Three UK’s parent company, Hutchison Whampoa, has just reached an agreement to purchase O2 from Telefonica. The proposed £10.25 billion deal will make Three the largest mobile operator in the UK, giving them a 41% share of the market. The deal is still awaiting approval from competition regulators, but should the buyout go through it will reduce the number of mobile networks in the UK to three. This may simply seem like more of the same when it comes to corporate mergers, but the loss of competition in the mobile networking market could easily lead to higher costs for consumers down the line. But customers have more control over their phone bills than they may think, and there are steps we can all take to reduce our mobile costs in the face of corporate mergers and rising mobile tariffs.
Trimming the Fat
The secret to keeping your phone bill under control is knowing where to trim the fat, but sometimes that can be easier said than done. Network providers are very good at bundling services, and signing up customers for full featured plans that they may not really need. These bundles often have hidden costs that end up costing you more than you anticipated, and more than you were promised. If you want to reduce your phone bill, eliminating the hidden costs is the perfect way to begin. Let’s look at a few key points that will help you save on your smartphone bills.
Unlimited data is a major selling point for many network providers. Unfortunately, unlimited data doesn’t always mean what it says. While some networks do offer truly unlimited data plans, most apply a fair usage clause to your contract. You’ll have to dig down deep into the small print to find it, but the clause is there and it allows your provider to set an upper limit on your data usage. If you go over that limit you’ll begin to rack up hefty fees, so to avoid a sudden spike in your phone bill you need to watch your data allowance. But that can be difficult to do, especially if your smartphone is loaded with your favourite apps. Many of those apps continue to run even when they are not in use, constantly downloading information from the internet. This so called ‘background data’ includes everything from Facebook updates to GPS information, and it adds up fast. To prevent yourself from exceeding your data limit, and racking up any unexpected fees, use the settings control on your smartphone to disable the Background App Refresh feature. This will prevent those data hungry apps from continuously eating away at your monthly allowance.
Smartphone insurance has become a booming business, and most networks offer insurance plans for their customers. But smartphone insurance isn’t cheap, and some plans can add more than £300 to a standard two year contract. Now, having insurance for your smartphone isn’t necessarily a bad idea, particularly if you need your mobile for work. However, you need to be sure you are paying for the right plan and not overpaying for the wrong one. Before you add insurance to your network plan, read the small print and be sure that it covers all eventualities. Give special attention to deductibles and personal responsibility clauses. Also, before signing on, compare the plan with those offered by other independent insurers. It is not unusual to find a better plan, at a better price, from someone other than your mobile network.
4G and Wi-Fi
Many of us are upgrading to a 4G connection, chasing those faster download speeds. But moving from 3G to 4G can have an unexpected impact on your phone bill. Those faster download speeds make it all too easy to burn through your data allowance, racking up major fees in the bargain. If you are considering making the move to 4G, think about increasing your monthly data allowance as well. The additional data will help protect you from going over your limit, and incurring unwanted fees and penalties. Also, whether you’re on 3G or 4G, you can keep your data usage under control by relying on wireless networks for data heavy activities like streaming videos or playing online games. When you consider that fifteen minutes of streaming video can use up more than 1GB of data, you can see how easy, and how quickly, you can use up your monthly allowance. Relying on Wi-Fi for data heavy applications will keep you from going over your limit, keeping your phone bill check.
The recent spate of telecom company mergers in the UK may be good news for big business, but it is likely to result in higher phone bills for consumers. With fewer mobile networks competing for customers, companies will have less of an incentive to keep basic phone costs down. That means that customers like you and me will have to find our own ways to cut costs and keep our phone bills under control. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to cut out hidden mobile fees, so we can all keep our hard earned money where it belongs – in our pockets.