A group of protesters gathered outside a SmarTone store in Mong Kok yesterday to condemn its decision to scrap so-called unlimited data plans from next week.
The outpouring of anger came as telcos moved to lure subscribers with discounts and add-on services ahead of February 13, when guidelines from the regulator - the Office of the Telecommunications Authority - on unlimited plans come into effect.
The largest operator, 3 Hong Kong, posted a final call on its website for unlimited data plans. Other service providers are also reaching out, asking subscribers to renew their contracts.
Salespeople at 3 Hong Kong offered potential subscribers an upgrade to 600 megabytes - an additional 200 megabytes - if they sign up for a HK$148 monthly mobile voice and data plan.
SmarTone came up with a discounted data plan for tablet computer users. Neither telco outlined the offers in promotional leaflets or published them online.
SmarTone said it would limit data use to 2GB on its current unlimited data plans, which would allow users to access 1,000 websites, read and write 10,000 e-mails or watch five hours of movies a month. In its HK$248 plan, data use would be cut to 400MB from 500MB.
Protesters claimed yesterday that SmarTone is cheating customers as the prices of various plans have not been readjusted.
Sha Tin District Council member Li Sai-wing described SmarTone's move as "punitive," saying only a small number of subscribers are excessive data users.
He fears that user choice is being narrowed.
Lau Kwok-fan, vice chairman of the Federation of New Territories Youth, said the data-use limits may hinder creative work of youth. "Youngsters who love to invent applications will be badly hit by this new policy as customers will now think twice before downloading an application."
Meanwhile, Barclays Capital said the move away from unlimited data packages would be "modestly positive" to revenue trends.