Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go - Are You Getting What you Paid For?

Ever since 3Gstore began offering a Pay-As-You-Go Mobile Broadband option, we have received many questions about how the option we are promoting compares to the more well-known Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go service sold at locations like Best Buy. Both allow users to use mobile broadband on Sprint's nationwide 3G network on a pay-as-you go basis, with no contracts or deposits, but that doesn't mean they are equal. In addition to the fact that the option offered by 3Gstore is more affordable and requires far less personal information to use (Virgin Mobile requires you to give your full name along with address, birthday, and telephone number just to activate the service - seems like excessive amounts of information for a Pre-Paid service...), we found that in our tests Virgin Mobile was miscalculating data usage - meaning you may not be getting to USE all of the data you are paying for!

After activating a new Virgin Mobile Novatel Wireless Ovation MC760 with a 100MB pre-paid service "card", 3Gstore's technical support manager decided to do a quick test to see how Virgin calculated data usage. To make sure the test was "pure", our tester first made certain that automatic updates on his computer were turned OFF and that a firewall blocking all outbound requests except for google.com was enabled, so that the ONLY data used in his test would be from accessing google.com. He connected the modem and pulled up Google.com (62.8kb on this day), then immediately disconnected the modem and removed it from the computer's USB port, and then checked his account balance (using a different internet connection). Now, everyone knows that without the modem plugged in and connected, there is no possible way that any additional data can be transferred on the account in question, so one would assume that his account balance should still show him having 100MB (or maybe 99MB - 62.8kb is far less than one full MB, but rounding down to the next MB would not have been a big surprise). Shockingly, when our tester checked the Virgin Mobile Website, the account showed he had just 82.11 MB remaining in the account!

How is it humanly possible to use almost 18 MB of data by simply pulling up Google.com??? It's not, of course, which means that Virgin's calculations were way, way off. It appears that upon the initial connection, Virgin Mobile removed close to 18MB of data from a freshly activated account. Virgin charges $10 for 100 MB of usage, which translates to roughly 10 cents per MB. If you have almost 18MB removed from your account in the first seconds of usage, that would mean Virgin Mobile just robbed of $1.80.

To challenge this obvious inaccuracy, we placed a call to Customer Care for Virgin Mobile. They argued that there was nothing that they could do as far as refunding our tester, insisting that the websites he visited must have resulted in the 18MB of usage. They also proposed that perhaps our tester's computer may have had automatic updates turned on and that is how his data was used up in a blink of an eye... but, as mentioned above, our tester had taken precautions to ensure that there was absolutely no data being transferred while he was connected with his Virgin modem other than the google.com website being pulled up. The call ended with no resolution or restitution offered - meaning our tester effectively paid $1.80 for a 2-second visit to google.com and a lengthy call with Customer Care.

In our opinion, a carrier mis-calculating the amount of data you've used is a deal-breaker. If you paid for a 900-minutes per month voice plan and were only allowed to use 800 of them, that would be unacceptable - and so is seeing nearly 18% of the data you paid for disappear for no reason. One of the many reasons 3Gstore has chosen to sell and support the particular Pay-As-You-Go service that we offer is because the data is calculated accurately and fairly. To read more about our Pay-As-You-Go option, visit 3Gstore.com/prepaid.

Read more about Pay-As-You-Go Mobile Broadband from 3Gstore