A round-up of the UK network's data transfer deals

Here’s a brief summary of what the UK operators currently offer in terms of “unlimited” internet use on their smartphone contracts.

We’re starting to get a little angry that 500MB is somehow considered “unlimited” in the eyes of many networks, to be honest, meaning we’ll be forever worrying about leaving our phone switched on and accidentally racking up huge fees because some app is constantly syncing something in the background.


Three offers “unlimited” internet as a headline feature on all its smartphone tariffs – but the small print then laughably says “Unlimited internet is subject to a fair use limit of 500MB/month and for use in UK only”. That’s a rather large disparity, isn’t it?


It’s quite a bit better with T-Mobile. Its standard “unlimited” deal is for 1GB of data, but there’s a separate ruling for Android phones – which updates that limit to 3GB. That’s much more like it [link ].


We’ll just quote Virgin Mobile’s small print here, as it perfectly sums up the “unlimited” data lie in a single sentence – “Unlimited mobile internet is subject to a fair use allowance of 1GB per month


Orange’s mid-range Panther tariff uses the sensitive word “unlimited” to describe its data allowance – but read the small print and you’ll find that’s actually limited to a fair usage policy that excludes “using your handset as a modem, non-Orange internet based streaming services, voice or video over the internet, instant messaging, peer to peer file sharing” and lets Orange throttle your connection if you use too much.


Even on its most expensive £40 per month tariffs, Vodafone only offers a basic 500MB data allowance. Go over that from now on and you’ll be charged for it . We can foresee an embarrassing climbdown over this crazy scheme in the near future…


O2 says it has an “excessive usage policy” and that “terms apply” to the “unlimited” smartphone data bolt-on it supplies with its Android pay-monthly range, but no actual figure is given in the site’s mobile terms & conditions. O2 suggests you’ll be fine if you’re not doing excessive tethering, but we wouldn’t trust something that doesn’t provide hard numbers.

o2 unlimited web

So there you go. There’s no such thing as “unlimited” mobile web, even though pretty much every advert for an Android phone promises it these days! That’s shameful behaviour, you networks.

We need a bit more transparency in this day and age. Data limits are fine as long as they’re (a) reasonable and (b) work as advertised, but promising “unlimited” web in your ads then hitting people with fees or restrictions STINKS. You hear us? It STINKS!

9 ResponsesLeave one →

  1. Mal

     /  May 10, 2010

    I’ve spent some time researching this by monitoring forums and reading T&Cs, T-mobile seem to reduce their “unlimited” limit if you sign up via a reseller, think it’s 1GB. Plus, when Orange takes over, I bet they will eventually be harmonised.

    O2 seems very secretive about their “unlimited” limit. They mention a fair use limit, but I spent hours looking through the various terms and conditions on their site and could only find a mention in the special iPhone contract. I wish industry regulators would do something about this to force them to be transparent.

    I’ve seen reports that O2 is 200MB, 500MB or more, my guess is that it’s based on average usage and the account is somehow flagged and then the data is cut – that’s based on loads of complaints I’ve read on forums.

    Three seems to be the best if you want PAYG. Like as an Android developer, I’m not interested in minutes or SMS, just a quota of bandwidth that lasts maybe 90 days and can be topped up whenever required. So that’s what I’ll do, get a sim-free phone and put in a Three PAYG sim. The other networks’ PAYG offerings seem poor but at least they are mostly very honest about them.

  2. Gary C

     /  May 10, 2010

    Cheers Mal. It’s a very shady world and definitely needs sorting out. I’ve found a few people complaining of being throttled after hitting around the 500MB mark on O2, so that must be about its limit.

  3. Deadweightstar

     /  May 10, 2010

    I’ve been on a T-Mobile contract for a few years now and had my G2 for a year. Using their 3gb allowance which was added to my account for free. I don’t think they have ever had any run on charges although I do thing they throttle now. Saying that I do a lot of browsing & streaming on the phone (love beeb player) and never had any issues.
    Not sure how anything that’s free, no run on rates & gives a 3gb from the start can be beaten?

  4. Andy Burns

     /  May 11, 2010

    > when Orange takes over, I bet they will eventually be harmonised

    Apparently the merged Orange/t-Mob network will be called EverythingEverywhere, but they won’t harmonise the brands, they’ll keep Orange and T-Mobile operating, in competition with each other.

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