T-Mobile and its Full Monty service told off over unlimited claims
The T-Mobile Full Monty tariff is enjoyed by many heavy mobile broadband users, who have absorbed the lifestyle advertising that says you can do things like watch films and stream music all the time using mobile broadband, even if it is on the older 3G and its numerous faster variants.
Unfortunately for T-Mobile someone has complained about the £36 per month unlimited Full Monty plan because they felt it was not unlimited and a traffic management policy applied. The ASA adjudication gives a lot of detail about the actual traffic management policy T-Mobile use, which while mentioned in the products terms and conditions does not go into the same level of detail as listed on the ASA website.
"Our Full Monty plans will give you unlimited use of our internet on your phone service when you're in the UK. This means you can use as many MB/GB as you like and no fair use policy will apply. Please note, internet on your phone excludes using your phone as a modem (tethering) and network traffic controls apply."Extract from T-Mobile Full Monty terms and conditions
The actual traffic management policy centres around four core elements:
- Only authenticated SMTP (e-mail sending) access is allowed
- Peer to peer activities are throttled between 8am and 2am every day
- Download speeds are limited to 4 Mbps, irrespective of level of 3G signal
- Upload speeds are limited to 1 Mbps
The capping of speeds at 4 Mbps, when the network can in theory reach speeds of 21 Mbps may surprise some, but has been known about on forums discussing the Full Monty service for some time, though is not mentioned in the terms and conditions. The ASA ruling suggests that 4 Mbps was chosen because research has shown the average speed for customers (on all products) was 3 Mbps, and that T-Mobile believe 3 Mbps was enough to stream video from YouTube in HD.
"In relation to download and upload speeds, we understood that the setting of maximum speeds of 4Mbit/s for downloads and 1Mbit/s for uploads applied to all customers on the Full Monty plan and therefore were not restrictions to particular individual users or indeed restrictions targeted at particular activities or types of content. They were, in effect, the maximum upstream and downstream speeds of the service. Consequently, we considered that these restrictions were not relevant to the consideration of whether the service could be described as "unlimited". We further noted that there were no references to specific speeds for the service and consumers were therefore unlikely to have expectations that they would be able to achieve speeds in excess of 4Mbit/s for downloads and 1Mbit/s for uploads that would render the maximum upstream and downstream speeds as being immoderate restrictions.
Furthermore, although we noted the service provided was to a mobile handset, which consumers were likely to use differently to, for instance, a fixed line service, we considered that the ad's inclusion of tethering within the terms of the service was likely to lead consumers to expect that they could engage in more bandwidth-intensive activities, such as peer-to-peer activity, using the mobile device in conjunction with a computer. As they had not provided evidence to show that the restriction was moderate and in line with consumers' reasonable expectations of an "unlimited" service we considered the claim was misleading."Extract from ASA ruling
It will be interesting to see what changes now happen to the Full Monty product and its advertising, so that future advertising does not full foul of the moderate restrictions are allowed on an unlimited service.
One small aspect that shows how far mobile data use has to go to match fixed line services is that with the Full Monty plan apparently the average customer used just 1GB of data a month (fixed line average is 23GB per month). With cheaper lower Internet allowance packages available, one wonders why people don't downgrade, but speak to anyone who has ever had to pay excess usage charges on a mobile data service and you will know why people would much rather have a fixed cost product.