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BY: DAVID POWELL

There was a time when mobile phone contracts were about how many minutes, texts and Mb you used as well as which countries you might roam in and which types of 08 numbers you might call and so on etc etc. It got very complex. However, times have changed and now mobile phone companies all offer contracts which seem  simple and the same – unlimited calls (except 08, 09), unlimited UK Texts and then add however much data you think you’ll need on top. £100 for 100Gb, £200 for 200Gb etc. They might throw in some “free” cashback, subsidy, hardware etc, but that’s a whole other topic (which you can find here). However, these simple unlimited tariffs plus data have so many catches and quirks that it’s very easy to get caught out and pay over the odds. So here is our simple guide:

Individual Bundles – A Data allowance per connection with each connection having a level appropriate for their usage.
• e.g. 1Gb for low users, 2Gb for the majority and 10Gb for high users.
• The problem here is that as staff leave and numbers are reissued, or people’s circumstances change, users can find themselves on inappropriate bundles and this leads to wastage and overcharges.
• This is a really bad way to ‘manage’ your data contracts across a fleet.

Aggregated Bundles – A Data allowance per connection but all data bundles are aggregated and shared
• e.g. 10 devices with 2Gb each gives the fleet a 20Gb allowance, so 9 can use 1Gb and one high user gets 11Gb for example.
• This can work well for expanding companies, because as you add connections through the contract you also add in this example 2Gb each time.
• However, if your usage profile means the user average is say under 1Gb then you are wasting almost 50% of the data you are paying for.
• A tweak to this is to have a range of options written into the contract e.g. 0Gb for X, 1Gb for Y and so forth which means when expanding in the future you can add data if needed or not as the case may be.

Shared Data Bundle – for the whole fleet.
• e.g. 200Gb as a standalone charge.
• Nice and simple, if the bundle is sized right it can be hands off, no management and simple exception reporting alerts in place.

Mixed – Individual and Shared (1 combined with 3)
• e.g. each connection might have 1Gb, but if they breach in a month then they dip into a shared pool of 10gb, if no one breaches the shared pool doesn’t get used. Can work well, but not an option commonly seen.

Pay as you use
• e.g. say £2 per Gb used, don’t use it, you don’t pay, no minimum or maximum and billed in arrears.
• Can work out well for highly variable or seasonal usage but feels expensive when you get the high data usage months even though it might work out better over a year.

Then layered on top of that are the charges for when you expect to breach the usage so want to add some temporary (or permanent) extra data:
a. Allows you to add a bundle before the month end that applies for the full month at a pre-agreed rate e.g. £30 for 10 Gb say.
b. As a) but no contracted rate, it’s whatever the network price currently is for bundles e.g Vodafone is currently £3 per Gb.
c. As a)/b) but it is pro-rated so if there is only 10 days left in the month when you add the 10Gb. You’ll only get 3.3Gb for a charge of £3.33 but this won’t be made clear, and you’ll likely still breach your bundle because you wanted 10Gb. It’s in effect a daily bundle and you choose how many days you need, you set the end date when you add the bundle. So, to add the 10Gb you need for 10 days you’ll need to add a 30Gb bundle and set it to cancel on the 1st of the following month. Sneaky and also how EE currently works.
d. Add a bundle pre-month end but it will only apply the following month. You’ll get heavily stung in the current month and there’s nothing you can do about it without blocking all users’ data. Very sneaky.

The reason it’s important to understand a) vs d) is that for an a) contract you can run the mobile data very tightly and just add 30-day bundles if and when you breach. If it’s likely to recur just leave them on the account and if it subsequently drops take them off again. However, your base contract can’t be dropped, so start with a small base. Data Rollover: The other common data bundle clause is the unused data rollover offered by O2. e.g. if you use 110Gb of a 125Gb package in Month 1, then in Month 2 you actually have 140Gb to play with before needing to add any data bundles, so you can run an O2 contract much tighter than a Vodafone or EE because  the risk is slightly lower. So, as you can see, a simple “Unlimited calls & Texts plus X Gb of data”, isn’t actually that simple.

If you would like to know more or need help with your mobile data contracts then please contact us.