Planhacker: How Does Your Mobile 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. Depending on exactly how your mobile provider counts data can make a huge difference to how quickly you burn through it. Planhacker rounds up the current policies for every mobile provider in Australia.

Picture: Getty Images/Frederick M Brown

When you sign up for a mobile plan, it all seems very simple. You get allocated 1GB, 2GB, or however much your plan offers, and that’s what you get to use, right?

Not quite. The sneaky trick that underlies most mobile data provider plans is the charging unit. That’s the minimum rate at which each data session is counted, no matter how much data you actually use. So if your provider counts in per-MB increments, every session you start, uses at least 1MB, every time. Check something three times, and you’ve “used” 3MB, even if you actual data throughput was only, say, 200KB in total. It’s a trap that in the past we’ve seen hit users as per-MB or even per-10MB units were common.

What’s the picture like in 2015, though? Here’s a rundown of the major telcos and their MVNOs, as per their web site policies. If you spot an MVNO we’ve missed, or an error, feel free to pipe up below.

Provider Network Plan type Data counted
ALDI Telstra 3G Prepaid per 25KB
Amaysim Optus 4G Prepaid per KB
Boost Telstra 3G Prepaid per KB
Dodo Optus 4G Postpaid/Prepaid per KB
Exetel Optus 4G Prepaid per KB
iiNet Optus 4G Postpaid per KB
Jeenee Optus 4G Prepaid per KB
Just Vodafone 3G Prepaid per 5s
Lebara Vodafone 3G Prepaid per KB
Optus Optus 4G Postpaid/Prepaid per KB
Telechoice Telstra 3G Postpaid/Prepaid per 10KB
Telstra Telstra 4G Postpaid/Prepaid per KB
TPG Optus 4G Prepaid per KB
Vaya Optus 3G Postpaid per KB
Virgin Mobile Optus 4G Postpaid/Prepaid per KB
Vodafone Vodafone 4G Postpaid/Prepaid per KB
Woolworths Connect Telstra 3G Prepaid per 25KB
Yatango Optus 4G Postpaid/Prepaid per KB

The good news, for 2015 at least, is that the vast majority of providers have switched to simple per-KB charging, which means you’re much less likely to be overcharged for your data usage on an ongoing basis. There are a few weird outliers still present, however.

Aldi, Woolworths and Telechoice are all Telstra wholesale MVNOs, and all use a slightly higher base that could impact your usage depending on when your service registers a session ending event. Just Mobile’s charging, where you pay per 5 seconds of data connection is just plain wacky, and probably best avoided because if you’ve got background services pinging for data, you could rack up some serious charges quite quickly.

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