4G UK: Operators say ‘no' to unlimited data plans, except for Three

Last month, the UK telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, announced the successful bidders in its recent auction for 4G spectrum, which will see the market for fourth-generation mobile services finally opened up to a broader range of providers. While EE has been offering 4G services for some time now, using converted spectrum reallocated from its T-Mobile and Orange 3G network, its effective monopoly on 4G services in the UK has so far denied consumers there the benefits of competition, with EE charging high prices and offering low data allowances for the higher-speed packages.

Many consumers have lamented the absence of any unlimited data plans on EE's 4G service, particularly since T-Mobile – part of the EE brand family – offers unlimited data on 3G through its Full Monty price plans from £36 a month with a handset, or £21 a month on a SIM-only basis. Even so, while T-Mobile markets these plans as “unlimited”, they are in fact speed-limited, with permanent speed restrictions of 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream.

With the greatest marketable advantage of 4G being greater speed, there would be little point for operators to offer unlimited packages on 4G only to then apply speed caps. And despite the imminent arrival of competition into the UK’s 4G landscape, it seems that most operators there have no appetite to challenge this status quo.

The UK’s Mobile News reports that Telefónica’s UK CEO Ronan Dunne, EE CEO Olaf Swantee and Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao have all made it clear that they have no intention of introducing unlimited data tariffs on their networks. Colao stated that “you can’t provide good quality and unlimited at the same time. If everyone has unlimited then you kill the performance of everybody else”, adding that such tariffs are “unsustainable”.

Dunne echoed these sentiments, stating that O2 will “not go unlimited. We simply can’t promise our customers a high quality of service if we’ve promised them an unlimited connection.”

Swantee also quashed hopes that EE might see an unlimited data plan, saying that they “are not really necessary. What customers want first and foremost is no bill shock. If you have tariffs like we have in the UK then you solve the key problem for customers. With 1.4GB being the average [monthly] usage, you can simply create the right packages that support that.”

But not all operators are united in their antipathy towards unlimited 4G data plans. The Three network, which already offers unlimited data on its “One Plan”, has confirmed that 4G LTE access will be offered as standard on all of its price plans from later this year, and that tariffs offering unlimited data will continue to be offered at the same price with 4G speeds. Three offers unlimited data on SIM-only plans costing as little as £12.90 per month – a far cry from the £61 a month that EE currently asks for those use want 20GB a month on its 4G services.

Neither Vodafone nor O2 have yet detailed their 4G pricing structure, and it’s not clear what implications the comments made above might have on virtual operators that will use the physical networks owned by these companies in the UK; O2’s Mr Dunne, for example, is also chairman of Tesco Mobile, and as CEO of Telefónica also has responsibility for giffgaff, which also offers unlimited data on 3G.

Still, while there remain many questions about exactly what the future of 4G will look like in the UK, the imminent arrival of greater competition in the market can only be a good thing for consumers.

Source: Mobile News

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been with 3 for 2 years now, 3G speed has been great, never drops below 3mbps where i live, while my friends on EE and O2 struggle to get above 2, and only have sustained speeds of 1mbps which is laughable these days. So only have high hopes for their 4G service

I'm with 3 and have never had an issue with them and lo and behold they sent me a letter the other day telling me my plan (One plan) would be automatically updated to 4G as and when it was available in my area.

Cheers Three!

My mobile provider offers an unlimited data plan with a soft cap of 5 GB. If you surpass that, your download and upload speeds are throttled. I'm fine with that because the only time I use my data is when I'm not at home.

My situation is unique though because the mobile provider I'm with is much better than the more popular choices. In Canada, there are 3 major providers (Rogers, Bell, and Telus). They all offer low monthly caps for data and charge outrageous fees per GB that you go over. It seems as though the UK has a similar problem. The only good thing about the mobile providers in Canada is speed (e.g. 4G LTE).

1.4GB is fine for web browsing but any "heavy web" user will soon and can hit this simply by doing normal handset activities such as software updates and Facebook. Anyone that uses bandwidth heavy content services handset services such as Youtube or Netflix will soon find 1.4GB runs out very quickly which is laughable as this is exactly what all this "speed" is supposed to deliver.

Unlimited is not strictly necessary granted however the caps need to be far in excess of "average" for a reasonable cost of an unlimited plan. On top of this a reasonable cost for capacity on over use.

Peddling 50GB for £9.99 then trying to charge £3.00 a GB over is a no.
Putting caps on data of 20GB and charging £60 a month is laughable.

Until mobile data comes down to around 10GB for ~£10 per month or £15 for 20GB which includes tethering then ill stick with 3G.

At some point the average person is going to wake up and find that the premium they are paying for all this speed which is marketed as delivering content and video quickly to their handsets isn't worth it when they are bitch slapped for doing exactly that. Luckily people are slowly starting to realise this now they are starting to get punished for overuse doing average thing like iPlayer on what's supposed to be an unlimited connection.

I personally have no interest in 4g at the moment, 3g is fine around here. I get HSPA+ speeds of 10mbps which is more than enough for me on the go, all for £9.90 a month with Three.

Why pay more for less?

Well, I use between 5-10GB/m on mobile internet at the moment and that's an average month with minimal tethering. I imagine with 4G I'd be more prone to streaming videos, etc so that number is only going to go up. And I'm not an odd case - more and more people are using services such as Spotify and Google Music, I already know people who self-limit because they don't want to run over their allowances (And are also going to switch to three when they next get the opportunity)

Thankful for Three being the only sane network. (They even offer £5/day unlimited internet in mainland europe!)

Why all this stubbornness on not providing unlimited data? The service is already of low quality. As an example Vodafone 3G data in Brighton is almost non-functional during the day.

Three has shown the way, still the others do not even consider making an unlimited data plan. The only reason I am not on Three is because of their awful customer services were they suspended all my pay-monthly services for 5 days and they wouldn't tell me why because they didn't know.

You just answered your own question.

Q: Why all this stubbornness on providing unlimited data?
A: The service is already of low quality. As an example Vodafone 3G data in Brighton is almost non-functional during the day.

So it all seems pretty pointless at the moment, if all they can offer is a crippled service.

Orange data services were terrible and they got worse when they merged networks and became EE (Or Nothing Anywhere as I now call them)
Orange can't even handle a simple termination of service and continue billing beyond the final payments date (happened to three people I know including myself) so I don't expect them to be able to handle a 4G network properly.

They will most likely blame their own incompetence on heavy network demand and try to force up prices artificially so that they can pocket more money and provide minor upgrades to an already poorly built network

It's one thing for them to say that just now, but it doesn't really mean much whenever they decide to change their minds. With mobile contracts it's somehow okay for the company to change their minds on the service they give you whenever they want.

I had a unlimited data contract with 3 a couple of years ago, got a text one day telling after that month it was being capped at 1GB, and that was that.

In Canada, if a wireless telecommunications provider changes anything in a contract... then you have the option of cancelling that contract without having to pay an early cancellation fee. It also applies to Internet service, home phone, and cable TV. Technically, they can get away with it with their terms of service but they don't want to deal with the complaints of customers (which usually go to through the government or Better Business Bureau [BBB]).

FloatingFatMan said,
^ It works like that in the UK too. If a service provider changes the terms of the contract, you can legally terminate that contract with no penalty.

this ^