Cut the cost of your mobile phone

Cut the cost of your mobile phone
21 August 2012

MOBILE phones – smart phones in particular – provide instantaneous connectivity to satisfy modern lifestyles.

Telecoms companies throughout the Middle East have long enjoyed monopolies in the provision of fixed-line and mobile services. In Egypt and Saudi Arabia there is now healthy competition between mobile network operators, while in the UAE virtual monopolies still exist. However, pressure from voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services is forcing even the most entrenched telecoms providers to cut their charges.

Additionally, over the past five years, the largest growth market for mobile phone sales and usage has emerged from the ‘tweens’ and student sector. For this group, savings on bills is as important as it is for their parents, who often have to foot the bill.

Let’s take a look at some money-saving tips...

Think before you dial

Firstly, try to reduce your usage. Before you dial, think if it’s necessary to call someone rather than send a text message, which is often much cheaper. When texting, consider providing as much information as possible rather than having an SMS-based conversation which can end up costing more than a quick call.

Secondly, try to restrict usage to off-peak hours. This is often the biggest saving available to consumers from telecoms firms keen to boost network usage during the quieter hours of the day.

Thirdly, use a pre-paid account, rather than receive monthly bills. This mean you’ll know exactly how much you are spending.

Finally, if decreasing the number of calls and texts is proving difficult, track your usage patterns over a period to ascertain your mobile usage profile – the quantity, destination and duration of voice calls, the number and destination of text messages and the amount of data used.

Scrutinise frequently-used numbers and the time of day calls are made to work out habits and cost patterns. This will put you in a position to select the most suitable package for you.

Research provider plans

The more providers there are in a given market, the more competitive the packages tend to be. Phone plans are usually a bundle of voice, SMS and data limits over a monthly period.

In the UAE, both service providers, Etisalat and Du, offer a wide range of pre-paid and billed plans. As most of the UAE population are expatriates, international phone calls are a necessity and both providers offer plans with good incentives and bundling.

For billed customers, Etisalat offers five ‘My Plan’ packages spanning the ‘basic’ at AED 29 ($7.90) per month to ‘ultra’ at AED 449 ($122) per month, which can include a free smart phone. The five bundles are a combination of local minutes, international minutes, local SMS and data. Customers can add on additional amounts of any of these elements.

Du offers three billed plans for expatriates and another for Emiratis. Check to see which one suits requirements and remember that you can change between plans and providers fairly easily.

Trim the fat

Make sure you’re not paying over the odds. Be wary of paying for unwanted data plans, for example; if you don’t need it, cancel it.

Avoid roaming costs as much as possible. However inconvenient it may seem, obtaining a local SIM wherever you are visiting will always be significantly cheaper than using your home-country phone.

Disable unwanted features such as GPS-navigation which might use your data stream without you realising it.

The good news is that pressure from Skype, Blackberry Messenger, WhatsApp and other internet-based services, coupled with the fact that most smart phones can access available WiFi signals, should help – in the absence of true competition – to drive down mobile phone bills throughout the region.

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