to try it.
This is clearly Telstra seeing the writing on the the wall with their HFC network going to the NBN over the next few years.
However this is typical Telstra bullshit – if you can give me Internet, Phone and Foxtel for $99, I should get the Internet for $60 or $70.
No landline thanks!
The phone line is sitting unplugged (and has been since Telstra forced me to get it by making it cheaper to get my internet with a phone line bundled) and totally untested – I have no interest in having another way people to get to me to try to sell their products (phone marketing) – oh you can pay $3/mo for a silent number! and there are no calls included at all!
No thanks Telstra, I’ll leave it unplugged, and I’ll keep my Nodeline service which costs me $5/mo, I can take anywhere and keep my number and is only really used for incoming calls from parents and for my VOIP test/dev work at home. Oh and its silent and not listed in any directories by default.
24 Month Contract
I had to sign up for a 24 month contract to get this – which should time out nicely to the HFC network going to the NBN in my area and me being able to get another provider – currently TPG is doing 100/40meg HFC with unlimited data and an unlimited phone service for $99.
With the NBN getting the HFC network, my upload speeds will go from 2.5meg to 40meg – which will improve my upload to cloud services immensely! I don’t understand why Telstra hasn’t increased this already – the network is capable – its a fairly big failure and pain point in which is otherwise a really good service. It seems like they are only using 1 out of a possible 4 channels on the ‘upstream’ side of their cable service and this channel is a very old low bandwith encoding scheme – unlike the bonded download channels (google DOCIS for more info).
In 2 years prices will hopefully be better so I will then get 100/40 with unlimited data for ~$80, saving me $40/mo. Why would I stay with Telstra if they charge more, force me to bundle in things I don’t want and clearly aren’t interested in giving me the fastest service? (again grr on slow upload speeds).
I suspect unless Foxtel improves its value it possibly wont exist in 2 years. But if I can get documentaries and news channels in HD for $20/month I may keep it. Movies and TV series don’t interest me – not for $20-30/mo extra.
The IQ2 box does its job, however channel changes are a bit lagy. I think ours comes with a 320gb HDD for recordings (from what I’ve read on the net – the info in the settings menus give no clues). It connects to the internet to do various things (Video Streaming, Pay Per view and Remote recording scheduling which is very cool – see later) via an Ethernet cable and they gave us a Ethernet over power adapter so I could plug it in in another room (only one Ethernet point for the media centre near the TV at present). It also has 4 tuners so you can watch one thing and record 2 others (the other is for epg I assume?).
You can upgrade to the IQ3 set top box which has a lot more bells and whistles for $125. I hear this box is not 100% stable however and needs rebooting once a week to keep it running properly.
However one of the really cool things is that when you sign into the Foxtel guide the website or an app on your android/iOS device, you can choose to record a show and it automagically talks back to your IQ2 box and sets it to record it for you – so you can be out anywhere and schedule TV shows for recording. This system is also series aware so you can get a whole series to record with a single schedule.
You also get Foxtel Go which gives you a library of shows to watch via streaming and some channels live streamed – which is great free way to get Foxtel on another TV / in another room rather than paying them another $20/mo for another set top box. This works well and quality seems to be better than SD even when I didn’t have the HD package yet which is interesting. Hopefully as per my whinge above they’ll do this with the main service.
A further app called Foxtel Kids is also available for iOS/Android that you can give to your kids to get all the kids shows – could be a good way to get some peace for some? 🙂
So if you are paying more than $100 for internet, you should look at this bundle and get Foxtel chucked in for free!