Opinion

T-Mobile backs down over data cap humiliation

In an update to this column's earlier coverage of the T-Mobile data cap fiasco, we can report that after a long and unexplained silence a chastened T-Mobile has at last 'clarified' the situation.

I use quotation marks because really, it has backed down after being soundly humiliated.

In the face of massive public anger and the threat of action against it by Ofcom, as detailed earlier today on Network Noise, the provider has now decided that the absurd 500MB limit will now apply to brand new customers and upgrades only.

Struggling to see through the egg on her face, T-Mobile UK vice president Lysa Hardy this evening said: "There will be no change to the data packages for existing customers for the duration of their contract and we apologise for any confusion caused."

Er, sorry, Lysa, nobody was confused. It was quite clear what T-Mobile was trying to do and the original statement was perfectly clear. Don't try and make out that we didn't understand it.

And I note that Hardy has not apologised for the thoroughly cheeky tone of T-Mobile's statement, in which it addressed its customers in the manner of a teacher addressing a naughty class, and told us to "save that stuff [video] for your home broadband."

But for now it seems that T-Mobile has saved its bacon. Of course it's still going to lose a lot of customers (including me) when all those Android contracts come up for renewal, but it has at least lessened the blow to its pocket in the short-term

T-Mobile has just been given a crash course in how not to communicate with its end-users. I hope it has learned a valuable lesson.

This is an important victory for several reasons, not least because the high profile of the case will likely make it clear to the average customer the raw deal that British mobile users get on their data plans.

For too long the UK's mobile operators have sought to restrict usage of a device, the smartphone, that is sold as a life-changing device, capable of downloading anything anywhere (or indeed, Everything Everywhere).

I believe we have only begin to unlock the potential of the smartphone for both consumer and business use. It is already changing the way we work, but given time there is so much more it will do.

It's time for the mobile networks to stop attempting to shut the stable door. The horse has not just bolted, it's over the hills and far away.

Instead, they should put the money we pay them to good use, and fund the needed improvements to Britain's mobile infrastructure.

This was first published in January 2011

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