Home / News / Mobile Phone News / T-Mobile Cuts Fair Usage To 500MB [Updated]

T-Mobile Cuts Fair Usage To 500MB [Updated]

David Gilbert


T-Mobile Cuts Fair Usage To 500MB [Updated]

Update: T-Mobile has today (January 13) come back on its previous statement now stating that existing customers won't be affected by the cuts to data limits, only new and upgrading customers will be hit. Lysa Hardy, VP of T-Mobile UK, said: ""Following a further review of our policy, these changes will now be introduced from 1st February, to new and upgrading customers only - not existing customers. There will be no change to the data packages for existing customers for the duration of their contract and we apologise for any confusion caused."

Advances in smartphones (and “superphones" of course) in recent months - including dual-core processors, high resolution displays and super-fast operating systems - should mean better gaming and video streaming on these devices. Well to most of us it does, unless of course you are a T-Mobile customer and have been told to “save that stuff for your home broadband.”

Yes it seems as if T-Mobile believes mobile phones are not in fact multimedia devices but should only be used for basic internet actions such as checking email, tweeting and updating your Facebook status. T-Mobile has cut it fair usage data limit to 500MB a month - down from 1GB for some customers and 3GB for Android customers. This cut in usage by T-Mobile is in direct opposition to its Everything Everywhere partner Three, who last month announced its unlimited One Plan. T-Mobile has confirmed that “from 1st February 2011 we will be aligning our fair use policies so our mobile internet service will have fair use of 500MB.” This includes the Android monthly plans that currently have a cap of 3GB.

The T-Mobile statement said: “So remember our Mobile Broadband and internet on your phone service is best used for browsing which means looking at your favourite 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 claim that the average user uses only 200MB a month so this cut will only affect a small amount of users. Additionally T-Mobile has said that people will not be charged if they stray over the limit and will continue to retain access to email and web-browsing.

Source: T-Mobile

Peter A

January 11, 2011, 5:38 pm

Under their own T&C, you can leave them if you choose, no penalty. You can see how here http://bit.ly/tm-filth

A Scotland

January 11, 2011, 5:45 pm

Am I missing something? Is this not just what all the other major networks did 6 months ago?

David Horn

January 11, 2011, 5:45 pm

Brilliant - I'm only 2 months into a 24 month contract with T-Mobile and will be using this as an excuse to break the contract early.


January 11, 2011, 5:49 pm

Let me start by throwing the cat in amongst the pigeons and ask - is this really that big an issue?

I mean who actually uses 3GB of download a month on they're mobile phone, let alone 500MB.

Ok, on the face of it 500MB doesn't sound that much, but I can say honestly ive never reached anywhere near 500MB in the 12 months that I've had my Apple 3GS. How do i know that? Simple free app from Vodaphone that shows my usage, and I know i've never been anywhere near it.

'Hold on!!' I hear you cry, but what about all the people watching/streaming content to they're phones - my question is - ask yourself honestly, how often do you actually stream vids to your phone? More to the point what occasions during your daily routine can you 'actually' stream content in the first place!

Let me explain - when i'm at home, sure i might stream some material, but thats simply because i can as its connected through wifi.

During the day - well i'm at work or commuting. My daily commute invariably means trains and other locations that a 3G signal is woefully lacking and sporadic. Without 3G downloading any sort of video content from the like of youTube is painfully slow to the point of giving up!

Sure if your daily travels allow you a 3G signal or a wifi hotspot or 2 (ie airports etc) then great, but I don't believe people stream that much in the first place. Sure i watch episodes on my phone - but these have already been transfered onto it first.

Ian Wright

January 11, 2011, 5:51 pm

"This cut in usage by T-Mobile is in direct opposition to its Everything Everywhere partner Three, who last month announced its unlimited One Plan."

Surely you mean Orange as it's partner?


January 11, 2011, 6:07 pm

I can well believe that the average user downloads only 250MB per month. Personally I never have the desire to watch videos on a 3G connection because it's so painfully slow. I'll use WiFi for that.

This policy is designed to affect the small number of people who haven't figured out how to connect their phone to WiFi to download their Spotify tunes, or those who tether their phone to a laptop on a regular basis.


January 11, 2011, 6:08 pm

@Kevin B - regarding 3G signal speed. I am with three and I am usually able to stream HD youtube videos with a few seconds buffer time or non-HD with no buffering required. I often use my phone over 3G and I regularly use close to 1Gb per month.

I also use spotify and stream music whilst out running. I could download it before hand via my wifi but sometimes I forget or just want to listen to something new!

Perhaps consider switching providers if you are unable to get the required speed to used streaming video services from vodafone.

@Ian W - Three and T-mobile/Orange have an agreement where they share base-stations via a company they have setup which I believe is called Everything Everywhere.


January 11, 2011, 6:21 pm


I comfortably use over 500MB in a month without streaming any video.

The amount of usage is beside the point anyway. It's the principle. I bought my Desire on a 2GB contract on the premise that I was entitled to 3GB of data. Maybe it's written in the small print somewhere but they can't just renege on this. On the assumption that I can, I will be cancelling my contract as soon as possible.

Dave 1

January 11, 2011, 6:29 pm

I've been half expecting this ever since Orange took over T-Mobile. Ah well, my dongle contract is up in a month and my mobile phone is already on a rolling contract so I think I'll be looking at other options!


January 11, 2011, 6:41 pm

@ KevinB - Yes, this is a big issue IMO.

Not wanting to get involved in a time consuming debate, right now, i'll say that this is the tip of the iceberg. We have moved from a position of undefined 'unlimited' data and relatively low contention ratios to highly capped data volumes and massive contention ratios within just a few years. Meanwhile the major telco's have been taking massively gross profits to the bank year after year.

3G was launched over 10 years ago in the UK and has struggled to deliver on any of its promises. The networks constantly under-invested in infrastructure and technology, just supplying an adequate service, and as you point out 'My daily commute invariably means trains and other locations that a 3G signal is woefully lacking and sporadic'.

I don't think that that's good enough after this long. We shouldn't be struggling with poor 3G signals anywhere other than sitting under a base station at 3am. Bandwidth demand may have exploded over the past 5 years but for crying out loud, a 5 year old child could have predicted that development - the newtworks sure knew this.

Networks are now placing themselves in a position to fully exploit data as their primary source of income, and news like this, doesn't bode well for the future.

Beat Box

January 11, 2011, 6:42 pm

@ KevinB" "Let me start by throwing the cat in amongst the pigeons and ask - is this really that big an issue?I mean who actually uses 3GB of download a month on they're mobile phone, let alone 500MB."

That's not really the point at all. The plans were advertised with a high data allowance as a USP (unique selling point) and that would have clearly persuaded many customers to sign up, even if those people only ever use 200MB. Take this away, and t-mobile lose that competitive edge and their price plans go back to their uncompetitive selves.

It's shifty sales techniques, and should be stamped out by trading standards or whoever is supposed to deal with this kind of stuff. It also highlights that rather than actually taking profits and investing in infrastructure, these companies prefer to screw their customers over by simply removing contracted data allowances.

If they are promised 3GB data each month, they should be given that for the duration of their contract and do with it as they please, while t-mobile work out a way to manage the additional load on the network, which of course they should have done BEFORE offering this high data allowance in the first place.

At the very least, customers should be offered a discount on their contract. Instead, nothing other than 'tough luck, use your home broadband'. Shocking. Trouble is, can you expect any better elsewhere ATM? It seems all the big operators work to the same rule book.


January 11, 2011, 6:48 pm

Theres some lucky T-Mobile users there, Like David Horne, who are getting a nice free phone and no contract obligations. If it were me I'd be requesting my PAC code and wandering over to Three (coverage permitting!).

You would have thought Orange would have learnt about this by now. Consumers are no longer blind, unfocused sheep - happy to do anything that a network tells them. Isheep owners notwithstanding! :op (JOKE - Please don't burn me!)


January 11, 2011, 7:00 pm

If the telco's don't agree to honour the original contract until it expires, (O2 honour the 'unlimited' data if the contract was started before 'Unlimited' actually came to mean 'not much at all'), then I don't see any defence against a 'bait and switch' charge.


January 11, 2011, 7:16 pm

Another step forward in crippling the UK's comms landscape.

To be fair to T-Mobile, I think they are amongst the last to do this. O2, Vodafone, 3, Tesco, etc - have already done this.

Newer phones have more 'online' features and widgets. Yet we are being held back by the greedy mobile companies.

I don't want anything for free, but this is ridiculous. The government needs to step in now or we'll be trailing the world for comms.


January 11, 2011, 7:42 pm

So, looks like I'm switching to 3 then. As Beat Box says, I originally went for a T-Mobile rolling monthly SIM only deal because it has "1GB" monthly data with no overage. Now they are taking this away, they're losing my custom. Simple as that.

It's not so much a consistently using more, it's simply that I don't EVER want to have to worry about data usage and how much I have left per month. 1GB is thankfully "too high" where as 500MB is worryingly low.

Yet another company presented with a "supply and demand" issue and opting to decrease demand rather than increase supply.


January 11, 2011, 7:43 pm

I agree with KevinB, just use your home network or the free unsecured WIFI points flying about ;).

However if the majority of users only use 200mb then why do they feel the need to throttle the service?


January 11, 2011, 7:44 pm

Meanwhile at some point my 3 data quota has been bumped up to a bit more than 2GB from 1GB. I get 300 minutes, 3000 Text messages and 3000 3-3 calls for £15 a month (Sim only). Been very happy with the service, and they have a decent 3g coverage in the sticks where I am with good download speeds.


January 11, 2011, 8:19 pm

"It's not so much a consistently using more, it's simply that I don't EVER want to have to worry about data usage and how much I have left per month. 1GB is thankfully "too high" where as 500MB is worryingly low." Nail on the head Mr ChaosDefinesOrder.

I left orange after 2 large bills because of a software fault with my phone which kept redownloading the froyo update without me knowing. Blew through a gig, won't be a issue now I'm 3 with a 2GB cap. They also warn you if you go over, hallelujah!

So the main difference to most people between 500MB and 2GB (or 3GB) is overhead. I can go quite heavy on my data and never have to think about it. I don't think I've went past a gig yet on 3 but being able to download Podcasts while travelling and stream the odd bit of music over 3G now and again is very liberating. Vote with your wallets (reception allowing)


January 11, 2011, 8:36 pm

@lifethroughalens: "I don't see any defence against a 'bait and switch' charge."

Small print, I guess. I don't think they would be changing the terms of the contract unless the small print you agreed to allows them to. My health insurance and credit card companies do it all the time, and it sucks.

@LetsGo: "if the majority of users only use 200mb then why do they feel the need to throttle the service?"

Because T-Mobile know that most customers will only download around 200MB per month when they offer you that 3GB fair usage policy. The terms (and cost) of the contract they offer you are predicated on that assumption. It's the small minority of customers who download gigabytes each month that they're trying to crack down on, since those customers can easily eat up 10 times as much bandwidth as the average user.

iain coghill

January 11, 2011, 9:35 pm

Currently T-Mobile are still advertising 3GB for Android users on their Fair Use Policy page at http://www.t-mobile.co.uk/s...

Irrespective of the legality/morality issues of cutting FUP limits on existing customers, enticing new customers with a promise which is about to be reneged upon is beyond the pale.


January 11, 2011, 10:09 pm


You'd be surprised. Orange tried to change some contract terms back in 2009 and had to go back on their plans after enough customers managed to cancel their contracts. Worse, I tried to (legitimately) cancel mine and was deliberately fed lies and misinformation to try persuade me that I could not do so.

Consumers should be better protected from companies trying to pull off these kinds of stunts. My Desire contact stated 3GB of data and they made a big deal about it on their website. It wasn't just "unlimited" with some FUP in the small print. They actively marketed the data allowance as a point of differentiation.

How can you crack down on people using the allowances they have paid for? Are they somehow not entitled to use the service they purchased?


January 11, 2011, 10:14 pm

Ok does anyone know that if i cancel my contract my phone becomes unlocked?


January 11, 2011, 11:54 pm

@iain coghill: "enticing new customers with a promise which is about to be reneged upon is beyond the pale."

True, can't argue with that.

@rav: The right to cancel your contract is a different issue. It's possible that once T-Mobile change their terms, they open the doors for some of their customers to legitimately cancel their contracts without penalty. The reason Orange had to go back on their changes was because they were losing customers, and that hit them where it hurts.

Of course those high-bandwidth users are *entitled* to download all of their 3GB allowance each month, but T-Mobile don't want nor expect them to. T-Mobile don't have the capacity for all of their entitled users to download 3GB each month, but they advertise their 3GB policy as a differentiator because they know it will garner them a few additional customers for as long as they can keep it up. It seems that with demand increasing, time has run out and now they're following the rest of the industry in reducing that cap. This is their way of limiting their exposure to spikes in traffic.

This sounds truly immoral, but the dilemma is as long as their competitors are advertising these unrealistic caps as part of their packages they have to follow suit or they risk losing customers. Kudos goes to Vodafone, though, as the the first British telco to introduce realistic caps and advertising back in May.


This was Vodafone's take on cancelling your contract after they imposed their changes:

"You'll be entitled to end your contract if you can show that the introduction of the new charges has increased your total call and usage charges by more than 10%."


January 12, 2011, 12:19 am

Wow, I've read all the comments and no-one it seems has seen this for what it is!

The major networks are finally admitting defeat in the Network Capacity War. One, they did not intend to start and two, that has cost them so much financially. They now require investment of a type that previously they'd have never believed and man has it come home to roost!

You can of course thank Mr. Jobs his Smart little phone said I like data and lots of it. By the time they realised it was too late. The faster the connection the greater the volume of data one can and does use. I regularly push 1 TB of data a week around my home on WiFi streaming vids etc. Imagine what will happen with LTE and the issue becomes back haul fibre off the masts. So please start checking your contracts out because in future you'll all pay more for data. It's coming to a place near you very, very soon.


January 12, 2011, 12:53 am

Although the decision is a sad one (I had planned to switch to a 3GB T-Mobile plan myself) I'm not sure why everyone is blaming Orange.

As far as I know the equity in Everything Everywhere is split 50/50 between France Telecom and Deutche Telekom (ie the parents of Orange and T-Mobile UK respectively). Noone is forcing anyone to do anything, it was an equal merger.

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