T-Mobile’s 3G iPhone unlimited flat rate data plans are a sham

Always read the fine print, especially when it comes to mobile operators bragging about their latest 3G iPhone data plans. T-Mobile Germany says on its website: Freier Internetzugang mit unbegrenzter Datenflatrate (free Internet access with unlimited data flat rate). T-Mobile Germany is offering four types of “flat rate” monthly data plans: S for 29 EUR, M for 49 EUR, L for 69 EUR, XL for 89 EUR (as in small, medium, large, extra large). But as usual, one must read the fine print because in the world of the mobile operator, “flat rate” and “unlimited” mean something else:

“Gilt nur für die Nutzung mit dem iPhone im nationalen T-Mobile Netz und an deutschen HotSpots der Telekom oder von T-Mobile (WLAN). Die Nutzung von VoIP, Instant Messaging und IPVPN ist nicht Gegenstand des Vertrages. Ab einem Datenvolumen von 300 MB (Complete M), 1 GB (Complete L) oder 5 GB (Complete XL) pro Monat wird die Bandbreite im jeweiligen Monat auf max. 64 kbit/s (Download) und 16 kbit/s (Upload) beschränkt. Voraussetzung für die WLAN/EDGE/UMTS Flatrate ist die Beibehaltung der von T-Mobile bzw. Apple vorgenommenen technischen Voreinstellungen der SIM-Karte und des iPhone. Eine Änderung der technischen Voreinstellungen des iPhone – insbesondere des Access Point Name (APN) – ist unzulässig. Datenflatrate gilt nur für die Tarife Complete M, L und XL.”

Here’s what it means:

  • Applies only to T-Mobile’s network and Wi-Fi hotspots in Germany (meaning, when you go abroad you will be charged extra even if you use T-Mobile’s networks);
  • VOIP, IM, IP VPN are not part of the contract (note: it’s difficult to guess what this means. Will they block it, as KPN, the Dutch incumbent, has done for a while at their Wi-Fi hotspots?);
  • If you exceed certain data volumes (300 MB for the M subscription), 1 GB (for the L) and 5 GB (for the XL) in a month, they will reduce your bandwidth to a maximum 64 Kbps (download) and 16 Kbps (upload) for the rest of that month (that’s right: they’ll downgrade you to worse than dial-up);
  • In order to use the WLAN/EDGE/UMTS flat rate, you are not allow to make any modifications to the SIM-card and iPhone settings as provided by T-Mobile and Apple;
  • You are not allowed to change the technical settings that the iPhone came with (including APN);
  • Flat rate data is only available for the M, L and XL subscriptions.

Of course, if you sign up for the L and XL plans you get an 8G iPhone for 1 EUR. But you have to sign a 2-year contract.

I suspect that T-Mobile Netherlands, which has not yet announced its iPhone data plans (although they say that the cheapest one will cost 30 EUR per month), will use the same devious language in its marketing materials. Already, T-Mobile Netherlands says on its website: “De iPhone 3G is net als de eerste iPhone drie producten in één: een revolutionaire telefoon, een iPod met breedbeelddisplay en een toestel waarmee je kunt internetten en e-mailen. Alleen gaat dit nu veel sneller en zonder beperkingen.” (The 3G iPhone is, like the first iPhone, 3 products in one: a revolutionary phone, iPhone with wide screen display and a device with which you can email and surf the Internet. Except now, you can do it faster and without limitations).

I know that if I am using the iPhone to upload and download lots of megabytes, I will use Wi-Fi. There’s a lot of free Wi-Fi in cafes and if you already have Boingo or iPass, no need to worry about these “unlimited” “flat rate” restrictions.


  1. IT is ok i dont live in germany iphone for about 2 dollars in US money sounds pretty nice though

  2. You can get the flat rate cards that give you unlimited data for one set price.

    You can purchase them by calling T-Mobile Friends and Family program.

    I also found a website that sells them as well:


    These are for unlimited voice and data for $55 a month.

  3. Hey there! I’m trying to find an unlimited hotspot access while in germany for 3 month – but I need to use skype Voip etc – it’s a jungle anybody can help to find a TRUE flatrate without giving my lifeblood to T…?
    every comment is highly appreciated!
    I’ll be in Karlsruhe btw – how good is that for coverage?
    Thanks Stef

  4. There is no true flatrate in Germany or anywhere else for 3G access. You might want to look into T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi hotspot subscription which is flat rate, but you have to use Wi-Fi. Better yet, find a couple of good Wi-Fi cafes (or a public library) and work there. Public libraries have good fast wireless Internet access.