Orange UK Unlimited Plan for iPhone Seems to Prohibit Almost Everything


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 (s att) 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.