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Begun the bandwidth wars have

Uh-oh. We don't like the look of this, not one bit.

Remember in the 1990s, when WAP phones were first launched, and the mobile networks produced hundreds of adverts saying they could give us 'the internet' on our phones? Then we bought WAP phones, and realised 'the internet' meant a handful of rubbish text-only sites, and that was the end of that.

Well, in the last few years smartphones like Android and the iPhone have made the mobile internet a reality. Web surfing, emailing, and watching YouTube are now all totally feasible on the bus. This is great, but it puts an incredible strain on the UK's mobile networks. The current networks were built for calls, not data, and the sheer amount of megabytes being sucked down to people's phones each day puts a big strain on the networks.

So the networks have begun putting sneaky limits on the amount of data you get when you buy an 'unlimited' data package. This is called 'fair use', and it means that an 'unlimited' package isn't really that at all - go over a certain amount of use a month, and you could get told off or even cut off.

That didn't matter much when the limits were high, as only hardcore users ever broke them. But now, as data needs increase and bandwidth gets scarcer, those limits are coming down. T-Mobile has just announced - in a straightforward but a bit rude press release - that its 'fair use' limit for its mobile internet package is dropping to a crazy-low 500MB.

In fairness, this doesn't mean you'll be unable to get online once you've used 500MB, or that you'll be charged extra. 'We'll always let you email and browse the internet and you'll never pay more than you agree to,' T-Mobile say. (Read the whole release over at Engadget.) T-Mobile's beef, it seems, is with people streaming videos. Once you're over 500MB, downloading and streaming video over 3G mysteriously won't work any more.

'Browsing means looking at websites and checking email, but not watching videos, downloading files or playing games,' T-Mobile say a bit shirtily. 'If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband.'

Yes sir! We predict a user revolt when these changes go through next month, followed by T-Mobile changing their minds - or, possibly, getting rid of their fixed-rate data plans altogether, like most other networks have. And mark our words - this is just a preview of the battles to come over data pricing in the next few years. Begun these bandwidth wars have...

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