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Summary:

The BBC noticed something a little off when it investigated the new pricing structure and terms of use for the iPhone deals Orange is about to begin offering on Nov. 10. First, it turns out that far from sparking a price war, Orange has basically adopted […]

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The BBC noticed something a little off when it investigated the new pricing structure and terms of use for the iPhone deals Orange is about to begin offering on Nov. 10. First, it turns out that far from sparking a price war, Orange has basically adopted the same deal that O2 currently offers, with some minor changes meant to sway customers its way.

Secondly, and this is the real kicker, Orange’s “unlimited” apparently means up to a maximum of 750MB per month, if you look at the fine print. When asked to clarify, Orange stated that the cap was for its 3G network, and that another 750MB cap existed for use at the hotspots of its Wi-Fi partner BT Openzone. Finally, another clause in the Orange Terms and Conditions states that data is…

Not to be used for other activities (e.g., 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, non-Orange Internet-based video). Should such use be detected notice may be given and network protection controls applied to all services which Orange does not believe constitutes mobile browsing.


I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty certain I do almost all of those things on my iPhone over my carrier’s data connection on at least a daily basis. If true, this clause could block the use of programs like Beejive IM, Facebook, Spotify, and the BBC iPlayer.

By contrast, O2, when asked to clarify its fair use limits, said this:

We reserve the right…to contact customers about their usage if we believe it adversely affects the service of our other customers, e.g., if a customer uses their SIM in another device for which it is not intended.

So what advantage is left to Orange, then? Basically only network coverage and quality. This just goes to show that the iPhone is a cruel mistress no matter which carrier she appears on, and that the end of exclusivity might have less positive ramifications for customers than previously expected.

Data is the key to the iPhone’s success, as it is positioned as one of the few devices on the market that users increasingly use for Internet access first, and phone functionality second. This presents a dilemma (subscription required) for wireless operators, since keeping up with demand can considerably tax network quality and dependability. AT&T in the U.S. is constantly under fire for its 3G network stability, for example.

Orange later said it would be reviewing the cap following the large volume of negative emails it received regarding its use of the word “unlimited.” Hopefully, the company will also look at those ridiculous restrictions regarding data usage, since the real appeal of the iPhone for most users is the ability to do precisely those things which that clause specifically prohibits.

  1. I was waiting to see what Orange comes up with the new iPhone. I cannot believe there is a cap, why call it unlimited when the cap is in the MB world and not in the GB world. I wonder what the charge is if you go over the cap.

    So if I had a choose between O2 and Orange, it has to be O2. There is still Vodaphone, see what they crop up

    Now I see there is a good enough reason to have exclusivity on the iPhone. There is so much mess involved.

    Orange must change if they want to have iPhone users switching from O2

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  2. O2 stated (at the time of getting my iPhone) that data was unlimited also. Reading the fine print you discover unlimited actually means 200MB.

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    1. No, it’s unlimited as long as it isn’t deemed abusive to the network

      “Excessive usage policy applies”

      Other “unlimited” data bolt-ons with O2 may have a 200MB cap, but not the iPhone tariff’s

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  3. “So what advantage is left to Orange, then? Basically only network coverage and quality”

    So nothing then. In my experience Orange’s network in the UK is far below the quality of O2′s, in both coverage and quality

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  4. Fatman Ballmer Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    I am with Orange France, I had the iPhone option until last august, I have the unlimited data option now. I am a heavy user and I have never been notified about any cap. I use Beejive, Facebook, Skype, Brightkite, Tweetie etc etc. This option also includes unlimited wifi via French Orange hotspots. They explicitly forbid VoiP though, and tethering is not included in the package. There are also other “fine print” bizarre things: you can download from the apple store and use their in-house TomTom-like app for free if you have the iPhone option, but you need to pay 7 euros/month for it if you have an unlimited data plan or other non-iPhone data plan. Anyway, they have been under fire for their use of the word “unlimited” for years now. The other two French operators are not better. Mobile operators usually stink. Yours faithfully, Fatman

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  5. The fact that another carrier is offering pretty similar deal is not surprising. Believe it or not, but O2 deal isn’t that bad in comparison to what carriers in other EU countries are offering. UK,German and Italian markets are just about the most competitive in Europe. Ironically Orange (i.e. France Telecom) in fact offers much better deals in the UK than it does in France. Yes, Orange may offer fewer restrictions in France, but the equivalent deals cost around 20-25 pounds per month more there than they do here.

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  6. [...] for its reported 750MB cap on data usage under its “Unlimited” plan, and for imposing bizarre restrictions on how network data may be used, restrictions that seemed, if taken at face value, to basically [...]

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