Operators dump unlimited data offerings; file sharing blamed

O2 has been one of the first operators to restructure its data pricing plans and withdraw its unlimited offering. The company, which recently saw its London data network overwhelmed by data traffic, is likely to be the first of many within Europe to move to a tiered data plan for smartphone users.

The UK operator, which will be offering the new iPhone 4 smartphone within weeks, is thought to have taken this decision in anticipation that its iPhone user base will continue to increase above the existing two million.

However, according to O2's UK CEO, Ronan Dunne, the data overload problem is being caused by a miniscule number of users, albeit with insatiable data appetites. "One streamed YouTube video has the same effect on the network as half a million text messages sent simultaneously," said Dunne.

The company has published statistics indicating that 97 per cent of O2's smartphone owners use less than 500Mb per month, and that only a tiny number use more than 1Gb.

But the real problem, according to insiders, stems from users that have been abusing the unlimited clause in their contracts and using the handset as a 3G dongle to almost ceaselessly download P2P data. O2 has confirmed that 0.1 per cent of its smartphone users--about 2,000 subscribers--are consuming 36 per cent of its data.

Of note, O2 UK said that FaceTime, the video calling feature that will be included with the iPhone 4, will only be available on WiFi (at least from O2), and there will be regular texts to make subscribers aware of how much of their cellular data allowance is remaining each month.

For more on this story:
- read The Guardian

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