T-Mobile cuts mobile data limit, spurs strong objections

T-Mobile UK has landed itself in hot water with its customers, and possibly with UK regulator Ofcom, after it announced plans to change the rules on its unlimited mobile Internet tariff.

From 1 Feb. there will be a fair-use limit of 500 MB for multimedia files, down from 1 GB. T-Mobile customers using Android smartphones will fare even worse, having their monthly allowance of 3 GB slashed to the same 500 MB--a cut of 83 per cent. According to T-Mobile, the average data allowance used by the majority of its customers is 200 MB, so only a few will be affected.

In a statement, T-Mobile said it will not be charging customers additional rates for exceeding these data limits and those who do will still be able to access services such as email or Web browsing, but will have file downloading restricted. Customers who need higher volumes of data will be encouraged to sign up for separate mobile broadband plans.

T-Mobile later clarified that the changes will be for new and upgrading customers only. "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,"  Lysa Hardy, vice president of T-Mobile UK, said in the second statement. "The revision to the Fair Use Policy is designed to ensure an improved quality of service for all mobile internet users."

In an explanation of its actions T-Mobile said, "If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband." T-Mobile is looking to differentiate by content type with heavy usage such as video streaming on the one hand, and lighter usage such as email and Internet browsing on the other.

Customer complaints at the new rules are already flooding in and Ofcom has said it is "examining" the situation, but not "investigating," and will respond to any complaints from the public. The regulator has already indicated that it believes that customers should be advised at least one month in advance of any changes. Ofcom went on to state that users may well have a case for early and penalty free termination of their contract if the changes prove unacceptable.

For more:
- see this T-Mobile statement
- see this The Register article
- see this Silicon.com article
- see this 3g.co.uk article

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Article updated 12 Jan. to reflect T-Mobile's second statement that the changes will be for new and upgrading customers only.