Wait, no. Virgin + Fongo = the ultimate data only hacked phone plan

Posted by amcink December 2, 2015 4 Comments 10823 views

It was a classic carrier gotcha. Turns out, even data only “hack” plans aren’t immune.

I recently discovered that the data only plan I’ve been using doesn’t allow tethering. Well, it allows tethering, but it comes at premium*. It’s not simply considered as using the data allotment that comes with the tablet plan. There’s a surcharge placed on every megabyte used.

That’s dumb.

In their defence, they’ll alert you to extra use charges if they exceed $50 per subscriber on your account, which is super nice of them.

Fortunately, this was discovered with a little research and not by way of an unpleasant surprise on my bill.

What is tethering?

Tethering is sharing your phone’s mobile data connection with other devices. For example, you could turn on the Wi-Fi hotspot feature on your phone then connect your laptop to the wireless network your phone is broadcasting to get online.

Tethering can put a higher demand on your mobile data connection (laptops aren’t typically configured to use the same data saving strategies as a phone) but it can mean the difference between jumping online to file that report or not. And, as we’ve established, not all carriers look at is as just data use that counts toward your plan, instead putting a price premium on top of the regular data use.

Tethering may not be high on the list of must-have features for some. It may not even make the list at all. Tethering is one of those things that you don’t fully realize the value of until you need it. Like when your home Internet connection goes down and you’re supposed to be working from home, for example…

So, I switched

In light of this little discovery, I decided to switch my plan. Rather than the Bell Flex Plan for Tablets and the per-MB surcharge on tethering, I’m going with Virgin Mobile’s data only plan.

The fundamentals are the same:

  • $5 for up to 10 MB
  • $20 for up to 1 GB
  • $40 for up to 5 GB
  • $10/ GB over 5 GB

Virgin Mobile data only plan. Virgin Mobile logo.This new Virgin Mobile data only plan will put me on the same network (Bell’s) and the only real difference should be that tethering is now counted just as data as opposed to data plus a tethering premium.

Cost of switching to this data only plan

Switching is crazy easy. Since my mobile number is handled with , I just need to cancel the Bell data only plan, activate my Virgin Mobile data only plan and switch out my SIM card.

The only challenge is in figuring out and remembering when to cancel with Bell. I don’t want to cancel mid-cycle and start paying for the Virgin Mobile data only plan at the same time.

This is the actual cost of switching:

  • $5 – SIM card purchase
  • $15 – activation fee

I’d rather not pay the $20 required to switch but it’s easily justified given that is probably rack up fees in excess of that if I just tethered once with the Bell data only plan.

If nothing else, this experience has really driven home that I’m now actually in control of my phone plan. There’s nothing at all tying me to any one carrier.

My data only plan is a service I pay for and that allows me to do the stuff I want. If I find a better data only plan, if the network doesn’t cut it for me, if I want to switch to take advantage of some promotion or other, I can. It’s simple. The costs are easy to understand and so it’s easy to make the decision, too.

Going data only has let me wrestle a little of the control in the carrier/customer relationship.

Feels good, man.


From the Bell Mobility Terms of Service under Managing your Account, point 15:

Certain Rate Plans or Add-ons that include data may apply to on-Device transmissions only – so if you use your Device as a modem or tether, then you may be charged Pay-Per-Use Charges for data Services. Bell will notify you (or other subscribers on your account) at or before you (or they) reach Additional Usage Charges for data of $50 per subscriber on your account, per billing cycle.

There are 4 Comments

  1. Matthew Thompson
    - May 31, 2016
      -   Reply

    Have you since tried tethering with Virgin Mobile? If so, have you incurred any extra fees? I noticed the same part in Virgins terms of service, but on the other hand it appears to be a replica of Bells own terms of service. Interested in going this own route myself!

    • amcink
      - June 14, 2016
        -   Reply

      I haven’t actually. I was mostly interested in tethering as a thing I have the capability to do but not so much as a capability I use.

  2. joel
    - June 20, 2016
      -   Reply

    How does a person get the data only plan for an iPhone? Do you just have to purchase a sim from Virgin for a iPad and then put it in an iPhone? Is it that simple or is there more to it?

  3. non abuser
    - June 22, 2016
      -   Reply

    I’ve made a portable hotspot with Bell a bunch of times and it only ccunted as regular data. Also, I was on an old blackberry plan, and just stuck my SIM into my android , set up the APS and it was business as usual. Maybe its not such a huge deal if your not constantly switching up devices and abusing the system.
    Also, I was payin waaaay too anyway so they still won.

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