GiffGaff look to deal with their data hogs

GiffGaff look to deal with their data hogs

Let me tell you a story. Back in the day, ISP’s offered us the internet. It was “unlimited”, so people happily browsed and watched videos. The world was a happy place and we all raised our glasses to a job well done.

Then.. the problems came. A few people took the term “unlmited” to the extreme, and started grabbing so much data that it became a problem for everyone else. Since then, many ISP’s have had issues with the “top 1%” of their customer base and have either added caps or just cut them off. Either way, it kinda spoiled the party for the rest of us, with some customers now watching their internet usage religiously, just in case that one YouTube video puts them into “the red”.

GiffGaff are having this very problem right now and, after growing in popularity through simple pricing and “unlimited” data packages, their customers are now discussing whether to chuck the “troublesome 1%” out of the boat.

To be honest there’s no perfect solution to this, although the best plan may be just to disconnect those who are completely taking the mickey.

Update – OK, we’ve got a lot of opinion on this. I should just say that I’ve worked for an ISP in the past and I’ve seen the issue at first hand. Usually, most people – even those who download torrents, movies, MP3’s and DVD’s – will probably grab around 40GB per month maximum over an ADSL or FTTC connection. That can be doing everything – watching streaming TV, grabbing HD content, the lot. But then, then there’s the top 1% – they’re online all the time. They’ve got servers in their home and NAS boxes filling up with content 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These people can pull hundreds of Gig’s of data.

I’m sure you’ve seen those cheap broadband packages which have caps of 2GB. They’re popular because the “occasional user” probably won’t need more than that. A bit of email, a bit of browsing… 2GB is enough. Now imagine one person, one customer, sucking – say 200GB per month. It just breaks the cost model completely. That one customer is using as much as 100 other people would, and those other 100 people will have less bandwidth to go around too.

Yes, “unlimited” should mean “unlimited”, just like “free” should mean “free”, but there’s four options..

1 – Say it’s “unlimited”, but traffic-shape it to heck so that you can’t pull any real bandwidth.
2 – Say it’s “unlimtied”, but block all the ports and only really allow 80 (web), 25 and 100 (mail)
3 – Say it’s “unlimited” and ramp up the charges.
4 – Say it’s “unlimited”, keep the costs low, but boot off those who are pulling completely, utterly, insane amounts of bandwidth.

Link – GiffGaff
Credit – Jack Tee

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  • Blah

    It’s actually quite simple really. Don’t advertise “Unlimited” if you can’t maintain it!!

    • Exactly my point. There is nothing wrong with changing the model, and if 99% of customers only use small amounts of data as they are claiming, then there should be no problem putting a clear cap in place. The really should be banned in this country from using the word “Unlimited”.

  • Don’t we all feel sorry for companies that mislead the customers.
    get them a dictionary

  • Dan Carter

    Considering they use O2 for their network is is hardly a surprise that this is happening now.The O2 network can hardly deal with their own customers thats not even adding a load of data heavy customers on top.

    Once GiffGaff stop unlimited internet they will soon lose customers left right and centre to Three on their AYCE plans

  • keysersoze

    how is taking the mickey? shouldnt unlimited mean unlimited? if i want to download all i want and watch all i want i should be able too. if they trully cant sustain it, then offer a higher plan for people who want a true unlimited plan, charge more and stop misadvertising the current plans!

  • Sorry Leigh but if the service is unlimited then there is no issue. How can you take the Mickey when you have been told to help yourself? Change the terms unlimited or stop the whinging.

  • mpw

    ISPs want all the customer revenue possible hence the ‘unlimited’ packages they offer.  They do not want to scare away customers by stating limits to downloading.  So, given they cannot or will not define unlimited and/or package the 1% of offenders then they have to accept it.  If it was me I’d define the 1% in the terms & conditions and if they transgressed throttle them at first and cancel their contract on second or third attempt.  Surely, 99% of normal user revenues outweighs 1% of bad users?

  • How about just admitting that you can’t provide an “Unlimited” service and give everyone a clear cap of say 2GB? You say 2GB is suitable for most people and I know it’s enough for me, so why cater to HOGS in the first place.

    At the end of the day, GiffGaff is nothing more than an MVNO. If O2 can’t offer those kind of packages, then how the hell can a company piggy backing on it?

  • Anonymous

    Unlimited should mean unlimited. And if they can’t offer unlimited they should offer tiered packages, possibly in increments of 1GB.

    Simple. Make people pay for what they use. It isn’t rocket science.

  • The 99%

    If you insure your car doesn’t mean you can crash and claim it back every week.

    I like unlimited, and 99% of customers like unlimited too – it frees your mind and lets you use the internet / phone in a way that most of us would be scared to use. 
    Normal people don’t think in megabytes, whilst spotty nerds downloading terabytes every month are the ones causing this problem and raving about not having the ‘true unlimited’. If the 99%, even the 95% aren’t the problem then I’ve got no problem having this advertised as unlimited, because that’s what it would mean to the most of us. ISPs aren’t punishing occasional excessive usage, happens to the best of us, so it is really truly unlimited.

    No one would be able to afford a 100% unlimited internet / mobile phone contracts, wake up.

  • websurfer

    I agree with not claiming “unlimited” but then adding a Fair Use Policy which does NOT explain any ISP chosen limits.  PlusNet do throttle certain traffic from midday to midnight, but offer 10 GB, 60 GB, and for those on FTTC, 40 GB or 120 GB  (and all at fairly affordable costs).  In all cases however, they do not “count” usage in the early hours (01:00 to 07:00, perhaps for FTTC, 00:00 to 08:00 on ADSL).

    I already use Three on a dongle (15 GB a month) from a laptop.  I regularly exceed 150 GB downloading on PlusNet (keeping to 2 GB daytime and the rest overnight) but that’s not downloading from peer-to-peer, mainly webcams and overnight letting iPlayer grab quite a lot of recent TV shows (series downloads enabled).  I get close to the “200 GB” but stay within the terms of PlusNet and that’s with a line only just capable of 2 Mbps, in a semi-rural part of N Wales.

    Heaven knows what I might be downloading when FTTC comes in the Autumn – but I will clearly still be within the terms my ISP has laid down and not “taking the mickey” one bit – other ISPs either need to be more clear about what are unacceptable levels of use, or stop using that “unlimited” term and then getting angry if someone does download a lot.

    I’m not against ISPs saying “traffic in excess of 300 GB / 500 GB / 750 GB (whatever!) is considered unacceptable” but just BE OPEN ABOUT IT and don’t hide behind “FAIR USE” please!

  • Matt Peddlesden

    I’ve never liked “unlimited” being used for a “limited” service, it just doesnt really feel right, some how, can’t put my finger on what exactly upsets me… :)

    This all started I think back in the day with the likes of Freeserve (the dixons group ISP), completely free dialup, “unlimited” and even supported ISDN for *truly* high speed action (ahem).

    Downloaded a bunch of Linux/FreeBSD ISO’s one month (honestly! I wanted to sharpen up and see what was going on in those things since I’d been using Windows for quite a while) and got a note saying that my account was going to be cut off for being a “heavy user”.  No discussion, no warning, just bang and you’re gone (a bit like the cilit).

    Argue, and you get “the service IS unlimited, you have access to the complete and unlimited internet”.  I.e. it’s not a walled-garden type service.  Strictly speaking, probably true, but confusing because not one person I spoke to as an end-user understood it in that way at all and it wasn’t clarified on any advertising or other documentation before or after sign-up.


    It’s better these days, because there are often Fair Use Policies where they at least write their limits in tiny writing.  It gives you a fair basis to compare ISP’s when you’re looking for a new provider.  I don’t want to compare two ISP’s that both claim “UNLIMITED!” and then find later that one was 500mb and the other was 2gb, because that *might* have influenced my decision…

    I think that all ISP’s should have any and all limits specified very clearly on any and all advertising and documentation.  If that means it’s too confusing to put on the advert in big writing then maybe the plan is too confusing and should be simplified… trying to understand how much during these hours, how much during those hours and what have you is just confusing.

    Perhaps they should all simply avoid the name “unlimited”, and use more abstract names like “ULTIMATE!” or “GOLD!” or “PLATINUM!” because they’re meaningless (and therefore can have unique meaning applied to them by marketing departments), there’s no baggage attached to them and anyone that thinks “ultimate” means “unlimited” has themselves to blame and nobody else.

    I use Virgin Media for my household broadband where the limits are CLEARLY stated on their web site, and I use Three for my mobile, where their “unlimited” One account is, as proven by this very site, actually “unlimited”.  I don’t plan on downloading anything like 200gb anywhere, my monthly is usually below 30gb even on a bad month (household), but I have no concerns about what i’m downloading and whether I should put it off to next month.  That’s fine, I pay for the service, it’s what it says it is and we’re all happy.

    If a company offers “unlimited” like giffgaff do, and they do not specify a fair use policy, then i’m sorry but the absolute best they should be able to get away with is discontinuing that product and encouraging people to move to their new “ultimate” account, where limits are clearly stated.

    Sorry but I don’t feel bad for ISP’s (I used to run one many moons ago), if you open the door and say “unlimited bread for you” then you have to expect people to pig out.  If you only expect everyone to average at one loaf per person and you don’t say “fair use maximum 2 loaves per person” then you’re leaving yourself wide open to upset customers, even those that don’t want more than 1 loaf – because now they find there are potentially limits upon which they’re called “heavy and unreasonable users” that they might get hit with out of the blue.


    Sorry for the rant :)