The key to avoiding bill shock is making sure you don't exceed your data allowance. However many people, including those who know a fair bit about computers, don't understand what amount of data different actions use. Here's a good article explaining how various tasks 'consume' data. (Click here). The article doesn't mention Skype (1 GB per hour) or Netlfix (3 GB per hour for an hour of high definition).
Let's face it, you don't want to spend your internet time with a notepad and paper beside you tallying your activity. And you don't want to sign up to an offer and lock in a contract until you can be sure that you are only paying for what you need.
So for users of iPads or similar tablets, we're proposing a solution that will help them:
- estimate actual data usage
- defer signing up to a lock in contract until they're confident of what they'll need
- minimize the risk of running over budget.
Prepaid broadband works by paying upfront a set amount for data with the added benefit that there are no lock-in contracts if, for whatever reason, you change your mind. It's perfect for beginners as it gives them a chance to just 'get busy' and use the internet as they wish, without fear that they'll end up paying more than they had budgeted for. It also gives them a good idea of how much they actually use.
By way of example
Most seniors are unlikely to use more than 3GB a month, (unless you're watching videos/movies or using Skype for long weekly sessions in which case you'd want to look at a fixed line wi-fi option with a large data allowance. (Options for larger data usage will come in our next post). So a 3GB data allowance is a good place to start. If you use up your data in the first week you'll know that you are likely to need a plan that offers 12GB a month (3GB x 4 weeks = 12GB per month). If you get to the end of the month and have 1-1.5 GB left over, you know that you probably only need 2GB a month (3GB - 1.5GB spare indicates 1.5GB usage).
But be careful
Internet Service Providers (ISP) don't stop providing data when you've gone past your limit, so it's important to know that you need to pay attention to e-mails (or sms's if you have a mobile phone and have provided your mobile number on registration) from your ISP that warn you that you are approaching your data limit. This means it's time to recharge as the cost of data, once the prepaid allowance has been used, is exorbitant. For example, Telstra charges $2 per MB over your limit. There are 1024MB in 1GB, so whereas 1GB could cost $10 under a prepaid plan, if you use 1GB over the limit it could cost you over $2000. To help you, in the first few months we'll track your data with you to reduce the risk that you'll go over your prepaid limit.
Start with a starter pack
Australian ISP's such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone, Virgin and Dodo all offer Starter Packs.
At the time of writing:
- Telstra, Optus and Vodafone offer a Starter Pack that includes a SIM card (necessary for the internet to work with the device) and 3GB. This data allowance expires after 30 days. Telstra and Optus both charge $30 and Vodafone charges $29.
- Dodo offers a free SIM card, as long as you purchase a prepaid data recharge option (see Dodo's offers below). It comes with a bonus 3G of data, so you probably only need to buy an extra $10 (300MB) to get going, as this will give you 300MB + 3GB of data in total which is enough to test usage for a month.
- Virgin offers a SIM card for $99 with 10GB, with 365 days in which to use it. This is a good option for those who are prepared to allow a little flexibility to test their usage habits. It also avoids the need of having to recharge at the conclusion of 30 days.
Once you've selected a starter plan and are using their SIM card, you'll be forced to stick with that provider to recharge, unless, of course, you choose to start a new starter pack which is always an option. (Bear in mind, you can recharge online, and we can help you with this as part of our ongoing helpdesk service.) So it's important to consider which ISP is offering the best deals going forward.
Here are some current offers for recharge data costs based on data charges for use within Australia.*
Telstra prepaid recharge options
Dodo prepaid recharge options
Best value for recharge?
It depends on how much GB you need a month.
- Optus and Vodafone are currently offering the best deals for 3GB for $30 in 30 days (or .009 per MB**). Even if you only need 2GB a month, these offers are the same price as Telstra, Dodo and Virgin but with an extra 1GB of data included.
- If you need 4GB a month, or maybe more, the Vodafone $200 for 22GB over 365 days is the best offer (0.009 per MB). This will also allow for variable usage patterns. Most plans also offer the chance to rollover unused data if you recharge before you reach the end of your expiry period.
Whether any of these ISP's offers adequate coverage will depend on the senior's address. Even though most ISP's have 98.5% coverage, some suppliers still have black spots that make coverage impossible or so slow that there's no point.
We've provided links to coverage checkers provided by Vodafone Optus, Telstra, Dodo and Virgin. (Note that Dodo and Virgin use the Optus network so coverage will be the same). You'll note there's reference to 4G and 3G. 3G is the speed we're all used to, but 4G offers faster speeds. So 4G is theoretically a 'better' offering but if you only have access to 3G it will be effective. Consumer reports suggest that 4G appears to consume data a little faster (and therefore be more costly).
ISP's tend to offer promotional plans. Using the prepaid option at the outset allows you to wait until a sufficiently attractive plan becomes available, by which stage you'll have a more certain idea of your usage patterns.
We're working on the assumption that only one device exists in the house. Where there is more than one device (i.e. smartphone and tablet) a wi-fi solution may be a better option. We'll cover Wi-fi options in our next post.
We're also working on the assumption that the device is not locked into another network in which case the user will need to see out the contract.
We here to help you estimate your data needs
We'll do what we can to help you estimate your data needs while helping you to avoid contracts that don't work in your favour. We can help you, or your senior, work out what the likely data usage will be prior to signing up to a starter pack, simply by asking a few questions about likely internet usage. (i.e. how often do you think you'll be Skyping family each week and for how long?) After you've visited out virtual store, and signed up for our service, we'll contact you, or your senior, to gain a better understanding of the best place to start.
We hope this has been helpful. If you're aware of any new deals or updates, please leave us a message.
*If you intend to take the device outside of Australia, you will be best to purchase a prepaid option in the country you're spending most time in.
**All ISP's charge per KB (1024 KB = 1MB) but express their pricing in MB.