So it is 2013 and Australians are using more mobile data than ever.
The volume of data downloaded via mobile handsets, for the three months ended 31 December 2012, was 13,703 Terabytes, an increase of 38% from the three months ended 30 June 2012.
How does the average Australian pay for his/her data on the largest and fastest mobile network? If there's 14PB of the stuff whizzing through the air each quarter then this should be cheap and easy, right?
Here's how you do it without paying anything extra in 2 easy steps:
1. Use some data.
2. Monitor usage using the convenient Telstra apps on various platforms.
Some things to note:
- Mobile data usage is measured differently to how you might expect. Users have found inconsistencies with bits received vs. charged when streaming HD video, for example.
- All Telstra apps state that "Data usage usually current as of about 6 hours ago".
An LTE handset receives data at a rate of 2-40mbps, so in 6 hours, using data at the low end of that speed for 6 hours would take you from 0GB used to 5.4GB used within just the time it would take to display on your 'handy' usage meter. Given the maximum included data with a plan is 3GB, this means everyone could easily go over the included data in a plan without even noticing.
3. So what are your options to pay for the data you use?
Your choice is really Excess Data (3a) or a Data Packs (3b)
3a. Pay 'Excess data usage'
So how much does it cost if you accidentally go over your included plan? Don't worry, it's just $100/GB, or about $250 if you used as much as I described in part 2. 'Bill Shock' is always mentioned in the media with examples of people returning from overseas holidays with thousands of dollars in international data usage, but Telstra's non-international data usage is pretty close ($10/MB vs. $15.36/MB).
Never fear because as Telstra say:
"There is a great range of Data Pack options that start from 250MB up to 8GB of included data per month."
3b. Buy a data pack
So you've been careful and have bought a $5 or more data pack because you knew you'd be going over your included data.
But there are a few more confusing things here:
- Keep in mind the same concerns with approaching excess data apply to data packs as did in step 2 with your included data. Buying a 3GB data pack on top of your included 1GB? If you use 5GB total it'll cost you another $100 (on top of your $30 3GB).
- Data packs are applied to the current month on a pro-rata basis. So if you have already gone over your included data purchasing a data pack will not avoid any charges already incurred.
- A data pack is automatically purchased for the next month in advance (plus any pro-rata for the remaining days in your billing month). If you don't need it again you'll need to cancel it the next month. This can't be done in your account manager of course, but you can use Telstra LiveChat to get it done reasonably painlessly. Just have your account number and DOB ready to go.
So is this all changing with the new ACMA Telco code, released in September last year? Unfortunately no. The new rule is that usage alerts must be "sent to customers when they have used 50%, 85% and 100% of their allotted voice, text and data usage." but the time delay is allowed to be up to 48 hours, not even the 'usually 6 hours' that Telstra offers.
The good news: apparently all Telstra LiveChat employees are allowed to approve a once-off $100 credit on your next bill if you accidentally go over. If you do it again (or went >$100 over) it is best to at least threaten to go to the Telecomms Industry Ombudsman.
I switched from Telstra prepaid to Telstra postpaid last year thinking it would be a bit simpler than recharging every month and that it would stop the monthly prepaid recharge alert spamfest. On prepaid, the process I was following most of the time was:
- Recharge prepaid cap (includes some data).
- Occasionally buy a prepaid data pack if I knew it would be required.
- Use data until it runs out.
- Recharge again.
I'm not sure how Telstra manages to cut you off so promptly if you are on prepaid, yet can't notify you as promptly that you have started to pay $100/GB. Perhaps you can get a bit of free usage until their systems realise? Doubtful, but possible.
As you can see from what's written above, it's not worth it. If you want Telstra's superior network you'll need to be careful, pay for a large data pack well beyond your expected usage or use prepaid and put up with the annoyances that come with that.