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T-Mobile Brings Free Data to Pre-Pay Customers

Gordon Kelly


T-Mobile Brings Free Data to Pre-Pay Customers

Could this signal a sea change?

T-Mobile is bringing web surfing to the masses with the news it will offer free data surfing to its pre-pay customers when they top up at least £10 per month. The news follows on from the network's decision to bring "free texts for life" under the same minimum spend condition.

So what of the fine print? Yes, it really is just £10 per month and you will have access on any pre-pay T-Mobile smartphone (notably the Android based Pulse) (pictured centre) to whatever sites and content you like. The big problem is despite these honourable intentions we are once again witnessing a dangerous use of the term "unlimited".

T-Mobile says its fair usage policy will restrict users to 40MB of data per day. Over a month this works out to a healthy 1.2GB, far more than either the O2 or Orange iPhone tariffs provide. That said, I would actually rather have the 750MB allowance from Orange since it has far better flexibility.

After all, I think I speak for the majority here when I say, there are as many days when I don't use a lot of data as I do and this allows me to enjoy more data intensive services like Spotify as and when I want. Under the T-Mobile tariff - regardless of your previous monthly usage - Spotify usage would be entirely impractical given it would last no more than 20 minutes before you start doing serious financial damage. The same could quickly be true of YouTube or any other streaming services?

That said, the T-Mobile deal represents the very best and worst of UK networks at this time. The best being their desire to encourage data usage and make it more affordable to all users. The worst is this ubiquitous and near criminal adoption of the term 'unlimited'. 750MB per month is not unlimited, 40MB per day is not unlimited. Tell you what networks, I'll help you out.

Courtesy of Dictionary.com:

Definition of unlimited

un⋅lim⋅it⋅ed {uhn-lim-i-tid}


1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.

2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.

3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.

Are we clear yet?


T-Mobile PAYG


November 4, 2009, 5:40 am

'just don't dare mention that they put up the cost of standard call by 5p, to 25p to pay for it'

guess i'm just getting cynical in my old age.....


November 4, 2009, 2:04 pm

Unfortunately the ASA, that guardian of consumers {not}, does not agree with you and the average man in the street about the blatant misuse of the word "Unlimited". They ruled a couple of years back (see http://tinyurl.com/4q4546 ) that it is okay to state something is Unlimited, when it isn't, as long as you then state what the actual limits are. And of course, the mobile operators are going to exploit that give-away to the hilt!

Regulators? Don't make me larf.


November 4, 2009, 2:21 pm

It should not be legal for companies to state that use is Unlimited, when it has a fair use policy hiding in the small print.


November 4, 2009, 8:13 pm

To allay any future confusion - 3's fair usage policy is:

1GB Data (does not include Emailon3 usage)

4000 Skype minutes (last time I checked)

10,000 MSN messages

So, what the f*** have the other networks been up to? 3 also do not block any kind of service, so you can use Youtube, Skype, Spotify whenever you like.

Oh, they also TXTed me to let me know their London network's being upgraded this month.


November 4, 2009, 9:27 pm

I find the problem is more knowing when that 40mb has been hit, and I start spending my own money.


November 4, 2009, 9:52 pm

All fair comments about the term "unlimited" I agree but it's a bit like the 'eat as much as you like' deals you get at some restaurants. In theory you can become a glutton and feast for as long as you want while the restaurant is open for that day but either you will stop due to over-eating or the restaurant will stop serving because it has to close.

For the consumer it might seem like a false claim but we all know that it only takes a minority to abuse a truly 'free' offering before it ruins things for the rest of us.


November 5, 2009, 12:48 am

@Orinj: I'm not sure what your point is. There no abuse of the service here, it's simply that some perfectly reasonable uses have far higher bandwidth requirements than others. For example, I know some gaming sites have daily video news, watching a few of those (typically just a few minutes each) can easily put you over 40MB.


November 5, 2009, 1:57 am

A 1 hour podcast is about 30MB. The other 10MB is worth about 25 single page loads (at the average webpage size of 400KB), so 40MB is a stupid LIMIT. They should all be fined hundreds of millions of pounds for lying and false advertising.


November 5, 2009, 3:04 am

Caps are fair enough. Just wish they'd stop using the term unlimited. The same discussion is going on on the BBC web site over Orange's iPhone data cap.


November 5, 2009, 4:17 pm

@Xiphias: I was just trying to defend the use of the term "unlimited" in that a totally unrestricted consumption of data is very difficult for the networks to allow. They are also under constant guard about the use of the term "free" that often gets slated for not actually being without charge.

I agree that 40MB per day doesn't seem like much, hence why a monthly cap is better as you can use it as you please.


November 5, 2009, 6:41 pm

I struggle to see how anyone can defend the use of the word unlimited in situations like this. I can *just* about understand it if the fair use policy is drafted in vague terms as to the limit or where there is no charge if you go above that limit (although cutting the service level still sounds like it's blatantly "limited" to me...)

But a clearly defined, 40mb per day limit and where you get charged for going over that? How can that be anything other than a bog standard quota system.

EDIT: I actually clicked through on the linky. What do you know, the T&C's say:

"If you use more than your fair use policy amount, we won't charge you any more, but we may restrict how you can use internet on your phone, depending on how often you go over your amount and by how much."

So there you go, that's the weasely technical way out they've chosen. You won't get charged, just won't be able to use the "unlimited" service because you've used it too much. Pah!

ps - I can understand the need for a cap, I just really detest the use of a word that is clearly inappropriate to describe what they provide.


November 6, 2009, 2:59 am

they should just say how much you get and what it roughly equates to, full stop and leave the unlimited term in a closet somewhere

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