Mobile Data Swindle, Econet, IE

Two things have made me froth at the mouth this year: accidentally brushing my teeth with shaving cream after a hard night on the town and the huge variations in retail data charging for internet connections. While there is some justification in charging more for services with better quality data delivery, when the bytes arrive via the same connection but cost anywhere from 0.8c to 20c per megabyte, you start to think providers are pricing things completely at random.

Top Stories

- The Great Mobile Data Swindle?

- Is there an Econet in here?

- IE, IE, wither thee?

- The Great Mobile Data Swindle?

Two things have made me froth at the mouth this year: accidentally brushing my teeth with shaving cream after a hard night on the town and the huge variations in retail data charging for internet connections. While there is some justification in charging more for services with better quality data delivery, when the bytes arrive via the same connection but cost anywhere from 0.8c to 20c per megabyte, you start to think providers are pricing things completely at random.

However, traffic charging for fixed retail circuits looks positively logical compared to mobile data costing. If you’re stuck in the 9.6kbit/s to 14.4kbit/s mobile slow lane, Xtra’s WAP data costs 35c per page, or 7c per games page. Outside the Xtra WAP menu, the cost is 5c per kilobyte, or $51.20 per megabyte.

Moving up the speed ladder, we have Vodafone’s 30–50kbit/s GPRS service and the faster CDMA 1.x (80kbit/s) and EV-DO (500kbit/s) networks from Telecom and the pricing gets better. GPRS will set you back between $1 and $10 per MB, depending on how much you’re willing to prepay per month (up to $150 for 250MB).

Likewise, Mobile Broadband on Telecom costs from 40c/MB for the $199/500MB per month plan (50c/MB if you exceed that) or $8 if the internet devil strikes and you start to browse casually. Hint: don’t pick the casual plan on 500kbit/s EV-DO.

You’re probably going “OUCH!” at those figures, but they’re nothing compared to SMS. A 160-character txt at 20c each equals $1,280 per megabyte. That’s of course if you use all 160 characters per txt…

The price per megabyte drops if you use one of the many promotional SMS plans, but if it were to equal, say, the massive DSL excess charge, each txt should cost no more than 0.000019073486328125c each. Errm … in other words, they’d be free.

Today I learnt that Vodafone’s Push To Talk service is actually IP-based. The cost of it is $25 for 500 “pushes”, or 5c a call. I’m not sure how much that amounts to in terms of data usage, but the GSM codecs appear to consume 13kbit/s and there’s no limit to how long each “push” can last. So, if you holler away at your group of mates, up to twenty of them, for a minute, you may be generating around 2MB of VoIP data, not taking protocol overheads and compression into account. That’s around 2.5 cents per megabyte. Of course, if you talk for shorter periods of time and to fewer people, the cost per megabyte skyrockets.

Clearly, the mobile operators can make money by providing VoIP service costing just a few cents per megabyte to use and SMS charging is over the top. If that’s the case — and please don’t hesitate to flame me if I got my facts and figures wrong — I want mobile VoIP at P2T pricing.

- Vodafone GPRS data plans

- Telecom New Zealand Mobile JetStream pricing plans

- Xtra “Mobile Internet” through WAP

- Is there an Econet in here?

Talking about mobile networks and things, what happened to the promised third operator in New Zealand, Econet? The African company was supposed to bring in badly needed competition in the mobile phone arena and set up a GSM network. It even got several million dollars in government money to help it along.

So far, we’ve seen empty statements from Parekura Horomia and people involved in Econet’s NZ operation, but nothing else. And, of course, deploying a GSM service has become increasingly meaningless since 2000, when the money was handed over and other providers were already plotting next generation networks.

I see that in May 2004, Vodacom, which is Vodafone’s African arm, entered into a five year “management pact” with Econet’s Nigerian operation. The two seem to be working together in Zimbabwe as well. Maybe the New Zealand operations could join hands too?

- Little action from $5 million loan

- Econet NZ

- Vodacom South Africa

- IE, IE, wither thee?

Free AntiSpyware! New hole-proof version of Internet Exploder coming up! Microsoft’s Bill Gates promises action against the barrage of security assaults users of his company's wares face on a daily basis.

Hmm, right, but it seems a bit late in the day though. Microsoft has handed Firefox a big marketing advantage that will take a long time to haul in.

- A new MyDoom worm uses search engines to spread

- Exploit code released for MSN Messenger ‘avatar’ hole

- TradeMe users targeted by sophisticated phishing expedition

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