Ask LH: Do Any Telcos Offer Shaping On Their Mobile Plans?

Ask LH: Do Any Telcos Offer Shaping On Their Mobile Plans?

Hey Lifehacker, I have friends with two young teenagers (11 and 13) who are screaming for their own mobile phones. The parents are concerned about cost overruns, particularly with data limits. What they are looking for is a plan (preferably pre-paid) that has a “real” data limit. If the use gets to that limit then the connection is either shaped or cut off. No risk of excess data charges and parents don’t have to worry about a surprise bill. Any suggestions? Thanks, Shape I’m In

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Dear SII,

The profit right now for mobile carriers lies directly in their data plans, which means that anyone searching for a plan with no real limits that just keeps on chugging along is by and large out of luck. We’ve not seen a plan for mobiles that offers shaping in Australia, although if anyone knows of any hidden gems they’re welcome to pipe up in the comments.

Which doesn’t mean that there isn’t a solution to hand, because you mention a preference for prepaid plans, and that’s precisely where you can more easily control both spending and data habits. Prepaid plans come with fixed data limits, and usually a small amount of flexible funding (usually the prepaid amount itself) which can be applied to further data usage. Once you’ve burned through all of that, service stops.

Prepaid plans are generally your best bet for teenage use, because they eliminate the bill shock issue while also teaching some important budgeting lessons in a way that connects to what teenagers actually do. If you’re pondering which prepaid plan to go for, check out our recommendations for the best prepaid plan deal from each of the major carriers here.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Be a bit careful. With most prepaid’s that have a data allowance, if you use that allowance up but have call credit still, that call credit will be used for data use. I often see people complain that they “hardly made any calls” and all the credit is used. 99% of the time data is to blame because they have used up their data allowance and are now getting charged at $2 per mb off their normal credit.

  • Also, Android phones (and possibly iOS and WP too, I’m not sure) allow you to limit the data usage. Of course, it wouldn’t be hard for a young teenager to work out how to disable it, but it’s something.

    • Windows Phones have a brilliant built-in app called Data Sense that can limit the data usage according to the amount and schedule that you set. As well as provide statistics like how much you’ve used and with which apps etc.

      IOS has no equivalent that I know of, and I’m primarily an IOS user. The built in data usage tracking doesn’t even do monthly tracking, or automatic resets. It’s pretty useless IMO.

  • This is exactly why I wouldn’t want to give my kids mobile phones until they can pay for the plans themselves. I’d happily buy them the phone (as long as it’s not an iPhone) but the actual plan would be paid for by them. Teaches them the value of money and how to manage it.

    That doesn’t mean they need to be old enough to be flipping burgers at McDonalds (that would be ideal, but realistically they’d want their own phone before that age), they could also pay for it out of whatever allowance they get, which likely means they’ll need to learn to make sacrifices.

  • Optus $2 days offers 500mb data a day unlimited text and calls, and if you go over the 500mb it charges you another $2 for another 500mb, after you use that up it caps your internet usage for the day.

    • $60 per month is probably a bit much for an 11 and 13 year old unless they share it I guess. Also it doesn’t cap at 500MB, it will charge another $2 for 500MB then cap you at 1GB.

  • Picked up 3GB shaped for a month worth of data for $10 in Vietnam. Australia is an internet backwater.

  • I suspect that Vodafone will be the first to it if it does come in, as they have just introduced it across Europe, it is nice not to worry about hitting my quota and having to shell out big euros, now if only January will hurry up and get here we can get rid of roaming fees across Europe…

  • I am on internode’s nodemobile and it is a post paid plan and I just figured out that if you go more than about 20% of your mobile data that they cut you off until the end of the month, there is no way shape or form to get more data, you just have to wait. A bit annoying for an adult who has money and wants more data but might work for kids and help teach them to manage their allowances. A lesson I clearly haven’t gotten down haha 🙂

  • Buy a dual SIM phone. You can then pick the best post/prepaid voice and prepaid data plans separately.

    This means that if they charge like wounded bulls for overquota prepaid data they can’t access your call credit like Telstra do:

    Once you’ve used all your included data, you can continue to access the internet using your recharge credit at the PAYG rate of $2/MB (charged per KB) in Australia.

    Very reasonable – They sell prepaid data for about $10/GB but $2/MB = $2000/GB.

    A few gotchas:

    * The last time I looked for a dual SIM phone the data slots were only 3G. I’m sure 4G ones are / will be available.

    * The other slot where the voice SIM goes is only 2G. Does this mean that when the 2G system is switched off the ability to use that slot dies?

    * Some of the telcos I looked at won’t sell you a naked data SIM. You have to buy either a USB or pocket wifi gadget and transfer the SIM from that.

  • Better check how much data they / you are using. No need to have more than 10GB or unlimited adata access unless you frequently download videos, movies or streaming HD movies. Using your smartphone to download few apps, use Twitter, send emails, Facebook and browse the web, you are unlikely to go over 1-2GB.

  • All phone companies supplied by Telcoinabox…there is about 120 of them…have hard shaping on post paid mobile plans. The risk is limited to around a days excess use as they have to wait each day for carrier records. All mobiles get notifications SMS on use age progressively through the month. Telcoinabox or Inabox group also run Telstras Beyond ISP.

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