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Facebook Outage Triggers Huge SMS and MMS Surge at Three UK

Tuesday, Oct 5th, 2021 (1:52 pm) - Score 3,104
three uk mobile broadband

Mobile operator Three UK has reported that last night’s 6-hour Facebook outage, which also impacted associated internet services from WhatsApp, Oculus and Instagram, caused a huge surge in SMS (text messages) and MMS (picture messages) traffic – more than the last three New Year’s Eves combined.

At the same time, Three UK reported that data (mobile broadband) centric Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) traffic also increased by almost 500% compared to last Monday, as people suddenly switched to sharing their selfies with friends and family.

We suspect that some of those customers won’t be too happy when their bill arrives, since MMS remains horrifically overpriced when compared with other internet-based methods of delivery. On Three UK it tends to cost 65p to send even a single small MMS and, confusingly, that applies even on their unlimited data plans (other operators have a similar caveat).

Carlo Melis, Chief Network Officer at Three UK, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“As some of the world’s most popular social media platforms went down last night, our network saw a huge spike in SMS traffic as customers switched from apps to more traditional means and our network continued to support them. In fact, between 8 and 9pm we carried more SMS than the last 3 New Year’s Eves – traditionally the busiest time for text.

MMS also increased by almost 500% compared to last Monday as people continued to share their selfies with friends and family.”

Three UK claims to cover 99% of the UK outdoor population with their combined 3G and 4G network, and carries 28% of mobile data traffic in the country (Enders Analysis), while also delivering more than 29% outdoor 5G population coverage. As of the end of August, more than 300 locations now have live 5G sites, which is an increase of more than 110 in recent months, with more locations being added every week.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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13 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Sam P says:

    All these people relying on one messaging service… Jeez.

    Get yourself Telegram and Signal!

    1. Avatar photo Lucian says:

      Hear, hear

    2. Avatar photo JitteryPinger says:

      Signal was faultless last night across the globe for me.

  2. Avatar photo Sam says:

    I used to PAYG sim credit lol. Wont get used overwise!

  3. Avatar photo JitteryPinger says:

    I didn’t know anything was wrong until somebody else told me 😀 …. signal was fine

  4. Avatar photo Michael V says:

    Interesting to see people turn to SMS & MMS.
    Didn’t think it would be so high.
    I use Android Instant Messenger with those who also have it active. [‘chat’ /RCS]
    I use Signal also.
    I dumped WhatsApp in July.
    It was funny. So many people think the world is ending when services go down.

    I won’t pay MMS prices. People don’t realise the cost. But then they only have themselves to blame as this is basic info people should know & ask about. It’s a shame Three don’t have MMS add-ons. I needed one this month so I added a pack to mobile #2 that’s on Voda, as a friend doesn’t have Android Chat or Signal. But even my friend thinks MMS is included in his Three plan!

    1. Avatar photo The Wee Bear says:

      Strange how three charge 65p for each mms but their piggybacker Smarty charge not a penny for mms.

    2. Avatar photo Ryan says:

      Really Smarty got no extra charges for mms, a other feature that I know Three seem to change their customers but free to smarty is SMS delivery report at 1.2p a request I can’t think of any other network that charges for it.

      I know my other services with EE and Vodafone don’t.

    3. Avatar photo Nick says:

      I wish BT Mobile did MMS add ons and also international calls, the apps I find poor call quality and the calls keep disconnecting.

      I chose BT Mobile because the service is really good and prices aren’t too bad.

  5. Avatar photo The Wee Bear says:

    MMS messages are completely free with all SMARTY plans.

    Information about MMS messages
    Sometimes, your phone will have to convert a text message into a different format – an MMS. MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. If this happens, the text will still be included in your free text allowance.

    However, just so you know, an SMS may change to an MMS if:

    Your message is too long to send as a normal text message.

    A text message is sent to a large number of contacts.

    You attach anything to a text, such as pictures, music or other files.

    You include emojis within a message.

    You try to send a text to an email address.

  6. Avatar photo The Wee Bear says:

    Yes sms delivery reports are free with Smarty as well Ryan.

    Not at all bad for a piggybacker.

    1. Avatar photo Ryan says:

      Like Nick said I got a feeling Three try to milk as much as you can for anything outside the standard service.

      Personally I can’t stand Three only use Three as that’s want my company supplied phone is on a plus side my workplace is currently replacing older phones with newer models on Vodafone so hopefully I get upgraded soon .

  7. Avatar photo Nick says:

    Three is expensive for any sort of out of bundle costs including the 65p per minute Access charge per minute added onto 08 numbers. BT Mobile is only 31.41p but still it’s too much but half the price Three and O2 charge.

    The system Ofcom brought in 2015 has made calls to 08,09,118 numbers more expensive all round, when the networks used to charge around 25p per minute to 08 numbers and now its two separate charge, the real charge of the service number plus an outrageous access charge per minute, how has that worked for consumers but caused confusion and higher prices.

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