O2 outs new UK mobile tariffs with free tethering

O2 has announced new tariffs for mobile users which include free Internet tethering for the first time.

The UK airtime provider, which is owned by Spanish mobile outfit Telefonica, says its new plans are simpler, more flexible and take into account that 70 per cent of its new customers are buying Internet-equipped smart phones.

Unfortunately, if you're an existing customer the Internet tethering option will not be available until you upgrade your current contract.

Although it's not clear from either O2's announcement, or the full list of tariffs available, a call to O2 HQ confirmed that anyone changing to an equivalent tariff or upgrading to a more expensive one can do so at any time without extending their existing contract.

If you want to downgrade to a cheaper tariff you can only do so if your current contract has been running for six months or more.

It's great news for anyone who owns a Wi-Fi iPad and an iPhone, for example, but not so great if you have just shelled out for a 3G iPad and signed an expensive data contract, which is making our cynic-sense quiver a bit when it comes to O2's timing.

Pulling a stunt like this three days after the release of the iPad 2 seems a bit off in our book, even if it is of benefit to most people.

Once you have updated your contract, the data you use will come out of your basic allowance regardless of whether that is used on your handset or a Wi-Fi connected device like an iPad or laptop computer.

New data plans cost £3 for 100MB, £6 for 500MB and a tenner for 1GB and the new 12-month contracts mean iPhone users will be able to get a new Holy Handset every year rather than waiting an extra six months or paying a penalty to cash in unused months.