Smartone-Vodafone Really Doesn’t Know

Over the past 3 months in preparation of my eventual iPhone usage on the Smartone-Vodafone network, I began testing to see which is the best combination Smartone-Vodafone data plan to subscribe to.

Prior to August of this year I subscribed to Smartone-Vodafone’s “HKD118.00/month Data Plan”, which gave me 10MB of usage per month and a HKD15.00/MB thereafter. While using my Nokia E61i at the time I frequently exceeds my 10MB allocation for the plan. I also did not use the GPRS access freely due to the limit imposed by the plan.

In August I found out about Smartone-Vodafone’s “Internet Browsing Plan”. With a 12 months commitment the plan cost HKD28.00/month and HKD38.00/month without a contract. Being someone who does not believe in signing any contracts I chose to pay HKD38.00/month.

This “Internet Browsing Plan” came with 20MB of usage per day. If the usage of any given day went above the 20MB limit, Smartone-Vodafone will automatically upgrade the plan to the Unlimited version for HKD78.00/month for the month in question. It will downgrade to the 20MB/day version on the subsequent month if the user did not cancel the plan.

I was very excited about this new “Internet Browsing Plan”. I confirmed with the sales person at the Smartone-Vodafone store about the definition of “Internet browsing”. They assure me it covered all browsing using my built in “browser” on my phone (Nokia E61i). I even confirm that it did not mean having to go through Smartone IN to do the browsing (via the Smartone-Vodafone WAP site), and they confirmed that Smartone IN is just one of the two methods where this plan would allow for “Internet browsing”. I then asked them the ultimate question of why was there a “HKD488.00/month Unlimited Usage Data Plan”, when it only cost HKD78.00/month through the “Internet Browsing Plan”? The sales person’s respond was that the Unlimited Usage Data Plan is an old service offering.

So I cancelled my HKD118.00/month Data Plan and subscribed the new HKD38.00/month Internet Browsing Plan. At the end of my bill cycle for the month of August, I found that Smartone-Vodafone was charging me HKD119.00 for “extra data usage”. To say the least I was upset and confused.

I contacted Smartone-Vodafone Customer Service and they told me the “extra data usage” charges were to cover my GPRS usages that were not “Internet browsing”, hence not covered by the “Internet Browsing Plan”. I told them about my conversation with the sales person at the store before I subscribed. I further ask her to explain what was meant by “Internet browsing”.

All she told me was that “Internet Browsing” was “browsing using the built in browser of my mobile phone”. I told her, she did not tell me any thing, but simply reworded the title of the plan. I told the Customer Service representative that I was using my built in browser through out the month of August, and asked her to provide me a more detailed and technical definition of “Internet browsing”. I also told them not to charge the HKD119.00 for the “extra data usage” until I have the definition resolved.

A few days past and the same Customer Service representative (Jay) called me back and told me that “the Internet Browsing Plan covers Internet browsing through certain browsing ports”. I told her that her statement was not clear, and for her to name the ports covered by the Internet Browsing Plan and get back to me after I return to Hong Kong. In the mean time I asked her to cancel the Internet Browsing Plan for the month of September and re-subscribe the HKD118.00/month Data Plan.

When I came back to Hong Kong after 2 weeks, I contacted Jay to find out the status of my enquiry. She still could not tell me exactly which ports were covered by the Internet Browsing Plan. So I asked her to get a technical person to contact me with the details. I also told her to pass along a message to their Product Development people, informing them that this was no way to create a plan for Internet browsing. It was ridiculous to have an internal restriction on certain ports and not make these ports know to the customer prior to the customer subscribing to the said plan.

Now I have my iPhone I will be performing my own experiment to see which combination of Smartone-Vodafone’s “Internet Browsing Plan” and “2G/3G Data Plan” will be sufficient to cover the GPRS (EDGE) usage of the iPhone through daily use.

Since no one at Smartone-Vodafone seems to know or willing to tell me exactly what the Internet Browsing Plan covers. I will perform my own experiment. Fortunately, Smartone-Vodafone does not have commitments for any of their services. Unfortunately, I have to do this using my own money.

Due to my Bill Date at Smartone-Vodafone, I will not be able to begin my test until October 12. So I will be reporting my findings after I see my October bill the 2nd week of November.

Please stay tune.

3 Comments

  1. Paradox, the restrictions Smartone-Vodafone place on their “Internet Browsing Plan” is such that only “certain browsing activities using the mobile phone’s built in browser” is supported. As most will agree that statement is extremely vague.

    The specifically mentioned that email access is only for web based emails. Therefore, I definitely believe that data usage by the Mobile Mail application on the iPhone will not be covered by their Internet Browsing Plan.

    It appears that Smartone-Vodafone is using protocols and ports to identify (GPRS/EDGE) data usage to exclude from their Internet Browsing Plan. Since they explicitly mentioned email access, I believe that any traffic through the POP3, POP3S, IMAP and SMTP will not be covered by the Internet Browsing Plan.

    The latter is one of the reasons I recommend iPhone HK users of the Smartone-Vodafone network to also include a 3G/2G Data Plan from Smartone-Vodafone.

    The *#123# command will not show data usage for the Internet Browsing Plan, but since it will automatically upgrade you to the Unlimited version of the plan if you go over the 20MB/day limit it is not that bad.

    The problem I have thus far (after 2 days) is that the above command (*#123#) no longer shows the data usage for the 3G/2G Data Plan either.

    I will be speaking to Smartone-Vodafone Technical support about this.

    [Update]
    I just finished speaking to Smartone-Vodafone Technical Support and they said that the Data Plan Usage recorded is no longer shown in the *#123# command. This Data Plan Usage; which is 2 days old, will only be viewable on Smartone-Vodafone.com

  2. Appreciate your effort and longing for your report.

    I think the most critical question is whether traffic of Mail and Safari would be taken care by the Internet on Mobile plan. I don’t really care to spend money for the Weather widget. If Google Map works then it would be a bonus, but still it’s more ab eye candy to me rather than a killer app in HK.

    Just to minimize the cost of testing, do you know you can run *#123# to query your data usage for the previous day?

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