T-Mobile says "download at home" after slashing data cap

New fair use policy tells mobile users to stick to email and browsing

Nicole Kobie
10 Jan 2011

Mobile operator T-Mobile has unveiled a new fair use policy, raising a few eyebrows by telling customers to leave high-bandwidth downloads for home.

From the beginning of next month, the policy will limit customers to 500MB a month, down from 1GB or 3GB, depending on the contract. "If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband," a document on the T-Mobile site said.

A T-Mobile spokesperson has said the new policy will apply to all customers, including those who have already signed contracts with a higher cap. A message on the company's official Twitter account said: "We have to give you reasonable notice that our fair use policy is changing."

T-Mobile is touting the change as a benefit for customers, saying they won't be charged for going over that 500MB limit. Instead, they'll simply be banned for the rest of the month from downloading large files or viewing video via their handsets.

"Browsing means looking at websites and checking email, but not watching videos, downloading files or playing games," the company claimed. "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."

The move takes T-Mobile in the opposite direction to rival 3, which has removed any limit on mobile data, keeping with the trend of more and more people accessing services such as video, the web and app stores over their handsets.

T-Mobile's new fair use policy, on the other hand, encourages users to save heavy-bandwidth services for when they get home.

"So remember our Mobile Broadband and internet on your phone service is best used for browsing which means looking at your favorite websites like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, BBC News and more, checking your email and looking for information, but not watching videos or downloading files," it said.

Update: A T-Mobile spokesperson has since sent over a statement, saying the new fair usage policy was "in line with the industry".

“These restrictions will affect both new and existing customers, and will ensure an improved quality of service for all of our mobile internet users," the spokesperson said. "As the average mobile internet customer uses only 200MB of data each month, this will only affect a small minority of users, whom we have begun notifying."

“Customers who have a need for higher volumes of data will be encouraged to take up a separate mobile broadband plan," the spokesperson added. "We are confident that these changes will result in a better experience for all of our customers who use internet on their phone.”

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