Sharp End: Orange data charges


Why are out-of-bundle data charges so unfair? I have an Orange customer with more than 20 handsets and he contacted me this week in what can only be described as a very distressed state. My customer had just received his Orange bill and was astonished to see the bill was over £3,000 more than normal.

After going through his bill we found out that the customer had incurred a little over £2,700 of data charges. One line on his itemised statement simply showed: “Mobile Internet – 1058.07MB for £2,701.48”. No breakdown, no nothing.

After calling Orange, he was simply told: “You have used the data, you have to pay it”. Not very helpful.

Obviously, the customer had used the data but what he was particularly annoyed about was the fact there were no daily caps, no text message alerts, no pop-up whilst browsing to alert him to what he would be paying or just a warning he was racking up such a high charge. The customer simply did not realise the rates would be so high.

It would seem that there are stories like this cropping up continually about customers running up such data charges without realising the costs. In fact, within the EU, the networks are being forced to impose daily caps on data usage, albeit whilst roaming only at the moment.

So, the networks are fully aware that there are issues with unexpectedly high data access charges yet on the whole tend to ignore them and rake in the huge profits associated with such charges.

In the case of Orange, these charges work out to be £2.55 plus VAT per megabyte. Compare these charges to the recently announced Apple iPad data plans, which an end user can have on a prepay rate of only 5p per megabyte. You can see why such customers get so upset.

It is simply not fair that a loyal business user with over 20 handsets, a regular monthly bill of over £700 and a two year commitment to Orange has to pay £2.55 per megabyte when a single user can walk in and get data for the iPad at only 5p per megabyte. Totally unfair.

That’s in excess of a 6,000 per cent mark-up for business users over iPad rates.

My customer has written to Orange to express how unfair he believes these charges to be, but has yet to receive any communication from Orange officially.

Every time he calls he’s told he has to pay the full amount. In this example my customer paid £3,173 (including VAT) for data usage whereas if he had used exactly the same amount of data on an iPad, he would only have paid £53. Just where is the logic and fairness in that?

AQL landlines on SIM service

I recently went to the launch presentation of a new MVNO service hosted on the 3 (sorry, ‘Three’) network. The service from GTEQ uses AQL as an “enabler”. The presentation showed a live demonstration whereby landline numbers were chosen and activated live within just a few seconds.

This then enabled SIM cards running on the Three network to have multiple landline numbers enabled on each SIM. It is even possible to have international landline numbers enabled on the SIM cards also.

Once enabled, customers can have various landline numbers on their mobile device. For example, someone could have a local Birmingham 0121 number, and when a user dials it the mobile phone will ring. On outgoing calls, the caller ID can be set to the nominated landline number also. This service also works for text messaging.

One demonstration showed group calling, which was very impressive. A local Leeds landline number was dialled and several devices rang at the same time. One device was connected via the Three network, one device connected via regular PSTN network, one device connected via a Wi-Fi connection and one device connected via a low-power GSM transmitter that was installed in the next room.

The calls were all connected simultaneously via four different connection methods.

The service was also capable of recording every single incoming or outgoing call, either automatically for every call, or upon request by the user simply pressing the # key during a call to get the whole call recorded and emailed over to them.

The call recording is secure and conforms to stringent financial industry standards.

It could immediately benefit users who regularly divert their BT landlines to mobiles. Users could now have a landline number associated with their mobile SIM and any diverted calls would either be at a much reduced rate or even included in various bundles.

Static IP addresses could be assigned to the SIM cards, allowing for many uses in the mobile data market. For example, as a back-up connection option in routers. If the landline broadband goes down, the routers could complete the data connection via the mobile network instead.

I was very impressed by the potential of the services on offer by GTEQ/AQL. But the presentation was missing detail on the costings and margins, and my real concern was the fact the whole service was based on the Three network.

Many business dealers are reluctant still to put their big corporate clients on to Three because it has caused so many headaches for them in the past. But I look forward to receiving the nitty gritty detail of this service.



  1. I've just had a bill for over £550 despite the fact that I've never had a bill greater than about £80 since 2005 !!! I don't know how it occurred and Orange can't give me a detailed breakdown of how the data was used! Orange never contacted me to warn that there may be a problem and are saying it has to be paid. If they don't see common sense then after I've paid this bill they'll never get another penny from me.