Wednesday, 04 March 2015 21:59

Virgin Mobile data rollover claims a first, is it really? Featured


Virgin Mobile says it is introducing a ‘game changing’ Australian first, letting you rollover your data, but is this strictly true?

It’s true: if you’re a Virgin Mobile customer who has signed up to one of its brand new Postpaid mobile plans from today (4 March 2015), and you have any mobile data left at the end of the month, you can roll it over to the next month.

Virgin Mobile is calling this an Australian first, but Vodafone’s FAQ page states that any data purchased as part of a data Add-On pack on prepaid phones can be rolled over to the next month if you buy another add-on.

Optus prepaid data add-ons seem to work the same way according to this page over at Optus

But Virgin Mobile’s offer is for its postpaid plans, and doesn’t require you to purchase any data add-ons first, so we have to give it to Virgin Mobile who have popped the postpaid data rollover cherry with cream on top.

One particular problem I have is always seeming to get to the end of my data allocation before the end of the month, so even if the telco I use had such an option, it would be a bit useless for me.

However I’m a heavy smartphone and data user, which definitely isn’t everyone in the market, so this move is to be applauded - even though ACCAN and Choice have been calling for such a feature for some time now.

Virgin Mobile CEO, David Scribner, explains his company’s move this way: “Data Rollover will revolutionise how Australians view their telco’s data offering and will change the mobile industry for good.

“People are hungry for data and it’s not fair that something they’ve paid for is snatched away after a month – they should get another chance to use it. I’m proud to say that we are the only telco rescuing people’s data.”

Virgin Mobile says in its media release that it has ‘listened to its customers who have been requesting this feature for some time’.

Presumably, Virgin Mobile wasn’t listening to those customers during the time it ignored them and didn’t offer this feature, but let’s not be too harsh, for they are first to offer it after all, and we’re sure to see Vodafone, Optus and Telstra make similar moves at some point simply because, well … ‘customers have been requesting this feature for some time’ - and I’m sure that applies to the other telcos, too.

On the topic of having any data left before the end of the month arrives, Virgin Mobile CEO Scribner says: “There is an interesting dynamic at play – although less than one in five of our customers use all their data in any given month, many customers are ‘occasional breakers’ and over a six-month period, around 40 per cent will break their data limits at least once.

“We looked into it and discovered that almost half of these people would have paid nothing or at least reduced excess charges if they had Data Rollover. Think of the money they could have saved.”

To this, I say: think of all the money telcos have been making at our expense!

Virgin Mobile decided to do a bit more research and conducted a study among 1,059 Australian smartphone owners aged 18 or over, from Friday the 13th of February to Tuesday the 17th of February. These people were all ‘members of a permission based panel’, with data gleaned after the interviews being ‘weighted to the latest population estimates sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.’

The study revealed that:

  • 94% of Australians think it’s unfair that something they have paid for is taken away with no second chance to use it.
  • 95% wish they could hold onto their unused data.
  • 93% said that having the ability to rollover data would be of value to them.
  • Almost a quarter of Aussie smartphone users (22%) are dissatisfied with their current data usage plan.
  • The cost of additional data or breaking data limits had the highest rate of dissatisfaction for Aussie smartphone users (40%).
  • Getting value for money when it comes to data is the number one thing that would make Aussie smartphone users consider switching their mobile plan or provider (52%).
  • When it comes to the most important aspects of a mobile phone plan:
  • 99% of Aussie smartphone users say it’s value for money;
  • 94% say it’s flexibility in included data;
  • 94% say it’s the amount of data included in their plan.

Virgin Mobile CEO Scribner says he couldn’t ignore these facts (presumably despite his customers having requested this feature, by Virgin Mobile’s own admission, for some time), and stated:

“Last year we pledged to make mobile better and being flexible with our data offering is one way to do this. Data is a big issue, not just for our customers but the majority of Australian smartphone users.

“People want a plan with the flexibility that allows them to live their life without worrying about their data usage. Life is unpredictable and some months are busier than others – one month you might have your head down in work, and the next you might be planning a party on your work commute or uploading photos to Facebook after a holiday. Knowing you have extra data up your sleeve to cater for this means our customers can worry less about nasty bill shock.

“We’ve come a long way over the years to consistently better the mobile experience for Australians. And we have no intention of slowing down. As part of our commitment to make mobile better, we plan to continue rolling out products and benefits that will make a real difference to the lives and lifestyles of our customers.”

So, if you’re an existing Virgin Mobile customer and want this feature without doing anything - too bad.

You’ll have to either be a brand new customer from 4 March 2015 onwards, or you’ll have to upgrade to a new postpaid mobile plan, which is a telco’s clever way of getting you to sign up to what is usually a new 24 month contract.

I’m being a bit cynical only because I can be, and rightfully so - this plan does not reward existing members who signed up on 3 March 2015 or before, or at least, it does not appear to, and Virgin Mobile could presumably have done this a long time ago but by its own admission, despite many customer requests, didn’t - until today.

At least it has done it now, shaming the other telcos into doing the right thing by customers too, but you'll only truly find it useful if you come to the end of the month before the end of your data.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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