Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Smartphone Postpaid Unlimited Mobile Internet Plans: Sun's Call and Surf, Globe's Super Surf and Smart's Unlimited Data Plan

Every broadband service provider claims to provide the highest speeds. If you go to various forums and check users experiences, feedbacks vary. Users of the same service will give different feedback. Some will find it fast, others would curse to the day they entered into a contract with the provider. Every new service starts out fast, and slows down as more and more persons subscribed to the service. Sometimes, a service which obtains a bad reputation in one area may provide fine service in another. Basically, there is no guaranty of performance with any service. 

Wireless connections, like the 3G mobile internet services offered by Globe Telecom, Smart Communications and Sun Cellular complicate this problem. This wireless mobile internet connections operate on near line of sigh technology. A service provider may provide excellent service in one area, but a building, tower, three or wall may result in severe degradation of service performance. Service providers also have a harder time allocating resources for the service, since the users are mobile, they cannot control how many users they allow to use the service in any given location, in any given day.

Best I can advice is before subscribing to a long terms plan, try it out for yourself, in the places you expect to use it. SIM cards are inexpensive these days, and acquiring one from each of the three providers will allow you to try the service. This does require a unlocked 3G capable phone. Hence, it may not be that easy to do. Prior to subscribing to Smart Communications Unlimited Data plan, I tried out Globe's and Sun's offerings. My own experience was that both Globe and Sun's services provided faster speeds in given areas, than Smarts services. Smart and Globe have the widest 3G coverage. In extreme locations like in Tali Beach at the edge Batangas only Smart Communications had a usable 3G connection. Globe, for the speed of its service, might completely fail somewhere as popular as Bag of Beans in Tagaytay City, and I am not talking just 3G here. 

Still one person experience may or may not be relevant to you. Another way to get information is through a local forum like TipidCP. I started a discussion there on Postpaid Unlimited Mobile Internet Plans for Smartphones and very few people seemed to be interested. As near as I can tell, not many people subscribe to unlimited 3G services for use on their mobile phones. From a sister site, TipidPC, most 3G connections are really service as mobile broadband services for laptops. Still, the few feedbacks given is comforting. No one is really complaining about the service that they signed up for. 

The few Globe Super Surf Users, report high speeds, as high as 2.5 mbps and downloading 300 megabytes in 30 minutes. The few Sun broadband users report that there are areas even in Metro Manila where they do not get a 3G signal, and only can avail of data via the slower GPRS network. The few Smart users, are happy with their speeds, but given restrictions on use, no one is really testing speeds.    

So, what does each service offer, and which one is best for you?

Cost. Sun Cellular offers the lowest cost call, text and unlimited data service. For as low as Php799 a month Sun Cellular offers its Call and Surf Plans which provides unlimited data services, with calls and texts billed over the base price of Php799. For Php999, Sun Cellular will throw in unlimited calls and text within the Sun network, and with a two year lock in a low end Android mobile phone (Samsung Galaxy 5 or Sony Ericsson X8). 

Globe Telecom has a different approach to providing data services. It is provides unlimited data as a Php1,200 add on over any of its postpaid plans. At present, the price of the service is offered at a promotional rate of Php999 per month. With Globe Plan 3799, the unlimited data service is thrown in as a freebie. With a two year lock-in, you can avail of a free smartphone. The main drawback of the Globe solution is that that Php1,200/999 add-on is not considered in determine what free phone you are entitled to. If you get decide to commit to a Php1,499 call, text and unlimited data service, that would be Plan 299, plus Php1,200 for the data service, you can only avail of phone available at Plan 299.

Smart Communications offers its Smart Gold Unlimited Data Plan, which it calls it's MENSA Plans. The lowest package is Plan 1500, which provides unlimited data together with 60 free minutes of calls and 120 free SMS to all networks. Higher plans (Plan 2000, 3000 and 4000) bundle in more free minutes of calls, more free SMS and with a two year lock-in, you can avail of higher end smartphones for free as part of the package.   

In terms of cost, Sun Cellular is the cheapest, and the low rates can be bundled with a phone to make the service worthwhile. Depending on the mobile phone you want, and the plan you avail off Globe and Smart offer similar rates, with Smart offering better deals on the lower and mid level plans, while Globe provides a better package at the higher end plans, like those willing to spend Php3,799 a month.  

How unlimited? Sun Cellular Service is uncapped. The company promises to provide you with whatever amount of data you need. Sun even advertises it service for users who have "heavy data requirements." While this may sound good to the customer, those who were early adopted to this kind of technology, Globe's Visibility know the dangers of that kind of a set-up. Users may use the data service as a modem for a laptop or desktop and continuously download gigabytes of files in a day. This could cost the service to degrade due to congestion.

Globe having learned from its long experience providing 3G services, wisely provides a 800MB per day cap for their plan after which the data connection is cut till the next day. While 800MB's might not be enough for someone planning to use the service as a modem for their laptop or desktop, it is more than enough for use with a mobile phone. You are more likely to drain the battery of your mobile phone till it shutdowns rather than hit the 800MB daily cap. Some users report that the cap is not strictly enforced, and that they have been able to exceed the cap while other confirm the 800MB daily limit.

Smart Communications has a 1.5 GB cap per month, after which they reserve the right to slow/throttle  down your connection speed, until monthly cut-off date of your plan. While 1.5GB is the lowest, and may not sound like much. It is more than enough to keep you connected to your social networks, manage your email, a fair amount of web browsing and watch the occasional video. While usage may vary depending on the websites you visit I usually consume between 10MB to 25MB per hour of web browsing.  Watching a video can consume 5MB's is one minute. Smart's 1.5GB caps would seem to small to many. But looking looking at plans and pricing abroad seems to be correct for the amount of money paid. In the long run, this should result in a reliable and dependable service.

Restrictions on use. Sun Cellular has no restrictions on use. Globe Telecom also has no restrictions on use of their data plan. Sun and Globe do not limit the applications you can use, and you are even allowed to tether your mobile phone to a laptop or desktop and use it as a modem. The exception is Globe's BlackBerry data plan add-on which does not allow tethering, or the use of the mobile phone as a modem, and does not include streaming video.

Smart's unlimited data plan specifically prohibits the use of the plan for tethering, which also means you should not use the hot spot feature of your device. This restriction will be a deal breaker fro many. But look at it this way, you won't have to worry that connection in a particular area will be very slow because a few other users in the same area are drawing a large stream of continuous data downloading files using torrent clients. Smart also restricts the use of some applications like some email clients and services which fall under it list of value added services. Best you consult Smart Customer service to see if the plan offered meets your needs.

This is the best I can do way of a guide. If you need more information, best visit this thread: Postpaid Unlimited Mobile Internet Plans for Smartphones and post a question. The friendly people at TipidCP will surely do their best to answer your queries. 

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