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Three UK Sees Mobile Broadband Data Use Per Customer Hit 6.8GB

Friday, March 16th, 2018 (10:25 am) - Score 3,742

Mobile operator Three UK has today published their full year results for 2017, which among other things revealed that monthly Mobile Broadband (3G / 4G) data usage per customer grew by 7% during 2017 to 6.8GB (GigaBytes) and indoor population coverage is now 98.5% (up from 95% last year).

By comparison Ofcom’s annual Connected Nations 2017 report found that the overall (all major networks) average volume of data consumed per subscriber was 1.9GB per month, which is up from 1.3GB in 2016 and 0.9GB in 2015. In other words, Three UK continues to users with a higher level of data consumption than almost any other operator; they claim to carry 32% of the UK’s mobile data traffic despite being the smallest primary MNO (mostly due to their large allowances, low pricing and ‘all-you-can-eat‘ data options).

Overall the operator finished 2017 with a total of 10,070,000 active customers (6.8m contract and 3.2m prepaid), which is up by around 900,000 from last year. Apparently 82% of their customer base are now using 4G and their gross Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is running at £18.07 (down from £19.24 last year).

Dave Dyson, CEO of Three UK, said:

“Our results reflect Three’s ongoing commitment to growth and becoming the best-loved brand by our customers.

I am pleased to have passed the 10 million customer milestone. Over the course of last year, we have strengthened our market-leading Go Roam proposition, launched Go Binge, our innovative unlimited streaming service, as well as our SIM-only, online-only sub brand SMARTY. In addition, we have rapidly developed Wuntu, our customer loyalty and rewards app, which is highly rated and has already exceeded 1 million active users.

At the same time, we have invested significant time and money in the future growth and scalability of the business. Our digital transformation is a programme of work that will significantly enhance customer experience, employee experience and cost efficiency. Investment in spectrum, next generation network and IT underpins the opportunity to deliver improved results over the long term.

To deliver such a degree of strategic change whilst maintaining strong profitability is testament to the hard work and dedication of the thousands of staff across the Three UK business, and puts us in a strong position to deliver long term growth.”

The operator delivered total revenue of £2,425m (up 7% from last year), although EBITDA was down -2% to £702m. We should point out that Three UK also saw their Capex increase by £107m in the year (total of £459m) in order to upgrade their core network, data centres, security and various other things.

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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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17 Responses
  1. Tim says:

    That’s amazing considering how rubbish Three’s coverage is. Lol.

    1. mike says:

      Can’t say I’ve ever had a problem. I’m itching for my EE contract to be over so I can go back to Three. EE have higher top speeds on 4G, but Three’s 3G is far superior in terms of speed and coverage. When on 3G on EE I barely get 1Mbps, whereas on Three it would be around 20Mbps.

    2. Chris P says:

      Obligatory speed tests taken from my iPad connected to my Virgin Media WiFi then tethered to my iPhone 6 and connected to Three over 4g. And also from my iPhone, tests on the same device are taken within minutes of each other on the different networks.

      ipad http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/i/2246812918
      iPhone on 03/03/18 http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/i/2525667005

      ipad http://www.speedtest.net/result/i/2246813750
      iPhone on 03/03/18 http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/i/2525667875

      I’m not fussed about Latency less than 100ms, i can get better performance on 3 than on VM and i’m seriously considering ditching VM for 3 for BB

    3. Mike says:

      @Chris P

      That sounds like a WiFi issue, what model iPad and what VM speed package?

    4. Chris P says:

      @ Mike,

      yes obviously must be a WiFi problem.
      i was on N at 5ghz ~4 meters line of site from the router for all those tests.

      Here is one just now from a wired connection


      There are times when VM isn’t always that slow, but it isn’t perfect and 4g data is a real alternative.

      The thing to take away from these tests is how much bandwidth i can attain from Three & 50ms latency isn’t bad.

    5. Mike says:

      @Chris P

      What VM speed package?

    6. Rob says:

      No problem here either, now using Three for my home broadband, speeds are great.


    7. Chris P says:

      Thats some great speeds there Rob & latency is again good,

      some tests today on my 100mbs Virgin Media connection and another on 3

      wired on VM


      5g will be really interesting when it comes.

  2. Graham T says:

    I guess whats needed here is some context – the numbers themselves show Three is growing – but how do they stack up against the other operators? The data usage makes sense – surf fast and free – the dream for everyone, Wifi and mobile.

    Re Tim’s comment – yes UK wide – but if you never (geographically) leave the 3 bubble?

    1. Tim says:

      Yeah you just have to stay in large cities and don’t go indoors then you’re probably fine. Lol.

    2. CarlT says:

      With the addition of the tiny sliver of 800 MHz spectrum coverage is way better than it used to be.

      Obviously even at 98.5% there’s going to be 1.5% of the population uncovered which means a lot more than that geographically.

      Still: given most of us spend the vast majority of our time in urban and suburban areas it’s okay for most.

  3. Simon says:

    I just had to leave them again – i was able to get 6.8GB but this was out of my 100GB because it was so SLOW!

    They released me without penalty.

  4. Matt says:

    I’m a service engineer and I travel from Gloucester (south midlands) to the top of the Derbyshire Peak District. Then I go all the way to oswestry and cambridge the other way, so I have a large area to cover. I’m a three customer with an iPhone 7+ (6+ previously). I used my all you can eat contract to listen to digital radio connected Bluetooth to my van. I don’t get many dropouts while traveling around.
    I hear a lot of people say coverage is terrible outside cities, your wrong. My wor mobile is on EE and that’s terrible for patchy coverage. I quite often use my three mobile when the work one is out of service, or in service but the internet speeds are so shocking it’s unusable (Edge data? Seriously)

    I’m very happy with three and will continue to keep my contract. I use about 10gb a week on the radio alone.

    1. spurple says:

      I left three after about 5 years of being a customer because I got fed up with their coverage problems. For the most part, it worked fine, and since I rarely ever need my phone for voice, I couldn’t be bothered. Streaming can generally mask patchy networks as a lot of buffering is used, but I was very frequently let down on the few occasions I needed to make voice calls and in almost all the cases, falling back to my partner’s EE was the solution.

      The day I quit Three, it was in rage, and the rage was made even worse by waiting more than 30 minutes for someone to answer the call, and then spending several minutes trying to persuade me to stay. I sounded like a broken record to the poor guy: Yes, give me my PAC, Yes, bill me whatever your bloody early termination charge is! No, I don’t care how much you can knock off my bill!

    2. Web Dude says:

      @ spurple

      I never had coverage problems, during ~10 years using their services (data only at 15 GB a month for £ 7.50 and later £ 8 when VAT increased, and later voice service too), but did quit when they decided to scrap the One Plan (unlimited data, generous voice and text limits, for £ 15 / month) and “suggested” an upgrade to an “equivalent” (which wasn’t) at over £ 28 / month.

      No speed problems either, but not so important to me, compared with data allowance, which obv became an issue. The getting a PAC was a ^%&%$£^& ordeal though and can only say it was the delaying “can we tempt you to stay” tactics which most annoyed me.

      I dropped my data usage significantly, then started using FreedomPoP with a 3 GB/month promo at about 8 quid, and while data is OK (it uses 3 network) the voice let it down… and most recently signed up with Smarty.co.uk (which is owned by 3) but rather than charge a fixed fee and “roll over” data, just refunds unused data charge, so I have cut my spend down considerably.

      Maybe some day in future I will go for another 3 account, with all-you-can-eat and international options, (plus “Go Binge” – though it moves away from net neutrality,) when my anger over the way they scrapped One Plan has reduced…

  5. ilikehaggis says:

    been with three about a year now

    i travel about 50miles everyday and get 4g all the way inside and outside

    i use around 50-60gb a month

    honestly i will probably never leave because every other provider wants to charge me almost double for the data

    and yes before you ask the speed is great in my area at least

  6. jock Stewarton says:

    Three price payg keeps going up and up. Yes you get unlimited data

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