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Three, Orange and T-Mobile officially launched their subsidised iPad sales in the UK today. Three appears to be offering the best deal of al…

Viewing websites in the iPad
photo: Apple

Three, Orange and T-Mobile officially launched their subsidised iPad sales in the UK today. Three appears to be offering the best deal of all at this point, offering “three” times as much data (geddit?) for the same price as the other two. But do users need so much?

While all three are selling the 16GB Wifi+3G model for £199, what you get for the monthly tariff is varying quite a bit:

– For £25/month, Three offers it bundled with 15GB of data per month. WiFi is not included.
– Orange offers 1GB of data at peak times and 1GB of “quiet time” data (between midnight and 4pm) and 3GB of WiFi usage using BT (NYSE: BT) Openzone, at a price of £25 for current customers or £27 for new customers.
– Meanwhile, T-Mobile is also offering 1GB of data at peak times and 1GB at “quiet time” (which in their case is midnight to 10am) but no WiFi hotspot usage, also for the same price as Orange. T-Mobile’s overage, however, is a bit more lenient in that the operator doesn’t charge you but then reserve the right to restrict your bandwidth in future.

All are on two-year contracts.

It looks like Three is once again undercutting the competition on data allowances. But we have not yet had enough data on how the iPad is actually getting used to be able to say whether offering 15GB of data is really a good deal, or just something that appears generous but may never get used to its fullest. It’s especially a large cap when you compare it to AT&T’s lowest monthly iPad plan in the U.S., which is for 250MB of usage.

Some evidence from the U.S. suggests that iPad users big consumers of data-heavy applications like video, although it’s not clear how much people will be using the iPad on the go versus, as my colleague puts it, as a “bed-and-sofa computer.”

No word from the operators on how much data is being used by iPad owners already, although Three admits that 15GB might be more than most people will need: “It’s really about peace of mind. It’s not inconceivable that people will get up to that amount, but most won’t,” admits Nigel Field, director of devices at Three.

An Orange spokesperson points out that with the Orange plan one also gets access to Orange extras such as 2-for-1 cinema tickets on Wednesdays, and that “Orange customers will soon also have the opportunity to use T-Mobile’s high-speed data signal too”, further extending their 3G access in the country.

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