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.