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O2: An end to unlimited

Rory Cellan-Jones | 16:53 UK time, Thursday, 10 June 2010

Earlier this week I wrote about the struggle that the UK's mobile networks were having to provide the kind of service that smartphone users demand.

O2 shopNow one operator has acted to try to control the flow of data across its network.

O2 has unveiled new smartphone tariffs, in preparation for the imminent arrival of iPhone 4, and the company has abolished the unlimited data allowance that was seen as a key feature.

Now the operator's monthly contracts will include a set amount of data - 500MB for a £35 two-year contract, 1GB for the £60 a month tariff.

Already some users are crying foul, and threatening to move to other networks. But maybe O2 won't be too unhappy if it does see some desertions.

It is claiming that 97% of its smartphone users will see no impact from these changes because they do not use more than 500MB a month, indeed it says they may even see an improvement in their service.

Why? The implication is that just a tiny majority of bandwidth hogs are using vast amounts of data, watching streaming video or playing online games. They are making the network less stable, and if they leave then things will improve.

Just to put this in perspective, mobile data use only really took off in the UK when unlimited tariffs arrived - before that everyone was terrified with some justification that they could pile up huge bills.

So will O2's move which seems likely to be followed by other operators - signal an end to the mobile data explosion we've seen in the UK in the last couple of years?

The mobile industry believes not, and there is a sense of relief that someone has made the first move.

One industry analyst, Thomas Wehmeier at Informa Telecoms, argues that unlimited plans were unsustainable:

"Whilst consumer appetite for mobile data seems unlimited, one thing that most definitely is not unlimited is spectrum. Spectrum will forever remain a resource both short on supply and high in demand."

In other words, there is a limit to the number of mobile super-highways you can throw open, but no limit to the traffic wanting to drive along them if you don't apply some road tolls.

That all sounds logical enough. But O2 has been telling its customers that it was the speedy network for smartphone users. Having applied the brakes, it must now show that it can deliver a decent mobile surfing experience for those who stay loyal.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This move was inevitable really and by no means a surprise. I use o2 as a pay as you go service which currently has no data limits either - what are the changes for this as I can't believe that this will continue to be the case.

  • Comment number 2.

    That 500MB limit translates to about 3 minutes of video streaming a day if you don't use the web for anything else.

    Using their figures i've worked out that their top 3% of users are consuming an average of around 3750GB. Sounds a lot, but it's only the equivalent of 25minutes streaming video a day ... thats not even a single tv ep on iplayer a day.

    Throw in google maps streaming for your GPS, Spotify, and full fat browsing (Just opening the BBC front page of news runs you almost 0.4MB) and i'm not surprised that people are finding it easy to go over.

    Their stats are a bit dodgy, I'd like the numbers on the breakdown of phone model ownership. I bet that the 97% people with low usage is largely made up of people with phones that provide a terrible internet experience, whilst the 3% is almost entirely their iPhone and Android owners.

  • Comment number 3.

    Answered my own question;

    Top up £10-£14. Get 300 texts and 500MB internet
    Top up £15-£29. Get 500 texts and 500MB internet
    Top up £30 or more. Get unlimited texts and 500MB internet

    I think I am going to junk the iPhone soon anyway. What with Steve Job's mission to destroy flash and the hit an miss coverage, it doesn't seem worth it anymore. Also, a great device that it is, it's not actually a very good phone!

  • Comment number 4.

    Normally this kind of thing would annoy me a lot, but as I am planning on upgrading to the iPhone 4G I thought I would check how much data I actually use; surprisingly its an average of 65Mb and a maximum of 300Mb.

    So the quote is probably quite acurate regarding the number of people being affected.

  • Comment number 5.

    When I was last with o2 some five years the charges were £2/mb. Luckily for me in the 24 months I was with them the 1gb of data I used was never charged due to a billing issue.
    For those crying foul and moving elsewhere however will have a hard time finding a network that will let them have 2/5gb+ a month for nothing. Nearly all (if not all) have fair usage at no more than 1gb.
    At least we are seeing the end to the words "unlimited" when it turns out they are actually capped.

  • Comment number 6.

    It must be all of two months since the approval of the Tmobile/Orange merger. Coincidence? Another watchdog asleep on the job. The old myth of free market serving the consumer.

  • Comment number 7.

    Even so called unlimited plans on O2 had a fair usage policy of 500MB-1GB so this is really just a renaming exercise - not really major news at all.

  • Comment number 8.

    Thing is, their assertion that 500MB is "enough" is based on current usage patterns.

    However, in a couple of weeks, iOS 4 will be freely available, bringing multitasking to iPhone. This means that Instant Messaging services such as Skype, MSN, AIM, etc., and streaming media services such as Spotify will now be practical, and that means 500MB will suddenly NOT be "enough" for a lot more users.

    In addition, new services such as Apple's "iAd" feature will mean that apps will probably use more data than before. At the moment, developers can assume that iPhone users don't really care too much about data usage, but that assumption has just changed, as subscribers will start counting bytes and worrying.

    Add to this the fact that new iPhones mean the old iPhones are often handed down to other family members, leading to a surge in new subscribers, and O2's already-stressed data network will be under even more strain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Whilst I agree that it is about time the networks were honest and stopped hiding behind FUP's, 500mb isn't a lot of data on devices that make web/email etc as accessible as the iPhone. O2 claim only a few users exceed 500mb/mth but what percentage of their 'smartphone' users are on iPhone?

    And what happens to existing customers in contract on the Unlimited tariffs or indeed those on the PAYG tariff that includes 12mths unlimited data?

  • Comment number 10.

    I work for a company specialising in Mobile Radio Network Performance. I have a personal contract with O2 because they had exclusivity on the iPhone. However, I will be leaving them as soon as my contract is up. The performance of data connections on their UK network is substantially worse than the competition (not only in terms of bandwidth but critically in terms of latency) - and it is actually substantially worse than the O2/Telefonica networks in other countries even where they have/had iPhone exclusivity.

    It is a good thing that networks have lost handset exclusivity and will have to compete on the quality of their networks. In this regard O2 UK has a long way to go on data performance.

  • Comment number 11.

    O2 are, to an extent, quite right. There are a small minority of users who use lots more bandwidth than others. But they are paying for it, after all - they signed up to be able to use unlimited data. It's their perogative.

    The more concerning issue is that O2 have been a victim of their own success - a 3G network not ready for the sheer number of smartphones they've been selling. It's not the bandwidth hogs that are causing issues at shopping centres and football grounds, it's O2's network having too low capacity.

    I'll certainly be re-thinking who I take my iPhone 4 contract out with!

  • Comment number 12.

    That 97% figure may be true now, but the future of mobile broadband just got screwed because developments with the iPhone (and other phones) were just about to get data hungry. Project forward a bit...

    Multi tasking on iPhone means that you can now use music streaming companies like LastFM or Spotify in the background, so your data usage just increased.

    Many of the new iPhone apps are data hungry, like Netflix, so use that and your data usage just increased.

    If Face Time on the iPhone is ever going to take off it's going to have to move from Wi-Fi to 3G (wasn't video calling supposed to be one of the 3G 'killer apps' a few years ago). Well then sometime soon, your data usage is going to increase.

    I agree that something needs to be done about improving mobile data and that 3% of users are currently sucking up over 1/3 of the data is unacceptable, but there are better ways of doing this. Fair usage policies come to mind...

    Whether it be by extra charges for data or a slowdown of innovation in mobile broadband driven applications, the consumer is going to lose because of this.

  • Comment number 13.

    Limited data usage? O2 has the worst 3G coverage of all the major mobile phone networks, its ok if you live in a city but out in the more rural areas you're struggling for a normal signal, let alone a 3G! It was only the unlimited data that kept me with them.

    Of course people will vote with their feet, and I think that the other networks with better signal coverage will benefit!

  • Comment number 14.

    I recently moved from O2 to Orange, because I wanted the HTC Desire and I didn't like the way O2 expected people to wait for them to carry out an extra month or so of testing more than anyone else before releasing the handset. I knew Orange had a 500MB limit, so I checked how this would affect me. On my iPhone, I have been completely uninhibited in my internet usage, and the only time I surpassed 100MB usage was when I had been on holiday and so wasn't able to use Wi-Fi. As a result, I was quite happy to move.

    People need to be realistic. If you're using a Wi-Fi connection, go berserk, fill your phone's memory up with all that you can. But don't go downloading movies, streaming TV and the likes if you're using 3G or whatever. I'm surprised anyone bothers anyway - I've always found non-Wi-Fi connectivity to be so arbitrary and unreliable that I wouldn't use it for anything more than downloading one or two songs off iTunes at most. Having said that, I have succumbed to the temptation of tethering my laptop to my HTC Desire on the train a couple of times. But even that is just for a few simple websites, rather than a bandwidth-hogging resource like the iPlayer.

    Perhaps we'll soon see data usage overtaking call time and SMS allowance as the main reason behind tariff choices.

  • Comment number 15.

    This story just shows how easily O2's PR machine has deceived the BBC and other news outlets.

    O2 isn't the first in doing this.

    Vodafone has already said it is enforcing a 500MB limit on people on its unlimited data plans.

  • Comment number 16.

    i am personally unaware of how much data usage i go through in a month as i have o2s unlimited package but before o2 decide to cap me, before they start charging me i would just like to make aware of the fact that not many people, myself included, know how to turn off the data transfer function.

    I can limit it to using only 2G instead of 3G if i need to but i cant seem to stop it downloading/uploading altogether.

    i have a galaxy i7500 and my mother who has an iphone had to take out a data package (even tho she hardly ever uses the internet) because her iphone would have the habit of automatically transferring data without her knowing (probably sending her email address to some apple database)

  • Comment number 17.

    When 3G was launched the mobile operators complained no one was using it, now they complain people are using it too much!

  • Comment number 18.

    I would be considered a heavy iPhone user (approx 3 hr browsing/ email per day) and my 3G data usage since last September is under 3Gb.

  • Comment number 19.

    At least this will shut up those people who say we don't need DAB, we can all listen to "internet radio" via 3G

  • Comment number 20.


    Maybe your poor experience of 3G data connections compared to WiFi is because you were on O2. I experience the same, but have colleagues on Vodafone who don't bother with WiFi connections at all because the data performance on 3G is better. We have done verious tests and they get better throughput on Voda's 3G network than me on WiFi.

  • Comment number 21.

    My biggest concern is smartphone users are being charged more than laptop users for the data, plans for 60 pounds a month only include 1Gb of data, where as O2 offer 3GB for 15 on a USB key for your laptop.

    The bit that concerns me is they told us tethering our smartphones would be more data as laptop users use tend to use more data than smartphones, so if thats true why is the USB key cheaper with more data ?

    FInally the costs of data while roaming are still astronomically high, are we really supposed to believe a packet moving from abroad to the internet is that much more expensive than in the UK or are we just being ripped off again.

  • Comment number 22.

    I've got an HTC Desire (Android) phone and use the Internet a fair amount on it. I just checked my Internet usage, and it's about 160MB a month.

    I guess it probably comes down to whether you use video streaming or not. For most mobile phone games, or normal web browsing & email, 500MB a month is quite a lot.

    I do use the phone for streaming a bit, but mostly over WiFi, because 3G is too flaky round here for streaming.

  • Comment number 23.

    At present, with any operator, the customer does not get what they pay for. I'd rather see the customer pay for what they get, which is an entirely different matter. Then, those who use less will pay less, those who use more will pay more, like we use electricity. Get rid of these stupid tariffs: all they do is rip us off.

  • Comment number 24.

    Those 3% will move to GiffGaff who offer rolling contracts (leave whenever you want) with 100 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data for £10 per month.

    Guess who owns GiffGaff? O2.
    Guess which network it runs on? O2.

    Funny isn't it, how O2 make a big announcement that they are addressing complaints of a slow network whilst starting another service to distract their gullible users.

    O2 couldn't jump quickly enough on the iPhone and Smartphone bandwagon to resurrect their flagging sales. Now they complain people are using the phones they were sold. Shocking!

  • Comment number 25.

    The problem is it DOESN'T end there.

    They are charging an extra £5 a month if you take out a 18 month contract instead of a 24 month one. This is VERY TRANSPARENT as they claim, if they want to show us they are money grabbers.

    This is a bad move, annoying a large group of your customers, those same customers with very easy access to Facebook, Twitter and so on is not a clever idea. Especially when those same customers had previously been tied down to your network.

    As peoples O2 contracts expire, they are going to see a lot of customers who like me, only went with them to be able to get an iPhone, leave for other networks. I know I will.

  • Comment number 26.

    [quote]That 500MB limit translates to about 3 minutes of video streaming a day if you don't use the web for anything else.[/quote]


    A 30 minute program on iplayer is 304mb at download quality, the other catchup services use poorer quality so will be even less.

    I think you might be confusing megabits and megabytes.

    How do you do italics/quotes?

  • Comment number 27.

    Of course the problem O2 has is not the people who legitimately leave because they are restricted (which as you say could well be beneficial), it is that very few people actually know how much usage they will have in terms of MB/month, so it turns off lots of people even if they would always be well below the limits. This particularly applies to potential new customers who are comparing them and other suppliers who retain unlimited deals.

    This is further compounded by the negative view of mobile companies in terms of billing, especially outside the few key metrics that are heavily advertised (daytime/weekend rates, free minutes, etc.), where they can often be found charging far more than seems reasonable - for example the excessive roaming charges that the EU has been working to reduce, so the end of unlimited download limits are viewed with more suspicion that maybe they would be if the companies had more goodwill with their customers.

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm not quite sure where the shock is here - Vodafone have sensibly kept reasonable limits for some time on their tariffs, making it clear that while there were fair use limits, heavy users would be penalised. I use a Sony-Ericsson Xperia X10i, and even with heavy internet use I'm still only getting through 250MB or so a month, although having WiFi at home (not to mention poor 3G coverage in my flat) and at work means that my usage is supressed on 3G a little.

    Heavy users simply have to get real - nothing is truly unlimited, and if you want to use something a lot, you have to pay for it.

  • Comment number 29.

    When I first saw the news the first thing on my mind was it's time to move but having now actually looked at my usage over the last 12 months I only ever exceeded 300mb in a month once and that's with actively using two email accounts, a fair bit of browsing and streaming videos so not overly concerned by the cap. Fair points on the quality of 3g service from O2 it is pretty useless!

  • Comment number 30.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    The problem is avialability of sufficient spectrum. With the potential for real re-use of the huge amount of spectrum available as analog TV get shut down in favour of dgital it simply takes for the government to push hard for new whitespace technology to be used for mobile offload. The technology exists it is just a matter of government will to do the best for digital Britain.

  • Comment number 33.

    Wow, so O2 are becoming the AT&T of the UK - imposing limits on usage instead of investing in their network. If you look at Ofcom's official 3G coverage maps, you'll see how woeful O2's coverage is compared to the other networks.

    It's just as well that Three are also launching the iPhone 4 (overpriced though it may be).

  • Comment number 34.

    Also if you are worried about going over the limit use Opera browser (available for Android, Blackberry, Symbian and iPhone). They claim it uses up to 90% less data to view each page because of compression and whilst I cant be sure if this is exactly correct I know from experience it does use less data. Also if you are worried about going over download a useful app such as NetCounter which counts your usage and warns you if you are about to exceed it!

  • Comment number 35.

    You think this sucks?
    You try being an early iPhone or 3G customer who still has a contract. Whilst your friends are getting unlimited text messages, we're stuck with a cap on those because we took the plunge and gamble on the device early, whilst anyone who bought a 3GS for the first time in 2010, gets unlimited texts and pays exactly the same amount.

  • Comment number 36.

    This plus Ofcoms determination to wipe out free Wi-Fi, means that the mobile web has just taken a step back many years in the UK.

  • Comment number 37.

    What angers me after 18 months of worry free data use is not that O2 want to limit my use, but they don't reduce the tariff to compensate.

    This will have a knock on affect on digital media companies, not just Facebook, Twitter etc, but also startup App companies.

    And just as I was looking forwards to uploading HD videos and some Facetime next year:(

  • Comment number 38.


    If you phone up O2, (I'm assuming they're your network) they'll happily switch you over to the new iPhone Tariffs with unlimited texts!

  • Comment number 39.

    I am just about to upgrade my phone for the first time to something capable of watching video. Any coincidence that many, like me, will be wanting the watch World Cup football on their commute home? I think this decision stinks and will seriously negate the key advantage of a smart phone.

  • Comment number 40.

    Not a massive user, but occasionally do go over 500MB.

    What really stinks is that despite having paid for your 500MB, if you don't use it then there is no rollover.

    I'll be going elsewhere for sure when my contract is up in december.

  • Comment number 41.

    I don't use 3g to watch video clips, listen to Spotify or do anything that is better done at home on my 50MB/s broadband connection. I use it to move around work schedules, expense claims and all the other boring stuff that a business needs to operate.

    Just now I can't do this reliably on the 3g network. If by imposing these charges I can get a rock solid 3g connection with O2 then I will use them for my mobile data needs.

    But I doubt that anything will change. Except a few men with white suits and pony tails with get a shock when they open their next O2 bill.

  • Comment number 42.

    Don't think you'll find anyone else rolls over data either.

    As for Vodafone, they have only recently brought in limits for their tariffs offered with phones such as the HTC Desire, but that happened only a month or two after it appeared, so 2 year contracts were sold on the basis of uncapped (but with a 500MB soft limit) data usage. Now those customers suddenly find that they are now limited when they thought they were not. Yes, perhaps many people do not use a big proportion of this amount, but the whole point of the modern smartphone is that it uses a fair amount of data even without video streaming.

    But except for 3, all the UK networks are going to have to do this same thing until they can find more on air bandwidth, that's where the bottleneck comes.

  • Comment number 43.

    my solution is to use my broadband dongle's sim card in my smartphone. I get a 15gb monthly allowance for ten quid..if i push it the most i ever use is about 4gb. People should wise up. The networks bend over backwards to sell you a phone package, but cant back it up with a decent network. The iphone explosion plays a big part in all of this -as do the blinkered people that buy this awful bit of kit.

  • Comment number 44.

    Have we finally reached the point at which the actual requirement for use of mobile internet is being defined by the fact that excessive and frivolous use is now having to be paid-for, over and above the basic contract? How many times have you seen someone streaming video just because they can rather than because they need to? As Rory's article suggests, if the providers want to lose the subscribers that pointlessly use massive bandwidth as some sort of fashion statement, does this not also benefit the rest of us?

    Presumably once Apple's new must-have toy has dwindled into the hard-core user sector, the rest of us can get on with the normal day-to-day reading emails on mobile devices and doing te occasional web-surfing as a matter of need rather than sitting in a wine bar wowing our friends with some pointelss download on a device the size of a breeze block.

  • Comment number 45.

    I can't say that I am surprised that O2 have decided to introduce a "fair usage" policy on their mobile browsing packages. Vodafone, for example, have a 500MB fair usage policy in place for non-smartphone and low range smartphone handsets. Those with premium handsets such as the iPhone, Nexus One and HTC Desire have a data allowance of 1GB. You will find that most mobile users will not use anywhere near that 500MB fair usage limit. As a consumer, I would rather a network was upfront with the data allowances that they provide their customers with. Some networks hide their limits behind "Unlimited*" which, I believe is misleading. I think the O2 is really starting to show that it is not the network that is the best value for money, instead they are showing that they are a network with a poor network infrastructure, expensive price plans and a poor choice of handsets such as the Palm Pre. Vodafone, I believe, has the strongest network in the UK and seems that only network committed to improving network quality...

  • Comment number 46.

    Actually Rory, it was the iPhone that launched the unlimited data plan and it really took off because the iPhone was the first phone where it was actually simple enough to use internet data. Before that, people didn't use the mobile internet because it was too much hassle. In fact, many people didn't even know they had such features on their phones! (Let's not forget how revolutionary the original iPhone was).

    However, my biggest disappointment about this announcement is that it goes against everything that O2 originally said when they launched the iPhone here in the UK. I have never used more than 500MB a month so far in the 2 years that I've owned my iPhone 3G. However, it's nice not having to worry about data usage. And now, with 3G video streaming, Skype over 3G and the like, it's going to become easier and easier to do so. (The key will be when Apple lifts the Wi-Fi restriction to FaceTime next year).

    I fully understand that the networks are under strain and that has been largely down to the iPhone in the past. But surely I haven't been paying out £45 a month for the last two years for nothing? Surely O2 should be building the infrastructure to improve the network with time?

    When people look at the new iPhone tariffs, they can see that you only get half of what you did before. For the same £35 a month as before, you can now get half the minutes and only 500MB a month data (compared with unlimited before). And, although texts are now unlimited, every MMS now costs 20p (rather than 4 texts), so users who never reached their text limit but sent the odd MMS here and there now have to pay more too. And this is before we even know how much we have to fork out for the actual hardware (I hope it is free on these contracts considering these prices)!

    The real danger for O2 is that people will switch because of the feeling of being ripped off, even if they would never have used more than 500MB anyway. I thought O2 had a fair usage policy anyway to hit the high users? I know I'm certainly thinking of moving networks.

  • Comment number 47.

    Firstly, an talk of iPlayer video on O2 via 3G is rubbish, as it's not allowed.

    Secondly, remember, if you are on O2 you can log onto your account, then:
    go My o2,
    select My Mobile Bill (find out more),
    click My Bill,
    and select What I've Used,
    and then UK browse and Download.

    This will allow you to see exactly what you have used through the month. You can browse all previous bills too!

    Personally, I am running between 100mb and 400mb per month. Near, but then I only have a iPhone 3G, which is not capable of SatNav... Will the iP4 use more data? Definately.

    What are O2's plans for when you reach 500mb? Autoshutoff? Autobolt-on?

  • Comment number 48.

    #2 @ Neil Singleton
    How on earth are you measuring data? An average 3-4min Youtube video is about 50MB on a PC, so I don't know how you made mobile streaming video (either the same or even more compressed) come out at 500MB for 3 mins.

  • Comment number 49.

    I really can't believe some of your contributors want to watch world cup football on their mobile phones on their "commute home". Go to a pub near the office, get a pint and enjoy it on a big screen with some atmosphere.

  • Comment number 50.

    Quote ""19. At 6:09pm on 10 Jun 2010, Briantist wrote:

    At least this will shut up those people who say we don't need DAB, we can all listen to "internet radio" via 3G""

    We don't need DAB tyvm, we have a perfectly good FM and AM service for radio, all DAB has done (or will do) is increase the profits of the manufacturers of DAB radio kit and put a nice lump of dosh into Dixons/Currys/Comet.

    For the consumer it gives nothing we do not already have, much the same a Digital Freeview TV a whole exercise in hype and no substance.

  • Comment number 51.

    Quote "" 47. At 11:07pm on 10 Jun 2010, Buttonz wrote:

    Firstly, an talk of iPlayer video on O2 via 3G is rubbish, as it's not allowed. "" End Quote

    I think everyone knows that it is "not allowed" the poster was using the iPlayer stream/content as an example, not saying it was possible.

    And typically a 45minute TV program is around 450mb

  • Comment number 52.

    @48 Clueduprock

    Why are so many of you misunderstanding what he is saying? He said that it translates to 3 minutes PER DAY, not every day. Over the course of a month. So based on YOUR average Youtube videos, being 50mb, which it isn't, by the way, that means for example 50x30. I wasn't going to do the maths for you but if you can't understand his simple comment and feel the need to insult his intelligence, then I guess I will have to. So that works out 1500mb per month.

    My take on this is O2 have always been the most expensive company, I used O2 for a year, then got rid of it, as there are much cheaper options out there. They got away with it because they were the best, you got a good signal everywhere and people got free calls and sms' to each other. However I bought a phone from 3 about two months ago and the signal has been perfect everywhere, furthermore the internet speed is fantastic.

    I predict that 3 will start to overtake other companies in a few years. It is a bold prediction, I know but internet is now becoming a big feature on mobile phones and 3 not only give you unlimited and great speeds but they are also still working on improving speeds and signal strength all over the UK.

    If 02 do this, then they will simply find themselves losing customers. They may think, this is fine we are getting rid of the people who are overusing it but once a lot of people start using another network then others will follow due to the free network to network calls, for example. They will back-track on this in six months, mark my words.

  • Comment number 53.

    @52 TheresOnlyOneReds

    Wow what a negative, nasty response. Okay, sure, I get it now. Sorry for misunderstanding but do you need to be so aggressive? Are you just having a period or something?

    "So based on YOUR average Youtube videos, being 50mb, which it isn't, by the way"

    Yeah, read my comment, I mention that it's likely to be less than 50MB. Nice use of capitals too.

    "I wasn't going to do the maths for you but if you can't understand his simple comment and feel the need to insult his intelligence"

    I'm not going to read all the comments here just to see if someone else was insulting this guy's intelligence, but your comment is mainly aimed at me, and I don't think I did insult his intelligence, I just misunderstood what he said. It sounds like a lot of other people did as well, so calm down and get over it.

  • Comment number 54.

    many people are of course forgetting that you also get access to hundreds of wi-fi points across the country, so there really isn't much need for worry about data allowance, if you're in a city likely-hood is you're near a free wi-fi point...use that instead!

  • Comment number 55.

    @38 Rory Jee.
    You miss my point maybe I didn't explain clearly enough.
    I bought an iPhone on O2 in July 2008, and upgraded in December 2009 to the 3GS.
    £45 a month bought me 1200 minutes, 500 texts and unlimited internet
    My friend bought a 3GS in March 2010 and for £45 gets 1200 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited internet
    Someone who plans to buy one in July 2010 for £45 gets 1200 minutes, unlimited texts and 750MB internet

    Everyone is getting screwed, because you're all paying the same price and getting completely different levels of service for exactly the same product.

    These are the practices that suck the most. Everyone should automatically get the best deal for the price they are paying.

  • Comment number 56.

    please enlighten me as to WHY ofcom want to wipe out free wifi?!

  • Comment number 57.

    I find it hard to believe unlimited data plans are stopping only because 3% of iphone uses use so much data. I think the real reason is because the iPhone 4 uses a micro card which is the same type card that the iPad 3G uses because if you transfer your iphone 4 sim into your unlocked iPad, you're then using your iPhone data tariff. Now the iPad is a bigger better device for watching video etc so if you've got unlimited data, a lot of people will start using more data it's as simple as that.
    All networks have been careful not to provide unlimited data to ipad tariffs because they know it could explode the current amount of data usage in the near future as the iPad user base increases. I bet if the iPhone 4 had continued to use a mini sim it wouldn't have been an issue after all o2 are still offering unlimited data plans to other smartphone models.

  • Comment number 58.

    If the new pricing structure is fair, I should be allowed to browse the web without image optimisation and use my allowance accordingly. Why is nobody talking about this dreadful compression technique O2 employs? Single handedly poor resolution images can destroy the web experience more than any cap on usage.

  • Comment number 59.

    If most people use only about 300MB then why do they need to limit the others?

    Have you ever wondered why is mobile internet (where no digging and cable laying is involved) so much more expencive than landline broadband? Not to mention that signal fluctuates and you can not get the same good experience there (although it is mobile).

    Also these kind of packages shouldn't be called "unlimited" anymore.

  • Comment number 60.

    It seems hard to believe that there are users hogging the most of data stream. If you read carefully about the unlimited plan, like it was mentioned by someone above, there is a 500mb cap in fair use policy. With my experience of O2 fair use policy - try getting somewhere near 500mb and you get a call from them threatening to disconnect your services or charge you a significant amount of money.

    In my opinion it's all excuses to keep the profit during the difficult financial year rather than invest it into better equipment. O2 are taking a step back instead of going forward and this is very upsetting. When other countries introduce WiMax and fibre-optics, here we have 500mb cap on mobile data transfer and average broadband speed of less then 2mbits/s.

    It's a shame as their logic is flawed - it's the opposite of progress. I am on an 'unlimited' data plan (500mb actually) and yes, I also use about 50-100mb per month, but I was hoping that soon if they improve their coverage and internet speed I'd be able to stream music and not worry about the data cap.

  • Comment number 61.

    Nice to know I'll be lining O2's pocket while I'm forced to download apple's new iAds.
    Someone please invent an App for blocking them, if they are going to add to my capped monthly bandwidth!

  • Comment number 62.


    Actually AT&T were the first to end unlimited data plans early this month, as reported on So there is evidence that this may well be a trend in the making, which I kind of predicted in my comment on your skype on iPhone blog. What's more, AT&T and O2 were among the very first operators to offer Apple's iPhone on their networks. Some commentators are actually saying that the latest move by these two could well be in preparation for the iPhone4.

    We also heard this week that O2 had beefed up their 3G network in London, which is the good news for their customers.

  • Comment number 63.

    If there was an option to turn images off in Safari on the iPhone it would help, maybe a double tap to load an image if you wanted to see it

    80% of my surfing on my iPhone over 3G I'd be quite happy to do without images

  • Comment number 64.

    O2's unlimited data plan has always been subject to a fair use policy - when I first got my iPhone I queried "unlimited", and was told that as long as I didn't tether it (which was then only an option via a cracked OS) then it'd be fine.

    My guess is that the limit imposed is largely for the folk who have jailbroken their phones and apply 3G tethering without paying for it. The current official O2 plan allows tethering as a bolt-on, which too many people are bypassing very easily.

    That said, even though this likely wouldn't affect me, I am looking for other options as a consequence of the newly released tariffs. Especially as O2 don't seem to be running a pre-order scheme. I've been with O2 (and BT Cellnet before that) since I first HAD a mobile phone, so for about 12 years - and there's no concept of rewarding customer loyalty. They didn't TELL me when my contract was up - they just let me keep on paying the full rate that I'd been paying for 18 months (other users tell me that they had their rate reduced significantly after 6 just by phoning up and asking).

  • Comment number 65.

    Mobile phone companies need to get real as data is going to be the thing mobiles will be used for and they know it! That’s why are they starting to rip you off as the customer. As call volume goes down and data consumption rises it makes more business sense for them to rip you off for your data.

    They need to get real as most people pay around £20 per month for an unlimited broadband service.

    I believe the law states if you have signed a mobile contract under certain conditions then the company wants to change those conditions you are entitled not to accept them.

  • Comment number 66.

    What about the App usage on an iPhone? Those apps talk to the internet as does the App store where you need to upgrade apps etc (one of the main selling points of the iPhone.)

  • Comment number 67.

    #7 Bristolboy,

    This is not just a renaming exercise.

    My understanding is that "unlimited" means if you go over the fair usage cap, you will simply be asked to reduce your usage, or in extreme cases, will be throttled/disconnected.

    However, with the new plans, if you go over 500Mb, O2 will presumably start charging you the out of plan rates which are currently £1 a day. The 3% of users they quote may well suddenly find their bills increase by £30 a month if they renew with O2.

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm not really affected by this since I never saw the attraction of "smartphones" anyway. However I can't look at Thomas Wehmeier's statement without pointing out that it is not just untrue but obviously untrue:
    "Whilst consumer appetite for mobile data seems unlimited, one thing that most definitely is not unlimited is spectrum. Spectrum will forever remain a resource both short on supply and high in demand."
    "Spectrum", being simply the range of electromagnetic radiation expressed in wavelength and/or frequency (being inversely proportional but equally informative) is infinite, you can go from arbitrarily large wavelength at one end to arbitrarily large frequency at the other and always find a higher value exists.

    What he may mean is that licences for spectrum may be a resource short on supply, but it is the licences that are finite in number and range not the spectrum.

  • Comment number 69.

    The problem with introducing a data cap is that even something as simple as changing your handset could run you foul of the cap.

    I until recently used a iPhone and on checking my O2 bills I used approx 50-80MB per month on my iPhone which is well within the caps limits

    Switch to my current phone the android powered Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 and suddenly my use is a little different. 1.3GB used with 9 days left to run on my billing cycle. Under the new rules changing my phone would leave me with a nasty surprise when I get my bill (thankfully I'm still on the old rules at the moment)

  • Comment number 70.

    o2 say that this will only affect 3% of their customers which makes the whole exercise futile since 97% never or hardly ever exceed the lower limit and the only times they are probably likely to would be during the World Cup which will be over before this comes into effect or the Olympic Games. There is actually an o2 imposed limit at the moment of 3gig or if you are an online customer 4gig if you are willing to give up the double text allowance. Exceed this and you get a warning the first and second times and possibly extra charges in the third month.

  • Comment number 71.

    #36 @Ian P for the record Ofcom are not trying to do anything about Wifi. What they ARE doing is implementing UK legislation in the guise of the (misguided) Digital Economy Act, which could indeed seriously effect free wifi, but this is a govt policy/law implementation not an Ofcom policy.

  • Comment number 72.


    Also if you are worried about going over the limit use Opera browser (available for Android, Blackberry, Symbian and iPhone).

    And get the World edition of BBC Mobile, as the BBC treat the user with contempt, and have removed the option to make your choice UK News, or World News when using an IP that's not UK based.

  • Comment number 73.

    I think that everyone here has fallen for the spin. The classic mobile phone operator trick is to point out the "limited spectrum bandwidth". That the spectrum is limited is entirely true but is pretty irrelevant to the problem. Remember the spectrum limits are only imposed on the area covered by a cell. The real problem is with the provisioning of cells and the back-haul from the cells to the Internet and the bandwidth that the operators have available there. I think that the real story is why they are not pro-active about upgrading the infrastructure behind their cells to keep up with demand.

  • Comment number 74.

    I agree with CastorAcer. It may only cover 3% of users now but it will cover a lot more users in the World Cup season and as we move to videophone communication it will cover the majority of the users.

    The Mobile network operators are stifling UK growth -other highly developed countries have much greater allowances and have even moved heir landlines to SIM ( - all the current incumbents are trying to do is protect their inevitably dwindling phone revenues as people move from PSTN and 3G to internet-based communication. .... move on!

    The new virtual network operators providing sim only access will dominate the market at this rate - as we move to the new generation of 3G enabled tablet devices, people will get used to buying mobile devices separately from connectivity. I have a dual sim euro-certified mobile smartphone from China which cost me $150 and it gives me everything that top of the range phones here give me - except that I can put in a giffgaff £10 SIM monthly SIM which gives me truely unlimited Internet and texts (i.e. unmetered - none of this nonsense about subject to fair usage) and 100 minutes per month for those people I can't contact via internet (an extra fiver for 200 more minutes). £30 per month for incumbents over 24 months (£720) or buy buying the phone separately £360+£110phone (£470) almost half!!!

  • Comment number 75.


    The real issue for most of us is the charging for MMS messages and the actual tariff changes. They can argue about the data cap, but they can't argue for putting the prices up and charging for MMS, which uses data anyway!

  • Comment number 76.

    It's sad really that the blame for this is put onto so called bandwidth hogs. The fact is technology has progressed so far that we are capable of moving large amounts of data onto smartphones whilst the comms companies are making vast profits, this would suggest that they aren't backing up the level of sophistication that is now out there with an infrastructure to handle it.
    We should be pressuring the comms companies to provide an infrastructure that is in line with the level of hardware that is making use of the cell network.

  • Comment number 77.

    Sorry... am I reading the article right? 500mb for £25 + £5 for every additional 500mb. Or £60 for 1gb? Why pay the £60 tariff when you can get £25 + £5 + £5 + £5 + £5 + £5 + £5 + £5 which would total £60 yet you would get 500bm + 7 x 500mb = 4gb per month.

    Am I reading the article wrong?

  • Comment number 78.

    I work for o2 and what concerns us who speak to our customers is that we're the one's who will be verbally abused, sworn at and even threatened by those people we are just trying to help. We understand people's concerns but if you are using the browser for anything other than a modem, you are unlikely to ever reach 500mb. On a personal note, PLEASE don't forget, when you call us, we're people too and no one likes to be shouted or sworn at no matter how frustrated you may feel. Be nice :)

  • Comment number 79.

    Tinkerbell as I posted above I switched my phone and my usage has shot up from 50-80MB on an iPhone to 1.5GB on an X10 as things currently stand with 7 days left on my billing cycle and I'm not using my phone as a modem

    So to say people wont reach 500MB when something as simple as switching to a new phone could trigger a huge surge in data use is not accurate.

    Do agree with the rest of your post though that you shouldn't experience abuse in the workplace. You weren't the one who made this decision as it would have been made much higher up than retail or customer service. But if you are receiving complaints about this I would say you should use whatever channels you have to make sure the complaints are passed to the relevant department

  • Comment number 80.

    I have an iPhone 3G, which I've had for 2 years now and i've only used 1.2GB of data, when in fact i thought i had used a lot more!!!

  • Comment number 81.

    #28 makes the commonsense point that if you're a download hog then pay up.

    However, Dave's comment (69) is also right about simple changes causing increased usage. If that can happen on a full-sized computer when you change your AV software and you can't disable its search for updates every two hours, then it's potentially worse on a smartphone.

  • Comment number 82.

    Rory says in his article 'O2 has unveiled new smartphone tariffs' and 'It is claiming that 97% of its smartphone users will see no impact from these changes'.

    A quick check of the site shows that it is only Iphone 4 users that are getting hit with this tarrif. Do Iphone 3GS/HTC/Dell Streak/Xperia X10 users not use data on their phones?

    Also it seems that if I do decide to opt for the Iphone 4 on an 18 month contract from O2, then I will lose my current 600 mins call time and instead recieve 300 for my £35 per month (this seems to be the same for most phones tho).

    I like my Iphone that I was somewhat pressed into getting fom O2 20 months ago as they wouldn't offer me a decent deal on the Sony Ericsson that I was after (I was happy about that after about 10 minutes of owning my Iphone). Why though are they now penalising the people that want to stay loyal to O2 and get the Iphone 4?

    I only use about 400 mb a month and about2 1/2 hrs talk time, but the extra was there incase I crept over my normal usage. Now I will have to pay extra if I do.

    I have been with O2 since they were known as BT Cellnet, this is the first time that I have found myself seriously considering moving to another operator and yes it would be purely out of spite.

  • Comment number 83.

    I have an unlimited, 'fair useage' plan with Orange. I'd class myself as a heavy, but fair, user. My Android phone constantly pulls emails, status updates, images from Picasa and Facebook straight to my phone; I use Youtube or an(unofficial) iPlayer app while waiting for the bus. I still do not hit the 1gb limited - and usually just exceed about 700mb in a calendar month. If I were to hit 1gb and receive a reprimand, fair cop, 1gb is ALOT of data.

    What these people are doing with their data beggars belief. 500mb seems craftily low, but unlimited is not sustainable for any network in the long term.

    1gb, with a fair useage policy, seems reasonable (moreso with Android phones that, in my opinion, are more data hungry than iPhone); three strikes and you're out, placed on a 500mb package and paying for extra data over that limit.

  • Comment number 84.

    I'm upgrading to an iPhone 4 later this month so am interested in the unlimited data usage issues (with O2)

    1/ If you are an existing customer - or take out a new / upgraded contract BEFORE 24th June you will still have the 'unlimited data' terms you have currently (i.e. Fair Use applies - but you could use it for Gb's of data at no extra charge)

    2/ Out of interest I looked back at my historical data usage - it tends to be between 200-300 MBs per month - except:

    3/ Last month my usage doubled to 780 MBs (which would theoretically be an issue with the new contracts) - looking into the usage I figured out it was my use of a streaming audio (WunderRadio) app to listen to BBC Radio 4 on my commute to/from work (new job). On average with 128Kbps AAC this ends up at 1MByte per minute

    4/ Audio streaming tends to be a bit rubbish on the high speed SW trains I'm on - I'd much rather put up with noisy FM - but alas the iPhone has no FM

    5/ getting an HTC Desire next month (for work) will use FM for that!

    Summary - streaming anything - audio or video will quickly increase your data usage. Thank goodness BBC still use Flash containers for their videos - if you didn't all iPhone BBC web users would be streaming even more

  • Comment number 85.

    Hmmm. A move unlikely to win O2 any friends from the smartphone community.

    I'll stick with T-mobile, until it too decides that unlimited (aka 1GB, if your search deep in their T&Cs, so I'm told) has also been false advertising all along.

    I have no idea how much data my phone uses, but I know it is several hundred megabytes per month.
    It cost me an arm and a leg, I pay extra for the internet option and despite what the T&Cs say, I will use "Unlimited internet" and my own phone however and whenever I please. It can act as a wifi router and if I'm in a hotel room and want to watch iPlayer on my laptop, my phone offers that functionality, I've paid for it, and so I will use it, regardless of questionable "tethering" rules which are probably in the T&Cs which I never read.

    I haven't received a phone call warning me about data usage, and nor do I EVER expect to receive one, or I shall leave the network in question. If they want to complain, then they should have sold it to me as "LIMITED," like O2 are doing, and I'd promptly go and find another network which offers me "UNLIMITED."

    I'm an electronic engineer, and understand how the mobile networks are limited, however, as an engineer, I'd lose my job if I specified a power station as "unlimited." Therefore, I expect the marketing team to be fired before I get told off. It is only fair.

    And if you happen to be that worker in the call centre unfortunate enough to ring me, then please make the displeasure I pass on to you known to your superiors in the hope that someday, someone in the overpaid marketing department will have their heads roll. It is nothing personal.

  • Comment number 86.

    I can understand O2 wanting to change the data side of things to male it fairer but then why change the amount of minutes you get with your money. I am currently paying £45 a month for 1200 minutes, but if I upgrade then I will have to pay £50 or more a month to get the same minutes, so if it's all about protecting the dataside why change the minute allowance.

    My other point is that if their network cannot handle all the data that we are all supposedly using isn't it ironic that you can still use more data as long as you are willing to pay for it, so does that mean that users who can afford to pay for the extra data allowance can still bog the network up for everyone else?

    Won't this still affect the O2 network? Maybe us loyal customers should complain to O2 each and every time we are unable to make a call or use our phone when their network is down and they can pay us for downtime...?

  • Comment number 87.

    WOW! arent you all lucky to havea dat a connection. In Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, PE16 6QX. I have THREE BARS on basic 'G' and the phone wont make or recieve calls, due to network overload. Have to go FIVE MILES to next village to get voicemail, phone works great when there.

  • Comment number 88.

    As far as I was aware, it never was technically unlimited. They had an "excessive usage policy" which was clearly stated in the terms and conditions of the unlimited data plans.

  • Comment number 89.

    O2 have always had "Excessive use" policies if you have read your terms and conditions which on their web bolt-ons always been 500MB, iPhone was 750MB and Blackberry service 200MB. Ive read the threads on here quoting 3GB and 4GB etc... This is simply not the case and sounds like abit of guess work to me.

    They are putting the data caps in place to prevent the really heavy users abuse the system. These are the people who are bringing the poor experiance to us. If they didnt we wouldnt need to think of it and o2 would not need to apply it but as smartphones and traditional phones become more advanced and data heavy coupled with the "thirst" for internet access and checking facebook and twitter multiple times a minute, they need to do something, otherwise the 21 million customers or so wont able to access the network for standard things like text and phone, which is the whole point in a phone! All you people complaining are going to get the same issue with every network, they are going to cap which ever one you look at. Look at the networks now, orange offer "unlimited" which has a cap of 750MB and vodafone with again "unlimited" with 1GB. I admittedly, say these are more than o2 but no matter where you go its going to be the same.

    For those with data heavy apps, such as BBC iplayer, youtube, skysports, radio apps etc.... Just use WIFI or import videos onto the phone! Look at the data usage and I bet 9 out of 10 people wont use the allowance anyway. I think alot of people are worrying about nothing.

    I currently use an iPhone 3G 16GB (which I had properly unlocked from o2) with Orange and have found the signal appauling not to mention when you ring them you get no support, I wont move to 3 as they piggy back on the orange network and im not one for ringing foreign call centres. I will be going back to o2 when iPhone4 launches as there service is excellent, and with them going into a mast sharing program with vodafone later this year, will increase capacity for both networks. I have used 3.8GB in 23 Months, which by my calculations would cover 8 months use on average. I for one am glad the networks are going this way and If people leave o2 that will be good for me!

  • Comment number 90.

    O2 don't have an existing "unlimited" tariff anyway! A colleague of mine had his service suspended because he had breached the "fair usage" policy. In other words he had hit the limit of his unlimited allowance! That's ridiculous. Unlimited means without limit. A fair usage policy is the imposition of a limit.

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.

    One post has gotten close to the reason for this decision from O2, with their ipad comment.With a veritable legion of slate/tablets heading our way in the next few months ALL of which can and will be tethered to mobile devices, (mobile phones or mi-fi) and with the Playbook
    specifically designed to tether to the Blackberry,O2 are just thinking ahead and i guarantee that every other sp will follow.They would be mad not too.

  • Comment number 93.

    It's time to remove the kid gloves and exclude the left-wing from involvement in this sphere and smash these gangs with an iron fist. As a tax payer............, I want a break in the money I contribute to people either too lazy or too stupid to figure out a better more harmonious and productive way to lead their lives.

  • Comment number 94.

    Tinkerbell as I posted above I switched my phone and my usage has shot up from 50-80MB on an iPhone to 1.5GB on an X10 as things currently stand with 7 days left on my billing cycle and I'm not using my phone as a modem

    So to say people wont reach 500MB when something as simple as switching to a new phone could trigger a huge surge in data use is not accurate.

    Do agree with the rest of your post though that you shouldn't experience abuse in the workplace. You weren't the one who made this decision as it would have been made much higher up than retail or customer service. But if you are receiving complaints about this I would say you should use whatever channels you have to make sure the complaints are passed to the relevant department

  • Comment number 95.

    Of course the problem O2 has is not the people who legitimately leave because they are restricted (which as you say could well be beneficial), it is that very few people actually know how much usage they will have in terms of MB/month, so it turns off lots of people even if they would always be well below the limits. This particularly applies to potential new customers who are comparing them and other suppliers who retain unlimited deals.

    This is further compounded by the negative view of mobile companies in terms of billing, especially outside the few key metrics that are heavily advertised (daytime/weekend rates, free minutes, etc.), where they can often be found charging far more than seems reasonable - for example the excessive roaming charges that the EU has been working to reduce, so the end of unlimited download limits are viewed with more suspicion that maybe they would be if the companies had more goodwill with their customers.

    John comerad - video humour

  • Comment number 96.

    I got the iphone when it first came out, my deal was unlimited internet with 1000 min's and unlimited text. My bill is alway the same £45.00

  • Comment number 97.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 100.

    I always find it a bit fishy when big companies start putting limits on their services. There are many smaller brand companies that rent the primary ISP's equipment and capabilities which often cost less and don't put limits on their services.

    Is this just an excuse to create extra charges to boost revenue? or is this a legitimate concern with real expected improvements.


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