Following in the footsteps of Telstra, Vodafone has today announced a new system of mobile plan add-ons aimed at quenching the ever-growing demand for mobile data that matches the modern needs of the streaming world.
Whether this means media services such as Netflix and Spotify, or social platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp, Vodafone has a variety of paid add-ons that allow unmetered streaming of specific apps on mobile.
There are four passes on offer, ranging from $5 to $15 a month, which can be added to any Vodafone Red or SIM-only plan on the network.
- Social ($10 pm): Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest
- Music ($10 pm): Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, and SoundCloud
- Video ($15 pm): Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Stan
- Chat ($5 pm): Facebook Messenger (text), Viber (call and text), and WhatsApp (text)
Obviously some of these passes offer a better value proposition than others, and this depends not only on your specific usage, but also the nature of the services and how they use data.
For instance, sending text via messaging services uses a negligible amount of data; somewhere in the realm of 1-2 bytes per word. Similarly, a typical Viber call only uses around 1MB for 5 minutes of talk time, which works out at just over 85 hours for 1GB of data. Even if you were on a month-long Viber call (we're talking every single second of the month), you'd only use around 8-9GB of data.
Usage on the social and music-oriented apps may offer a bit more in the way of real value, particularly if you don't have your music offline, but both Telstra and Optus plans have been providing data-free music streaming at no extra cost for quite some time now.
But what about video streaming?
If you’ve got a reasonably low data cap but are keen to stream Netflix on the go, then paying an extra $15 a month not to have to worry about the data usage sounds like a pretty sweet deal. But is it?
It’s important to note that all of Vodafone’s passes are capped at a download speed of 1.5Mbps, and according to the company’s speed guide, this is “incompatible” with HD streaming video, and Standard Definition “video may be slower to start playing”.
When you consider that “the actual speeds you reach will continually vary”, the Video pass realistically offers you slow-to-load 480p video that may drop out at any time depending on “device capabilities, location, network congestion, and network coverage”.
In light of the above, it's worth considering the cost of upgrading your plan to one with a bigger data allowance before you fork out a monthly fee for Vodafone's unmetered streaming options.