The three major mobile network operators each provide a way of getting a chunk of data just by topping up. Three is the most generous offering 28 days of unlimited data each time one tops up by €20. While this sounds great, their network is heavily congested with 4G feeling more like congested 3G, with the exception of speed tests as demonstrated in my video. If the user accidentally forgets to top-up before the 28 days are up, Three rapidly gobbles up their credit at a rate of just over €1 per MB!
Vodafone has a data plan where one gets 5GB of data for 28 days with each €20 top-up. €10 of the top-up is gobbled up leaving the user with the remaining €10 added to their credit balance. At this time of writing, Vodafone has by far the most widespread 4G coverage and I know some areas where there is only Vodafone coverage even for calls and texts. The right image shows an example of a network search in Carrick, Co. Donegal which only has Vodafone coverage in the town. Vodafone reportedly has fast data speeds and this is not surprising given how small their prepay bundles are. Based on my experience, if two data bundles were activated on separated dates, both expire together which ever reaches the 28 day age limit first. If queried, Vodafone will claim they were both used up!
Meteor has several chunky data plans which they call their Simplicity plans. These plans range between €20 and €30 in cost, which gobbles up the respective amount of credit every 28 day period. At first, the plans do seem a little confusing. For example, does the €20 plan gobble up €20 of credit with every single €20+ top-up or does it work like a recurring bundle?
How the Simplicity plans work
Each Simplicity plan is effectively a recurring bundle where the respective charge is deducted from the credit balance every 28 days to renew the bundle. The first top-up is only required to activate the bundle, after which any further top-ups add to the credit balance.
For example, if a user wants to go with the 15GB & calls plan, they first send the text message ’20 calls and data’ to 50104 and top-up by at least €20 to activate the plan. €20 is then deducted from their credit balance to provide the 28 day bundle. After 28 days, another €20 is deducted from their credit to renew the bundle for the following 28 days and so on.
Going by this thread on Boards, existing Meteor customers can avail of the 15GB, calls and texts plan for €20/28-day period by sending ’20unlimited’ to 50104.
So once a Simplicity plan is active, all the user needs to do is make sure they have enough credit for the next renewal date as with any other recurring bundle charge.
Some interesting quirks
At the time of writing, there are a couple of interesting quirks with the Simplicity plans, many of which make sense. However, as Meteor don’t mention much about these, it’s possible some of these quirks may change or cease to apply over time.
Additional Top-ups within the bundle – As I mentioned already, each Simplicity plan effectively works like a recurring bundle. Apart from the first-top when activating the bundle, any further top-ups go to credit the balance. For example, if the user is on a €20 simplicity plan and does a €20 top-up midway through the plan, this €20 top-up is credited to the balance as usual. It does not renew the bundle early. On the other hand, this does prevent the user intentionally trying to renew the bundle early such as if they use up their data allowance.
Bundle renewal without topping up – On the day before the simplicity plan runs out, Meteor issues a text message saying to top-up by midnight. As long as there is enough credit present to cover the cost of renewing the plan, the plan cost is then deducted from the remaining credit and the bundle is renewed for the next 28 days. For example, if the user has over €60 credit, a €20 Simplicity plan can potentially renew for 3 further 28 day periods without topping up.
Insufficient credit to renew bundle – If the user does not have enough credit and does not top-up to cover the cost of the plan, the plan is deactivated until the user tops up with sufficient credit. Let’s say the user waits a week before topping up, they will be charged out-of-bundle rates during the week it was inactive and the new 28 day bundle will then activate from the day they next top-up to pay for the plan. This can also be useful if the user wants to just “pay as you use” for a certain period – As long as the call credit does not exceed €20 when topping up.
Data allowance used up – Meteor gives a warning when there is about 2GB of data left. However, should the data bundle fully run out, Meteor will cut the data off and display a landing webpage (like joining a pay Wi-Fi network) giving the user a choice of add-ons and whether to use out of bundle charges. This same thing happens if the simplicity plan expires and the user does not have enough credit for the simplicity plan to renew. If the user does not choose any option, the data remains cut off and no out of bundle data charges occur.
Overlapping bundles – If a user changes from one simplicity plan to another such as by sending the appropriate SMS to 50104 and topping up to activate it, their previous bundle will carry on in parallel with the new bundle until the previous bundle reaches its 28 day limit. The image on the right shows what happened when I switched from the €10 7.5GB plan to the €20 15GB + calls plan. The €10 plan was on its last day, so the data allowance fell back to 15GB the following day.
Tethering – Despite the large data bundles, Meteor has no problem with users tethering such as configuring their phone as a Wi-Fi Hotspot. This can be great when travelling with a tablet or laptop and does away with the need to use insecure or pay public Wi-Fi access points.
Modem use – Although not supported by Meteor, it is possible to make use of the simplicity data bundles in a router or laptop SIM port. The only setting required is that the APN is set to ‘data.mymeteor.ie’. The obvious catch is that the user cannot make or receive calls while the SIM is used like this.
On the other hand, this can be useful with the cheaper €10 Simplicity plan that only offers 3G access such as to provide a backup or supplementary Internet connection. For 15GB or larger plans, their mobile broadband plans are considerably cheaper than getting the equivalent data on prepay and of course are intended for this usage.
Moving # to Meteor – If a Simplicity plan is active before moving a mobile # to Meteor, the next top-up will cause the simplicity plan to renew early, including being charged for it. As with changing from one Simplicity plan to another, the existing bundle will run in parallel until its 28 day period is up. So if the user had a 15GB bundle active, moved their number to Meteor and did a top-up, they would have a 30GB bundle until the original 15GB bundle expires, after which it drops back to 15GB for the remainder of the newer bundle.
Meteor data performance
Although Vodafone reportedly provides the fastest test results with Ookla’s Speedtest App with some people showing off 100+Mbps test results, Meteor delivers very impressive real world performance with 3G performing like a fast ADSL2 connection and 4G rivalling many VDSL connections apart from latency.
I have yet to see someone show me a download running at over 10MB/s (>80mbps) to match Vodafone’s speed test with the Ookla app, whereas I often got about 5MB/s downloading while tethering with Meteor, matching the test results I got with TestMy.
The following video gives an example of what Meteor’s 3G speed is like with a desktop PC:
In some areas such as Ballybofey, speeds of 20Mbps to 25Mbps can often be achieved over 3G with this test run directly in the Firefox browser on my phone:
4G performance varies depending on the LTE bandwidth they operate on. With the 800MHz band (LTE band 20), I mainly see speeds of 30Mbps to 48Mbps with TestMy and around 16Mbps up. With the 1800MHz band (LTE band 3), the speed can be considerably higher due to the extra bandwidth they have on that band. So far I only have done limited testing and the following gives an example of a speed test in Donegal town on a Saturday evening, also run on my phone:
TestMy simulates a web download, where as the Ookla Speedtest app makes multiple connections over the uncommon port 8080 to try maxing out the bandwidth and cuts out the 30% slowest dips. So these figures with TestMy give an idea of what to expect when streaming video or downloading a large file with Meteor.
Update: 20th June 2017: Meteor discontinued its €10 simplicity plan that provided 7.5GB of 3G data. Meteor customers currently on that plan can continue using it until they change to another plan. Previously this plan could be obtained by sending ’10 data’ to 50104.
I also revised the text with the shorter 28 day top-up interval and to mention about the loophole where existing Meteor customers can get 15GB data, unlimited calls and texts for €20 per 4 week interval.
Update 8th September 2017: Eir has shutdown the Meteor website and discontinued with the Meteor branding. Eir now provides the prepay simplicity plans that were previously offered on the Meteor website.
Update 27th September 2017: Eir now offers the 15GB and 50GB prepay mobile broadband bundles that were available with Meteor.