Orange UK has followed the other major operators in simplifying its data charging tariffs, and opened up unmetered data access to non-panthers as well as those on pre-paid contracts.
The new bundles include free evening and weekend browsing for £5 a month, or £8 to be able to browse during the day too. Pre-paid customers can pay £5 for seven days unlimited browsing. The new tariffs come in on 1 June.
Orange is very careful to say that the service is "browsing" and not "internet access", leaving it plenty of room to block services it doesn't like the look of.
Its previous unmetered data terms and conditions were pretty clear on what services were frowned upon. "To ensure the fair allocation of network resources for all customers the offer may not be used for: modem access for computers, internet based streaming services, voice or video over the internet, instant mssaging, peer to peer file sharing and non Orange internet based video."
But, unlike Vodafone, Orange seems to accept the impossibility of enforcing such restrictions: "We would discourage any customer from using VoIP through the mobile internet due to the quality of service they may experience. We are looking to launch our own high quality IM service in the next few months which will deliver a far superior customer experience to currently available services.
"Our terms and conditions will state that the bundle should not be used for these services."
It seems likely that the 1GB/month fair-use limit from its previous unmetered tariff will remain in place, though no one from Orange was able to confirm that.
The problems afflicting mobile operators are very much those that fixed-line ISPs are struggling with - it's fine to offer customers massive amounts of bandwidth, as long as they don't actually use it. But the internet is now spawning applications to make use of that last-mile bandwidth, and even if the customer is charged a fixed rate for access, the ISP is paying a per-packet rate to their provider. ®