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Advice to Smartphone Users: Regular Check on Data Usage - CHOICE # 426 (April 16, 2012)

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Consumers using mobile phone data plan should check the data volume used regularly to avoid additional charges caused by extra usage.

In the recent market survey on mobile phone data service conducted by the Consumer Council, 28 SIM-only 3G voice and data monthly service plans provided by 6 local service providers were compared.  Their monthly fee ranged from HK$57 to HK$589 and data usage limit ranged from 10MB to unlimited.

All "unlimited" data usage is subject to the service provider's fair usage policy, and all the service providers set their fair usage at 5 GB per month.

Since the "Guidelines for the Implementation of Fair Usage Policy for the Provision of Mobile and Fixed Broadband Services" issued by the Communications Authority comes into operation in mid-February, among the 5 service providers that used to offer "unlimited" mobile data plans, one has discontinued such plan, and the other 4 stipulate the fair usage for such plans, under their fair usage policies, at 5GB per month.

All 4 service providers which continue to offer "unlimited" mobile data plans responded that alerts would be sent to users when their usage was approaching the fair usage volume.
 
For users that subscribe to limited data service plans, all 6 service providers provided channels for subscribers to check their data usage, but only 3 service providers would send out alert to these subscribers when their usage was about to approach the limit.  Other limited plans subscribers are advised to find out if their service providers have set caps on maximum charges.

The Council advised consumers to take note of the followings before and after signing up data service plans for mobile phones to avoid unexpected expenses.

Before signing up:

-    Make estimation of average monthly usage by checking the usage records in the last 3 to 6 months or by using the Data Usage Calculator provided by the Communications Authority.  Look for plans that suit the usage estimation.  
-    Make sure to understand the details and fee structure fully before signing up the service plans.

After signing up:

-    Do not leave the data network of the phone connected when data service is not required.
-    Make good use of free Wi-Fi connections, but do not transmit personal information via free Wi-Fi hotspots due to security concerns.

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