Oct 222010

Young people, especially, are still falling victim to the problem of cell (mobile) phone bill shock. The moment that they open a phone bill to discover that the cost of data download is way more than they expected. This pain can be particularly acute when travelling overseas.

There is an answer.

You can reduce your phone bill by accessing wifi as much as possible and using applications like Skype to make calls over the internet rather than using the carrier.

What is wifi?

Wifi is a means to form a computer network without wires. That is, devices exchange data through the air. The difference between you accessing a free wifi network and using your phone’s “normal” 3G connection through your carrier is that the owner of the wifi provides the connection to the internet for you for free while your phone company charges you for the same service. They do this so that you spend more time in their premises which means you are more likely to buy something. Providing free wifi has become something of a competitive edge which is why it is becoming much more common.

You can find free wifi in many shopping centres, airports, coffee shops, etc.

What should I do with this free wifi?

You should seek out free wifi to do all of this:

  • emails,
  • phone calls via Skype (see later),
  • map navigation (i.e. Google Maps)
  • Facebook (social networking),
  • Twitter,
  • searching for places,
  • downloading or uploading anything (photos, videos, blog, news, etc),
  • instant messaging (GTalk, MSN, Fring, etc).

This will drastically reduce your data download costs across your carrier’s 3G network. This is especially important when overseas.

What is Skype?

Skype is an application that allows you to make calls over the internet rather than over the “normal” phone network. If you use Skype to call another Skype user it is free. If you use Skype to call a landline, even an overseas landline, it is cheap. Really cheap.

Use your phone to make normal calls to local businesses and friends. Use Skype for all the long distance stuff.


Basically, you have to get into the habit of planning when you will access internet services and make sure or try to make sure that you do it under wifi when you can and not to just flick out the phone on a whim when and as you feel you need to.

Recently, I was in San Francisco, where free wifi is very common. The airport, major shopping centers, most hotels, coffee shops, all had free wifi that you can access very easily. I have an iPhone and I installed Skype on it before I left for the USA. I talked to my family for hours over the week I was there, all for no cost. The call quality was outstanding, even over weak connections, and did I mention that it was a free call?

What’s more, I had a problem with my international roaming access when I arrived in SF and couldn’t access a local carrier. So, under wifi, I bought some Skype credit and phoned my carrier back home to get the problem fixed. The cost, about 60c for a 20 min call. Brilliant.

If you need to plan a route through the city using, say, Google Maps, park yourself in a coffee shop for 10 mins, buy a coffee, access their wifi and plan your next moves there. It gives you a chance to catch up on some emails, maybe upload some photos to your Facebook account. Oh, did I mention it’s free?

If you carefully plan when and where you access your data services from your mobile device and make use of the plentiful free wifi services available then you can save big time on your phone bill.



Images from Wikipedia.

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