Be careful with MVNO plans, their unlimited plans are limited too

Summary:I thought I would save some money and go with a MVNO plan, but after less than a month I am already on their black list with just about 2GB of data usage.

After testing out the Samsung Galaxy Note, I purchased my own device. I do not have an AT&T account though so I did some searching and decided to purchase a Straight Talk SIM card that advertises UNLIMITED voice, text, and data for $45 per month. This seemed like a deal too good to pass up and it turns out it may indeed be just that.

I read through the Straight Talk terms and conditions to see if there were any specified data limits or text messaging limits and found nothing in them in regards to limits. The terms do state you cannot tether with their service or stream video content, but for my needs on the Note I was fine with that. My first month of service ends on 5 May and this morning I received the following voicemail in my Google Voice account:

This is a courtesy message from Straight Talk Wireless. We are calling because your current data usage levels on your Straight Talk Wireless are excessive and adversely impacting our service levels. Please understand that if you're (Google Voice transciption error not caught here) your excessive data usage continues, we may need to suspend or deactivate your data service or terminate your phone service altogether, as specified in section 6 of the terms and conditions of service. If you would like us to troubleshoot your usage patterns and advise you on how you may know your usage. Please give us a call at 1(800) 989-1506. Thank you.

I have been using the AT&T HTC One X since 19 April and according to the data usage utility on the device I used 808MB over these past two weeks. As a mobile enthusiast who has a 2+ hour daily train commute and travels around a lot, that is not excessive data and still gets me to under 2GB for a month so I was surprised by the phone call I received.

To find out more about what they consider "excessive data usage" I called them back and spoke to a customer service agent. She did not give me what the amount of data I used and when I asked she said they do not track these details (I am sure they must or how would they know I was using it excessively?). She then asked that I go through a survey so they could try to "fix the problem" and to check out the entire issue I walked through the questions with her. The questions were about my data usage and what I was using to get to this level of data usage with their recommendations that I logout of all social networks when not using them, turn off data unless I am actively using it, use WiFi to download apps and podcasts, and use a task manager to shut down any application I am not using. Hmm, this kind of defeats the purpose of using a smartphone and I won't change this much to be able to use their service. Needless to say, I just disabled the auto-refill option and am now considering just getting a regular AT&T account where I can actually get LTE service and use the data how I want without being hassled by the provider.

Have any readers tried out Straight Talk or another MVNO? Do you think it is worth the savings to place extreme limits on your usage patterns?

Topics: Hardware, AT&T, Browser, Collaboration, Mobility, Telcos

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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