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O2 admits to throttling mobile data for EU roaming

O2 has admitted to throttling UK roaming data users while abroad, stating that it "put temporary measures in place" to "protect the service experience for customers."
By
July 26, 2017

It’s the middle of summer and time for UK residents to flock to warmer destinations around the EU. If you’re one of those beach-goers and you’re also an O2 customer, you may notice that your mobile data connection is sluggishly slow. That’s because O2 has been throttling you to 0.50 Mbps.

“We have put temporary measures in place to protect the service experience for customers roaming in the EU,” an O2 spokeswoman told The Register. “We are working to have these controls removed within the coming weeks.”

Apparently, O2’s network is unable to handle all the roamers out and about, be it on holiday or on business trips. This comes just a month after all extra roaming fees in the European Union were negated by order of the EU. To keep at least some connectivity present for its customers abroad, O2 said that it had to throttle their bandwidth — a practice which could also result in some saved cash for the UK operator: it may not have to pay as much to carriers abroad for using their cell networks.

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The issue was first brought to light by a user on O2’s forums. The person carried out a number of speed tests with several UK carriers, and while all of them struggled at times, O2 was the only one that was obviously throttled. What’s interesting is that O2’s prepaid service, Pay & Go, wasn’t throttled; it was only contract users that suffered from this measure. O2 has yet to explain why exactly prepaid customers are free to enjoy higher than 0.50 Mbps speeds.

It’s likely that prepaid customers use far less mobile data abroad: so perhaps the benefits of throttling their connection, be it financially or otherwise, weren’t big enough for O2 to go through with it.

If you’re a UK citizen and would like to enjoy some proper mobile data speeds on your holiday, might we suggest Vodafone? According to the speed test we mentioned earlier, it’s your best bet for fast browsing abroad.