Red Bull is a brand associated with wings, cartoons, energy drinks and extreme sports.  When the brand extension ‘Red Bull Mobile’ began appearing on the back wing of the company’s Formula One race cars, I did start to wonder if and when that brand would hit Australia.
Well, despite the obvious irony regarding the competing Formula One teams, Vodafone announced this month that Red Bull Mobile would be launching in Australia on their network.A lot has been written since, and even more so after the announcement of the Red Bull Mobile plans which see unlimited calls and texts and generous data inclusions on pre paid plans ranging up to $365 for 365 days of access.

However, then came the fine print.  iPhone and Blackberry use is not included in the data.  Even Red Bull Mobile’s own page regarding this has been updated in recent days with friendlier wording, directing people to contact Red Bull Mobile for a post paid option.

So, why all the confusion and what is behind the plans and structure at Red Bull Mobile?

Firstly, we do always take with a grain of salt the claim from anyone that they are ‘not in this to make money’ – sure, none of us are:) – However, in Red Bull’s case there is some truth to that.  Red Bull are all about the brand and the experience.  So included in your access to their ‘network’ are all the phone calls and texts you will need (Nationally), and a bunch of data (up to 5GB per month for the 365 day plan) – what’s also included is free access to the Red Bull Mobile portal.

This portal is controlled by your account – valid account = valid access, and there is absolutley no paid content within that portal, plus access to any data within the portal is 100% free of your data plan.  Videos, Streaming TV, Streaming Radio, wallpapers, ringtones, you name it.

Plus, similar to the VISA Advantage system, there is first choice or queue jumping style access to some of the World of Red Bull events that go on like the X-Fighters final which is on in Sydney.

So who’s making the money here?  Well of course Vodafone are getting their share from everything you do, as is the MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) here in Australia Aggregato.  Are they making huge dollars – not likely.

The pre-paid offers were very appealing, and, I can tell you having spoken at length to the Red Bull Mobile team, the post paid offers are exactly the same.

Essentially, on a post paid offer (Operating without a contract, month to month) you will get 30 days unlimited access with 4GB of data for just $39.  Very similar to the Amaysim pricing we’ve seen recently.

Interestingly, Red Bull Mobile have taken the step of turning off all the premium content services they can in their power (99% of them), meaning those crazy ringtone and horoscope rip off stories will not be part of the Red Bull Mobile call-center logs.

There is method to their madness here.  Telstra, Optus and Vodafone might stand to make some money from those premium services, but at the brand level, companies like Red Bull Mobile wouldn’t make enough for it to be worth it – so if you’re a fan of preventing bill-shock – Score one for Red Bull Mobile.

So, where does that leave you – the humble iPhone user who is off contract looking for this great deal?

Because of technical issues in the way both Apple and RIM require data to be used on their devices, pre-paid options are not available to those handsets.  Blackberry usage at all is not possible for a few more months until some further network changes are made.

Instead, if you want to use your iPhone on the Red Bull mobile network, you need to call up and convert to a post paid option – After the normal credit checks and so on, you’ll be posted a Micro SIM to use in your iPhone and off you go.

Red Bull even claim that if you do switch to post paid, you will be explained in no uncertain terms (and the conversation recorded) the risks of enabling premium services – likely most people will choose to keep them off!

You have to respect the idea of the brand trying to approach this with a no tricks, no surprises kind of attitude.  This is why, they claim, 1300 numbers and such area all included – there is no lengthy fine print.

I also found it interesting to learn that Red Bull Mobile had only launched a pre-paid service like this in one other country (Belgium) with the rest of the world being post-paid.

Word from the Red Bull Mobile team is that the new Vodafone 850 Network is showing great improvements on their testing and should offer great service – so perhaps now is the time to look around for a new mobile solution – if you’re into the ‘World of RedBull’ at all – this is a cracker.