Saturday, June 28, 2008

virgin on the ridiculous

Mobile phone plans seem to be designed to drive people to despair or at least confuse one enough to defer switching to another day. Even economists like Joshua Gans and Nic Gruen , who no doubt have hundreds of research assistants slaving away, have trouble figuring stuff like this out.
I‘ve had a reliable Siemens phone now for a few years and seeing I mainly only text and talk and don’t need a camera or an MP3 player in my phone I have seen little need to enter into a contract involving a “free” phone. Much of the last 5 or 6 years I’ve been out of contract. Occasionally I have gone into contract and got a cash rebate of around $150 per phone from a local independent phone agent.

I have avoided Capped Plans because my usage varies a lot from month to month, and being an old fashioned kind of guy, I tend to not yap for long on mobiles if I’m paying. Capped plans come with super offers of $200 for $49 or so but the trouble is most capped plans aren’t really capped at all and the charges are at two or three times the normal fee.

Firstly I set about to find out exactly what plan I’m on and the item charges. No luck. As far as I can see my provider's
site has not been operational for the last two weeks. I tried to complain to them but got nowhere. Talking on the phone to Optus owned M8, in the Philippines I think, is hopeless. All they seem to do is spout scripted sales blurbs.

Anyway I sniffed around and somehow got to
Slimtel a small Vodafone reseller. They have a nice bring your own phone, no contract, no minimum monthly, no flagfall, 1 Second billing, 11c per 30 seconds to any landline any time, 11c per 30 seconds to Vodafone Mobile any time, 17c per 30 seconds to Non-Vodafone Mobile at any time, 18c per SMS, Voicemail d 7.5c per 30 seconds and only $11 exit/porting fee. Seems pretty good to me.

Old geeky habits die hard so I thought I’d have a squiz at
Whirlpool to see what the sadly obsessed had to say. There a person aptly called G WiZZ has taken the effort to set up a spreadsheet with what seem to be all the possible current plans and providers available. G Wizz has also placed a nice little usage calculator in the top right had corner of the spreadsheet so that you can adjust for your usage needs. Download the spreadsheet here.

The very strange thing about all this is that the Virgin Pre paid no contract, no monthly minimum, no cap, el cheapo, for the kids Bean Counter plan seems to outperform almost any other plan or be in the top 5, no matter what figures I punch into it. I’m about to buy myself into the Virgin Bean Counter and give it a go. After all with no contract and no monthly minimum I don’t think I can lose. The weird thing is Virgin Mobile, at least in Oz, is owned by Optus.

I’d be keen to hear what others think.