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Vodafone Scraps Fair Usage Data Policy

Gordon Kelly


Vodafone Scraps Fair Usage Data Policy

Hey Vodafone, you see that hornets' next over there... why don't you kick it?

My oh my here's something to get the blood pressure boiling: Vodafone has announced it will not only be scrapping fair usage allowances on its mobile phone data tariffs, but also introducing aggressive new pricing to replace it.

In a hugely surprising post on its own forum Vodafone administrators announced: "We are planning to introduce Out Of Bundle charging for Pay Monthly customers from 1st June 2010. The reason we're introducing these charges is to make it fairer for everyone, and to protect our network from data abuse. We're introducing a real-time notifications service to be completely transparent about these charges and keep customers in control of their spend. No Out Of Bundle charges will happen this month but they will take effect from 1st June."

The costs:

Monthly bundle customers will pay £5 for every 500MB after the first 500MB

Customers without a monthly bundle will pay 50p for every 10MB after the first 25MB

Vodafone explains: "Whilst you've all previously been used to there not being any Out Of Bundle charging, the current information available online is clear in explaining that we could introduce such charging at any time." They also said the reasoning behind the decision: "is to make it fairer for everyone, and to protect our network from data abuse."

Now wait a cotton picking fricking minute Vodafone weren't you the network who spent all of last year boasting you had the fastest and most robust data network in the country? (contrary to Ofcom results). Weren't you the operator who said all your years of BlackBerry experience would mean you could take high data consuming handsets like the iPhone and not bat an eyelid? Well oh dear me.

The fact is while you "could introduce such charging at any time" it is extremely regressive to do so, especially when setting such a measly limit as 500MB per month. Streaming apps like Spotify, Last.fm and numerous Internet Radio clients are now commonly available on powerful smartphones like the 3GS, HTC Desire and Legend so topping 1GB per month isn't unrealistic for many. Furthermore, O2 removed data restrictions in 2007 and Orange announced it was lifting its 750MB per month cap in 2009 so this runs completely counter to market forces.

Perhaps the most worrying part of all this is whether other networks will be greedy enough to follow Vodafone's lead and do the same. That said I expect its decision to be widely pilloried and adjusted (750MB/1GB per month?) very soon...


Vodafone Forum Page


May 7, 2010, 9:19 pm

After welcoming proliferation of data heavy devices and services, they now turn around and attempt to bleed every last penny possible.

Sunny 1

May 7, 2010, 9:27 pm

OMG!!!! 500MB... that is just sad.

But should have seen it coming to be honest.

because mate of mine just picked up HTC Legend with them and he was given a 500MB data limit too.

Lucky then that I didn't change to vodafone for HTC Desire last month.

I got my HTC Desire from t-mob at £35/month with 300min 200txt 3GB data.

I use to have HTC Touch HD with 1GB data on same contract before.

But when went for upgrade t-mob CS explain to me that bcoz Desire is a always on device it needs more data. Hence giving 3GB with Desire on same price.

Eddy Hall

May 7, 2010, 9:29 pm

Well, I'm not sure how it flies in the face of market forces... Whilst I appreciate that this is not what customers want, given the billions of pounds invested in the network infrastructure and the capitalisation over a 10 year lifespan, I would say that fair usage policies are unsustainable due to market forces.

Plus, the majority of users use well under 500MB per month. It is of course completely correct that if people want all-you-can eat data, they can always find it on a network, perhaps Vodafone will offer some specialised tariffs for this down the road. But I think that the only viable business model for mass consumption on mobile infrastructure is pay for what you use, or offload the traffic onto WIFI, LTE, WiMAX, etc.

jim 11

May 7, 2010, 10:00 pm

I work in the comms industry as a network engineer. I want to tell you honestly that this has very little to do with greed and more to do with network saturation.

O2s network was killed by the introduction of the iphone, and that was just the beginning of things.

Mobile internet is not like home internet. Wireless spectrum costs a lot more than cables and is severely limited in availability. The next available expansion will come from the digital dividend.

With current technology, 10Mhz bandwidth gives a cell capacity of something like 20Mbps *for the whole cell* at best, assuming a standard mix of services. People like me, and the academics, are working very hard to increase the spectral efficiency of cells. But even with advanced MIMO techniques and all the future spectrum that will be made available through auctions, I doubt that you will ever see more than 40Mbit/s *per cell*, unless some mystery spectrum appears from nowhere. So it isn't greed that is limiting your throughput, but rather Shannon's cell Capacity theorem

Given that you have this limit, what can an operator do? What is best for the customers? Give everyone an "all you can eat" which gives everyone the equivalent of a starter? Or stratify the pricing strategy so that you get what you pay for?

All you can eat worked while the networks were low capacity, and the consumer saw the benefits of this in all you can eat deals that actually gave good throughputs. As soon as the network is saturated, the operator has to do something.

I can't see how else the operator can act? Unless you really want an "all you can eat" that means nothing because it is shared with 50 other users?

Luckily, as the other guy said, there will probably be some escapes. Offloading onto Wifi where possible is one approach. And then femto cells are coming along, you might have to pay more to use them, or indeed have your own closed access one, but it is really the mobility you are paying for, not the bandwidth.

But when it comes down to it, it is more rational to realize that T = B*log_2(1+SINR) is to blame and not the operator's greed in this case.

In other cases, the operator is greedy, very greedy. A txt message consumes virtually no resources, and yet we have to pay 5p each time. But in the mobile broadband case, I think you are wrong.


May 7, 2010, 10:51 pm

3 is charging me to RECEIVE voicemails now. Ridiculous. It's like those people in America that have to pay to receive text messages...


May 7, 2010, 10:52 pm

@jim - many thanks for your comment. The issue I would take with this is Vodafone luring customers by claiming it has by far the best, most stable and most capacious mobile broadband network. This point is made particularly at the expense of O2.

Just months later Vodafone does a 360 and cuts fair usage policies and restricts data at 500MB per month - less than most of the supposedly inferior networks.

Ultimately Vodafone has misled customers by attracting them with a false message. Its actions - and indeed your email - illustrate Vodafone's network clearly isn't superior and no other network has yet been forced into such drastic measures.

I'm not arguing Vodafone has a technical problem. I am arguing Vodafone mislead customers and is now wrong to charge them for its exposed inadequacies.


May 7, 2010, 11:04 pm

I think there is also some base unfairness here. If you are paying say £10-15 a month, then sure, perhaps 500Mb is a fair limit, but if you have an iPhone on a wallet-sapping £35-£40 a month, then no, its not fair. You can reasonably expect to get 1Gb or perhaps higher at that tarrif, just as you get more texts and minutes. Makes me glad I'm on a tmobile 3Gb for £15 a month tarrif.


May 7, 2010, 11:30 pm

it's a free market. companies and customers can each make their own decisions.

if any vodafone customers are unhappy, they should move their business to another network. i have a phone with giffgaff (on the o2 network) which has unlimited (and they mean unlimited data)

ok, i'd be very unhappy if i'd just signed a new 18/24 month contract with vodafone, but for anyone coming to the end of a contract or are on payg, i don't see an issue here - THERE ARE LOTS OF OTHER NETWORKS!!


May 7, 2010, 11:33 pm

They may have covered themselves with a meaningless clause aloowing them to add these charges but in my mind that is significantly changing the contract. Either they introduce it for new sign-ups and renewals only, or they're going to get a lot of people demanding their money back.


May 8, 2010, 12:03 am

Isn't it time that someone steps up and offers unlimited packages?

Where I live you can get unlimited and I mean, really unlimited packages for about £18 a month. But I guess that just wouldn't be financially viable now, would it? Well, apparently it is, at least in some parts of the world...

Then again, most handsets aren't as heavily subsidised here, but what's better, pay a bit more for the device, or get uncapped data usage?

Oliver Levett

May 8, 2010, 12:50 am

I'm glad I'm on one of the less popular networks (T-Mobile). I pay £20 every so often, and get 6 months of unlimited internet. I've torrented, download Visual Studio, Windows 7 etc all over 3G/HSDPA, and they've yet to say or do anything...


May 8, 2010, 2:29 am

500MB is checking your email - not fair usage. But its what you'd expect from Vodafone. Low price mobile internet was led by 3 - the other providers were charging ridiculous money but had to drop their prices to compete. I bought 3's 12GB in up to a year for £79.99 as I don't use that much bandwidth. Works out at about £6.66 for a GB per month - bargain. Give Vodafone the push...


May 8, 2010, 3:08 am

Although Jim's comments are valid, as a vodafone customer I am somewhat miffed that they are changing this. As Gordon points out, this has more to do with their network 'inadequacies' if you like and now they want to 'manage' their bandwidth. I think 500Mb is pretty measly, especially when they are pushing mobile TV, music/video downloads and the like.

Maybe I'll be looking for a new telco come the autumn....


May 8, 2010, 4:23 am

@KB - Sorry but 3 could offer me as many GB's as they like for £5pm and I still wouldn't pay pay it, it's cheap for a reason.

david 44

May 8, 2010, 4:56 am

Ok, since vodafone introduced mobile internet bundles 3 or so years ago, although they said there was a fair usage of 500mb nothing was ever implemented to monitor this or to do anything about people who frequently went over it. Now they have actually started to clamp down and monitor data usage for customers with VMI Bundles inline with their fair usage policies, so really they are doing nothing other than what they set out to do in the first place, they have just implemented a system to actually do the job. They have already had calls from customers complaining that they have exceeded it consistantly in the past, one customer freely admitted he uses 3-4 GIG per month!!

The fair usage has always been 500mb, they are guilty of not monitoring it in the past but now that they are, this doesnt justify any complaints from customers saying they feel this is unfair and should be allowed to freely exceed it as they have upto now. There is zero reason to complain, you know its 500mb, its always been 500mb. So there isnt higher bundles allowance, deal with it.

The very same people who are complaining about 500mb being too low are alomst certainly the same people who will call up the 1st time they try to access a page and it times out, or get a 404 error, or when the networks running slow.

Its been abused for far too long now across all the networks, so just accept that you cant do it any longer. If your using more than 500mb a month or 1gig if you have a nexus or iphone, then really you need to find somethng else to do with your time.

Jim Fulton

May 8, 2010, 1:15 pm

Probably the most animated I've seen Gordon, and rightly so. The wrath that's on here seemed like an Apple announcement....and not even a Jobsworth product mentioned here. Can I at last be smug about staying with O2, AND the much maligned iPhone?

Sam Wright

May 8, 2010, 1:20 pm


The reason why the 500mb limit was a soft one is that they accepted that non abusers, people not deliberately exceding, occasionally go over. And if you are saying that it is to crack down on people using 3gb, why not have a limit of 1gb, or 1.5gb. That would be enough to keep everyone happy while not stressing their infrastructure.

After all, the iphone gets 1gb, but the desire, and other meaty smartphones get 500mb. I think we all agree here it shouldnt be abused, but we all signed for a FUP, and when it comes down to it, 500mb just isnt 'fair'


May 8, 2010, 2:07 pm


What kind of email do you get that required 500MB a month?!!!

Obviously more is always better but I've had a 500MB limit on Orange and I've never had too many issues. Sure I can't go crazy streaming stuff but then to be honest I'm more concerned about using up my battery than bandwidth.

I save very data heavy things for WiFi and the 500MB easily covers my genereal usage. All that said I am impressed how T-mobile have given me 3GB a month for a tenner with my Desire.


May 8, 2010, 2:22 pm

The issue here isn't about managing the network capacity. I agree wholeheartedly that this has to be done. The issue is the method that is being employed. If you have signed up customers on increasingly long contracts with "unlimited" data and hit a saturation point then you can't add any more customers. Simple. If the number of customers that you have at saturation point is insufficient then you've made a monumental cock-up. Managing your network is about managing your contracts and usage policy BEFORE you hit a critical problem. Retro-action just smacks of total incompetence. On the other hand, it was all a clever plan which makes Vodafone's action even worse.


May 8, 2010, 3:40 pm

Think all this geek rage is a bit unwarranted really. I have a handset on vodafone that I got a while back with the 500Mb 'unlimited' allowance. I've never gone over it but I always assumed I would be charged if I did. It's in the T&Cs after all.

Jim's excellent post highlights why mobile data is expensive. It seems logical that heavy users are charged for this within the explicit terms of their contract. Overall if anything these measures will be a benefit to me and the vast majority of users who don't munch 500+ Mb per month.


May 8, 2010, 5:34 pm

Meh, just sounds like they're finally being honest about the whole thing. Besides, on my iPhone last month I used 100MB. In five hours total usage spanning several weeks I've used 280MB on my 3G dongle. So 500MB sounds like plenty.


May 8, 2010, 5:34 pm

Does this constitute a sufficient change in the terms & conditions that one could break contract without penalty?

Jon Baughan

May 8, 2010, 5:40 pm

I understand that the added fees for use over 500mb may deter and dissuade users from what may be seen as frivolous use and sometimes abuse of the "unlimited" FUP &#8211 though why VF continue to lure data-hungry users onto a saturated network by promoting devices that are designed to run streaming applications etc. is anyone&#8217s guess . However, if network capacity and resilience are serious concerns to VF, how will these retrospectively applied fees help address these issues? &#8211 especially if customers accept these charges. Maybe I am being naive, but this does not immediately seem to be a logical fix to their problem.

Personally, I doubt that I will ever breach the 500mb (unlimited?) limit. However, I previously felt safe in the knowledge that this would at worst result in no more than some form of warning. As a recent newly signed VF customer, I do now feel somewhat duped and this may not bode well for the remaining 23 months of our relationship...


May 8, 2010, 7:19 pm

500MB is nothing at all for home computing, but for mobile use it seems pretty reasonable to me. Having said that, I still use mobile internet on the mobile phone, and land-line broadband at home - if I were relying on a dongle for most of my internet access then I accept 500MB might go pretty quickly.

I am still rather more concerned with the quality and reliability of the networks - i.e. can you even get to 500MB a month? For example, I can now access mobile internet on my phone (on Orange) with acceptable speed, but only after two months in which it quite simply would not connect to any page at all.


May 8, 2010, 9:23 pm


The point is that it's not a change in the T&Cs. They've always been there but just weren't enforced before.

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