The main providers of 3G data connections for iPads in Europe are AT&T International/T-Mobile, Orange, Vodafone, and O2.  However, not all of these providers are available throughout Europe.

What Data Plans Are Available in Europe? 

Company             Price Range         Wi-Fi                     Data Capacity     Availability

AT&T 25-200 USD no 20-200 MB Global
Orange 15GBP to 40 GBP/MO Yes 1MG-10GB UK, France, Spain, Switzerland
SFR 75 MB-Unlimited Yes 6-29.9 euros
Vodafone 3-25.53 GBP Yes 250MB-5GB UK, Germany, Italy, Spain
O2 2-15 GBP Yes 500MB-3GB UK, France, Germany

Let’s start with AT&T.  (AT&T now owns T-Mobile)  AT&T’s international 3G data plan is mostly intended for American vacationers in Europe.  It is high priced because of the Data Global Add-On Package, which handles data roaming.  Vacationers can get 20MB-200MB of data for high price ranges of $24.99 to $199.99.  Naturally, 20MB of data is not very much, so even vacationers are not that thrilled to be connected to the net.

Orange is actually one of the most popular European providers, given its list of data plans available in France, Spain, Switzerland and the UK, and with more to come.  Using the company’s SIM only plan, users can pay only for their precise usage, 5.1p per MB.  The deal comes with a cap of $40 a month for unlimited usage.

Another option is the iPad Daily plan, which allows 200MB a day, which resets at midnight.  The iPad Weekly plan gives users 1GB per week, while the iPad monthly 15 provides 3GB for one month.  There is also an iPad 25 Monthly plan, which provides 10GB of speed for one month.  The Orange Company offers to sell iPad 2s with a data plan included.  Besides the U.K. , Orange is only available in France, Spain and Switzerland.

Vodafone is another option, offering services in Germany, Italy, and Spain.  Vodafone offers plans starting at three pounds a month for 250MB of bandwidth, or up to 25.53 pounds for 5GB.  The company also offers a monthly contract rather than a long-term agreement.  With signup, users get access to over 3,000 BT Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots for free.

The only provider in Spain besides Orange and Vodafone is Telefonica.  The only provider besides Orange in France is SFR.  The only provider in Germany besides Orange, Vodafone and AT&T is O2.  Switzerland also has Swisscom as a data plan provider.  Naturally, some of your options will be dictated by your location.

Data Plans By Country

France: Orange €10/mo for 200 MB, €39/mo for 2 GB; both plans include unlimited Wi-Fi at Orange hotspots in France

SFR with plans ranging from 75 MB for 6 Euros to unlimited bandwidth for 39 Euros.

Germany: O2 €10/mo for 200 MB, €15/mo for 1 GB, €25/mo for unlimited

Vodafone €19,95/mo for 200 MB, €29,95/mo for unlimited

Italy: Vodafone €2/day for 500 MB, €30/mo for unlimited

Spain: Vodafone: €17,40/mo for 250 MB, €37,12/mo for unlimited

Orange: €3,50/day for unlimited, €35/mo for unlimited

UK: Vodafone: £10/mo for 1 GB, £25/mo for unlimited (fair use capped at 5 GB)

Orange: 5p per MB / capped at £40/mo, £2/day for 200 MB, £7.50/week for 1 GB, £15/mo for 3 GB, £25/mo for 10 GB; 3 GB and 10 GB plans include unlimited Wi-Fi at BT Openzone

O2: £2/day for 500 MB, £10 per 30 days and 1 GB, £15 per 30 days and 3 GB; all plans include unlimited Wi-Fi at The Cloud and BT Openzone

Orange Vs. Vodafone

Pocket-lint.co.uk published a comparison between the top European data plan providers in 2010.  The company reviewed the O2 option, with three difference plans, ranging from two pounds (500MB) to 15 pounds (for 3GB).  O2 also offered free unlimited access.  However, it’s relatively small bandwidth capacity provoked the publication to call O2 for the “small business user or casual web surfer.”

The publication spoke highly of Orange, particularly for its “widest range of plans.”  However, it fared poorly when pitted against O2 for total coverage.  The publication stated Vodafone was a “simple” option, though it did give praise to its low data roaming charges for traveling users.

The Winners List

In helping readers to determine the best data plans for their needs, it seems important to highlight which companies are the clear leaders in various aspects of the market and which offer the overall best options.

Availability – Orange

Price – O2 in numbers alone, but Orange when bandwidth is also considered

Wi-Fi – Vodafone

Selection – Orange

The Editor’s Verdict

O2 loses total points for its limited availability (only in the U.K. and France) leaving Orange and Vodafone to duke it out.  First and foremost, we see that Orange has a wider variety of options, whereas Vodafone is counting on its simplicity to win over new users and business users.  Vodafone does have what Pocket-lint calls “a massive network”, but that is relative to Orange who offers greater speeds, up to 10GB per month.

Orange is considered the leading European provider for iPad connectivity.  However, the biggest in European iPad news is the fact that carriers are forming an alliance in order to force major traffic-producers like Apple, Google and Facebook towards building a network infrastructure in the region, which will help control the “explosion of wireless data usage”, as iPhoneHacks.com reports.  Things are just getting started in Europe, but the iPad is already insanely popular.

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