Since this post, Vodafone has revised the decision to begin charging for data in 1MB blocks.
The telco have issued a press release stating that, after many customers “expressed concern” about the proposed changes to how data would be billed, it would be dropping the minimum data session for prepaid customers from one megabyte to one kilobyte. The original change would have seen many prepaid customers’ data usage and monthly plan costs go up significantly.
However, Vodafone will still be scrapping free and unlimited social networking for prepaid plans from February 13, as outlined below.
Vodafone prepaid customers, prepare for disappointment: the glorious and heady days of unlimited social networking that you once enjoyed are almost over.
The much-maligned telco has announced plans to scrap prepaid Infinite access to selected social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, YouTube and MySpace) from February 13.
Vodafone state that the move is an effort to make their billing system less ‘confusing’ for customers, particularly those using different apps to access social networks on their phones.
Under Vodafone’s unlimited social networking offer, using social media was only free if it was done through the network’s official smartphone app, or if customers used the official website. Accessing third party websites and media through these approved ‘free’ sites and apps did not fall under the Infinite social networking allowance. So if, for example, you watched a YouTube video embedded on Facebook, streaming the video would come out of your metered plan data. The same applied if you followed any links from Facebook.
So although it’s understandable how some users might be misinformed about how they were being charged, we’re not sure that eliminating free social networking completely will be the most well-received solution to this ‘confusion’.
In addition to this, the company is also shaking up how mobile data is charged in order to reduce costs and, presumably, invest in a better network for its customers.
While the dollar amount Vodafone charges for each megabyte used will remain unchanged, from next month data will be charged in 1 MB blocks, with a minimum download of 1 MB per session.
Push notifications for applications such as Facebook or email will now be charged at a rate of 1 MB of data per notification, even if only a few kilobytes of data was actually used. Previously some of Vodafone’s plans were billed in 25 KB blocks, so customers will find themselves reaching their credit limits much faster than they did previously.
Additional data usage beyond your plan’s allowance will be billed at $2 per MB. Customers are able to purchase data ‘add-ons’; $5 for 150MB and $8 for 350MB, although these expire after 30 days.
Not surprisingly, the reaction from Vodafone customers so far has been less than impressed, giving some prepaid customers yet another reason to shop around for a new provider.
It’s interesting that Optus scrapped its unlimited social networking on all new postpaid plans last month (as did Optus MVNOs Amaysim and Live Connected), yet this decision received much less public backlash or media attention than Vodafone following suit only weeks later.
Optus’ official line is that the cuts to social networking will reduce the strain on its network, as opposed to just reducing costs. The telco, like Vodafone, is offering top-up data packs to customers to avoid any excess data charges associated with its new policy, but the unlimited social networking offer was definitely a big draw for many customers. It’s a feature of Optus plans that we’re going to miss.
Existing Optus customers on 24 month plans will still have access to unlimited Tweeting and checking in, but this will expire when their contract is finished.
However, it’s not all bad news: Optus’ Prepaid Social offer still exists, giving prepaid customers access to unlimited social networking even if postpaid users will be missing out.
Some parting advice for affected Vodafone prepaid or Optus customers: disable push notifications, keep an eye on your usage and take advantage of Wifi whenever possible. We recommend avid social networkers read our guide to avoiding mobile phone bill shock for more tips on avoiding unnecessary data charges.