Dongle users hit by falling download limit, iPhone blamed

While European operators continue to promote the sale of 3G dongles, as seen by O2 extending it half-price offer, the contracted download limits have either remained static or are falling.

When dongles were first induced in around 2007 operators were offering unlimited data downloads with fair usage policies that were seldom (if ever) applied. Typical offers included a monthly ‘limit' of between 10Gb and 15Gb, but operators have now dramatically, albeit quietly, reduced this limit. Vodafone and T-Mobile now offer a maximum of 5Gb, while O2 UK and Virgin are as low as 3Gb per month.

According to the comparison site Broadband Genie, the blame for this is being laid at the door of smartphones, which are sold with unlimited data plans. In their haste to gain distribution rights to the iPhone, one of the conditions imposed by Apple was that people who bought the handset would get unlimited data--seen by operators at the time as a small price to pay for gaining access to the iPhone.

However, accepting this condition has seen some operators, in particular O2 in London, forced to invest heavily to upgrade their 3G networks to add extra capacity.

Broadband Genie editor, Chris Marling, said that the iPhone and other smartphone users have a lot of apps putting strain on the networks, "while advanced streaming technology, gaming, email attachments and more complex, media-rich websites are draining data for laptop, Mac and PC users."

"It's no surprise O2 UK offers the lowest data limit on its dongles, as it struggles to cope with the demand for data from iPhone users, amongst others. It will be interesting to see how Vodafone and Orange hold up under the extra data strain Apple's iconic device clearly brings," said Marling.

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