Following up on the announcement made a few weeks ago, UK telecom providers Three, Orange and T-Mobile formally launched their iPad subsidies today. Those of us in the United States are used to having our cellphone prices subsidized by signing contracts, but so far we don't have anyone subsidizing our iPad purchases as well. The discount plan offers shoppers who enter a two-year service contract money off the price of a new iPad, bringing the price of the 16GB with Wi-Fi + 3G unit down to £199 (plus VAT - Edited: VAT is included thanks @ crisss1205) or the equivalent of US $313 -- a steep discount from the normal price of $629.00 in the U.S..
While the price of the iPad is the same for each provider after the subsidy, each offers their own monthly plan and cost:
Three offers 15GB of data per month for £25/month (US $39), with no Wi-Fi coverage included.
Orange offers 1GB of data at peak times and 1GB between midnight and 4pm for between £25 and £27. This includes 3GB of Wi-Fi usage using BT Openzone.
T-Mobile offers the same data limits as Orange but without any Wi-Fi coverage for between £25 and £27.
Three is definitely offering the best plan for users, especially when compared to the caps that AT&T has in place on their 3G plans at 50MB/month for $14.99 or 2GB/month for $25. Granted there are no contracts in place with AT&T, but iPad buyers in the UK who don't mind signing a contract are seemingly getting a pretty good deal with these new subsidies.
Of course, if you were willing to move to Japan you could get an iPad 3G for free after signing a contract, but it would probably be more cost-effective to stay right where you are and pay full price near home.