Smartone-Vodafone logoLast Friday I reported that I was stuck at a Starbucks that did not have a reliable WiFi connection, so I decided to give the iPhone tethering a try. That trial ended up lasting 4 hours of work on my Mac. When I decided to use it, I was not 100% certain how Smartone-Vodafone was going to bill me. I have one of their IOM (Internet on Mobile) plan that has since been discontinued, but very similar to the current "IOM Value Pack" except without a contract.

This plan comes with a HKD15.00/15MB rate for any HSDPA traffic outside of their "Internet Browsing" traffic. So I concluded that Smartone-Vodafone cannot tell the difference between regular local data traffic and tethered traffic from my Mac. Therefore and tethered traffic will be charged based on the HKD15.00/15MB rate (with a price cap of HKD298.00).

I received my bill yesterday and I was correct. The only extra data charges I have was lump into the other HSDPA traffic that Smartone-Vodafone did not consider to be "Internet Browsing". It came out to about 105MB of usage for the 4 hours of tethering.

Today I also received confirmation of how Smartone-Vodafone's billing system is distinguishing regular HSDPA local data traffic and what they considered "Internet Browsing". For the iPhone:

Any traffic through the Mobile Safari browser on the iPhone and any traffic from the use of the YouTube native application are all considered "Internet Browsing" according to the Smartone-Vodafone billing system.

All other HSDPA data traffic from any other applications on the iPhone will be considered extra data, and will be charged based on the HKD15.00/15MB rate with a price cap of HKD298.00.

Also, the HKD298.00 is a price cap only, that means HKD298.00 is the maximum amount Smartone-Vodafone will charge for extra data usage, but if you reach that amount the data usage is still usable past the 298MB.

I hope this helps clarify some of the questions people have with using the iPhone in Hong Kong on the Smartone-Vodafone network.

Smartone-Vodafone logoOver a month ago I decided to switch to the Smartone-Vodafone "IOM Value Pack". You can read why I make this move in my previous post, New Tariff Plan from Smartone-Vodafone for iPhone. I had shared my experience here on my blog with my experience of using the iPhone in Hong Kong since June 2007. You can follow all of these posts by using the iPhone category.

Today is the last day of my bill cycle at Smartone-Vodafone, so I am now able to report if this "IOM Value Pack" is suitable for iPhone users in Hong Kong.

First I will provide some statistics on my iPhone voice and data usage in the past 30 days.

Internet Browsing as they called it = 27.378MB Data Usage = 4.373MB RSS Usage = 13.579MB POP Usage = 0.340MB

As the IOM Value Pack at HKD136/month includes 600MB/month (20MB/day) Internet Browsing, I am within the limit. The Data Usage, which is most likely the result of IMAP email and other application usage. The POP usage is from one of my email account that I grab mail from, and the RSS reader, these all total 18.292MB, Since the IOM Value Pack charges HKD15/15MB, the extra usage resulted in an additional charge of HKD30.00, giving me a final total of:

HKD136.00 HKD30.00 (extra data usage) HKD12.00 (MTR fees)

Total = HKD178.00

This is still cheaper than what I was paying prior to switching to the IOM Value Pack.

Smartone-Vodafone logoAs I still found my Smartone-Vodafone charges too high, I decided to look for alternatives, including those from competitors, like: PCCW, Three and People. For those of you who've been following my ideal iPhone tariff plan search in Hong Kong, you will know that I had been using Smartone-Vodafone's 3G voice plan (HKD128/month) + Internet Browsing (HKD38/month)+ Data plan (HKD118/month), giving me a total monthly bill of HKD296/month (including the MTR and administrative fees).

What did these combinations of plans gave me? I will only focus on the features that matters for an iPhone user.

Smartone-Vodafone (Option 1):

  • 1200 minutes of talk time outside of the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • 800 minutes of talk time within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Free SMS within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Voice mail, Call forwarding, Caller number display, Call waiting and Conference call
  • 20MB/day of Internet browsing (HTTP traffic)
  • 20MB/month of Data traffic (all traffic except HTTP, ie. POP3, IMAP, etc.), extra usage will be at a rate of HKD0.01/KB

I looked at my bill from September and notice that I had approximately 8MB of data usage outside of the HTTP protocol. I used approximately 700 minutes within the Smartone-Vodafone network and 130 minutes outside of the network.

I then looked at PCCW's "Web + Talk" HKD98/month tariff plan, to see if it is something more appropriate for my usage habits. I found that for HKD98/month, there is no contract commitment. Plus the plan gives you the following.

PCCW "Web + Talk" (Option 2):

  • 600 minutes of talk time outside of the PCCW network
  • 600 minutes of talk time within the PCCW network
  • Free SMS within the PCCW network (the sales person told me there was no free SMS, but their web site claims there is)
  • Unlimited use of PCCW WiFi hotspot
  • 60MB/month of data usage (the sales person claims this is HSDPA, but the web site claims it is GPRS), any extra data traffic will be charged at a rate of HKD10/10MB, with a maximum of HK298

Basing on my September usage, I use on average 18MB per day of data traffic, I am expected to pay and extra HKD298/month to cover the extra data usage. Giving me a total cost of HKD98 + HKD12 + HKD298 = HKD408/month.

So I decided to give Smartone-Vodafone's new Internet Browsing plan a try. Starting on November 12th, I am using their new Internet Browsing Plan, "IOM Value Pack" for HKD136.00 per month + HKD12.00 for MTR and Administrative charges = HKD148/moth.

Note that the HK96.00/month and HKD116/month plans require contractual agreements of 15 months. As many of you know I am against committing to any contracts for mobile tariff plans, as these prices usually drops within 6 months time. Due to the heavy competition in Hong Kong's mobile market.

Smartone-Vodafone "IOM Value Pack" (Option 3):

  • 600 minutes of talk time outside of the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • 600 minutes of talk time within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Free SMS within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Voice mail, Call forwarding, Caller number display, Call waiting and Conference call
  • 600MB/month (20MB/day) data usage.

The thing about Smartone-Vodafone's data allowance is that it only covers HTTP traffic, or in their words "web browsing". They really should be more specific than calling it "web browsing". I understand that anything more technical may be confusing for the average user, but they should clarify what "web browsing" mean in a footnote, detailing the Internet protocols. For the moment I can only deduce that "web browsing" covers any traffic using the HTTP protocol (ie. HTTP GET, HTTP POST, HTTPS activities).

Any extra data usage over the 600MB/month (20MB/day) or outside the HTTP protocol will be charged at HK15.00/15MB. Given my September month's usage (8MB of data usage outside of the HTTP protocol and less than 20MB/day HTTP traffic) I am expected to be charge an extra HK15.

This gives my monthly bill under the IOM Value Pack plan to be HKD136 + HKD15 +HKD12 = HKD163/month.

So my options are:

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3
HKD296/month HKD408/month HKD163/month
Smartone-Vodafone PCCW Smartone-Vodafone

I will report back in a month's time to see if my new plan choice is the right one for an average iPhone user in Hong Kong.