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iPad mobile data — looking for a better SIM
Frogmarch 2002 - Whitby

Since I got my iPad a couple of years ago, one of its best features has been the always-on internet. Knowing that pretty much wherever I go I can be online has been a revelation, particularly when commuting to work, and when holidaying away from home. Being able to download each day’s Daily Telegraph, to get the cryptic crossword, has meant that I avoided spending my holidays chasing a wifi signal (or, to be old-school, a newsagent).

I have a data SIM from O2 — it gives me 1GB for £10.21 per month (with no long-term committment), and has worked well for me. But it has a couple of downsides.

  1. While I use mobile data on an almost daily basis, looking back over the past six months, my average usage is under 200MB per month (although that fluctuates quite a bit, depending whether I’m traveling away from home), so I’m not making good use of my allocation.
  2. The ridiculous content filtering that all of the mobile companies saddle us with. Why do they ask for a credit card payment to prove I’m an adult, when I pay them a monthly fee using a credit card? Why do they filter LiveJournal?

This week I noticed that my ISP offer a data SIM service, with sane technical features and a price that would work for me. They use Three for the mobile connection, but route the data through their own network. I get a fixed real IP address, no NAT, and no filtering. The SIM is £10.20 up front, and then a monthly rental of £2.40 per month plus 2.4p per MB used. For my usage it should work out around £7 per month.


I ordered a couple of their SIMs, one for Kate’s iPad and one for mine, and we’re giving them a go.

So far so good, although Kate’s iPad gets a signal in our house, and mine doesn’t. Don’t understand that.

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I use a Three PAYG SIM in my phone (which seldom gets used as a phone rather than a pocket computer), and it costs me £5 a month for 500MB, with a "free" 150MB every time I top up. The SIM was free.

The most I've ever used in a month seems to be about 300MB.

Don't know whether that's a viable alternative to a data-only SIM, I've never had to know and didn't turn the answer up on a quick search.

I have hit the occasional "are you 18?" page, but LiveJournal is not one.

It seems that the filtering is limited to certain LiveJournal accounts. For example, on O2 kateaw cannot view her community http://theladiesloos.livejournal.com/ which self-declares itself as containing adult concepts; maybe that triggers the censorship.

I was very annoyed when I found http://www.bbr.com/ was blocked as being “adult content” on Vodafone (on my work phone). Apart from being one of Britain’s oldest companies, trading at the same address on St James Street since 1698, their web site is a wealth of information about wine.

Presumably it is blocked since one is typically not allowed to purchase alcohol until the age of 18, but there are several circumstances in which it is legal for under-18s to drink alcohol drinks in the UK, and I would suggest that developing an interest in wine (as opposed to alcopops or cheap lager) is likely to lead to responsible, rather than irresponsible, drinking.

I use Three for my iPad; I'm on £7.50/month for 10 Gb, but the publicly available tariff gives 1 Gb for that price. (It turns out getting ripped off then stonewalled by outsourced customer disservice people saves a fortune in the long term!)

Toby could have stayed with O2 services by getting a Giffgaff SIM, which is £5/month for 500 Mb. They officially permit tethering, but it won't work on iOS devices anyway because Apple refuse to enable it (long running battle between Apple, Giffgaff and their parent company, O2: something to do with Apple not being able/willing to distinguish between O2 and Giffgaff SIMs).

Some companies apply odd restrictions to discriminate between "phone" and "tablet/dongle" tariffs. Daft - 500 Mb is 500 Mb, whether it's accessed with a big screen or a small one - but it rules out some of the better PAYG options for iPad use.

The filtering infuriates me, partly as a matter of principle (I never consented to filtering, let alone requested it) and partly practical (they slapped the filtering on *before* getting the mechanism to remove it again working properly!). Three seem better than O2 in this respect: not applying filtering to adults on contracts in the first place, and probably being less ham-fisted when they do censor.

Giffgaff have improved since I checked them out a bit over a year ago then. They were my second choice, before I figured out what my likely data usage was going to be, but Three worked out much cheaper once I realised I was likely to stay at under 500MB/month. Giffgaff sounds more competitive now.

Thanks for the informative reply :-)

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