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Existing Three UK Customers Say Goodbye to Unlimited Tethering

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 (2:19 pm) - Score 74,775

Mobile operator Three UK has been slowly phasing out unlimited Mobile Broadband tethering support from their “all-you-can-eat” data tariffs since they introduced new plans earlier this year (here) and now existing subscribers of the legacy ‘One Plan’ are being pushed onto new contracts too, which cap tethering usage.

The Tethering feature allows Smartphone owners to turn their devices into a wireless (WiFi) Mobile Broadband modem (Personal Hotspot) for use by other devices, such as wifi equipped desktop and laptop computers. But doing this can sometimes result in customers using a larger amount of data than before (i.e. like it was fixed line service) and is thus restricted on most networks.

Unfortunately new customers to Three UK can no longer take the operators original One Plan with unlimited tethering support (most tariffs now include a Personal Hotspot / tethering allowance of 2GB or 4GB on SIM Only), although existing subscribers were allowed to continue using their old contracts. It should be said that you can still buy tariffs with “all-you-can-eat” data from Three UK, it’s just this doesn’t apply to tethering anymore (note: cunning users can sometimes mask tethering to look like normal mobile traffic).

But recently some of the customers that have chosen to remain on Three UK’s older legacy plans have started to receive SMS text messages concerning their contracts (this predominantly seems to affect those who are outside of their original minimum contract term), which advises related subscribers to contact the operator. It appears as if these are being sent out in phases so as not to swamp the operators customer support teams, although long queues have still been experienced.

The Three UK Text Message

Hello. We need to speak to you about changes to your plan. Please contact us free on 08003583429 to speak to our dedicated team.”

Customers who contact this number are advised by Three UK that they will be forced onto a newer plan by January 2015, which crucially swaps unlimited tethering for a 4GB usage cap (normal mobile smartphone usage will however remain “all-you-can-eat“). Alternatively the subscribers can elect to take a different plan or Three UK will eventually cancel the service. Ouch.

Crucially Three UK is still the only mobile operator to offer “all-you-can-eat” data via mobile devices, although it’s worth pointing out that other operators like EE will give you a bigger tethering allowance than 4GB; but they can cost a bit more too. Ultimately we’re not surprised by this move as mobile data is an expensive business and it only takes a small proportion of users, each gobbling hundreds of GigaByte’s a month via Tethering, to cause problems. On the other hand Three UK should have thought about that before they offered such a service.

It should be said that customers who receive this text might do well to wait until Three UK contacts you directly, as opposed to doing the hard work for them by sitting in a support queue for almost an hour before somebody comes to give you the bad news. Three UK are required to inform you of any changes to the contract terms, so you’ll find out one way or another. Various other forums from across the Internet have also been highlighting this development (here, here and here).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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