Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Mobile Phone Plans

I’m somewhat disappointed with the mobile plans available from UK network providers.

Back in Australia I had a Vodafone “No Plans” for my mobile.  Basically I post-paid monthly for the time I used.  Voice calls cost me A$1.00 per minute and text messages at 25 cents each. Vodafone wouldn’t actually bill me if my current monthly account balance was less than A$5.00.  Presumably because the administration fee didn’t make it worthwhile!  The owed amount rolled over to successive months until I exceeded the A$5 figure.  The plan remained active provided I used the phone at least once every 12 months.

Jan’s plan was slightly different. She had a pre-paid phone and the minimum amount she could purchase was A$5.  The phone plan remained active until either the A$5 was consumed or 12 months elapsed.

Waiouru will have a GSM module connected into the Empirbus system 12v power distribution and management system.  However in order to use the functionality of the GSM module we will need a SIM card and a mobile phone plan.  All the communication between ourselves and the boat will be by Text so what I need is a mobile plan that comes with SIM card only (no handset) and is solely Text.  We aren’t going to be sending many messages to Waiouru so we don’t need many Text messages on the plan.

However I can’t seem to find a UK network provider with a plan that:

  • Is SIM only
  • Text only
  • Minimal number of text messages or PAYG

However there is always a solution to every problem.  My solution is to take the SIM card from my Australian Vodafone handset and use it in the boat GSM module.  As long as I send at least one text message from Waiouru annually the card will remain active.  Moreover, the cost of the text messages is so miniscule that Vodafone Australia are unlikely to bill me more than once each year.  Actually it might be an A$5 bill once every two years!  OK, the text messages between myself and the boat will go via Australia.  However I’ve already tested the speed and despite the distance involved the transmission is very quick.


Jannock said...

Hello Tom
Jannock has a GSM alarm fitted which uses text messages in order to keep me informed on what's happening when we're not on board. I use a T-Mobile PAYG sim (it was free when I got it, not sure now, try Ebay as I've just bought a Vodafone PAYG sim for 24p delivered) and they do an SMS only deal which is 4p per text sent out, minimum top-up £5.
Regards Graham

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Graham,

Well that is very useful information. Thank you. I'm off to look at eBay!

Anonymous said...

also look at getting a free sim from giffgaff using O2

Ian said...

Hi Tom,
I recently closed a pay monthly contract with Three. I wanted to have emergency use of the phone and thought a pay as you go sim would be the answer. Many companies will send you a free sim but you have to buy a top-up to activate them. Giffgaff is around the cheapest at £5.
I have noticed however, that most top-ups expire after either 1 or 6 months, irrespective of how much credit remains.
Keeping your Australian sim seems to be the best solution. Welcome to "rip-off" Britain!!

Ian said...

Hi Tom,
A further thought re PAYG sims. I said above that the top up credit has a finite timescale. However, that applies to sending texts and making phone calls.
The free sim will be able to receive texts (and calls) without any top up being purchased. I use the free Three PAYG sim that I ordered for this purpose, and also to call Three customer services for free.
I don't know how long the phone number that comes linked to the sim will remain active if top ups aren't purchased, but presumably just order another free sim (with a new phone number) at the relevant time?
Provided your module can accept any phone company 3G sim, Bob's your Aunties brother!
I assume you'll be using a PAYG broadband dongle for your computer? The Three dongle also allows texts to be sent/received, so you could swap the sim between the dongle and module as another (more fiddly) idea.

Tom and Jan said...

Yes, we do have a 3 SIM card in the pre-paid dongle. Actually I've been purchasing the cards from Amazon (3GB data valid for 3 months). I could insert the card into the GSM module but I wouldn't want to do it every time we left the boat. I think I'll stay with the Oz Vodafone sim card for the moment.