James Rosewell writes:
Yesterday I received the following text message from O2: “You’ve gone over your data allowance on your mobile. You need to cut down or get a bigger Bolt On to keep using the internet.” I thought this was strange as I’ve an unlimited data bolt on applied to my O2 UK contract so I decided to telephone O2 customer services to find out a little bit more. Here’s what happened.
Apparently my mobile internet would continue to work and the message actually meant I’d fallen foul of O2’s fair usage policy. There’s a team of people who monitor usage and send out these text messages. As my usage is normally 800MB per month and I’d reached 1.3GB in the last month I’d received the text message.
On further enquiry, O2’s customer service representative and I established that 'fair usage' on an unlimited contract is around 1GB per month. That said, O2 customer services couldn’t provide me a copy of this fair usage policy.
I completely understand O2's (and any other MNO’s) need to control data consumption, particularly given the delays to LTE deployment in the UK. However if an MNO is of the view 1GB is enough data usage for a smartphone they’re in for some serious consumer backlash. The marketing message reaching consumers is that you can surf the full internet, watch videos, play games, send and receive pictures and video, monitor your e-mail, listen to podcasts etc, all on your mobile phone. Smartphones in particular easily enable the consumption of these services for non tech savvy users.
So let’s do some maths based on the following assumptions:
· e-mail including sending and receiving photos could be around 200MB per month.
· 1 hour of YouTube videos on a mobile will consume 70MB to 135MB depending on settings.
· 1 hour of audio podcasts at about 35MB.
If you have a 2 hour commute each working day and like to fill your time listening to podcasts, you’ll be consuming 1400MB of data. Now add the email and some modest YouTube watching on top and you’ll be over the 2GB mark. And that doesn’t include sending your mates any videos filmed on your mobile.
MNOs will be shouting "WiFi’s the answer". And of course it’ll help... if consumers are educated to use it. And even if it can be used it’ll eat battery life if left on permanently. In fact in my situation I’d turned it off when staying away for a few days and forgot to turn it back on when I got home, leading to higher consumption.
As most MNOs are no longer offering unlimited internet in the UK (virtual network giffgaff is a notable exception at the time of writing) and, in most cases, usage beyond the fixed amount will be charged on a per MB basis, there are a lot of customers who’re going to get a shock when they start using all the features of their shiny new phones. This is especially true given the trend to include a mere 500MB of usage in new data contracts.