mobile internet in belgium, who's the cheapest?

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Note for international readers: this post concerns data limits for Belgian mobile providers making this probably not very interesting if you don’t live in this small but lovely country. You are however free to brag in the comments on how cheap your data traffic is, as that will probably be the case.

Updated 28-8-2010 due to new Base surf-5 changes.

I’ve heard good things about Mobile Vikings lately. That they offer cheap data access for your smartphone for example. And they have a cool sounding name. I’m with the lads from Base myself and quite pleased with their service and pricing so far. But since the Mobile Vikings are actually using the Base network, I thought it was worth checking out who of the two is the cheapest and if it would be worth switching.

Comparing cellphone providers is always a bitch. So I’m keeping it simple here. I’m only looking at the costs for data traffic. Costs for text messages and phone calls are simply not included. If you feel like switching you’ll have to look into that as well to see if it’s still a good thing for your personal situation. For the iPad or netbooks some providers have specific formats which are also excluded.

There are basically two type of accounts:

  • The so-called “top-up account“, where you pay up front and get a fixed volume of bandwidth to spend. If all your megabytes are used up you fall back to a basic (and usually expensive) rate. The volume only lasts a month after which not spent but paid for megabytes are lost. Yes, they are clever like that.
  • The monthly fee is where you pay a fixed amount every month (hence the word “monthly”) and get a certain volume to spend on data. If you spend more, you are charged for the extra traffic on a fixed rate. This rate is usually more interesting than with the top-up accounts. Next month you start fresh again. Any bandwidth not spend is of course lost. Yes, they are also clever like that.

That roughly counts for most providers, but details may vary.

Now what did I compare?
What I wanted to know is: how much would I pay with each provider if I spend X megabyte a month.

So I slapped that in a grid calculating the price for each combination of volume in MB with each formula, going from 1 to 2500 MB.  Then I added some colours to make it a bit easier to spot where you get more surfing for your buck.

  • The cheapest ones shop up in green.
  • White is OK. It’s in between the cheap and expensive.
  • In orange you see numbers light up that are twice as high or bigger than the cheapest calculation for that volume. You have the right to feel screwed if you’re paying that much.

belgium mobile data costs

(Click for a bigger view, see links further to download the spreadsheet.)

What does this pretty coloured table show us?

  • What I see is that Mobile Vikings is indeed cheaper if you are a big spender (over 500 MB). Mobistar Max does well there too for volumes over 1 GB.
  • If you’re surfing at no more than 10 50 MB a month, Base is the winner. That however is extremely low for  a smartphone I’ve noticed. This is only good for very occasional use. Good for the occasional surf session.
  • Mobistar is the best below 150 MB apparently, with Telenet and Base as a close second.
  • You can also see that some formulas turn out crazy expensive at some point, so it’s better to steer away from those if you’re thinking about doing some serious surfing.
  • There is no clear winner. Depending on the volume, you can end up with the best or the worst.
  • Proximus is not a winner. Lot’s of orange over there.
  • One thing I see is that’s a good thing to stick to free WiFi, as these rates aren’t cheap at all.

Take a look for yourself to see what is the best option for you depending on your monthly spending rate.
You can take a more detailed look with this PDF, the original Open Office spreadsheet or this converted online Google Docs spreadsheet. Colour coding is missing there, as that doesn’t seem to convert.

Some notes on the spreadsheet:

  • The Mobile Vikings Jumbo pack isn’t in the table as it’s not interesting when looking at data only.
  • For the top-up account I assumed that as soon as the volume is spent, it’s topped up again using the same fee as before. So in this scenario you never pay the more expensive base rates charged per megabyte.
  • The lowest value is checked with a margin of 0.1 cent. That way Proximus doesn’t end up being the cheapest with their sneaky x,99 rates just by a single cent.
  • Pricing info came from the Base, Mobile Vikings, Telenet, Mobistar and Proximus websites of course.

Photo by svet, cc-licensed.

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