VHA announces iPad data plans, but customers warned to watch downloads

VHA has finally announced iPad pricing for both its Vodafone and Three brands, offering some of the cheapest deals and the only unlimited data plan among the four telcos selling subscriptions for the device.

But would-be users have been warned about going over their data limits, with the Australian Communication Consumer Action Network advising customers to choose pre-paid plans to avoid hefty fees.

And while there are just two days left until the iPad hits Australian shores, it seems Apple is still struggling to keep up with demand. Yesterday, pre-orders made through the official site came with a June 7 delivery confirmation, but now the Apple online store simply says “June”, with no specific date.

VHA announced its iPad data plans this morning, offering different subscription rates for both the Vodafone and Three brands.

Vodafone plans start at $9.95 for 250MB of data, which expires within 30 days, and range up to $150 for 12GB, which lasts for an entire year.

Vodafone plans include:

  • $9.95 for 250MB, 30 days
  • $14.95 for 1GB, 30 days
  • $29.95 for 4GB, 30 days
  • $49.95 for unlimited data, 30 days
  • $100 for 6GB, 180 days
  • $150 for 12GB, 365 days

The $150 for 12GB is set to be a popular choice, offering the equivalent of about 1GB per month for $12.5.

However, Three is also sure to receive a lot of attention from budget-conscious users, with the telco offering the cheapest data plans on the market:

  • $15 for 500MB, 30 days
  • $29 for 2GB, 30 days
  • $49 for 4GB, 30 days
  • $149 for 12GB, 365 days

The first three plans come with extra data for signing up. However, Three also offers month-by-month plans, similar to the post-paid plans offered for traditional phones. These are set at $15 for 1GB and $29 for 3GB.

The trade-off, however, is that Three does not cover the same areas as the other networks and some drop-outs may be more likely.

But users have been warned to watch out for these types of plans. The Australian Communication Consumer Action Network has released a statement warning users to be careful about choosing post-paid plans against pre-paid versions, saying users could be unaware of how much data they are using.

While all carriers offer pre-paid plans for the iPad, both Three and Optus have announced they will carry post-paid options.

“The iPad and similar new-generation devices offer exciting new possibilities for consumers,” said ACCAN director of policy and campaigns Elissa Freeman said in a statement. “But to avoid getting an ‘iShock’, we’re strongly advising consumers opt for a pre-paid plan for at least the first three months until they get a feel for how much data they’re using.”

“Anyone using a 3G iPad on a post-paid plan essentially has access to a loaded gun of credit. While you’re absorbed in checking out what your iPad can do, you’re in danger of going over your data usage limit and facing a huge bill.”

Freeman points to a recent incident which saw an Adelaide MP receive a $10,000 bill for his smartphone after his son downloaded football games without knowledge of how much it would cost.

She said users should become used to pre-paid plans, determine how much data they are using and then move to post-paid plans if they feel it is appropriate.

However, there are still charges to watch out for. In its terms and conditions, Three points out if users download data outside of their broadband zones and in “roaming” areas, hefty charges will apply.

“Roaming in Australia (including within Three’s Broadband and 2G Zone) is charged at 50c/MB. Per MB pricing is charged per KB,” the terms state. This means, for example, that if a user downloads an extra 200MB outside of Three’s Broadband zone, they will be slugged a $100 bill.

VHA, Telstra and Optus will not be selling the iPad through its retail stores. All three companies were contacted this morning to confirm whether micro SIMs would be sold in Apple retail stores, but no reply was received before publication.

If the SIMs are not sold in Apple retail stores, users will have to purchase the iPad from Apple, and either visit a telco’s retail location or buy a SIM online to access mobile data.

However, it still remains to be seen just how popular the 3G iPad will be. Apple originally said the release date for the gadget would be May 28, but some pre-orders were pushed back to June 7 after the company said it experienced higher-than-expected demand.

Now, no delivery date has been specified by the company with the site simply stating “June” for a delivery period. However, eager customers may have the chance to pick up a gadget if they wait outside Apple retail stores on Friday.

“Customers will be able to buy the iPad from 8.00am on Friday, May 28 at all Australian Apple Retail Stores. Select Apple Authorised Resellers will also have the iPad available,” an Apple spokesperson said.

The actual names of these resellers were not able to be confirmed.

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