Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki

Default data rate[]

When you purchase a new SIM card, it may or may not have data from the start on. If you have, you will be on the default data rate from the start. This is the standard rate charged normally by data volume (KB or MB) or rarely by time. Generally, this rate is much higher compared to data in packages.

The default data rate (outside of packages) is given in every article for every provider. Compare and make up your mind if you like to switch to data packages. As long as you stay on a high default rate, you'd rather consume no data at all until the purchase of a package has been processed and confirmed. But this can be tricky with some devices.

How to shut off data[]

Even if you don't actively browse through websites, your device consumes background data. So you might like to shut off data completely as long as you are on the high default rate. On Android devices, this is straightforward. Just go to Mobile Network Settings and disable data by unticking the Enable Data box.

On iOS devices go to Cellular and switch off data. However, in the past some apps did not completely respond. On your iOS menu you should check that every app, which also can be switched off for data seperately, is really offline. Furthermore check data consumption that no data traffic at all is going on. If you are not sure, switch off the device for a while.

Data feature packages[]


Data packages are generally the most economical way to use data on mobile internet. They give you a certain allowance by data volume and time. But beware that you get the low price offered only in the ideal case that you just meet the target in volume and time. If you use more, you will be billed more – if you use less, you will throw away unused credit. So the real cost for data is in practice about 30 % higher than advertised. This adds up to possibly unused credit on your SIM card, as you can’t top up the exact value of the package and won’t use it anymore when having left the country.

Packages are mostly the same, but differ widely on what happens next, when you have used up the package limit by data volume (or time):

  • some just stop to give out data (but most let you know it by SMS before)
  • some throttle data speed to a lower level, but you are still able to use data
  • some offer you a new package or an add-on to the existing package
  • some start to charge you the higher default data rate (sometimes without letting you know)

So install a data meter app/program which measures data consumption if it's not already included in your OS or know how to get your remaining or used data credit from the operator. The numbers from your data app may not coincide 100 % with the numbers from the operator because of different billing increments but give you a pretty good orientation of your data balance within your package.

Some packages can be extended in time or volume by add-ons or purchasing a new pack before the running time of the old one is over. They are much more flexible than the rigid on-or-off packs which rip you off when you are off the package. They should be preferred, otherwise you can’t expect to get more data for a good rate, as long as the old package is active though depleted.

Activation of data packages[]

Operators use many different ways to let you activate (or deactivate) your chosen package: online on your account, by USSD code, by text SMS, by a preinstalled app, by calling customer service, just to give the most common ways. In all offers at least one way is described, although some devices require to put the SIM in a mobile phone first to activate. Try to be patient and wait for a confirmation to be sure to be on the package or check SIM card credit, if it has been charged.

Renewal of packages[]

Some packages auto-renew, meaning they renew themselves without asking you first when the running time of the old one is over and you have enough credit on your SIM. Other packages won’t do this and you have to activate a new one again. The renewing ones can only be stopped by being low on SIM card credit (below the purchase price of a new pack – but beware, when you top up, they will renew right away) or better by deactivation which is mostly done similar to activation.

“Unlimited" rates[]

Some operators promise users “unlimited” rates suggesting “eat-as-much-as-you-can” in a given time frame. Nowadays real unlimited rates have become very rare and still exist only in a few countries. Most of the time “unlimited” is a buzzword of the industry giving you a rate or a package which is only theoretically unlimited but in practice defined by a “Fair Use Policy” or some other restriction. This FUP throttles your data speed considerably, when you go beyond their set limits. So if you read “unlimited”, check the fine print first whether it really is.

Which data pack should I choose?[]

This is a tricky question as you need to anticipate your data needs or consumption in the near future. If you have chosen a too small package, you will pay a lot extra or stay at a low speed. If your pack has been much too big, you will throw away data or credit unused. Estimate of data consumption is even harder to do when you consider that you may have a free WIFI available at certain locations. So get a pack to at least fulfill your basic data needs and keep something in reserve for eventualities.

Activites to be avoided using data packages[]

Unless you have a real unlimited rate for data, some activities should be better avoided as data on your package isn't free. Extensive downloads of mega files or video streaming especially in HD consume a lot of data and will eat up your allowance pretty soon. Other activities like peer-to-peer connections (P2P, torrents) might be as well banned or blocked from your operator. Especially if you have a free WIFI available from time to time, you should postpone all volume-intensive data traffic until you log on a WIFI. This also refers to (non-essential) updates of apps and programs.

Back to main page