UK 3G dongle users could face beefy bills

In a recent survey conducted by price comparison site, it has been found that users of certain UK mobile broadband providers will incur substantial charges for exceeding their bandwidth limitations. This news comes from the BBC Technology website.

Of course, these charges vary (quite considerably) according to the policies of the separate companies. To this end, strong guidance regarding thorough reading of the policies is recommended. Perhaps more concerning than the amount the charges are, is the fact that three out of four mobile broadband providers have the risk of these extra costs.

According to the survey, over half of mobile broadband users do not realize what their limit is, with twenty four percent of those not even realizing they have a limit. As a result of these figures, it can only be construed that the exceeding of bandwidth is a lucrative moneymaker for the providers of this service. The fact that the users are seemingly unaware could indicate a deliberate mis-communication of the finer points contractually binding should a limit be exceeded.


  • O2 - £200 per extra gigabyte
  • 3 - £100 per extra gigabyte
  • Vodafone - £15 per extra gigabyte
  • Virgin & Orange - £14.95 penalty
  • T-Mobile - no charge

The contrasts between the charges are huge, ranging from no charge to £200 per extra gigabyte on O2. According to the survey, only T-Mobile has no charge and will advise heavy downloaders to change tariff. The use of mobile broadband is becoming greatly popular with laptops and especially Netbooks becoming more widely used. The high street chains actively promote mobile broadband sales with their portable computers because it allows the customer to get the most from the portability of their device.

"Dongle users are most at risk of incurring charges from exceeding download allowances as limits on dongles tend to be much lower than fixed-line packages" said James Parker, manager of mobiles and broadband at

These charges may seem a little frightening to many which is exactly the point says O2, who states that the huge extra sums are in place as a deterrent. O2 also assure that proportionately, very few of their mobile broadband users exceed their limits. Others think its a little too easy to exceed the bandwidth limitations on certain packages: "You'd only need to double that usage to find yourself with a £600 bill from O2," said Parker.

The only advice available to those wishing to benefit from the use of mobile broadband is to closely monitor usage for the first couple of months to see what kind of bandwidth is used on average and then either continue or reduce usage on that basis. Mobile broadband also comes in pay as you go options, but has the downside of less bandwidth capacity.

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TSO said,
What O2 and 3 are doing here is really pathetic, using the small print and policies the average person won't read to screw people over into paying ridiculous amounts. Vodafone, Virgin, Orange and T-Mobile on the other hand are not treating there customers like complete morons, especially T-Mobile who's data policies are very clear.

I've learned to always read the fine print when you are going to be contractually bound to a service.

This has been the case in the US as well for over a year! Has anyone checked Verizon Wireless's 3G plans?

After passing the 5GB quota it costs $.50/MB - that's an incredible $500/GB! It's insane that they charge $60/mo for the first five GB but rack it up ten-fold after that!

Don't even get me started on their $40/mo "lower-tier" that gives you a 50MB/month allowance. That's not a typo -- fifty measly megabytes per MONTH, plus fifty cents a meg after that. They even have a chart on their website showing how many thousands of e-mails that equals, seemingly ignoring the fact that background software updates quietly download hundreds of megs all the time without asking.

*sigh*. /end my long rant

Turns out I'm wrong. The overage charges were $0.25, not $.50, plus 2 months ago they have dropped it down to $.05 - way to go! That's $50/GB - far more reasonable but still expensive.

Why just UK? 3G data services are grossly overpriced everywhere. And almost all plans have ridiculously low monthly data limits. Its high time telecom regulators looked into this.

soumyasch said,
Why just UK? 3G data services are grossly overpriced everywhere. And almost all plans have ridiculously low monthly data limits. Its high time telecom regulators looked into this.

Mobile bandwidth isn't actually cheap for the operators, Especially as they've had to upgrade all the Cellsites (And provide the required backhual from them) to support data services.

It's designed for some web browsing on the move or to send emails.etc not to download that multi gigabyte file.

dragon2611 said,
It's designed for some web browsing on the move or to send emails.etc not to download that multi gigabyte file.

but you are describing a prepaid customer. ;-)

My mother has mobile internet at Telia. When she gets over the limit ( which she never does ) the speed drops to very slow.

I think it's a great idea. I don't like the idea of paying a huge penalty..

I'd also like to point out that O2 is the UK's iPhone reseller too, so it's not TOO surprising that they gouge you!

I'm with T-Mobile. Best mobile phone company EVAR!

FloatingFatMan said,
I'd also like to point out that O2 is the UK's iPhone reseller too, so it's not TOO surprising that they gouge you!

I'm with T-Mobile. Best mobile phone company EVAR!

Me too, even in Croatia, extra GB over subscription is less than 20$

£200 is a ridiculous sounding chanrge - say on their website that its £0.20p per/MB.
I'm suprised at O2 having such a high charge in place, compared to its rivals. I've found thier mobile network to be the best for 2G and 3G reception, and unlike others on here I find the iPhone tariffs offer goof value for money, expecially the unlimited data - which I use a lot of!

Given how people use the iPhone PAYG SIMS in these dongles, you just need to know what you're doing. Mobile broadband isnt for newbies.
Also, its O2 (as in Oxygen) not 02 (zero two)

I have both 3G broadband through T-Mobile (great in London, get 7Mbits, rubbish most other places ~1Mbit) and O2 (pretty much consistent all the time 2-3Mbits).

T-Mobile is easily the best pricing wise though. Used over 6GB's before and they never said anything.

I use an Orange card, and the bandwidth is unlimited. I use about 300 - 400 Mb per month, and browse the Internet quite heavily, though do not use streaming media (video and radio), which is the thing that runs up most mobile users usage.

One of the networks above offer pay-as-you-go, selling the dongle for £40 and data at £15 for a gigabyte. Anyone who says 3G is expensive, must be watching video. If you are sad enough to use the technology for that, should be aware of the cost. My beef is with lack of coverage, not the cost of data.

When I took out my 3G contract with 3, they told me that if I went over my 5gb pm usage, then I would be charged at £1/Mb! Also, When the service was down, I took the sim from my Blackberry that has unlimited everything added to the contract, I downloaded 131Mb of data and they charged my £110 for it!

Yep, O2 you're correct, it really is a deterrent - a deterrent to ever sign up for your service. I've been looking at getting a 3G dongle for emergency use, so I guess I can scratch your name off my list. Idiots.

If they want to deter people from going over their allowance, they should give them the option of having their data plan disabled for the rest of the billing cycle when that allowance is reached. No one in their right mind would want to pay £200/GB.

i'm happy with my telus 3g card and plan; 5gb for $33 cnd , $10/Gb if over. I dont go over. (although my plan is grandfathered, current plans are a bit more)

its great for internet on the go; and to remote desktop into my home server to manage my torrents from anywhere.

I sort of feel sorry for people who have to pay overages. I have old Sprint mobile data plans that ranged in price from 10.00 to 62.50 (the latter is still active btw) that have unlimited data.

I right now have an unlimited (no cap) data card plan at 29.99. Too bad I dont know anything about the UK companies or I would help out there.

I am personally really happy with my new service from 3, on a 30 day contract (5gb a month/£15). It's, like many, to cover the time I wait for BT and Sky to install a fixed line, but serves me very nicely...

I can't quite imagine using 5Gb on a dongle though - people that do, surely are treating it 'like' a fixed line, downloading video and audio...

T-Mobile R Good but use over 1gb & thet flog your speed, & if I am not mistakin it should happen at 3gb which is still a bad hand to be dealt seen as though it is unlimited useage, they R all about the same use 1gb & b gratfull U got that. PS I know allot about mobile networks & no matter what it states in your contract if U use 1gb U will feel a pinch.

Unlimited is just a word I am yet to see transpire, it's a loophole in the system just like the NHS were doctors can proscribe themselfs anything they want without been looked upon, I wish they would just state 1gb useage and anymore and your online experience will be none excitant.

PS sorry for my spelling I did not manage a spell check today as it would have taken another 10mins to load the spell checker I use online rather than open word. abit of a joke early in the day.

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