Mobile savings: Change network to reduce your bill by €500
With 4.9 million mobile phones in Ireland, it's surprising more people don't change networks to reduce their bill.
MOBILE phone provider is one of the least likely services consumers will switch.
Savings of €500 a year can be made by opting for a better value plan, it has emerged.
Last year, around one in 10 of us bothered to ditch our mobile phone provider for another one.
This compares with a hefty 25pc of people who will change motor insurer in a given year.
According to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission - the State body set up to enforce consumer protection - the savings from switching mobile phone operator are among the highest of all household bills.
Indeed, savings of €24 a month are not to be sniffed at.
With 4.9 million mobile phones in Ireland it is surprising more people do not switch.
One of the main reasons switching rates for mobile services is so low is because it is extremely difficult to work out which plan you should be on, according to Bart Lehane of mobile phone comparison application company KillBiller in Dublin.
Dr Lehane, who has a PhD in computer engineering, says: "The comparison of mobile phone plans is more complex than other industries since there are many factors to consider."
These factors include whether you make a lot of calls from your mobile to landline, other mobiles, the time of day, and the network the person you are calling uses.
With the takeover of O2 by Three, there are now three dominant mobile phone operators in this market.
Vodafone, Three and Meteor/eMobile (Eircom) are the main players. Smaller operators include Tesco and LycaMobile.
This year Carphone Warehouse and UPC are expected to enter the market.
"Despite the lack of competition, there is still a bewildering number of available plans out there," Dr Lehane says.
Things to consider
The first thing to consider when switching plans is to get an understanding of what kind of mobile phone user you are:
* Ask yourself if you spend time talking on the phone, or do you prefer sending text messages?
* If you send a lot of messages, do you send traditional texts, or do you use tools like WhatsApp, which eats into your data allowance?
* How much data do you consume a month? The answer will typically be over 1GB if you consume a lot of online video and streaming music.
* What network are the phones you contact most often on? Lots of deals include "free calls and texts to the same network" offers that can be big savers.
Once you understand these factors, it is a case of shopping around for the most suitable plan for your needs.
Do not be drawn to spend extra on unlimited plans if you are not a heavy user. Who needs unlimited texts if you never use them?
Dr Lehane says: "It is possible to spend €25 a month with one provider and €75 with another for the exact same usage."
Some of the better deals
Most of the plans that are priced between €25 and €35 a month will meet the needs of most mobile users.
We asked KillBiller to recommend some plans for a variety of users.
* For an average phone user, Three's Classic Flex Max 350 30 Day is singled out. This costs €20.33 a month, and offers unlimited calls other Three phones. 350 units to other operators. There is unlimited 4G data. Charges are high for calls outside the 350 unit allowance.
* Also recommended for an average user is the Meteor Maxi SIMO, which costs €20 a month. This offers 200 minutes of calls, unlimited texts, with a 1GB data allowance.
* For "data hoggers", the Tesco 30 Day Sim Only deal is recommended. Sim-only means you provide the phone. This costs €25 a month, and offers unlimited data, and unlimited calls and texts.
* Big talkers should opt for Meteor Mega SIMO for €30 a month. Unlimited calls and texts are a feature of this plan.
* Those big into texting - most teenagers - should consider the Vodafone Red 30 Day option for €30 a month. This offers unlimited calls and texts and 1GB of 4G data. Also recommended is the Meteor Mega/Maxi SIMO, or the Tesco 30 Day Sim Only.
Note that ComReg says that most people use more than 1GB of data a month.
Switching to another operator
You can move from one operator to another without any fuss. You can even keep your full mobile number, something called number portability.
The main thing to be aware of when switching from one service provider to another is whether any minimum contract term applies to your existing contract, according to the telecoms regulator ComReg.
If you are still in contract you will be charged cancellation fees by your existing provider if you leave before that period is up.
If you have upgraded or changed to a new package with your existing provider this can result in an extension of the minimum contract term.
You should also check your existing terms and conditions to see if you are required to give 30 days notice before leaving the current service provider.
If there are no minimum term/notice period issues then all you have to do to switch is to contact the new provider and advise them that you wish to sign up to their service.
App that finds you a better deal
The KillBiller application is free to download on to your phone. It burrows into your phone and assesses your phone usage. It then tells you what you would spend on all available plans, with your own network or another operator.
It can also put you in touch with the mobile operator of your chosen plan who can facilitate a switch.
The apps works for android phones, with an iPhone app on the way.
How to switch mobile providers
Choose a mobile operator. Compare the price plans on offer from the main mobile operators on the market at Callcosts.ie. This site is run by the regulator, ComReg.
You will have dig out a bill and enter into the website how many texts you send in a month, the amount of data you use, and your calls to landlines and to mobiles.
Contact your new operator and provide your details. You can either phone them, go online or call into one of their retail outlets. When you move to a new operator, you can keep your old number if you want.
Switch. Your new mobile operator should complete the process for you within a few hours. So, if you are unhappy with the service provided by your mobile operator or if you feel you are paying too much, consider switching today.
Potential saving: €300
Total time: 30 mins