Ever since the advent of mobile phones more than two decades ago, consumers have been somewhat at the mercy of providers when it comes to what’s included in a plan. Telcos offer several different plans with fixed amounts of calls, texts and data, or they offer a prepaid, PAYG option – those are your choices. In recent years, however, there’s been a growing trend to disrupt this status quo – build-your-own phone plans.
Several providers, mainly third-party MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) who utilise the physical networks of larger operators, have begun offering highly flexible plans where you get decide exactly how many call minutes, texts and megabytes you want to pay for. It’s interesting stuff. So what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of building your own plan, and which providers are letting you do it?
Building your own plan is perfect for those looking to control their costs, and to only pay for as much as they use whilst still getting great value. With a traditional plan, you may well find that you’re finishing each month having not used a fair amount of your credit, whether it’s in the form of call minutes, texts or data. This is especially true if you favour one medium over another; you might be a serial Facebook messenger who uses a lot of data, whereas your friend might be making twenty phone calls a day.
When you build your own plan, all of this wasted credit becomes a thing of the past. If you’re a data junkie, you can pack in 3GB of data to browse Instagram all day long, and only have the minimum amount of credit for making calls, which is something you hardly ever do; another person might do the complete opposite. The point is that you can pack in generous amounts of the credit you do want, whilst saving money by excluding what you don’t.
The main disadvantage of building your own tailored plan is the flipside of what’s mentioned above – you’re paying for what you think you’ll need, so if one month you end up using a lot more credit than normal, you’ll probably go over your limit and be forced to do one of two things: either switch to the pay-as-you-go rates, which are often significantly more expensive, or be bumped up to the next level of inclusions, which is often several dollars a month more.
Providers who offer build-your-own plans
At this stage, build-your-own is still a niche offering in Australia, but two providers offering this option are:
Yatango offers five different levels of inclusions for both calls and texts, seven levels of data inclusions and four levels of international minutes, all of which can be chopped and changed in whatever way you see fit. They also offer an unlimited calls and texts plan (to which you can add data), as well as a PAYG option. If you go over your monthly inclusions, you automatically switch to Yatango’s low cost PAYG rates.
Spintel offers four levels of inclusions each for voice, texts and data (S, M, L, and XL), with the top level for voice and text being unlimited. Spintel automatically bumps you up to the next plan level for a few more dollars a month if you go over your limit, so there’s no risk of potentially large fees from PAYG rates.
Just as home maintenance DIY isn’t for everyone, building your own phone plan won’t be for everyone either. It’s certainly worth weighing up the pros and cons though.