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.

Picture from Muppet Wiki

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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Comments

    No Exetel?

      Good point, in there now.

        I'm on a Exetel Optus Cap plan and they appear to charge per KB with rounding to the nearest cent.

        If they were using 1MB billing units as you suggest then the usage for 143 sessions so far this month should be at least 143MB, but my usage is only 4.8MB.

        Most of my data sessions are 30-45KB and they are notionally allocated a charge of 1 cent. Data sessions of less than 15KB are notionally allocated a charge of 0 cent.

          Clarified. The mobile broadband is per MB. Thanks for the info! (I always find the Exetel site painfully impenetrable.)

          Exetel is so great. It constantly blows my mind that they are able to offer re-sold plans from Telstra and Optus at rates literally half the cost.

          Happy ADSL, landline, mobile broadband and mobile account owner right here :)

    how do they measure the sessions?

    if i say have a mobile connection which is always on... will it count the whole thing as one sessions as long I maintain a connection?

    The telcos have a lot on their side. 1024KB is called a 'Mebibyte' (MiB) according to SI prefixes, and MB is repurposed as 1000KB. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mebibyte

    Of course, the SI prefixes are a terrible travesty against everything good and pure in the world and make no sense when measuring binary values.

    Just checked on the Optus page (which is my provider) it says:

    (a) Included Mobile Internet Data: If you exceed your included monthly data allowance, excess usage charged at $0.25 per MB or part thereof. Usage is counted in kilobytes and includes uploads and downloads. Monthly data cannot be rolled over. Excludes data used while roaming internationally.

    I read that as 1K not 1024K (which would be awful). Did I get that one right?

    How about one for iiNet? Only available to iiNet customers, but it's still there. (They use the Optus network)

    Liveconnected is billed per KB on their phone plans and so is their mobile broadband

    I'm on turbocap with optus and I've found they're not charging per session as my uploads and downloads always synch up on my traffic monitoring and I turn data on and off regularly.

    I'm on a Telstra BYO Freedom Connect plan, and as far as I can see I am being billed per kilobyte for included usage.

    24/10/11 20:39 1 0:00:01
    3/11/11 17:50 16 0:07:01
    3/11/11 14:44 651 3:03:22

    Though they don't give an accurate total of my usage, 1.40Gb is the most accurate information provided on what they say my total usage is.

    Looking at the telstra site for my plan, if you look at the Call Costs it says

    "Excess data usage (charged per kB) 25¢ per MB"

    The documentation does not seem to spell out exactly how they charge for included data allowances though, anyone got a link to where it gives me the right info?

      Forgot headings for the session info

      Date/time KB Duration
      24/10/11 20:39 1 0:00:01
      3/11/11 17:50 16 0:07:01
      3/11/11 14:44 651 3:03:22

        first time commenter, wasn't expecting the formatting not to work...

        session usage's were 1kB, 16kB and 651kB.

        Lesson learnt for comments next time...

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