3 offers truly unlimited data, Orange and t-Mobile consider restrictions
Mobile service providers have long since used smoke and mirrors concerning data tariffs and usage; their inexplicable ability to redefine the meaning of 'unlimited' has caused confusion and upset amongst consumers for years, with regulators and ombudsmen doing little to curb the practice until recently.
What might be the next trick be to entice customers over to a particular service? Well, there are two possible extremes for the future for mobile data tariffs - and news of both is playing out today.
Everything Everywhere, parent company of terrible twosome Orange and T-Mobile have told consumer champs Which! that they're not opposed to the possibility of restricting particular types of content, such as streaming video.
The company stressed it's not currently considering tariffs that would band types of media consumption together and restrict them, but also that it doesn't want the possibility restricted in the future. If mobile tariffs were to be steered in that direction, it may mean budget contracts for users happy to make do without streaming media, and premium prices for those that wanted access to YouTube or iPlayer.
By making the operators the gatekeepers of what websites and platforms can and can't be used, consumers are effectively agreeing to have their service moderated. Where would the line be drawn - is low-quality and high-quality streaming bunched together? What about audio, or mobile gaming? A broader issue is that if service providers are clear about their data limits and charges for excess usage from the beginning, then everyone - provider and consumer - knows where they stand.
That final point brings us to today's other news which concerns Three. They are promising unlimited data - as in the textbook definition of the word - as part of their new One Plan tariff; use your current mobile, and you can sign up to 2,000 any-mobile minutes, 5,000 3-to-3 minutes and 5,000 texts for £25 a month.
The 1GB limit has been lifted and it seems that Three really don't care what you use your mobile for:
We’re leaving behind the ‘old mobile’ world of limits and allowances in favour of a new world that gives you the freedom to use your smartphone to do everything it was designed for without the worry of cost.
Our new world has no data restrictions, you can use as much as you want and we’ll never charge you a penny more.
If you’ve been to all-you-can-eat restaurants before, you’ll already be familiar how this works. You pay once, you get as much as you want the first time round, and you can still keep coming back for more. And yes, if you want to use your phone as a dongle (also known as tethering) then you absolutely can.
Three are also advising customers that if they're currently paying for any data bolt-ons to increase their current data limit, these can be cancelled with thirty days notice.