T-Mobile UK Does A U-Turn On Its New Data Caps: Now For New Subs Only

Some major back-pedalling over at T-Mobile in the UK this afternoon, and a major win for its customers. The company has said that its new policy, reducing all fair usage data caps to 500 megabytes, will now only apply to new and upgrading customers, not existing subscribers. When T-Mobile had originally announced the changes on Monday, it said it “affects everyone.” But over the last few days, that policy resulted in an avalanche of angry comments on sites like Twitter and threats of a mass exodus of users.

The new policy, as of this afternoon, according to Lysa Hard, VP for T-Mobile UK:

“On Monday 10 January 2011 we announced that, in line with the rest of the industry, T-Mobile would be reducing its Fair Use Policy for data usage to 500MB a month for all mobile phone customers. Following a further review of our policy, these changes will now be introduced from 1 February, to new and upgrading customers only – not existing customers.

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. The revision to the Fair Use Policy is designed to ensure an improved quality of service for all mobile internet users.”

In its original policy, T-Mobile said that subscribers should use their mobile Internet data allowance for services like email, Twitter and basic web browsing.

But its take on mobile Internet usage was hugely out of sync with what people are using it for: “Browsing means looking at websites and checking email, but not watching videos, downloading files or playing games. 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.”

Somewhat bizarrely, T-Mobile told users to save video for home usage: “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…If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband.”

T-Mobile has never charged an overage fee for people who exceed their data limits, but what it has done, and will continue to do, is restrict bandwidth to new customers who do exceed the 500MB limit — a cap that would have been particularly unfair on those users who had signed up for two-year plans that promised monthly allowances of 3GB of data.

Before today’s announcement, customer anger over the sudden change in policy had gone viral, with several bloggers posting form letters and suggesting that subscribers could use them as a way of cancelling their contracts and avoiding penalites.

But now, while the new cap may well factor into whether people decide to sign on to or upgrade their T-Mobile services, at least existing users will be spared the crunch.