​Back from the graveyard: Kogan Mobile relaunches with Vodafone

Kogan Mobile is hoping to shake off the scars of the past, partnering with Vodafone to relaunch as a "highly competitive" telco player, two years after the original mobile company collapsed.

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Claire Reilly
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Founder of Kogan Mobile, Ruslan Kogan. Paul McMillan

After collapsing in spectacular fashion in 2013, Kogan Mobile is back from the telco graveyard as online retailer Kogan partners with Vodafone to sell a value-focused 3G service.

Kogan Mobile is billed as a competitively-priced mobile offering that utilises Vodafone's network as well as its service team, which it says separates it from other mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Sold only through online portals Kogan.com and KoganMobile.com.au, Kogan Mobile will offer unlimited calls and texts and 3GB or 5GB of data to use over 30 days (at 3G speeds). Customers will be able to pre-pay for 30, 90 or 365 days.

It's been two years in the making for Kogan Mobile (time which, based on today's launch event, we can only assume the team spent watching "The Lion King" on loop).

The online retailer, headed up by bullish entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan, launched as an MVNO in 2012 using Telstra's network through Telstra reseller, ispONE. However, less than a year later, ispONE entered administration and Kogan was left holding the bag as more than 100,000 customers had to be systematically booted off its service and ported to different carriers.

The original Kogan Mobile promised Australia's "best value mobile phone cap" saying that "Australians have been paying far too much for their mobile phone services for far too long." In a press conference today the company was singing from the same songbook, almost note for note.

"Australians have become used to paying far too much for their mobile access," said Kogan executive director David Shafer. "We're here to fix that."

Shafer talked up the "direct relationship" with "like-minded challenger brand" Vodafone, saying that Kogan Mobile customers would get strong coverage, good service, easy set-up and a low price for unlimited calls and texts bundled in with competitive data offerings. That coverage only includes 3G for now, though Kogan Mobile said 4G is due to come in "early 2016," but there's no word on other 4G Vodafone services such as VoLTE calling.

Kogan Mobile can expect to win some early customers with its online retail partner shipping a SIM with every unlocked handset sold on Kogan.com. As another sweetener, the company will also offer 1 Qantas point for every dollar spent on Kogan Mobile.

The breakdown of Kogan Mobile's plans. Kogan Mobile

The Kogan Mobile 3XL plan includes unlimited standard national calls and texts and 3GB of data at AU$29.90 for 30 days, or AU$299.90 for a year (a saving of about $5 a month). The 5XL plan boosts the data inclusion to 5GB at AU$36.90 for 30 days or AU$369.90 for the year. There's also a data-only plan offering 2GB for AU$14.90.

At this rate, the pricing is certainly similar to what original Kogan Mobile customers were paying in 2013 before the collapse (albeit after a price hike that pushed costs up by 50 percent in some cases).

But while talk of competition and low prices might resonate with the ghosts of Kogan past, Shafer was eager to leave this first iteration of Kogan Mobile behind.

"The customers that we had last time were not actually as upset as you might envisage," Shafer said. "They were given special treatment in terms of their entry into different providers when Kogan Mobile previously closed, and they were refunded all their money.

"A lot of time has gone and washed under the bridge since 2013. We've taken this time, we've taken it slow and done it right. This is a bigger and better than ever Kogan Mobile and we're here to stay this time."

Always ready with a news grab, founder Ruslan Kogan took a different approach at the launch event.

"The way we view the past is a bit like "The Lion King". Scar was bad, he made Simba leave, but that doesn't mean that Simba shouldn't come back when the time is right."

And why does Ruslan think customers should choose Kogan? In his words: "Hakuna More-Data."

It might be time to return that "Lion King" DVD.