Diary of a data-dependent Singaporean

What happens when you bust your data cap? Elissa Loi finds out about little known telco data top-ups the hard way

On 28 March 2015, I received the worst news ever.

It appears that in the first four days of the new bill cycle, I’ve managed to use up 1.7GB of the measly 2GB data I’m allocated each month. That’s not surprising, considering I receive this text every month, but usually a week before the bill cycle ends, not four days into it.

Which means I’m left with 300MB until 24 April, a long long 27 days away. 300MB. 27 days. I don’t need to do the math to know that I’m screwed.

This is the story of how being in these unfortunate circumstances has changed my life, or more specifically, my social life.

Day 1

I wake up feeling like something’s not quite right in my world. Oh right, that text, I’ve no data to use flippantly on the go. It’s going to be a long day. Best get checking everything I need to before I leave my home router’s range.

Oh god, I’m going to be late for work.

Day 2

Another day, another day without data. At least I’ve got my Spotify offline playlist to tide me through a 40-minute commute.

I’d usually hit BBC for the latest news for the day, check Facebook to see what has transpired between sleep and waking, have a sniff around Instagram, reply messages on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Line.

Speaking of which, someone's just sent me a photo which I can’t download until I reach the safety of the office’s Wi-Fi range. I can’t participate in this conversation without the pictorial context. The anticipation is killing me.

To distract myself, I put my phone away and look around. All I see are people using their phones. Goddamn it.

Day 3

While waiting in line for lunch at a hawker center, I have no choice but to look around instead of at my phone. Because I left it back in the office to completely do away with the temptation. Besides, people say we should look up from our phones to appreciate our surroundings, right? Live in the moment and all that jazz?

Wrong. The only thing I saw when looking up was a teenage cockroach crawling down the wall of the stall I’m ordering from. I miss you, phone.

As if to mock me, I receive a message from my service provider back in the office. I don't need more talktime! I need data!

Day 4

This must be what withdrawal feels like. My fingers hover over BuzzFeed. I’m tempted to tap. Phone buzzes. Message reads: Do you want to go out?

I think of the commute to place in question. It’s a long commute. I have no way of entertaining myself. So no, I don’t want to go out. Unless that place has Wi-Fi. Otherwise, there’s no relief in sight.

Day 5

I finally get around to calling my telco to see if there’s been a mistake.

“As of now, you have used up 1.95GB”

Well, that’s not very helpful. Tell me something I don’t already know.

“I can’t tell you how you’ve used up so much data until the bill cycle is over.”

That’s even worse. Help.

“But you can add data to your account.”

Now we’re getting somewhere.

As it turns out, all three local telcos have some form of data upsize option. Surprise! You've been trying so hard to live within the means of 2GB in vain. You don't have to constantly pay excess data charges if you find yourself regularly exceeding your data limit. Of course, getting 12GB as part of my plan would be the best scenario, but that sure isn't going to happen anytime soon. These options below would be the next best solution. 

Singtel DataMore

Cost for excess data: S$10/GB

Upsize options: S$8.56 for 1GB, S$17.12 for 2GB, S$25.68 for 3GB, S$34.24 for 4GB

Service activation fee: S$10.70. You can activate DataMore at any point in time if you've busted your cap, and the extra data you've incurred won't be billed according to the excess data costs. 

Contractual period: You’ll have to commit to 12 months of the data add-on package you’ve chosen and the good news is there's a promotion that will waive the charges for the first three months. Should you wish to terminate early, you will incur costs of the remaining months times the monthly subscription fee (e.g. 8 months x $8.56 = $68). 

Click here for more information

StarHub Local Data Upsize

Cost for excess data: S$10.70/GB

Upsize options: $8.56 for 1GB as of now. And starting from 4 April, there are new options of $17.12 for 2GB and $25.68 for 3GB.

Service activation fee: S$10.70. Depending on when you begin the service, both data and fee will be prorated accordingly. 

Contractual period: None. You commit to a month which will continue until you terminate the service. But should a data crisis ever arise again, you’ll need to pay the activation fee once more to get the extra GB. So make your decisions wisely.

Click here for more information

M1 Data+

Cost for excess data: S$10.70/GB

Upsize options: S$8.56 for 1GB, S$16.05 for 2GB, S$23.54 for 3GB, S$31.03 for 4GB, S$51.36 for 7GB, S$69.55 for 10GB.

Service activation fee: S$10.70. The service will come into effect if you haven’t busted your cap already. But if you already have, you’ll be subjected to excess data charges.

Let's say you’re on a 3GB data plan, and you’ve used 3.5GB. If you choose to activate Data+ of 1GB, that excess 500MB will still be charged according to the excess data charges of S$10.70/GB. So it will serve you well to activate the plan before you bust the cap for the S$8.56/GB to come into effect.

Contractual period: M1’s Data+ service also requires a commitment period of 12 months. First three months’ charges are waived. Should you wish to terminate before the 12 months are up, there will be termination fees. 

Click here for more information