Unlimited data tariffs return to the UK, courtesy of 3

While other operators in the UK are doing all they can to extricate themselves from unlimited data tariffs, 3UK has decided otherwise, stating that it will be scrapping its current limit of 1GB a month.

While 3UK is the smallest operator in the country with six million subscribers and about 1.5 million mobile Internet customers, the company has long been recognised for offering the lowest-cost voice and data plans.

However, this latest move goes further than eliminating charges for excessive download usage and is also allowing subscribers to tether their handsets to a laptop or PC--thereby effectively turning the phone into a broadband modem.

Commenting on this offer, analysts speculated whether it would prompt rivals to switch tack and revisit their plans to reduce data download limits. "This is another maverick move by a known disruptor," said Emma Mohr-McClune, an analyst with Current Analysis. "I don't think this is going to set a trend, but if 3UK takes market share, it might."

Regardless of the potential for 3UK's network to be overwhelmed by heavy data users migrating across to its network, the company believes it has identified a gap in the market it can exploit.

"Other networks were talking about how they were going to have to start charging more," said a 3UK spokesman. "We will allow tethering, and as long as someone isn't doing something illegal then we will allow it."

"We think from the consumer perspective, even if you offer a big data allowance, people are unsure how much they've used and they get nervous. So we remove that concern. From a business perspective, we have had a big run of growth off the back of smartphones. We're looking to grow our business using data, as it's increasingly important to mainstream consumers," said the company.

3 has been forced to rejig its tariffs following an aggressive move by a competitor. Earlier this year in Sweden, Telenor and 3 Sweden amended their new tiered pricing plans after a rival, Tele2, persisted in offering unlimited data plans.

"Unlimited data is like a virus. Once it is introduced in a market, it is very difficult to get rid of," said Mohr-McClune. "That is what happened in Sweden."

For more:
- see this NY Times article
- see this Guardian article

Related Articles:
Operators dump unlimited data offerings; file sharing blamed
Mass protest planned against O2 data-capping
Dongle users hit by falling download limit, iPhone blamed
Tiered data pricing and a missed opportunity