#SwitchingSaturday: Changing network can be a tough call
With over 500 plan options available to Irish mobile phone users, there's never been a better time to change your provider, writes Charlie Weston
Now is a good time to consider what you are paying for your mobile phone. This is because there have been a number of new entrants and lots of new plans launched in the market in the last year.
The new options include the recent launch of iD Mobile with competitive 4G plans.
Virgin Mobile launched with new plans which offer discounts for Virgin Media customers.
And many of the other operators have launched plans with new price structures.
The potential for savings is now greater than ever, with reductions in monthly bills of €25 per month common. This means savings of €300 a year.
There are over 500 plan options available for Irish consumers - a bewildering amount.
"While choice is good, it is very hard to pick the best option," according to Bart Lehane (PhD) of mobile phone comparison site and app KillBiller.com.
The only way to ensure you get the best value is to know your usage and only pay for what you use, he said.
Low users could be spending as little as €12 per month, while even heavier phone users should not be spending more than €25 per month (excluding the handset costs), according to Dr Lehane.
The KillBiller app audits your usage and recommends what the best plan for you is.
It will also tell you how much headroom you have on each allowance based on your actual usage, he said.
Things to consider when selecting a new plan
The use of data is on the rise as applications use more bandwidth-heavy image and video.
If you are getting a one or two-year contract, give yourself a bit of extra headroom on the data.
For example, if you use about 0.8GB of data a month now, you will almost certainly be using over 1GB in the near future, so get a data allowance of 2GB or more, Dr Lehane says.
We are a nation of talkers and the number of minutes people spend talking on their mobile phones is increasing slightly.
Many people are purchasing an unlimited call bundle on their mobile and getting rid of their landline.
If you are a high SMS (short message service, or text) user, consider switching to using apps like WhatsApp, FaceBook Messenger or Viber as they offer the same functionality for free.
The use of SMS is declining so there is usually no need to get a high SMS allowance (many plans now offer unlimited SMS messaging anyway).
Contract lengths on bill pay are now often two years long. If you can afford it, buy the phone upfront and go SIM-Free or prepay, Dr Lehane advises.
This will save you money overall and also means you can switch networks at any time if you are not happy with the service.
Many of the lesser-known 'virtual' operators provide good value with the same quality networks as the bigger names, he said.
Postmobile use the Vodafone network, with the likes of iD Mobile, Tesco Mobile and Virgin Media all using the Three network.
High bills can happen for a number of reasons
One reason is being on a plan with very high calls/SMS/data limits that you don't need, and overpaying on your base plan each month (eg. someone who only uses 100 minutes of calls per month but has an unlimited call allowance).
Another is being on a plan with very low calls/SMS/data limits and having to pay coverage fees each month.
If you are out of contract or on prepay, the switching process is very straightforward and usually only requires a phone call to your new operator. You will be able to keep your phone number.
If you are in a contract, you will usually have to pay a 'termination fee' to get out of the contract. These can be very expensive, so be sure you select the right plan before getting that new contract.
New plan guide
The KillBiller app will audit your usage and recommend a plan for you based on your actual usage. Low users could be spending as little as €12 per month, while even heavy users should not be spending more than €25 per month on a SIM-only plan.
The average Irish phone user makes 207 minutes of calls, sends 113 SMS messages and uses 2GB of data, according to the Irish Communications Regulator.
Average mobile phone users who pay their bills monthly are recommended by KillBiller.com to choose iD Mobile, and opt for 250 call minutes, 250 texts, and 3GB of data at a cost of €20 a month.
With iD Mobile you get to build your own plan.
An alternative is Meteor Regular Sim Only.
For average users who prepay, the recommendation is Postmobile All In, with 20 minutes of talk, 250 texts and 3GB of data, which should cost €20 a month. Tesco Mobile €15 top-up is an alternative.
Irregular billpay users should opt for Meteor Lite Sim Only, for 100 minutes of talk, unlimited texts and 1GB of data, at a cost of €12 a month, Dr Lehane said.
For prepay irregular users, Tesco Mobile €15 top-up is the recommendation.
Heavy data users, who are on billpay, should opt for Tesco €25, 30-Day Sim Only. This gives unlimited calls and texts. Another option is to build an iD Mobile plan based on 250 call minutes a month, 250 texts, and 20 GB of data, at a cost of €23 a month.
For prepay heavy data users, the recommendation is Tesco Mobile €15 Top-up with unlimited texts and 5GB add-ons, at €20 a month.
Heavy call users, who pay monthly, can get value by opting for an iD Mobile plan with 1,000 minutes of calls, 250 texts, and 3GB of data, at a cost of €22.50 a month.
For heavy call users who prepay, the option is Tesco Mobile €15 Top-Up, with unlimited texts and 5GB of add-ons, at a cost of €20 a month.
Big texters, who pay monthly, are recommended by Dr Lehane to for Meteor Regular SIM Only. This gives 400 call minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of data, at a cost of €20 a month.
The option for big texters, who prepay, is Tesco Mobile €15 Top-Up with unlimited texts and 5GB add-ons, at €20 a month.