Every time I think of the money I’ve spunked using data on Vodafone UK, my heart races faster.
Throughout the weekend and early this week, I’ve been saying to myself, ‘What’s changed? Here we are, 2008 and I’m *still* being nailed for data on a per megabyte basis?’
Then I thought back to the chump-campaign we ran for SMS Text News (where I routinely referred to any o2 customer I met as a ‘chump’ for putting up with their per meg pricing). Per meg data pricing wasn’t an issue at this point last year as I was using both T-Mobile and 3 and enjoying their unlimited data policies.
In April I was on their 7.50 ‘120mb unlimited’ data plan. The key point with this plan being that if you go over 120mb, you get nailed to the wall for 2.35 plus VAT. This from the alleged market leader. Ridiculous, I hear you say. HAHA, I hear the 3UK customers yell.
The problem here isn’t Vodafone. It’s me, not quite understanding how things work. I restricted my usage. This annoyed me, but I worked hard at not using much data at all. Then things got out of hand and I slipped up toward the end of the month of April. I was at the Internet World conference and wanted to use QIK to do some video recording. I tried desperately to log on to their wireless internet. Anything to avoid using my Vodafone data connection. I eventually had no choice, alas. If I wanted to do streaming video for the teeming masses of SMS Text News readers watching online, then I needed to use Vodafone. Much as it pained me. I just hoped I wasn’t going over the 120mb limit. Now and again, I had to think to myself, ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’ I purchased Vodafone service for a reason — reliability being the chief reason. But I think I also thought that, if I did go over that 120mb limit, well, … you know.. it’s fair use, right?
It was in the terms and conditions. I’m pretty confident I couldn’t bring myself to examine the 120mb price plan terms and conditions in detail. It would have been far too depressing and a reminder to me that, as much as I wanted Vodafone to live up to it’s we-are-a-data-leader reputation (just look at the amount of space-age USB modem advertising around the country), the reality was far, far, FAR from the truth. Or, actually, that their price plan geniuses were just that: Ultra smart bastards. If I looked to closely, I’d recognise that that the emperor did have clothes. And they were the finest in the kingdom, because of what I was agreeing to pay.
So we move on.
Where are we today? Well, Jakub of Vodafone UK PR called me to explain that when Vodafone announced that all new price plans include 500mb of data, they made a big switch. Here’s the science bit: Previously, the data bundle was 120mb. Anything over this amount was billable. The new bundle has a fair use policy of 500mb. That’s the important bit — fair use. That is, if you go over that amount, no one’s going to shoot you and, crucially, no one’s going to whack you for data charges.
If you exceed the 500mb, chances are, no one from Vodafone will come knocking with baseball bats. If you are consistently using 2GB a month, you can expect some communication from Vodafone to ask you to reduce your usage. I then imagine if you continue, they’ll switch you on to a per-meg mobile broadband tariff.
So. The key difference is fair usage. Why did they set it at 500mb?
Well, I asked Jakub for a direct quote:
We know that our customers enjoy accessing social networks and use email on their mobile so we wanted to make things easier for them. Our statistics show that social networks are amongst the top five most searched for on mobile internet for example so embedding data charges into price plans and raising the bar on data downloads is a logical development allowing even more customers to enjoy mobile internet when around and about. The new price plans give Vodafone customers greater confidence to access their favorite social network or e-bay because they no longer need to worry about how much data they download and they know exactly how much they will pay at the end of the month.
This value does serve to highlight a gulf between Vodafone and its competitors. Obviously most people won’t use anywhere near this amount of data per month. Some will. If you’re a heavy data user (from your handset), should you still be with Vodafone?
Yes. I reckon. I’m sticking with them. Once I understood the fair usage viewpoint, I was a lot more content.
ONE IMPORTANT POINT: In order to qualify for the 500mb fair use agreement, do phone up customer services and make sure it’s activated on your account. I think I’m on an older price plan that doesn’t automatically have it included (all new ones do). I’m going to call CS and check as I’m still paying 7.50/month on top of my existing tariff.
I’m going to use my Vodafone N90 with abandon now (i.e. without limiting myself to one or two photo uploads a day and so on) and see what my average usage is going to be at the end of the month. It was near 700 or 800mb with T-Mobile and 3 in the past.