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Three UK Launch New Plans But Cap Unlimited Mobile Broadband Tethering

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 (9:01 am) - Score 7,068

Mobile operator Three UK has, much as we predicted last month (here), today dropped unlimited Mobile Broadband Tethering support from its “all-you-can-eat” data based tariffs and replaced it with a 2GB (GigaByte) usage cap. On the upside.. calls to 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers are now free from mobiles too.

The Tethering service is a clever feature that allows Smartphone owners to turn their kit into a wireless (wifi) Mobile Broadband modem (aka – Personal Hotspot) for use by other devices. Unfortunately this can result in customers using a larger amount of data than before (i.e. as if it was fixed line service) and is thus restricted on several networks.

Mobile data is a more expensive commodity than on your home connection and no doubt Three UK’s claim to offer an “all-you-can-eat” (AYCE) data allowance will have done little to encourage a modest level of consumption. Indeed many felt that it would only be a matter of time before something changed and now it has.

Under the new plans those wishing to make use of a Personal Hotspot (Tethering), even if it’s on a plan that claims to offer “all-you-can-eat” data (this refers to usage on the Smartphone/Tablet and not when in Tethering mode which is now capped), will be capped to a “maximum” of 2GB (GigaBytes). But those with an existing AYCE contract should be safe until they decide to change, or so we believe.

Apparently if “AYCE data customers want to use more data when their allowance has run out they can choose to buy a 1G Personal Hotspot” (at extra cost of course and we assume you’d need another top-up after that to keep going). Customers will also receive an alert when they hit 80% and 100% of their 2GB Personal Hotspot allowance within AYCE.

Elsewhere Three UK has launched a range of new plans that will allow customers to set limits in order to stop themselves going over their minutes allowance and limit spending on expensive numbers (expect text alerts when you are close to using up your allowances).

On top of that all 0800, 0808 and 0500 calls are free for customers on the new plans, while other 08 numbers (like 084 and 087) will cost 5ppm. It should be noted that 0800, 0808 and 0500 calls sit “outside of a customers’ voice minutes allowance“, which should mean they can make as many calls as they like to these numbers.

Dave Dyson, CEO of Three UK, said:

We asked people what frustrated them most about their mobile bills and confusion around the cost of calling 08 numbers came out top by a big margin. These charges are often buried in the small print and they’re expensive enough to make most customers fear calling them from their mobiles.

We want UK mobile users to get the most enjoyment from their smartphones or data device – the cost of calling 08 numbers is something we want to address for our customers.

UK mobile users are still afraid to use their devices in many circumstances. That’s why we’ve made it possible for our customers to use their home allowance abroad in 11 countries, including the USA. It’s why we’ve launched 4G at no extra cost and why we’ve committed not to raise our monthly recurring charges during the minimum period of a contract.”

It’s no surprise that Dyson doesn’t mention the Tethering cap, which is a very big negative change. At this point we should also note that Ofcom called for calls to 0800 and 0808 numbers to be made free at the end of last year (here), although operators have been given until 26th June 2015 to implement the changes. Clearly Three UK didn’t see any need to wait.

Sadly at the time of writing this update Three UK’s website has been down for a while “because we’re doing some essential maintenance work“, thus we can’t see the full details of their new packages and prices yet.

Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar DTMark says:

    Website seems to be working now.

    The biggest data allowance still seems to be 15GB on a two year contract.

    For heavier users, as we were, the 10GB month-to-month option is probably still the best bet (we had 3 of them) and that’s still £15 (each) e.g. 30GB/mo for £45/mo.

    I still have our 3 dongle and SIM as a backup if EE goes down. Used to be able to pay £2.99 for a day’s access (500MB) and it looks like that’s now £5 for 250MB.

    I don’t have it plugged in so I can’t get into the “My Account” area, but it would seem odd if you can still have 500MB as a one off for £2.99 when a contract comes with half as much for £5.

  2. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    I can see how mobile operators are struggling to find some margin with ever decreasing wholesale back haul bandwidth costs.

    Intel have just announced a 800gbps data center interconnect standard which further reduce copper power consumption: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/03/intels-800gbps-cables-headed-to-cloud-data-centers-and-supercomputers/

    How long will mobile operators in the UK be able to justify their artificial bandwidth scarcity model and price gouging when mainland Europe already offers unmetered 4G access?

    It must be all those foreign bandwidth hogging services like Netflix that are impacting the multi terrabit fiber criss crossing the UK or even the transatlantic undersea fiber? I very much doubt that this would be the case due to all the edge delivery available in the UK, just ask Akamai.

    Are mobile operators really so stupid as to not implement a cost effective future proof fiber back haul strategy from their cell sites?

    Methinks that it is time for OFCOM to be given a push in regards to stopping all this limited bandwidth bullshit and allow us to at least have a level playing field and not be laughed at by our European compatriots.

    David Cameron recently set up a fund I believe for 5G dev, how about making the most of 4G and making it available to the whole country. Why not even contact this smart fellow and his team: http://www.artemis.com/pcell

    Regards to all.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      Is backhaul really the issue, though?

      If you only have 42Mbps on tap (DC-HSPA) or 150Mbps to say 300Mbps (4G) and you want users to actually have some degree of quality to their experience so they don’t defect to another network because they get fed up with abysmal speeds and packet loss then necessarily, surely, an unlimited usage model is a disaster.

      EE are rolling out their “4G Home” option – e.g. like a wireless service which IIRC was going to be something like £30 a month for 30GB a month. Which is very cheap for a light user and compares very favourably to ADSL/VDSL + line rental in price and may hugely outclass it for speed depending on where you are.

      I’d prefer to see a market where one player does the unlimited and gets all the P2P customers and a “junk network”, and another player who charges a premium and supplies good throughput – then people can make a choice.

  3. Avatar Zemadeiran says:

    I see your point in regards to download lunatics but it is nothing that some decent network prioritisation cannot take care of.
    I for one would welcome a 4G home service at a reasonable price point without being locked in.
    Did you check out the pcell link above?

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      I did… far from a network technician, I was looking for some explanation of how it works. As I’m guessing it has patents it doesn’t go into any detail at all, really – as I watched I was thinking “dual channel” as in DC-HSPA (or multi channel) – like a form of load balancing I suppose.

      The impression that I came away with is that to be able to create the sort of coverage needed would need these devices absolutely everywhere. Maybe a little like BT’s WiFi thing where all the routers make a small amount of bandwidth available so it’s fairly ubiquitous in built up areas. But then those are only backhauled by ADSL or VDSL as opposed to fibre, so they don’t have the bandwidth potential for this sort of application.

      It mentions that all the devices make maximum use of “the full available spectrum” but doesn’t say what that is. Presumably, again, depends on number of transmitters in the locality. I am just speculating.

      The future must surely be wireless. One day we’ll think it insane that we ever tried to connect all the premises individually with bits of wire or fibre. Using fixed line for voice seems like such a throwback to the 1980s already.

      Perhaps this is the solution – I’d love to know what it actually is. Certainly interesting but I think I came away with more questions than answers.

  4. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    You think pcell is good, try wireless power around your home etc.


    Pcell requires a data center to crunch the numbers but the people that are behind the tech have been refining it for the last 10 years. What really surprises me is the pcell power usage which stands at 1mw as opposed to wifi with an average 250mw…

    It’s hard to get are tiny minds around how the bloody thing works but we are not alone as quite a few physicists are also dumbfounded 🙂

    I think that in 5-10 years, wires will definitely cease to be useful with ubiquitous communication and power in the last mile.

    You yourself have witnessed the benefits of a wire free solution.

    Roll on the near future!

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      I was sitting here tapping my fingers impatiently when I had to wait maybe a few minutes for a 500MB file to upload yesterday. It’s amazing how you get used to what you have and want more… what else could I have used that time for… posting on here maybe 😉

      If this p-cell thing really works, and it can deliver the stated benefits at fair data rates, it makes mucking around with VDSL look like a complete farce.

  5. Avatar zemadeiran says:

    We shall have to wait with baited breath.

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