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Mobile operator 3 is set to offer budget mobile data to UK punters. According to reports, three new tariffs will see it match the most attractive offerings from T-Mobile, starting from £10 a month. That's the same price that Demon set when it launched its pioneering consumer dial-up internet offering, back in 1993.

At £10 a month, the basic Mobile Broadband package ("Light") gets you 1GB of data, while £15 gets you 3GB, and £25 up to 7GB. Data usage outside these buckets is charged at 10p/MB. 3 will throw in a free USB modem to existing customers, or £29 if you sign up for eighteen months.

By comparison, T-Mobile's Web'n'walk Plus deal, which today offers the best value, permits 3GB for £24.68 (inc. VAT) and 10GB for £37.45 - which means that the "Plus" and "Max" offerings from 3 work out at a lower minimum price per MB. Vodafone offers 3GB for £25 per month, and a curious deal where you get £8.50 for 500MB in a 24-hour period.

It leaves the other two UK operators competing for the dunce's cap. O2 and Orange both offer 1GB for £45 a month. We're excluding plans with a cap in the megabytes, such as Orange's 160MB for £20 a month.

3 will offer the service with five HSDPA handsets, but using the phone as a modem won't incur the wrath of the data cops, as it does with some other networks.

3 told us today that "our pricing has not yet been released and the prices you quote are inaccurate at present". ®

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