UK 3G dongle users could face beefy bills

In a recent survey conducted by price comparison site Moneysupermarket.com, 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.

Charges:

  • 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 Moneysupermarket.com

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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41 Comments

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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.

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.

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...

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'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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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)

£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!

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$

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..

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. ;-)

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

*update*
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.

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.

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.

Well, the service itself, if you have the need and can afford it, can be invaluable to some professions
For the general public however, yea I've always been a bit skeptical.

If O2 has been straightforward with their users in telling them beforehand, the deterrent justification is totally valid, 3G data traffic doesn't cost the same as standard comoditized IP traffic, preventing users from abusing the service by these means ain't totally unjustified... if you need to transfer that much over 3G then buy an adapted plan.

Hell, even for standard mobile plans they limit your data traffic, over here when you have an unlimited iPhone data plan, it's actually more like you get 1GB each month full speed, and if you go overboard they retrograde you to speeds around 128kbps for the remainder of the month

Arkos Reed said,
Well, the service itself, if you have the need and can afford it, can be invaluable to some professions
For the general public however, yea I've always been a bit skeptical.

If O2 has been straightforward with their users in telling them beforehand, the deterrent justification is totally valid, 3G data traffic doesn't cost the same as standard comoditized IP traffic, preventing users from abusing the service by these means ain't totally unjustified... if you need to transfer that much over 3G then buy an adapted plan.

Hell, even for standard mobile plans they limit your data traffic, over here when you have an unlimited iPhone data plan, it's actually more like you get 1GB each month full speed, and if you go overboard they retrograde you to speeds around 128kbps for the remainder of the month

I didn't have that when I had an iphone data plan but then again maybe they changed that one. I used to use it alot when I had an aircard for 4 months but they placed a clause that said if you went over 5GB then you should arrange for a different plan. I hit like 4.9GB and they put that clause in after I cancelled.

02 are the mosty overpriced overhyped network here in the UK!!!! After using mobile services across all four providers for over 11 years normally with multiple contracts running I have found Vodafone to be the best provider. Even allowing early upgrades with nominal handset costs, ie I enquired the other day about upgrading 6 months before my "early upgrade date" for a Nokia N97 and they only wanted £100.00 towards the cost of the handset. In my experience no other provider will do this full stop.

As far as this goes I can confirm the T-Mobile usage policy is as follows

"Unlimited browsing with a xGB a month download limit" I am on a plan of £15 a month and this gives unlimited browsing with 3GB download limits, and if you go over occasionally all you get is a text message saying be careful. If you regulalrly exceed they can and do make package changes though.

I think the other networks charging is disgusting full stop, they should advise users upfront about these extra GB costs and I can see the EU stepping in and doing something useful like they did with the roaming charges thing.

cerealfreak said,
02 are the mosty overpriced overhyped network here in the UK!!!! After using mobile services across all four providers for over 11 years normally with multiple contracts running I have found Vodafone to be the best provider. Even allowing early upgrades with nominal handset costs, ie I enquired the other day about upgrading 6 months before my "early upgrade date" for a Nokia N97 and they only wanted £100.00 towards the cost of the handset. In my experience no other provider will do this full stop.

As far as this goes I can confirm the T-Mobile usage policy is as follows

"Unlimited browsing with a xGB a month download limit" I am on a plan of £15 a month and this gives unlimited browsing with 3GB download limits, and if you go over occasionally all you get is a text message saying be careful. If you regulalrly exceed they can and do make package changes though.
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.
I think the other networks charging is disgusting full stop, they should advise users upfront about these extra GB costs and I can see the EU stepping in and doing something useful like they did with the roaming charges thing.

... especially when your in debt to them. Just because you cancelled the contract doesn't mean you don't still have to pay the money back. The solution here is to not go over your limit.

Don't worry he just accidently.

---------------------------

I use mobile broadband, but thats because I don't have a landline in my new house yet. But then again, I'm actually smart and monitor my usage.

Contrary to your (misguided) belief Lee26, mobile broadband is a good option for internet on the move, and even for those that don't get the benefit of a decent internet connection out in the country where there are no decente exchanges. I can vouch for this since I moved house. In my new house, Sky have screwed me around immensely, so the only option I've had is to use pay-as-you-go, and it's served me well as an interim solution. You've just got to make damn sure that you monitor your usage.

Majesticmerc, contrary to your misguided belief I wasn't saying it isn't a good idea or that it isn't a good option for some people I was merely referring to the extrenmely expensive cost.