Free mobile broadband to become commonplace

The continued upsurge in European mobile broadband usage is likely to lead to the service being provided 'free' as early as 2009 as ISPs and cell phone operators battle to gain market share by stealing subscribers from rival networks. According to research conducted by Top10 Broadband, the offers being made by fixed line broadband providers--including highly discounted bundles of voice and data--are certain to migrate over to the mobile environment.

Mobilkom Austria is already offering six months of free mobile broadband usage to new subscribers, and 3UK is promoting a free mobile broadband dongle on some deals and charges customers on a Pay as You Go basis. Mobile broadband prices have fallen faster than their landline counterparts--packages normally start at €18, down from €55 only two years ago.

Meanwhile, as the frenzy to gain mobile broadband users increases, Vodafone has been given a slap from the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and has been told to withdraw an advert for one of its data packages which falsely implied customers could get unlimited mobile web access. The ad copy bellowed: "Any website, any time. £7.50 a month. Make the most of now." The small print whispered that a usage limit of 120MB per month applied. The ASA, however, ruled that the ad could be construed as an 'unlimited' claim, and that the small print was not prominent enough.

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