T-Mobile To Impose 500MB Cap On Data

Mobile operator T-Mobile is cutting data limits in half, and telling customers to stream video at home

T-Mobile has halved the amount of data that customers on its network are allowed to consume in a month, advising users to save video downloads and streaming for when they get home.

In a message that went up on the T-Mobile support site over the weekend, the company said that from 1 February it would be reducing its fair-use cap for mobile Internet from 1GB per month to 500MB. This, it claims, will ensure that customers will always be able to browse the web.

“Browsing means looking at websites and checking email, but not watching videos, downloading files or playing games,” said T-Mobile. “We’ve got a fair use policy but ours means that you’ll always be able to browse the Internet, it’s only when you go over the fair use amount that you won’t be able to download, stream and watch video clips.

“If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband,” the company tutted.

Tackling the data strain

T-Mobile’s fair use policy previously gave customers with Android phones an automatic add-on as part of their plan, that caps Internet usage at 3GB per month. However, according to a post on T-Mobile’s UK support Twitter account, allowances for Android customers will also be reduced to 500MB.

Meanwhile, those who purchased the add-on separately will see their cap fall to 1GB a month.

The move by T-Mobile is indicative of the increasing strain that mobile networks are coming under as smartphone uptake continues to grow. Mobile companies such as Freedom4 and mBlox have warned that GSM networks are not built to cope with the demand currently being placed on them by mobile broadband, and carriers are beginning to admit they can no longer offer unlimited data plans.

In June 2010, O2 announced it was scrapping its unlimited data deals, following a number of embarrassing network failures in London. The operator was forced to admit that the crashes were caused by the bandwidth strain from the increasing use of smartphones. Vodafone and 3UK were quick to follow, capping data usage at 1GB per month.

3 chief executive Kevin Russell said that he regretted using the term “unlimited” to describe data packages, as it was not “the reality of the market place”.

4G on the horizon

The industry is beginning to make moves to combat this issue, with operators exploring the use of LTE and WiMax to improve their service. Juniper Research has predicted that 4G technologies will start to make their presence felt in 2012, and that mobile broadband subscribers will exceed 300 million globally by 2015.

“Most of this growth will occur from 2012 but mobile operators are preparing now as rapidly increasing data traffic from mobile apps and mobile Internet usage forces them to react,” said Juniper.

The auction of the 800Mhz and 2.6Ghz high-speed data spectrum is due to take place in Q1 2012, and Ofcom’s chief executive Ed Richards predicts that it will “fuel an explosion” of 4G networks.

“It is clear that we are talking about a very significant step forward – not only the most significant release since the 3G auction in 2001 but spectrum which is the raw material that will fuel an explosion in next generation mobile broadband,” he said.