Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pay as you go data charges. Grr, grr and double grrrr

I've just been digging around to see what the state of play is around Pay as you Go data charges in the UK having downloaded a half a meg *free* video file. So, what did I discover...
  • Vodafone £7.50 per megabyte. Yes, that's right, a whopping £7.50 per megabyte. Mr Vodafone, justify yourself!
  • O2 is typically £3 per megabyte or you can have a bolt-on of £5 a month which gives you 4mb browsing and downloading. So that's like err 4 videos then, if you're lucky.
  • Orange on their pay as you consumer rate is £4 per mb or £1 a day browsing or £4 a month for 4mb.
  • T-Mobile - I couldn't really get a straight answer from their website. They have varying packages from £1 a day to £22.50 pcm but I'm not sure what they do or don't cover and I didn't have the time or inclination to really delve.
  • Tesco Mobile - £4 a megabyte.
  • Even three doesn't escape scot free with a charge of 50p for 60 minutes and up to 2 mb of data (which is around 200 pages of *mobile* websites or £1 for 24 hours and up to 4 megabytes of data). So that means, you click on a link quickly and you've just spent 50p. At least it's capped at a £1. It's not clear however what happens after you've reached your 4mb limit.

So what conclusions do I draw?

1. Data charges are unacceptably high and unacceptably complicated to understand. How are you supposed to know how much data you're using anyway? Grrr.

2. It was really really really hard to find out what the data charges were. They weren't promoted, they weren't explained and they were too expensive. There are even some networks who are still selling wap minutes. What good is 30 wap minutes pray tell? And what is it anyway - pretty meaningless to most normobs (normal mobile customers) I imagine. Grrr.

3. I know lots of mobile industry folk, including network operators, who are pushing for a mobile internet. And amazingly enough, despite these ridiculously high charges, still 30% or so of the UK are browsing and downloading from wapsites in the UK. But I wonder how different the scene would be and how much more vibrant if we weren't penalised so greatly for doing so. We have a burgeoning wap advertising industry and a successful mobile content industry. How much more successful could they be if the operators and the way they charged were more customer friendly? And I wonder how much more that would affect the operators' bottom line in a positive way in terms of greater ARPU and more subscriptions? Anyone want to hazard a guess?

I'm still hopeful we'll see a change this year and for me, it hinges on engaging PAYG customers into using and enjoying wapsites and mobile internet services.


  1. Anonymous7:22 pm BST

    eeerm - have you not been following the news? see:


  2. I've got the Vodafone USB 3G dongle. That's £45/month plus VAT, and works a charm.

    Raved about it here.

    The only downer is that you need to sidestep their web proxy that compresses graphics (good for phones, bad for laptops) as it totally stalls graphics-intensive sites.

  3. @anonymous Yup, I've been following the space very carefully and all the announcements hinge on contract customers not pay as you go. The trouble is, if you're an infrequent browser of wap, or just want to check one thing out ever, it's going to cost you - minimum £1. How do you even know if you want wap access or not, if you can't see it before you shell out? And if you're a price-conscious pay as you go customer, all this stuff is just too scary so it's much easier to ignore wap or the mobile internet entirely. A certain amount of data should be free because you have x amount of credit on your phone. This will encourage use. Until the pay as you go masses engage with wap, it just isn't going to reach the levels we want and need moving forward. The contract deals are a great start, but that's all they are - a start.

    @Dave - thanks for the lowdown on the 3G dongle. Sounds great.

  4. Anonymous1:09 pm BST

    T-mobile have just announced unlimited GPRS/internet browsing for a maximum of £1 per day for PayG users.

  5. @alfie Hmm, that's cool-ish if you want to do a lot of browsing and downloading. And if you're savvy, you'll save up all your mobile downloading and do it all in one day. Except the point of mobile data is spontaneity and that you are in fact out and about and 'need it now' not tomorrow, not next week or next month.

    And what about the user who wants to look at the BBC news every morning on their phone and double check their email maybe but nothing else? Is that worth £1 a day to a casual PAYG user? Probably not :(

    I'm sure this problem will be solved. In dial-up days of the internet, a penny a minute tarriff with a maximum spend per month (that was onetel if I remember rightly, and possibly freeserve) changed things a lot in terms of taking the fear factor out of what it costs you to access digital services.

    Maybe that's the answer - a penny a minute up to a maximum of £1 a day if you're on PAYG?

  6. Anonymous10:21 am BST

    tsk, get your facts right. Vodafone PAYG is £2.35 per meg, and is dropping in June.


  7. @John M

    Hmm, I have no doubt that that information is correct. However, when I was browsing the site, I didn't find that page. I found this? And I expect this is what most folks find when browsing:

    or the long URL is

    Keep things simple and stay in control with a pay as you talk price plan from Vodafone.

    Here are all the charges for our Anynet and Anytime pay as you talk price plans.
    Call type Anynet peak / Off peak Anytime all day
    Calls to any UK mobile network, standard landline and voicemail (per minute) 30p / 10p 30p for first 3 mins each day, 10p for each min thereafter
    Text message (per message) 10p 10p
    Picture message (per message) 36p 36p
    Video message (per message) 60p 60p
    Data usage (per megabyte) £7.50 £7.50
    Browse Vodafone live! Free Free
    Premium rate services (start’09’) (per minute) 80p – 185p 80p – 185p
    Non geographic (0845 and 0870) (per minute) 30p/10p 30p for first 3 mins each day, 10p for each min thereafter
    Non Geographic (0844 and 0870) (per minute) 35p 35p
    0800 services (080 and 0500) (per minute) 30p / 10p 30p for first 3 mins each day 10p for each min thereafter

  8. Anonymous2:05 am BST

    The 22.50 package (which for some reason i use), gives you 10 gigs a month, and you can do anything (well VoIP unlimited), and also i successfully (over a couple of nights) updated world of war craft through at least 1.5 gigs of patches when i was stuck in a place with no broadband internet but 3g phone connection.

    T-Mobile have given me no grief at all as far as data, although there are a few disadvantages (call drops internet connection and occasionally have to fiddle with phone - Vario II to make it play nice, )but my mac is normally very happy

  9. And then there's international data roaming pricing, which is so far beyond a joke it's ridiculous. It can be overpriced by up to 10000x a reasonable level... it costs me £7.50/MB when I roam on T-Mobile from the UK to its home network in Germany. Frankly, £7.50/GB would be overpriced given that they've presumably got a direct fibre connection.

    In fact, when I was at 3GSM this year, I found out that it can actually be cheaper to use an Inmarsat BGAN satellite modem than cellular. How ridiculous is that?

  10. My sister in law, due to not knowing too much about the charges and such, downloaded 41 mbs. She's on a package with Orange with a 4mb limit and was told by an Orange staff member on the phone that she would be notified if she exceeded this.
    Later when she was told that she owes Orange 500 pounds for the 41 mbs, they denied 4 mb notification.
    Regardless of this notification, it was 12 pounds per mb. This is obviously very wrong, but she's extremely upset and this additional stress is not good while being in hospital with anorexia, which she did mention but understandably they did not believe her, but they did not have the sense to realise that 12 pounds per MB is absolutely ridiculous.

    I'm going to get down to the bottom of this. Maximum charged 1 pound per MB is what I've read on their pdf pricing file. Urgh.

  11. @esme
    Sounds like your sister-in-law is really going through it. £12 per MB is outrageous for sure so I hope you and she are going to fight it.

    Is it worth contacting Ofcom about this?

    Please also have a moan about it at http://www.grumbletext.co.uk to alert other mobile users about the problem so they don't get caught out. There may also be someone there who has some advice as to what to do.

    I hope you're able to resolve the situation and if you get chance, please let me know how you get on.

  12. Anonymous11:29 am GMT

    now you can get a portable USB modem for your laptop - see here Mobile Internet Genie - so you can download data wherever you are. It's crazy to think that where ever theres 3G network coverage now you can get online with a computer

  13. @anonymous I think the new 3G USB modems are great and I will be treating myself to one next week all being well. However, be warned. There's a tale of a Canadian and his $85k phone bill after using his phone as a modem... oh dear oh dear. That's one helluva billshock.


  14. Anonymous6:57 pm BST


    Does anyone know which mobilw broadband provider is actually the fastest? I've been looking at http://www.broadband-expert.co.uk and they reckon that the average speed is 1.4Mbs and that Vodafone are the fatstest?



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