Monday, 3 January 2011

Etisalat Plans - Mickey Mouse?

Mickey MouseImage via WikipediaThe HTC Desire is a cool device, I have to tell you. It does many things brilliantly, some very well and even manages to be a mildly functional telephone. Based on Google's Android operating system, it's almost scarily integrated into Google services, but it does a lot of cool stuff and is pretty intuitive.

I've spent a week or so now getting used to it - after over 20 years of loyalty to Nokia, I finally snapped and followed Symbian Guru by throwing my N86 against the wall. There have been inevitable frustrations in the transition process, but they're mostly harmless. Google's habit of defaulting everything to Arabic for anyone located in the Arab World can be a bit of a shock - and I really do not need an uninstallable azan reminder. But all in all, I'm glad I made the change. Well, I was until Etisalat sent me a message telling me they have blocked my mobile Internet access as I had exceeded the upper limit on my plan.

My plan? What plan? I just have mobile Internet. It was called 'Mubashir' because nobody knew what 3G was ("I don't understand what 3G is!" "No problem, take this! It's called Mubashir!" "What is it?" "3G"). Nobody ever told me they'd introduced things called plans.

Mine apparently gives me 10 Meg of downloads for a fixed monthly fee. And then it charges me. A wicked amount. Enough for me to have racked up Dhs1,200 worth of phone bill in 2-3 days of using an Android phone. Because if you're using your wireless network to download apps and you walk out of the wireless zone, it defaults to Etisalat and their Mickey Mouse packages. And, unlike my creaky old Symbian handset,  this mobile is always online, checking, updating and RSSing like a little Googledemon.

You'd have thought Etisalat would send you a text when you got to the 10Mb mark, wouldn't you? But that would be far too sensible. They'd rather bill their unsuspecting, arguably duped, customers for the lesson.

So don't do what I did, people. When you throw that Symbian mobile against the wall and storm off to get a funky Android phone, change your mobile data plan. You can get a 1Gb package for Dhs145 per month or 5GB for 295 per month. They also offer "unlimited" data for a whopping Dhs395 per month. Unlimited is sort of like freehold, by the way: by unlimited, Etisalat actually means a 'fair usage' 10Gb maximum. Out of plan extras cost 50 fils per meg, which is a bit less than the Dhs15 per meg they charge on the default 10Mb package. Yes, you heard right. Dhs15 (a tad over $4) per megabit.

Plans from 10Mb - 1Gb are categorised as 'mobile Internet' by Etisalat, while 1GB-10GB are 'mobile broadband' and come with a USB modem. Because nobody would want to use a mobile for downloading lots of data, would they? Positively archaic thinking from the telco that likes to say 'ugh'...

Hmm. I wonder what the view from Du is like these days?


PS: Happy New Year, folks!
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18 comments:

samuraisam said...

I've got a Galaxy S with the 5GB plan and it is pretty solid; I almost always 'just' go over 1 GB so its worth it for me.

There are some areas of the UAE (usually in Du infrastructure areas) where Etisalat 3G doesn't work at satisfactory speeds.

Guaranteed if you get bored one day on youtube you could rack up at least a GB.

Btw, protip: Mobile data packages DO NOT work internationally, if you have a post-paid plan don't even bring your Etisalat SIM. This is something women still don't seem to understand after years and years. If you use it overseas it will LITERALLY cost 100 dirhams for less than a minute of usage. No joke.

Mita said...

Oh my word - I learnt my lesson the hard way (like you) and its not as bad on Du. Lets put it this way, my monthly phone bills are half what they are with 2 providers than they were with 1 (Etisalat)

nick said...

Ouch - i indeed fell trap when subscribed to their 100MB plan which I apparently ate up halfway through the month. I'm now on 1GB but I come scarily close to eating using it all on a monthly basis - indeed you'd think a SMS on usage would be a smart idea, but that would just be progressive thinking and we can't have any of that.

Anonymous said...

I you happen to have an iPhone, there's a cool app called DataMan, it tracks your Real Time Data Usage and sends you alerts if you approach or exceed limits.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dataman-real-time-data-usage/id393282873?mt=8

alexander... said...

3G Watchdog is an Android app that monitors data usage. Thanks for the tip, NonyMouse!

afn said...

Du is better. They send you an SMS when you exceed 90% of your bandwidth allocation.

Only problem is, it's sent 5 days after the event at which point you've racked 4,500 in overage charges.

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

Start the year off hypocritically, by contradicting what you write at head of this comments input!

Or is that selectively accepted as Nony has been of some use and not vitriol against your ramblings? ;-)

alexander... said...

Surrounded by hypocrisy, can you blame me for wanting a taste myself now and then?

Precisely because it was a useful Nony.

As for 'ramblings', I am hurt, Rupert. Wounded, even.

Anonymous said...

*144*3# to check data usage on etisalat

Keefieboy said...

I got an HTC Desire last September, and signed up for Orange Spain's 'unlimited' data plan. So I was a bit surprised around the middle of the first full month of use to see that I had exceeded my unlimited limit of 300Mb (God only knows how, 'cos I don't download stuff, and rarely use the interwebz on it), and that for the rest of the month my data would be capped at 128Kbps - not that I noticed any actual difference.

Sarah Walton said...

Pretty close with du - 100AED for a 1gb plan, and then it's something like 1 fil per kb (yes, KB) after.

However I have an iPhone and it allows me to use wireless internet - does your phone? this means that whenever you are in or near places like Dubai Mall, Starbucks, McDonalds you can piggy-back off their plans for free.

Might change where you decide to have a mid-morning cuppa.

the real nick said...

I have a 2004 model Nokia 6020 which is seemingly coffee-proof, shock-proof, curry-proof and lets me even make phonecalls. It amortized itself in January 2006 and costs me 0 Dhs per month (company phone) and I am going to keep it until the mortician has to prise it from my fist.

ghoonk said...

du user here. Hell, I even work in du, but here's my 2 cents as a consumer and a data muncher since I got my Newton MessagePad 2100 back in 1997 :)

du's unlimited plan has a Fair Use policy of 10GB. Actually, most operators do have some kind of Fair Use policy, so that's not really a surprise.

I believe that Unlimited plans were pretty much crafted back in the days of yore, before the Age of Tethering. Back then, you had a smartphone that would do email, surf the web, blah blah blah, and seriously, it would be hard pressed to exceed 1GB, much less 10GB.

These days, with many Nokias, iPhones, and even Android being tether-capable, many people are learning to hook up their notebooks to their phones for an enhanced browsing experience. This pretty much comes with the price of higher data overheads (consider all the fancy flash ads that some sites love to pummel down your pipe), but even so, unless you're sucking down YouTube videos in HD, downloading huge files via BitTorrent, video/music streaming or some other data-heavy activity, it's still pretty hard to get to 10GB. For 90% of people out there anyway.

In the US, carriers are starting to realize this (mostly due to the way newer smartphones are data-hungry devices from hell, even on their own) and hence the introduction of 'tethering' plans. Bottom line is, if you use your smartphone and a smartphone data bundle, 10GB is more than enough. Some of you guys who see me on Facebook and Twitter know I'm quite a 'heavy' mobile data user, and even so, I'm usually just over 1GB a month anyway. For people who want to do more than that (i.e. bittorrent, streaming, etc), I personally think there's a gap in the UAE telecoms market now.

One thing worth considering when people start whinging about 'limited' Unlimited plans - many people out there use mobile data for always-on email, instant messaging, web browsing, and other 'bandwidth-reasonable' activity. I'm back in Singapore several times every year, and while data prices there are pretty consistent with US ones, they also suffer from ridiculously poor transfer speeds. On du, I'm getting around 4.5mbps download and 1.8mbps upload speeds on my iPhone 4. On StarHub in Singapore, I'd be lucky to get 0.4mbps download/upload transfer speeds.

That's the problem with prices going too low, and everyone gets on the boat, and all you need is 10% of passengers rocking the boat (abusing the network) and screwing it up for the other 90% who are there for a nice cruise. I still feel that people who want to suck up copious amounts of bandwidth should pay for it.

Some people eat more than others at a Friday brunch. A flat fee makes it attractive enough for most people to come in to try to get the most of out what they pay (notice how much champagne/oysters/salmon/foie gras some people can consume?). The limit is how much you can fit into one's stomach (in this analogy, one's stomach would be like one's smartphone). Now, change the parameter where one's 'stomach' now includes an option to take out, and you'll have some people just packing enough to feed an impoverished city or two - these are the people who abuse the system and when the restaurant ups the price of the buffet, people who behave reasonably get upset, and rightfully so. It's therefore in the best interests of reasonable users and the restaurant to manage abuse so everything stays reasonable for the majority. The last thing I'd like to see happen here is for data prices to fall flat, and then watch my data speeds fall to a crawl that's slower than traffic post fireworks display around Dubai Mall :P

The above views are mine and mine alone, and do not reflect those of my employers, wife, dog and pet rat. :)

ghoonk said...

du user here. Hell, I even work in du, but here's my 2 cents as a consumer and a data muncher since I got my Newton MessagePad 2100 back in 1997 :)

du's unlimited plan has a Fair Use policy of 10GB. Actually, most operators do have some kind of Fair Use policy, so that's not really a surprise.

I believe that Unlimited plans were pretty much crafted back in the days of yore, before the Age of Tethering. Back then, you had a smartphone that would do email, surf the web, blah blah blah, and seriously, it would be hard pressed to exceed 1GB, much less 10GB.

These days, with many Nokias, iPhones, and even Android being tether-capable, many people are learning to hook up their notebooks to their phones for an enhanced browsing experience. This pretty much comes with the price of higher data overheads (consider all the fancy flash ads that some sites love to pummel down your pipe), but even so, unless you're sucking down YouTube videos in HD, downloading huge files via BitTorrent, video/music streaming or some other data-heavy activity, it's still pretty hard to get to 10GB. For 90% of people out there anyway.

In the US, carriers are starting to realize this (mostly due to the way newer smartphones are data-hungry devices from hell, even on their own) and hence the introduction of 'tethering' plans. Bottom line is, if you use your smartphone and a smartphone data bundle, 10GB is more than enough. Some of you guys who see me on Facebook and Twitter know I'm quite a 'heavy' mobile data user, and even so, I'm usually just over 1GB a month anyway. For people who want to do more than that (i.e. bittorrent, streaming, etc), I personally think there's a gap in the UAE telecoms market now.

One thing worth considering when people start whinging about 'limited' Unlimited plans - many people out there use mobile data for always-on email, instant messaging, web browsing, and other 'bandwidth-reasonable' activity. I'm back in Singapore several times every year, and while data prices there are pretty consistent with US ones, they also suffer from ridiculously poor transfer speeds. On du, I'm getting around 4.5mbps download and 1.8mbps upload speeds on my iPhone 4. On StarHub in Singapore, I'd be lucky to get 0.4mbps download/upload transfer speeds.

Some people eat more than others at a Friday brunch. A flat fee makes it attractive enough for most people to come in to try to get the most of out what they pay (notice how much champagne/oysters/salmon/foie gras some people can consume?). The limit is how much you can fit into one's stomach (in this analogy, one's stomach would be like one's smartphone). Now, change the parameter where one's 'stomach' now includes an option to take out, and you'll have some people just packing enough to feed an impoverished city or two - these are the people who abuse the system and when the restaurant ups the price of the buffet, people who behave reasonably get upset, and rightfully so. It's therefore in the best interests of reasonable users and the restaurant to manage abuse so everything stays reasonable for the majority. The last thing I'd like to see happen here is for data prices to fall flat, and then watch my data speeds fall to a crawl that's slower than traffic post fireworks display around Dubai Mall :P

The above views are mine and mine alone, and do not reflect those of my employers, wife, dog and pet rat. :)

3G said...

Thanks for the mention. Am enjoying your blog.

Doug said...

To be honest, the package deals aren't that bad in comparison with international rates. In the UK, most mobile providers have a limit of anywhere between 500Mb to 1Gb, generally at a cost of £30 (roughly the 145Dhs you'd pay for a 1Gb Etisalat connection). Although it may be worth noting that this cost will usually include something like 5000 minutes and texts (essentially, unlimited) and probably a free iPhone 4.

I use my iPhone a lot for internet materials although I rarely top out over 800Mb - I don't use my phone for watching YouTube or using iPlayer, mostly because I live in London and so if I'm not travelling on the Tube and thus out of signal, I'm either at work and therefore busy, or at home and use my WiFi. I do think you'd be hard pressed to rack up 1Gb of usage on a phone unless you have no other form of internet access.

Overseas charges are insane though, as they are everywhere. I made the mistake of looking briefly at Google Maps when in Mumbai. Not only was the map useless, I was also charged £25 (140Dhs) for the privilege.

samuraisam said...

ghoonk: Unlimited means unlimited.

Advertising a 'limited' plan as unlimited is false advertising and is fraudulent to consumers. It takes advantage of people who are not knowledgeable about the specifics of HSDPA/3G plans and as such is against the TRA's policies and should be completely banned in the UAE.

Bottom line: Call it a 10GB plan or give it a 'marketing' name but ffs stop calling stuff 'unlimited' when it is not.

I can easily crack 1 GB a month; and if I have business use for my line I could go well over that sending files etc.

Vikas said...

If you have Android then,

A. download these two applications:

1. 3GWatchdog to watch your data usage (can assign quota, watch daily, weekly, monthly usage, export data as CSV, automatically close data connection when you reach X%.

2. APNDroid to close 3G directly using a widget button on home screen, whenever you don't need a connection.

B. if you have Du connection and are regularly on facebook you can use Zero facebook (0.facebook.com) as it's free for Du Subscribers.

C. switch off the Auto-Sync in Accounts and Sync Setting, which will allow you to manually Sync, only with selected accounts (gmail/facebook/twitter).

Does anyone know how to check Data balance on Du (like *144*3# for Etisalat). Selfcare shows me just units in MB and I can't goto Selfcare all the time, specially from a mobile handset.

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