One more operator is cracking down on mobile data use, and this one is going straight for the jugular. In what is sure to be a hugely unpopular decision, T-Mobile in the UK, out of the blue, announced that it will be reducing its fair-use policy data cap to 500 megabytes. This effectively means that the operator will not be allowing people to use the service for streaming or downloading video or other media files. This represents a huge reduction for some users. Android smartphone subscribers, for example, had 3-gigabyte mobile data limits as part of their plan: that’s going down to 500MB. T-Mobile, however, claims that the majority of users were only using 200MB of data to begin with.
In a statement on its web site, T-Mobile says that it is still committed to giving customers “mobile internet for a fixed price.” But its awkward version of the mobile internet is one that is heavily pared down from the one that people are actually using today:
“Browsing means looking at websites and checking email, but not watching videos, downloading files or playing games. We’ve got a fair use policy but ours means that you’ll always be able to browse the internet, it’s only when you go over the fair use amount that you won’t be able to download, stream and watch video clips.”
Somewhat bizarrely, T-Mobile tells users to save video for home usage: “Our Mobile Broadband and internet on your phone service is best used for browsing which means looking at your favorite websites like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, BBC News and more, checking your email and looking for information, but not watching videos or downloading files…If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband.”
T-Mobile has never charged an overage fee for people who exceed their data limits, but what it has done, and will continue to do, is restrict bandwidth to customers who do exceed that limit. That limit will be coming down significantly.
The changes, which are due to take effect February 2011, are sure to upset people who signed up to 24-month plans believing they had data caps of 3GB for smartphone usage.
Irate subscribers who were contacting @TmobileUKhelp, the company’s support account on Twitter, were being told that the announcement today was “reasonable notice” that the policy was changing. That means that they will not be allowed to break their contracts without penalties.
We’ve asked T-Mobile for more details
, and are still awaiting the operator’s official statement. Meanwhile, a tweet to me from @TmobileUKhelp, the operator’s official Twitter account, confirmed the new policy “affects everyone.”
But for the moment, it appears that this new policy does not apply to Orange UK, T-Mobile’s JV partner in Everything Everywhere. The company offers different plans that give users 500MB or 1GB in mobile data.
Update: T-Mobile’s statement on the cuts follows.
“Earlier today we began notifying our contract customers of changes to their Fair Usage Policies (FUPs) relating to data usage on mobile phones. In line with the industry, T-Mobile will be reducing its FUP for data downloading to 500MB/month from 1st February 2011.
“These restrictions will affect both new and existing customers, and will ensure an improved quality of service for all of our mobile internet users. As the average mobile internet customer uses only 200MB of data each month, this will only affect a small minority of users, whom we have begun notifying.
“T-Mobile will not charge its customers additional rates for exceeding these data limits, and those who do will still be able to access important services such as email and website browsing, but will have file downloading restricted. Customers who have a need for higher volumes of data will be encouraged to take up a separate mobile broadband plan. We are confident that these changes will result in a better experience for all of our customers who use internet on their phone.”