The black box of data

I'm on O2 at the moment, but my partner is on EE (Orange) and she just got a bill for 800Mb of data in a month - 300Mb over her normal data allowance, which she never normally exceeds.

Being tech-savvy and cost-aware, she checked her cellular data usage counter in iOS - it shows 126Mb - since it was last reset months ago. Even accounting for errors, that's a massive discrepancy.

A call to their customer service was typically useless, the representative tried:

  • "Has anyone else had access to your phone?"
  • "Do you have a lot of background services running?"
  • "When you're on Wifi at home, do you turn cellular data off?"

The last one, of course, is default behaviour for iOS anyway - it doesn't use cell data if a known network is available and joined.

It got me thinking about how data monitoring in telecoms companies is a black box - it's totally sealed, nobody can audit it or tell when there's a fault. If they say you've used 800Mb - how can you prove you didn't?

At the very least, a service provider could improve the visibility on this data: a web dashboard where you can see data by day or time of day - or free SMS alerts when certain usage levels are met.

It's almost like they don't want you to be able to keep track of your usage...