Editorial: Telecom data management a battle

Tuesday June 10, 2014 Written by Published in Technology
Daily data use on the iPhone 4S as recorded by DataUsagePro. 14061001 Daily data use on the iPhone 4S as recorded by DataUsagePro. 14061001

Having incurred more than $200 in excess data charges on my first full month with Telecom Cook Islands, I took the company’s advice and installed a data tracker on my iPhone 4S and monitored it several times a day.

When I went to bed on Monday night, I was content to know that I still had more than 200MB of my 400MB allocation left for the rest of the month that I thought would allow me to receive emails when away from the office wifi.

Everything else was turned off, or so I thought, so it came as a big shock yesterday morning to find a text from Telecom from 7.30 pm the night before saying I had exceeded my 400MB data cap and had incurred $27 in excess data charges.

Sure enough, when I checked my data tracking app, I had used 175.5% of my allocation or 698.02 MB. After turning cellular data off – this time permanently – I ran though the various settings to see what could have caused such a spike.

App Store reported it had downloaded an update for Kindle overnight, using 38.1 MB and my son sent me four six MB pictures of my grandson by email – making a grand total of 64.1MB of non-text based mail usage.

When I checked my open apps, Worldmate was the only one other than Mail and Settings, and Worldmate was not permitted to use cellular data.

So what happened to the other 500MB I don’t know but it appears the 400MB allocation should have been more than adequate to receive normal emails, with daily use on most of the other days in the month below 10MB; allowing for a few uploads of a photo to Facebook.

But when you break it down; 400MB a month only gives a daily allocation of 14.28 MB in February and 12.9MB in months with 31 days. Even if I upgraded to the $90 and 1GB plan this would allow 35.7MB per day in February; and 32.25MB in months of 31 days.

And my mystery user would have chewed through more than a GB in two days, incurring further excess data charges.

Telecom NZ gives me 3GB of data as part of my $60 monthly mobile plan – and I never incurred excess data charges there.

I acknowledge Telecom Cook Islands’ small data customer base – said to be only 3000 – but this doesn’t make data particularly affordable here and the standard plans provide only enough data for the most basic of smartphone services. One would need deep pockets to regularly view video, or make Skype video calls from their phone. One five minute Youtube clip at standard resolution uses about 10MB and a standard Skype voice call is said to consume 1MB of data a minute

It would be interesting to know what TCI pays O3b for bandwidth – no doubt we will be told this is commercially sensitive – but whoever TCI’s new owners are will have to address the cost of bandwidth to customers, otherwise their much touted faster O3b and 3G services will be greatly under-utilised.

As for me, cellular data is off permanently – I don’t want to worry daily that I’ve left something open that could result in a 500MB data hit – or worse! – Mark Ebrey

Telecom’s sales and marketing manager Damien Beddoes provided this response to this article:

Thanks, Mark for providing a detailed explanation of your iPhones data issues.  As stated in your letter “Sure enough, when I checked my data tracking app, I had used 175.5% of my allocation and 698.02 MB” shows that your iPhone confirmed it had used the usage but it didn’t detail to you what it had used it on. 

One of the benefits of having fast 3G data is that customers can now use their phones to do many things that they couldn’t in a 2G world. The opportunity to use a greater number of applications, at a faster speed, naturally leads to a higher consumption of data, which is why we increased the data allowances in our plans and reduced our excess pricing at the same time we launched 3G. 

You are quite right that our small customer base - only 3000 mobile data users – impacts the pricing we are able to offer compared with countries like NZ, however, we are still looking to further improve the amount of data included in plans and packages going forward. 

I’m sorry to hear that you have decided to switch data off permanently and lose the benefit of having easy access to your emails and other apps when you are out and about. We are looking through the Apple Store to find other data apps that may offer more detail on tracking your iPhone’s usage, and also suggest we publish a detailed article on high usage issues that we’ve found reported overseas, in particular with iPhones.

Referring to the articles we’ve found, one of them referred to Cloud services turning iPhone data on to do backups, whilst another refers to emails in outbox repeatedly trying to resend causing high usage. We can then also provide tips on managing data usage to educate new users.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Peter williams Sunday, 20 March 2016 20:49 posted by Peter williams

    I use My Data Manager from Google play store, small to download, uses very little data, and gives you everything you need to know on what's happening with you data. Highly recommended.

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