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Three UK Launch New 4G Home Broadband Router, Declines to Identify it

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021 (8:02 am) - Score 4,968
Three UK ZTE 4G Router

Mobile operator Three UK has quietly begun to ship a new router (hub) alongside orders for their mobile-based unlimited 4G Home Broadband service, although unusually they’ve chosen not to share the exact specifications and model number because this is said to be “commercially sensitive“. But it looks like a ZTE.

At present, new customers who take their 4G based unlimited home broadband package will typically pay from £22 per month for it on a 24-month contract term (there’s a 5G version too, albeit from £29), which includes the new router. The current promotion will also bundle in a free 32″ LG Full HD Smart TV on orders made before 31st August 2021, or until the stock runs out (they have about 11,000 of these available).

We’ve never had any difficulties getting the manufacturer and model code details for a new router from Three UK before, partly because they’ve usually been clearly stated on their website. Indeed, there’s little point in trying to conceal such information behind the cloak of “commercial sensitivity,” particularly when you’re talking about a product that is on open public sale (i.e. it’s not going to stay secret for very long).

On the other hand, Three’s new 4G Hub includes their own branding, which might help to explain their approach (in the past they’ve tended to leave the manufacturer’s branding in place). The official specification list on Three UK’s website is also fairly vague, although it does offer a few clues as to the identification of the unit, and so does the visual design.

NOTE: Three’s website incorrectly lists the device alongside theoretical peak MBps (MegaByte) speeds instead of Mbps (Megabit) – corrected below.

Specification for Three’s New 4G Hub

Performance and speed

Maximum download speed: 600Mbps

Typical download speeds: 50Mbps-100Mbps

Wi-Fi 5 certified for greater performance on modern devices

LTE band support: 1,3,7,80,20,32

FDD/TDD/UMTS/GSM LTE CAT12/13

Up to 4×4 MIMO & 256QAM supported

Connectivity

4x Ethernet ports for ultimate reliability. Perfect for plugging in computers and games consoles

Maximum connected devices: 64

Supports 5Ghz and 2.5Ghz Wi-Fi bands

SIM type: Standard size (mini) SIM

Dimensions

H: 180mm W:170mm D: 30mm

Naturally, members of our discussion forum have been busy trying to identify the unit (here), and the closest match seems to be one of ZTE’s models in the MF286 series (it’s closest to the MF286D or MF286R). Three’s own spec sheet doesn’t say it, but most of the MF286 series also come with 1 x LAN/WAN port, 1 x USB 2.0 port, 2 x External LTE antenna ports (SMA-Female) and 2 x Telephone Ports for VoIP (RJ11). Some models can also be battery powered for portability, and we believe the device is based on the Qualcomm MDM9230 chipset.

Sadly, one catch with Three’s 4G Home Broadband service is that their availability checker is still quite restrictive, which means that many consumers will live in areas where they can’t officially order the related packages through their website, even though the operator may have a good 4G or 5G signal in your area. Admittedly, you can get around this by purchasing an unlimited data SIM and 4G router separately.

Finally, we should point out that while both Huawei and ZTE are categorised as “high risk” vendors by the UK Government (i.e. mobile operators are effectively banned from installing new radio/mast kit from them within their networks), this does not extend to consumer end hardware (CPE) like routers or mobile phones. Indeed, many operators are still shipping such kit.

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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.
Leave a Comment
18 Responses
  1. Ben says:

    In what other environment would a retailer offer a product yet refuse to share the specifications of the product because it’s “commercially sensitive”? Madness…

    1. MilesT says:

      More common than you think but less impactful. To test the assertion: Warburton’s crumpets. There are some key cooking steps they do not disclose, along with exact ingredient ratios

  2. André says:

    Instant no-no, as far as I’m concerned. Sounds suspicious as hell.

    1. ianh says:

      To be fair to them, i think its just the easiest way to avoid bad press for using those suppliers as per Marks last paragraph above.

      Joe public is a bit dense.

    2. André says:

      Well, quite
      But it does sound like they’re trying to circumvent restrictions by omitting the manufacturer’s name.
      I dunno, security by obscurity is not a good policy and any company that tries to hide fairly mainstream information under the somewhat weak excuse of “corporate sensitivity” sounds like they’re acting in bad faith.
      They may be (and probably are) doing nothing wrong, but it makes them look suspicious.

    3. John says:

      What restrictions do you think they are trying to bypass though?

    4. André says:

      Well, ZTE are in the naughty step along Huawei. So that may be main thing to do with it….
      I’m not sure if the Government directive for restricting their products was just for core network or if it included consumer units, though.

  3. Bob2002 says:

    People shouldn’t be bothered by their router but be more concerned by their speeds. Seem to recall that I was getting around 50Mb down from Three in the last 18 months now I typically get around 15Mb down(sometimes dropping to 3-5Mb). It seems if people want a cheap unlimited data plan they end up going for the Three network because it’s the cheapest, so now speeds have suffered. There’s no way I’d sign up for two years with no minimum speed guarantees.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Well spotted Bob, I left three because of this last month (whilst still in contract).

  4. MB says:

    Well Ken managed to work out the model and make of the router three days ago!
    https://kenstechtips.com/index.php/three-4g-hub-review

  5. Adam says:

    Their advisor don’t know the model numbers of the tvs they provide with the 4g/5g router/tv combo deal as well. LG 32/42 full hd/4k tv is a little vague to say the least.

  6. Sam says:

    I have no idea how Three think they’re going to cope.
    The network is seriously congested and is really not far off being the slowest network.
    2-3 years ago where I’d get 70mbps I now get 3mbps if I’m lucky.
    This isn’t just one location either, it’s various different places as I travel a lot.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      They aren’t going to cope Sam. Not whilst they continue to sign up new customers continually to their already terribly over-subscribed network.

  7. Robert says:

    My experience with Three seems to be different to others.
    I have been using them for Home Broadband for the last three years and recently my average speeds have gone up from 100Mbps to around 130Mbps
    My phone contract is also with Three and have no issues there either.

    Interestingly the last Mobile Operators speed tests for H1 2021 show Three at the top.

    https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/06/h1-2021-fastest-national-uk-mobile-and-home-broadband-isps.html/2

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Be thankful that you are the exception Robert!

  8. John says:

    If our government says not to trust Huawei then the opposite will be the truth.

  9. Daniel Easson says:

    I switched from TalkTalk after being a loyal customer since Aol days..my speed dropped from 48mbps to 21mbps, TalkTalk’s attitude was so obtuse that a breakuo was inevitable. Looked at 3’s 5g router and thought it couldn’t be any worse!..Yippee!!.. best move ever!!!

    My speed went from 21mbps to a highest of 839mbps and a low of 740mbps..every device in my home now works lightning fast, I have Blink cameras, Amazon multiple devices with video screens, TV’s and security devices..everything works 100% better than before my divorce from TalkTalk. The free 43″ TV was a nice bonus!

  10. Pam says:

    We purchased the router seperately from Amazon as an unlocked device and using Smarty unlimited SIM. Our download speeds are consistently between 60-70mbps and upload 25-30mbps – much (over 2x) faster than the high speed fiber home broadband it was meant to replace as a temp measure because of fault on the line and no internet service and no end in sight! Suffice to say when contract is up with IP we will be saying bye bye to them as their service is slow in comparison.

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