colourful words and phrases

techy tangents and general life chatter from a tired sysadmin.

I hate the term 'unlimited'.

Okay yes I know I said the second part of my mail server post was incoming, it still is, but for now I'd like to break out and complain about something again.

Virgin Media recently announced a new 'Premiere' tariff for Virgin Mobile. This tariff gives you unlimited calls to landlines, 2500 minutes to mobiles, unlimited texts and unlimited data, for as low as £21 for existing Virgin Media customers.

As soon as I read "all-you-can-eat data", I was skeptical. Very few mobile operators offer truly unlimited data (and I'm with Three UK, who are one of maybe two operators here that offer proper unlimited data - their policies state that customers have an effective data cap of 1TB per month). So I did what anyone else does, and I looked up their policies (which you can find here), which state that:

Unlimited Mobile internet for daily use by Pay Monthly customers: We'll monitor how much mobile internet you use each month so that we can protect the network we use for all of our customers. If we consider your use to be excessive, we won't charge you any more, but we may restrict your access to the mobile web depending on how often and how excessive we think your usage is. As a rule of thumb, we are likely to consider any usage over 1GB per month to be excessive. Unlimited use is within the UK and is for your personal, non-commercial use only. It doesn't include making internet phone or video calls, peer to peer file sharing, using your phone as a modem, or while you are abroad.

Virgin Mobile are basically stating that they'll either restrict or throttle you if you use more than 1GB of data a month. That's hardly unlimited.

Then you've got the unlimited texts and landline minutes. But Maff, you may cry. How can Virgin screw up unlimited texts and landline calls? Quite easy. From the same document on virgin's website:

Unlimited texts: Unlimited texts are subject to a fair use allowance of 3000 texts per month. If your usage exceeds this amount then we reserve the right to charge you for the excessive element of your usage at the text rate for other mobile networks for your tariff outlined in our Tariff Table. Unlimited use is within the UK and is for your personal, non-commercial use only. It doesnt include texts to shortcode services, group text, or picture messages and any of these uses will be charged at the text rate for other mobile networks for your tariff outlined in our Tariff Table.

Unlimited landline minutes: Unlimited landline minutes are subject to a fair use allowance of 9000 minutes per quarter (3 months). If your usage exceeds this amount then we reserve the right to charge you for the excessive element of your usage at the rate for calls to landlines for your tariff outlined in our Tariff Table. Unlimited use is only for UK originating calls from the eligible Virgin Media phone to UK landlines (01,02 and 03 numbers). All other call types will be charged at the rates indicated in the Tariff Table and are not included in the allowance of minutes. Unlimited minutes are for your personal, non-commercial use only.

Right there. "Unlimited texts" actually means "3000 texts per month and we'll probably charge you standard rates if you go over that". "Unlimited landline minutes" actually means "9000 minutes per quarter year, and we'll probably charge you standard rates if you go over that".

Now it's fair to assume that most people won't use more than 3000 minutes or texts per month, but please, don't call that unlimited. It's misleading. As for Virgin's so-called unlimited data, I really don't understand how it can be called "unlimited data" when Virgin considers usage exceeding 1GB per month "excessive".

I really have nothing against Virgin, they were one of the first operators I was with (The other was BT CELLNET, now o2), and I'm sure their 3G network is great (I last used Virgin's network several years before 3G was even a thing in the UK so I have no idea, but the 2G network they had was good and coverage was always great), but it just rubs me up the wrong way when an ISP or mobile network provider claims that a service is "unlimited" - I did the same thing with BT when I discovered their top-tier "Unlimited 8mbps" broadband plan was actually subject to a fair use cap of 100GB. We didn't find this out until BT emailed us saying we'd hit 80GB that month and that we'd be billed for any usage past 100GB.

I'm happy to change this if I just found the wrong policies page on Virgin's website. If I pointed out the wrong policies and Virgin's "Premiere" tariff is subject to different policies, please point it out and I'll happily reflect that in this post.