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World waking up to costs of mobile broadband traffic
Thursday 19 March 2009 19:02:50 by Andrew Ferguson

For people who read the product sites carefully, or the terms and conditions for their service, the fact that Vodafone, O2, 3 and Orange charge a fair amount of money per MegaByte (MB) or GigaByte (GB) that you go over your bundled allowance with a mobile broadband connection shouldn't come as too much surprise. T-Mobile is the only operator that bucks the trend and does not charge for exceeding the allowance, but instead slows down your connection instead.

Broadband Expert has criticised O2 and other mobile providers for the prices they charge for usage on their services. No real surprise for many, we've highlighted these potential costs before back in 2008. Basically so long as you stay within your bundled amount there is nothing to worry about, but stray outside of this figure and you are looking at a bill that rises for every megabyte you use, or with Vodafone you are billed per GigaByte so could end up paying £15 extra in a month for just using 0.1GB above the allowance.

Mobile Today has some comments from the mobile operators, which seem to be along the lines that they think prices of 1.46p, 10p and 19.6p per MB are reasonable. This means that a 800Kbps video stream running for one hour could end up costing you anything from £5.25 to £70. This could mean that many people would be better off stopping off at the nearest DVD store and buying the box set of the show! The costs for roaming mobile broadband when abroad is much more prohibitive, running in the region of up to £7 per MB. Comparing these numbers with standard broadband provided over a phone line is revealing. Usage charges are generally per GigaByte for fixed line, and the cost is normally in the range of 50p to £2 per GigaByte with an inclusive usage allowance that is often more generous.

Could the operators be more transparent about the costs for going over the limits, probably, but the figures are there on their website. The transparency argument is actually just as relevant to the many comparison sites that rely on driving traffic to the retailers sites and the commission on sales this generates. Some do list the excess usage charges, but as with the operators websites it can take some hunting to find it.

The current mobile broadband solutions are a vast improvement on the bundles that included just 25MB or 50MB a couple of years ago, but if the industry is to be taken seriously as a competitor to fixed line solutions, especially with regards to a Universal Service Obligation, providing mechanisms to allow customers to control the costs or reducing the costs to match fixed line solutions is critical.


Posted by simplypeachy over 8 years ago
I read T-Mobile's terms of service. They quite clearly state you're not allowed to "operate any device to route voice or data on the Network". Can't use a mobile dongle or phone then.

I was using their business site but found I could not use their service in the course of my business as "providing commercial services using Our Network to any third party" is prohibited.

Their data usage tariffs were the least of the concerns that caused me to discount them when seeking a mobile ISP. I was impressed by their tariff and was about to commit to a purchase before reading the small print!
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
Using mobile to prop up a USO in rural areas is a definite no-go. Not only is it not available in many remote places it is also far too expensive as you rightly point out. I hope the digital britain think tank have a re-think on this one.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
"one hour could end up costing you anything from £5.25 to £70". Thank heavens we have mobile broadband to fill in the not-spot gap, eh, Lord Carter?
Posted by collinc over 8 years ago
I contacted Orange about this very subject as I want to use my phone to allow my Tomtom Satnav to update traffic. Orange told me it's £3 per MB, but couldn't tell me what that means in terms of the connection between my satnav and phone.. Anyone know please?
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
my mate tried to download open office using mobile dongle, it said '47 hours to go'.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
" more transparent about the costs"

Right. Or you could simply not use mobile internet access. Oh, blackberry emails maybe. Anything else? Right.

I'd think Lord Carter was refering to WiMAX deployments and the like, not this.
Posted by Rroff over 8 years ago
I get decent speeds on my phone using mobile internet atleast in high speed areas 500-1600kbit... even on GPRS I usually max out 48kbit/s.

However I'm almost scared to use it despite an "unlimited" 500Mb data allowance as exceeding that is extortionately expensive. Its depressing that in this day and age businesses still try it on and get away with it until they sting a "bigger fish" who turn around and force regulation on them.
Posted by carrot63 over 8 years ago
Perhaps lord Carter should publicly declare his shareholdings in mobile operators at the bottom of the Digital Britain final report.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
Fixed wireless as in WiMax is on the agenda, but it seems mobile as in 3G, 3G+, 4G is too.

To the first comment, route implies they will not allow you to connect a router, on the second point commercial services refers usually to reselling the product, e.g. using the dongle to provide access for an Internet cafe.

Many fixed line broadband solutions have similar types of conditions, so always worth seeking written clarity on points like this.
Posted by sidbarker over 8 years ago
I use T-Mobile on my phone for email, and a small amount of browsing. On occasion I use it with my laptop when on a train, or when our home ADSL goes down (out in the sticks, so not the most reliable service). T-Mobile have never contacted me about this usage - sure they could detect it if they wanted to.
I think their approach is good - they won't do anything unless you really over stretch things. Last time I checked, their T&C sounded like they COULD lower your speed, etc. but from my experience they only do this to serial offenders.
Give and take. I like it.
Posted by DanniMatzk over 8 years ago
One of the reasons I'm with T-Mobile for mobile broadband is because I occasionally go over the 3GB limit. They give plenty of warning before reducing your speed, and then only reduce it temporarily the first time (when I was using it as my main connection due to having no phone line, this happened a bit more than they were happy with). I'd be scared to use it if I was with anyone else (even though I don't use anywhere near as much as I used to on it now I have a phone line).
Posted by mickerickerous over 8 years ago
No wonder the mobile operators are resisting the roll-out of wi-max, along with fixed line/cable ISP's.
Posted by Groovehound over 8 years ago
Good criticism of the state of affairs here. Seems ridiculous that 3G broadband has been made more reliable in the cities when it's not really needed (although this is a matter of general mobile coverage I understand), plus the radio spectrum is already congested.
My router supports connecting 3G modems via USB, but I'd never bother!
Posted by alwall over 8 years ago
Is this another storm in a teacup?
I get unlimited web browsing on the O2 Simplicity Tariff for £20 a month (as well as 600 mins of calls and a vast number of texts).
Perhaps some consumers should shop more wisely.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
Web browsing implies just viewing websites, it would be wise to check terms and conditions, as it may not cover streaming video or data downloads
Posted by Groovehound over 8 years ago
RE: the O2 tariff quoted above:
I was just at my friend's house (S.E. London) who has no fixed internet and I was using this via his iphone. The service was 'OK' i.e. speed of downloads as well as I could measure it via such equipment. The deal is certainly reasonable for £20. I wouldn't rely on it vs. fixed broadband for the world, though...
Posted by alwall over 8 years ago
FAO Andrew. Is there a thread in the forums for this topic? If not, please could you start one.
I frequently use the O2 service for watching streamed videos on my 3G mobile. AFAIK I'm within the T&Cs
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
I tried to read the T&C for the O2 tariff:

Sadly all I get is an error message saying that page isn't available.
Posted by beeflin over 8 years ago
Stick to using Opera Mini or Opera Mobile on GPRS on a few quid/few MB package - I read web pages to my heart's content and never go over the limit. No idea what the hell people think they are doing trying to watch TV on a handheld! Mind that lamp-post!
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@beeflin:The people going over their usage limits are probably people trying to use mobile BB as an alternative to landline/cable.

You know - stick 'dongle' in your laptop's USB port and surf away.
Posted by alwall over 8 years ago
New thread to discuss this news item
Posted by peterradio over 8 years ago
I just can't describe how very poor Orange is and it’s getting worse
When the VAT rates changed it took 2 months for them to sort it out (most other shops and suppliers did it overnight)
If you contact Orange the call is answered by a person who can hardly speak English and are fobbed off by a pre prepared script that is read to you.
Value for money on a scale of 1 to 10 ---MINUS 9
Reliability is a word not used in the Orange vocabulary
In a word AVOID Orange broadband
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