Wednesday, 16 November 2011

phone plan data charging: things you should keep in mind

Its not just the rules, but the implications of how the rules fit together.

I recently changed my phone plan from "pay as you go" with 5c per MegaByte(MB) of data and free "social media" (meaning facebook, twitter, ebay and foursqare {which I've never used}) to an "unlimited" phone plan where they toss in 4Gig of data (along with unlimited phone calls.

At first I thought that 4Gig would be quite a decent amount, but after my first day on the plan (looking at my logs and theirs) I saw I used 16MB of data. So it became clear that I might actually consume that billable amount (which is not the same as using that amount) if I wasn't careful.

You see, as soon as you change from "billed" content to "free" content it resets the counter of one MB back at the phone company, clocks up a MB to you and starts the counter going again ... even if you've only used far less than a MB.

Take this example I set up to demonstrate this. I started a connection on "free" check facebook and then look at some eBay auctions and then went to a paid service (gmail) using a tiny amount of DATA (like 0.1MB) then dropped off. I was curious to see if it generated a second charge.

all in all the phone registered that I was liable for 0.842 of a MB

my bill on the other hand showed that I'd clocked up 2 MB; one of free and one of counted towards my 4Gig of data.

You may say "that's right and proper, as you shouldn't be charged for the free stuff".

Well that may be, but if I'm going to be buying a MB of data (or using my allocation of it) then I'd like to get what I use. Considering that I didn't even use a whole MB in my entire session what was the point of giving me free what I'd already paid for?

But it gets worse, imagine that you make a longer connection period:
  • check your mail
  • have a look at face book
  • your email app checks your mail again
  • you pop over to twitter check thing out and make a few tweets
  • your email app checks your mail in the background
  • you quickly check that status of an auction
  • read the news and do some general surfing

You'd actually clock up less than 3MB of data but be liable for 4

If you have Skype or some other app running in the background it could actually be a lot worse than this over the course of a day.

Suddenly 4Gig doesn't sound so generous, and the "free stuff" is actually costing you.

So when I was "pay as I go" I only used the "free stuff" on the 3G phone data and did the "charged stuff" on my WiFi ... now I do the opposite, and actually find myself not wanting to touch the "free stuff" because it costs me.


Mackapacka said...

those dirty, dirty dogs.
thanks for the info.

Colin Griffiths said...

I'm on PAYG but recently bought an IPOD touch which is really good. I only really want 3G internet connection when I go on holiday (for specialised weather forecasts etc) so I've also bought an unlocked MIFI dongle; I just have to purchase an inexpensive PAYG SIM for it when I need to. Some deals (from EBAY) will last 3 months for 3/4Gb. It suits me as really don't want a contract.

obakesan said...


I just changed over to PAYG this month "to see how it goes" otherwise I was reasonably comfortable with the flat rate of 16c / minute (no other fees).

As to specialized weather reporting, I don't know how I got by without stuff like: