Wednesday, 19 March 2014

What do you pay for your mobile?

My grandson's phone
I am a tad out of the loop here - I had SIP2SIM for a long time, then had a horrid giffgaff thing, and now back to our SIP2SIM service. My phone is a company phone, so in some ways it does not matter what it costs - but I own the company so in other ways it does.

I am really a bit behind the times on what people pay for their phones these days, and I am interested to see how things stack up.

I used to sell Orange phones, and they had packages for monthly fees and call charges. These days a lot of stuff is included, though, ironically, freephone calls are often extra even now.

Of course, for a long time, phones were so expensive the mobile contract was a tie-in to cover the cost of the phone. I am frankly shocked at how cheaply a phone can be made these days with retail prices of SIM free phones starting under £15 inc VAT! Yes, smartphones cost more, and Apple doubly so, but even some Androids are SIM free in Argos under £100.

Do clearly, the cost of the phone is less and less of an issue for the mobile contract and finally (I hope) we are seeing more "you buy what phone you like" being completely independent of "you get a SIM for a service you like".

Also, I assume, gone are the days of the coverage wars. When I was selling Orange - coverage maps were king. These days there are always some black spots and some places with one network beating another, but coverage is ubiquitous for most. Am I right?

So, really, what are people paying these days, and what do they get?

The reason I ask is simply because of the service we are doing with this SIP2SIM. It is really aimed at businesses but I think it has a place for "normal phones". Last time we did this, I tried with some of my kids, and was surprised at the bills. What killed it was texts, and the cost for texts. But that has changed. No more are texts the thing - it is facebook messages, snapchat, iMessage, and so on, at data rates that are (a) mostly on wifi, and (b) a fraction of the costs of texts.

So I think, to be honest, a "pay for what you use" arrangement may make sense compared to the packages for my kids. Some are trying it now, even my 5 year old grandson. They, being family, do have the advantage that we charge them cost prices, but even at our normal retail I can see this working well.

Some people on irc have done sums and said we beat the mobile package they were on hands down, even paying us for inbound calls! It depends what you do - if you make lots of long calls all day then maybe not, but a lot of people now seem to make few and short calls, relying on iMessage and facebook and email (again, mostly on wifi).

I tend to make a mobile call long enough to walk to my desk phone and steal the call over to that, and use data and calls occasionally when away from the office. For me it is way cheaper, even as a company / business phone, than the £5/month I was paying giffgaff. It is a lot less hassle for me, and, of course, unlike every UK mobile operator it means I have ACR as required by law for over a decade now. I also get call recording of my mobiles (which I am sure financial services companies would love).

The prices we are selling at are (+VAT) £2/month, 2p/min for calls, 2p/text, 2p/MB for data. Yes, we tried to make it simple. No min term, just monthly rolling contact. Charged by the second and by the kb, so short calls and iMessages and so on are a tiny cost. We do a VoIP number for £1/month and calls as low as 1p/min with a 2p min charge. Even adding that to your outbound calls the overall cost is pretty low.

So do A&A SIMs, with a geographic number, actually work out competitive to typical teenage kid or even business phone packages?

I am thinking yes, at last, they might be - what do you think?


  1. Overally, yes, I think. I pay £13/mo for a three sim with 'unlimited' now but can go months barely using data - then I'll drive halfway down the country with play music streaming through the stereo and use a couple of gb in a day.

    I did a back of the envelope calculation and the money I don't pay in the months I don't use much data makes up for the large bill in the months I do (a fair bit more in fact). OTOH that's personal to me.. someone who used lots of data would have a hard time justifying sim2sim on those grounds.

    1. Mobile data is our biggest stumbling block, I totally agree.

  2. I'd be in like a shot if the data price was keener (currently paying £5.20/mo for no calls, no texts and 2GB) - as you can possibly guess I don't fit the standard demographic ;-)

  3. Well, I have just ordered a SIP2SIM SIM card so we can give my 10year old a phone for emergency use. Given that it's just £2 pcm (+VAT) on top of what I pay you already it's the cheapest way I can give him a phone (a GT-E1200 which cost be about £12). It will be locked down to a small set of numbers and I don't anticipate much in the way of calls.

    But when he gets a bit older and wants a phone to actually use it's not going to be cost effective. The next stop-up price wise is £6.90 a month for 200 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of data from 3. If the calls were to mobiles (as is likely) 200 minutes on SIP2SIM registered to voiceless would cost £16.80 and that's before we throw in texts and data. For £7 a month I can get much the same allowance but on a 1 month rolling contract from Virgin.

    SIM only is getting to be a cut-throat business at the moment, I'm afraid.

  4. I'm currently using a 4g EE payg sim on my Nexus 5 and normally buy a £10 1GB bundle per month and a £2 text bundle giving 400 texts and I get 168 "free" minutes per month (ie 2014 minutes to use in 2014 lol).

    It's a bit annoying their bundles "expire" after 30 days so you loose any unused data so in principle I prefer the sip2sim way of just paying for data I use (probably less than a gig per month). I don't use voice much so am not really worried about paying for the few minutes per month I use. Not really sure how many texts I use but have used google hangouts which is free.

  5. I'm paying £15 per month to Virgin for my SIM-only contract (they are a Virtual provide on the EE network) : I was PAYG but worked out I was spending more on PAYG than their contract. I originally brought my Samsung Galaxy S II as an "3" phone but paid upfront for the phone (and they still sold me a "locked to network" one!). Over the last fornight (I reinstalled my phone then), I had the following usage: I've received 6 calls lasting 10 minutes, made 18 calls lasting 45 minutes and used about 214Mb and send/received 6 text messages (1 spam, 1 from Virgin).

    So monthly figures you could say 12 inbound calls of 20 minutes, 36 calls lasting 90 minutes, about 500Mb of data and 12 text messages. My £15+vat a month provides me with "Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data" (calls to 0800, 0845, 0870, 0808 numbers extra)". Their fair usage policy hidden on shows "Unlimited" to actually mean 3000 minutes, 3000 texts and 1Gb of data.

    This usage pattern would cost me, on SIP2SIM:
    £2.00 pcm standing fee
    120 minutes (either way) x 2p per minute = £2.40
    12 texts (either way) x 2p per minute = £0.24
    500Mb data usage x 2p per Mb= £10.00
    Total: £14.64+vat

    So it'll work out just a bit cheaper moving to SIP2SIM for me (bar the initial purchase). I would say I'm a lowerish user though (call my wife at lunch time, use on-phone Waze GPS in the car and then I'm mainly on wifi).

    Hope this info helps! Of course, if you offered "Truly unlocked mobiles" for sale as well, it'll be more tempting to switch when handset renewal time comes along (especially if you could offer free number porting to your VoIP platform: I've had the same mobile number for about 10 years now: I think my only other mobile number was a 121 pre-phoneday 03 number!).

  6. I pay £6.90/month with Three for 200 voice minutes, 300 3to3 minutes, 5000 texts and 500mb data.

    Nearly all my data is Wifi and I'm at home most of the day in a location with very poor signal on all the mobile networks.

    Coverage is still very much of an issue for those of us in more rural areas (look at three's non existant coverage over nearly the whole of Exmoor for instance)

    The clincher for me was that Three threw in a free Three Home Signal box, meaning that my phone isn't a useless brick most of the time.


  7. I ordered an AA data-only SIM - I'm keeping it incase I need to telnet into my laptop but for even occasional use £20 per GB just isn't happening! My fault for doing the math and ordering after a jolly evening. It's twice the price as vodaphone PAYG - I never expect nor want AA to be the cheapest but that's a bit much!

  8. I pay £36 per month for unlimited calls, texts and 1.5GB of data on EE which includes a Nokia Lumia 1020 for 24 months.

    Considering my actual usage of 650mins, 100 texts and 700MB of data per month a SIP2SIM would cost £31. Dividing the SIM free price of the phone by 24 months would be an additional £22 per month so for me the EE deal is by far the better value. Subsidies on expensive handsets can still be quite worthwhile.

    Personally I wouldn't consider any network or MVNO that didn't use EE as from my experience (compared with my wife's O2 SIM) I can still stream music reliably while others often struggle to hold calls while driving in my area (Warwickshire.)

  9. I'm paying £10.50pcm - T-Mobile YouFix. Includes 50 mins, 500Mb data, unlimited texts. Plus I can top it up like PAYG if I need to. I really want to play with SIP2SIM but don't think I can justify it just yet .. I really use all the free voice minutes, but I do text a fair amount and I look knowing that the mobile data is there if I need it...

    I am seriously considering transitioning to VoIP to replace our BT landline call package though. Especially now with charges on top for basics like Caller ID and 1571in place, and the horrific customer service (BT Text suddenly stopped working for no reason? Sorry, can't help you. Incoming Caller ID from Skype suddenly broken? Must be a Skype problem, sorry...)

  10. Paying GBP 7 to GBP 9 per month for my t-mobile contract. SIM only.
    Buy my own unlocked / sim free phones.

  11. I also have the Three "One Plan" , for £15. (Now £20) SIM Only:
    2,000 minutes
    5,000 Three-to-Three minutes.
    5,000 texts
    Unlimited Data

    I use about 2GB per month, so that would cost me £40 just for the data through you.

  12. I'm with the Three "One Plan" - which was £16/month when I signed up, but is now £20/month (£23/month if you don't sign up for a year).

    2,000 minutes
    5,000 Three-to-Three minutes.
    5,000 texts
    Unlimited Data

    I use about 2GB per month. So that would be £40/month through you.

  13. I am paying quite a bit for my contract as I got it when the S3 came out so paid a premium. In about 3 months it ends and I have no real desire to upgrade the phone. I was planning to switch to Virgin as I can get a contract for £5 as I have other services with them. I make and receive very little calls and most data is on wireless. If I went with yourselves I think I would be paying the £2.50 for the contract (inc vat) and probably about the same for data so overall about the same cost. Being able to route my landline to my mobile (i have a voip pbx at home) would be an advantage.

  14. I used to be on Three's 3Pay PAYG tariff a few years back - you got 150MB (which lasted up to 90 days) free each time you top up your balance, and you could buy a 2GB bundle (which lasted up to 30 days) by taking £5 from your balance.

    Then they changed that tariff so the 150MB expired after 45 days and the £5 bundle was 500MB instead.

    I'm now on Three's 321 PAYG tariff - 3p/min for calls, 2p/sms and 1p/MB, which seems like a pretty reasonable deal to me and they still do the 150MB free with each top up. I don't make many calls or send many SMS messages and my 3G data usage seems to be reasonable low most of the time since I'm mostly within range of wifi, so this costs me well under £5 a month.

    Obviously my phone wasn't subsidised by Three - since no one in the UK does Android phones with keyboards these days, I ended up importing a phone from the US myself.

    My only real complaints about Three are that they don't do *any* GPRS/EDGE data service, so if you're out of 3G coverage then there's nothing, and that their call centre is foreign and with such strong accents that I struggle to understand them (and they don't seem great at understanding me either!). Oh, and for some reason they charge for SMS return receipts.

    Its worth noting that the call cost of doing SIP over 3G is tiny - assuming you're doing 11Kbps Speex, the worst case is 11Kbps in each direction for full duplex (== 22Kbps) plus overhead. Even if we assume a 50% overhead that's 248KB per minute, or about 0.25p/minute. In practice, since Speex is a variable bit rate codec, it would be much less than that, and that's ignoring the 150MB that comes "free" each time you stick a fiver on your balance. (However, in my experience, SIP over 3G isn't as reliable as a real cellular phone call when in poor signal areas)

  15. I'm on three's payg at the moment - 3p / minute, 2p / text, 1p / megabyte. Most of my money goes into the 1p / megabyte and I have a reasonable number of incoming calls too, so I guess this wouldn't be cheaper for me.

    O2 seem to have a bad reputation for coverage around here (Glasgow & surrounding area), but I'm not sure if that's just historical.

  16. I get (from three for £ inc VAT):

    3GB data (use about 1.5GB)
    500 minutes (use about 100)
    5000 texts (use about 2000)

    So on SIP2SIM I would pay £2 + £1 + 3000p (for data) + [200p+100p] (for calls) + 4000p (for texts) = £76/mo

  17. I'd say coverage is still an issue in some parts. My 'litmus test' is that I like to stream radio or Spotify over the car's Bluetooth. Until a couple of months ago I was on O2 and found their 3G coverage abysmal - on a trip along the M1 between Leeds and Derby the streaming spent more time buffering than playing.

    I moved to EE on PAYG as a test and the coverage was massively better than O2 - they have decent 4G in places I couldn't even get Edge. I used to think it was just that iPhones aren't particularly good phones but this proved otherwise.

    I'm now trialling 3 on the One Plan and again the coverage seems pretty good, although maybe not as good at penetrating buildings as EE. It passed my M1 test yesterday streaming radio and only briefly dropping out once.

    I believe 3 are also rolling out 4G at no extra cost although my iPhone 5 doesn't support the frequencies they'll be using but for my use their 3G is more than fast enough.

  18. Coverage certainly is still an issue - I don't always have a 3 signal here at home, for one thing (currently 1/5 strength). There are parts of my regular commute where I just don't get a signal on Three; for at least part of the gap I get "112 only", so some other network does have coverage and UK roaming would give me a working service. (There's usually WiFi on the train too, so iMessage will still work anyway.)

    My usage looks like it would be about £6/month of data on A&A; maybe £1 of SMS and £4 of calls (using Localphone not A&A for the VoIP service), so not far over the £8 I pay 3 at present. I'd move most of the SMS/voice usage over to WiFi, too, given the option (can't do that with 3 of course).

    Since I'd either use WiFi or tether to my iPad (£8/month for 10 Gb, on a special tariff) for 'significant' data, I'd be happy with the current A&A pricing. If I could port my current 07 number in and have it work, I'd be there like a shot (particularly once the UK roaming is set up); as it is, I'll probably order one and give it a try. I do wish the UK used 'proper' numbers instead of having given mobiles their own premium rate range, but I don't know how well a geographic-numbered mobile will work with registration systems in practice.

  19. I'm paying GiffGaff £10/month at the moment and hardly ever need mobile data, so I suspect it would pan out well for me.

    The only thing stopping me from trying Sip2Sim is that I really need an 07 number - preferably the same one I've had for over a decade now. Any progress persuading Ofcom to allow you to sell 07...?

  20. I pay GiffGaff £10/month and rarely use any of my data allowance, so Sip2Sim would probably make financial sense to me.

    The only blocker is that I'd really want to move my 07 number to your VOIP service as I've had it for over a decade. Any progress on persuading Ofcom to let you sell 07?

  21. Moved to 3 PAYG to use my own sourced handset (Xiaomei)
    All-you-can-eat data
    300 minutes
    3000 texts.

    Don't use texts much. Tend to use messaging apps or email mainly. Music and Video streaming on long train journeys

  22. March A&A Cost Feb A&A Cost Jan A&A Cost
    Mins 685 13.7 908 18.16 400 8
    SMS 164 3.2 8 136 2.72 94 1.88
    Data 1819 36.38 1395 27.9 10417 208.34
    Total 53.36 48.78 218.22

    Unfortunately, just based on my last 3 months bills the SIP2SIM would be a non-starter. for me All the bills cost me £15 on the "one plan" from 3.

    As the Rev has said in another comment, it is the data the completely kills it.

    1. > Mins 685 [SIP2SIM cost] £13.7
      Don't forget the VAT and if I understand the service corrently the 2p per min is on top of whatever VOIP charges there are for the call. So the minimum cost of 685 minutes is £26.72 assuming that you register the SIP side with A&A's VOIP server (2.4p/min for the GSM leg and 1.5p/min for the VOIP leg to landlines).

      As it stands SIP2SIM looks good against typical PAYG rates and OK against the cheaper monthly deals if you have a low usage. The basic cost for a SIM plus number rental from A&A is £3.60/mo. Given you can get a SIM for £6.90 from three that would be 84 minutes (to landlines) or 34 texts or 165MB of data - if your usage is below this then it might well be a good deal (adjust for other tarrifs obviously).

  23. I really appreciate all of the comments - I think there are plenty of business examples where the SIP2SIM is invaluable, even when more expensive, and quite a few cases where the pricing is good for lower usage and even a more domestic user. Sadly, as many of these examples show, there are plenty of plans which would be cheaper and more predictable than SIP2SIM. I think, however, we do have a sensible product still, and it can only get better :-)

  24. I am currently on T-Mobile (EE) pay as you go, I make very few calls/texts (pennies a month) but use 500-600Mb data. I buy the 6-month data pack, it's £20 for 1Gb/month, so £3.33/month.

  25. For what it's worth...

    There's no way I could replace my primary SIM with a RevSIM - I'd be paying well over £100 a month just for data (currently on a very old T-mobile £22/month all you can eat calls/text/sms tariff) - the problem is that once you are used to data being available whenever you need it, you get used to using it. That having been said, despite being on an el-cheapo tariff, RevSIM data is well over the odds cost-wise.

    The other killer for me is not having an 07 number - have you ever tried arguing with company after company who point-blank refuse to accept any other number as a valid mobile?

    And one final killer - to make RevSIM in any way re-sellable, we'd need live CDR data and the ability to block both SMSs and data immediately via an API.

    Ok, all that sounds quite negative, but I can see several very good uses - specifically in my case for M2M purposes. Having a data SIM that has a very low base cost and charge-on-use is ideal for a few things we do.

    1. Some API stuff is doable, yes, and we'll be adding that for resellers.

    2. Another thought occurs to me... I can think of a good business opportunity, but it does require that the RevSIM can be used in only one phone (specifiable by me) - so that even if Joe Customer takes the SIM out, it won't work for them (and potentially cost me £££s) in any other device. Is that even possible?

    3. That could be done, by the operator tying the SIM to a specific IMEI number - much the same way they blacklist stolen handsets now. Would there be enough advantage in doing that, as opposed to just putting a PIN lock on the SIM or fitting an 'embedded SIM' (tiny version of a regular SIM which you solder into the device) - or indeed just supergluing the SIM card into the handset?

      Having got mine yesterday, I think the things I'd most like to see next are the roaming facilities, 'better' data (i.e. more like the A&A data-only SIMs) and 07 numbers. I can more or less achieve the last two for myself (VPN home, connect my old SIM to my Asterisk server) though...

    4. SIM lock solves a different problem and for the idea to work, a soldered in or glued SIM wouldn't be suitable.

      I guess if data was delivered to us over L2TP we could control that and if an API enabled SMS on/off was available then we'd manage...

  26. I don't think I consider "text" to be "out" - sure people use stuff like imessage if they love Iphone or whatsapp etc, but I only really use those to avoid paying 25p for an mms (seriously, what is that about?)... by far and away I use text the most - thousands a month (not hard when you have multipart ones of course.

    What I've wanted for a long time (and still want) is ONE number on MULTIPLE phones - eg the same caller ID for texts sent, regardless of phone, and the same for calls made/received. I could live with some sort of "code" to set which one should receive incoming messages/calls, but I want many sims, many devices, one number.

  27. I think I'm paying about £18/month on 3, to get 3GB data and a minimal number of minutes and texts - mostly use it on the commute to/from London, so the data costs would be about £40-60/month for me alone :( I'm also presuming you'd not do the whole "no tethering" thing which for some reason mobile operators have a thing about even if you're paying by the GB? The other thing that would put me off would be not being able to keep my existing number - I've had the same number all my life, and I don't particularly want to change now :)

  28. "These days there are always some black spots and some places with one network beating another, but coverage is ubiquitous for most. Am I right?"

    Come to Suffolk (or Norfolk) outside the city coverage is dire no matter what network you are on. I even asked T-Mobile if I could buy a femtocel and they said only if you've got poor coverage because we've turned a mast off.

    WTF - I wasn't even after a free one, I was willing to pay them to improve their coverage.

  29. There's so definitely a market for these.

    Tracker units for vehicles and remote monitoring alarm systems.

    Currently there is no decent way to support a cheap data card for these. You end up paying more than £5 a month for, hopefully, nothing! You only care about the cost when used, & since that is either an alarm event or a tracking requirement, you really don't care at that point.

    Certainly I could sell these with a system and a one year contract for system plus £40 all in.
    (PAYG is just a total pain without a screen and a phone with a key pad! Plus I don't really want that job, especially on site. )

    1. Well, we have the voice SIMs on O2 and Data SIMs on three, but are very close now to the roaming SIMs that work on any network (cost more when no O2 available). Watch this space.