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The quid for the byte, internet is expensive in UK. Recommend me a UK mobile operator!

Internet ain’t that covered nor cheap in Europe, I guess originating from one of the most connected nations in the world (currently 99.9% penetration in Singapore right?) I am quite spoilt for free campus internet, let be even free wi-fi on the Singapore streets and cafe.

New Travel Pac Case!

We had grown so synonymous with the word unlimited in Singapore that we, or in my case, me fail to understand the power of uncapped internet boundaries. Things ain’t as wired in UK- There is no unlimited internet access unless you have a fixed line for DSL, which is quite out of the question with a dorm unless I rent a shared apartment. The campus itself charges for internet access with monthly caps per account- £6/month for an “academic” 10 GB/month plan, with options for £20/month for 25 GB/month and lastly, £35/month for 50 GB/month.

Campus internet access is notorious for a large number of restrictions and privacy issues, particularly the blocking of ports. I will need my own dedicated access to use my messenger programs, putty/telenet to my server rack via unconventional ports, p2p project files, not to mention using Skype to keep in touch with my loved ones, I can’t have my ports blocked!

One option is to use mobile broadband (MB), so I can have the freedom of the internet when on the move on my long traveling trips. Long 3-4 hour trips in UK are fairly common and that can alleviate much boredom on the roads (which makes us wonder why Singaporeans call a 60 minute bus trip long? haha). I still yet to research more on the security of unencrypted HSDPA networks, and whether it’s as insecure as wi-fi, but that is something I will deal with later.

It’s ain’t the case in Singapore right?
Contrary to what we are charged in Singapore for MB plans based on the chosen speed with unlimited access across all plans, here in UK, the speeds are like 3-7 Mbps max on the network, and mobile broadband is charged with 1GB to 15GB data capped plans monthly. The 3Mbps speed, 15GB data allowance plan costs 30 quid/month (about $70 SGD/month). In comparison, mobile broadband, say, from M1 in Singapore costs $50/month for 7Mbps with unlimited data transfer.

Leaving my PC idle for the day, with surfing, messaging, emails, downloading files and some gaming in between, I average about 400-500MB of data usage a day, so that comes up to 15GB/month minimum if I do not download any large files. 15GB/month is the highest mobile broadband plan I can get in the whole of Europe and no more! Help!

Though true that operating a mobile network in UK is so much more demanding nature given the sheer size and coverage required in comparison to our imploding/overlapping wireless networks we have here in Singapore, to that it might even be an unfair comparison, but the thing I am puzzled about is the lack of range of plans available to the consumer, either that or internet infrastructure here is like 2-3 years behind Singapore.

Recommend me a mobile operator?
With internet tech aside, generally it will be preferred to get my internet and mobile under the same operator, as discounts are known to be given in such cases. I am quite torn for the choices in the UK, first off, there (in the order of coverage) O2, Vodafone (the one which sponsors my favorite F1 team), T-mobile, Orange and Three (Hutchinson 3). I tend to lean towards 3 for their price point, but after some research and word of mouth, it seems that they have the worst coverage in all the 5 telcos. The others are not cheap.

So as to say from a student’s perspective now, currently everything in UK with regards to tech and gizmos is like “what you pay, is what you get inflated!”. Singapore is a well known destination for electronics, and that still holds very well. I guess it’s still wise to buy my laptop upgrades in Singapore.


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