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Telstra introduces real-time mobile data usage alerts

While mobile data usage alerts have traditionally been held back with a 48-hour lag, Telstra will now alert customers within seconds when they reach certain percentages of data use.

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Telstra's 24x7 app shows how much data a customer has used. Screen shot by Claire Reilly/CNET

Telstra customers will soon be able to get a better handle on their data usage with the announcement that the telco is introducing real-time usage alerts.

Text message usage alerts have traditionally taken up to 48 hours to reach customers (the time limit set by the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code), meaning that they don't realistically factor in recent data usage and present accurate numbers. However, Telstra says its consumers will now receive alerts within seconds.

The alerts will be sent when a customer reaches 50 percent, 85 percent and 100 percent of their included monthly data allowance, and the full rollout of the scheme is expected to be completed by the end of this month.

According to a Telstra spokesperson, the alerts will come to a "vast majority" of consumer post-paid mobile customers; however, "there are a small number of customers on very old plans who are not eligible initially due to the technology supporting their account".

The initiative joins a number of other measures introduced by Telstra which it says will simplify the way customers get information about their usage and billing.

These include changing usage updates on its iOS and Android Telstra 24x7 app, Telstra One app, My Plan Manager and My Account tools to update every 15 minutes, rather than every 48 hours, and introducing alerts for every AU$50 that is billed to a customer in excess data charges.

With complaints about excess data charges on the rise over the past year, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network has welcomed the industry-first announcement, calling it a win for consumers.

"Consumers not realising there can be a two day delay in the data usage notifications could easily use a gigabyte or two of data which would set them back between $50-$100," said ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin.

"48 hours is too large a gap to inform consumers they have reached their limit. We encourage the other telcos to follow suit and implement real time alerts as soon as possible."

Updated on November 13 at 9:30 a.m. AEST: To include information about availability for Telstra customers.