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Planhacker: How Does Your Provider Count Data?

Data allowances on mobile phone plans and mobile are much more generous than they used to be, but the volume on offer doesn’t tell the whole story. If your provider measures using 1MB minimum units, you’ll go through your data much faster. Planhacker rounds up the policies for every mobile provider in Australia.

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The charging unit is one of the sneaky little secrets of mobile data. If you’re being charged in 1MB increments and you connect on three separate occasions, you’ll have used 3MB of your allocation, even if the actual amount of data you went through was only 300KB. Over time, that difference can add up and make your allowance seem smaller than it actually is.

Will this matter to you? It depends. If your phone or mobile broadband device includes a reasonably generous allocation and you make use of Wi-Fi when it’s available, you might never exceed your allowance and you’ll never notice. But if your plan only includes a small amount of data, it could make a big difference so it’s still something to consider when comparing plans.

Further confusing the issue, many plans include “unlimited” access to social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter, which won’t count against your allowance. On Telstra’s Freedom Connect plan, you get shaped rather than incurring additional charges. On prepaid plans, once you’ve used up your data, you’ll just have no credit. On postpaid plans, you could incur significant extra charges, so checking regularly is wise. (By February next year, you should get a notification when you’re near your data limit.)

For the purposes of this table, we’re taking 1MB to equal 1024Kb, though in the telco world usage of this term is often sloppy (1GB is usually defined as 1000MB for instance, rather than the strictly more accurate 1024MB). Without exception, providers count both uploads and downloads for mobile data services.

Some observations: Boost’s 10MB minimum for its mobile broadband is an embarrassment. Optus in general enforces a 1MB minimum on most services, but that isn’t absolutely the case across all the providers who wholesale Optus service. Telstra has the most variation between plans.

Comments? Additions? Corrections? Tell us in the comments.

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