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Mobile Operator Three UK to Close 3G Home Signal Box Service

Friday, Jul 29th, 2022 (10:36 am) - Score 10,464
Three-UK-Home-Signal-Box

Mobile operator Three UK has begun to notify customers that their indoor 3G femtocell based signal booster device and service (‘Home Signal‘), which harnesses an existing fixed line broadband ISP connection to create its own indoor 3G mobile signal over a specific band, is to be “retired” on 5th September 2022.

The move will not come as a huge surprise because Three UK had already stopped selling their Home Signal devices in 2020, although until now they had continued to support their existing users. On top of that, the operator has already revealed that it plans to switch off their legacy 3G (mobile broadband) network by the end of 2024 (here).

NOTE: It’s important not to confuse these devices with indoor signal repeaters, which merely boost an existing mobile signal.

The other main reason for retiring such services is because they’ve largely already been replaced by the spread of Wi-Fi Calling across the UK’s major operators. This uses your home or other internet (broadband) connection to serve mobile calls and text (SMS) messages via WiFi.

The catch is that, for some people, Wi-Fi Calling is still far from perfect (i.e. support varies between phones, and it can struggle to work in areas of weak or congested WiFi). Nevertheless, the writing has clearly been on the wall for their 3G Home Signal service for a long time, and related users are now being notified of its closure (Credits to Tom).

Copy of Three UK’s Customer Message

“We’re just letting you know, that from 05/09/22, we’re retiring our 3G Home Signal Box service. With ongoing investment in our network, and the wide availability of Wi-Fi Calling across the UK, this service should no longer be needed. To find out more click 3.uk/s2c

The website link provided in the message doesn’t really say much more than that, except to direct customers toward WiFi calling, while providing no alternative to those who may not be able to get such a feature working. In terms of alternatives, Vodafone closed their equivalent service in 2021, while EE followed last month and the only one left is O2’s Boostbox service for business customers (happily this works with both 4G and 3G mobiles).

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Mark-Jackson
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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Comments
18 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Brayson says:

    I have 1 bar of signal on three. I’ve begged and begged for one of these things but they told me they don’t exist / can’t have one / stopped selling etc. They say WiFi calling works for most people. I do have a WiFi calling symbol but whenever someone calls me with it the sound quality is so bad it’s unintelligible or the other person can’t hear me etc.

    I’d swap networks, but the only other one here is Vodafone and the speed is really 1999 GPRS speed.

    1. Avatar photo MilesT says:

      There are some cases where a traditional landline (or VoIP/Digital voice over the broadband with a landline number) is still the only option, and redirect your mobile to the VoIP when at home to ensure you get your calls.

      If you have non-mobile based broadband, it usually doesn’t cost anything more per month to have a landline number enabled for it, although if you have heavy usage then an outgoing calls package will add a few quid.

    2. Avatar photo Mike says:

      Buy a 4G antenna and a 4G router with a telephone port, use that.

    3. Avatar photo phoenixw says:

      On my previous O2 contract I had two settings for Wi-fi calling on my phone – one to enable it, and one to make it preferred over the mobile network. Since moving to Three, despite using the same phone, I only have the setting to enable it. The icon that shows I’m on wi-fi calling comes on really sporadically despite a consistently good wi-fi connection to my phone, and with O2 the wi-fi calling indicator was on 90% of the time at home.

    4. Avatar photo Brayson says:

      As far as I understand it, the phone has to decide that the cell network signal/quality isn’t good enough before it decides to swap to WiFi calling. In other words, it would always prefer the GSM network. On my old phone I also used to have an option to switch between preferred and always. However none of it works properly for me. I have a WISP as my broadband, they do a SIP service for VOIP but I’ve taken one with Sipgate but I usually give folks my mobile number not my VOIP one especially since my mobile calls are included in the plan but SIP calls have to come out of my credit.

    5. Avatar photo Acdeag says:

      Not sure the box would have worked for you. If Wi-Fi calling is bad, then your broadband would have been unlikely to support the box either. If your speed on Wi-Fi is good, you probably have a handset issue

    6. Avatar photo bb says:

      You need to change your router settings for VOIP calling. You only need 10Mbps internet and good wifi signal to easily make mobile wifi calls

  2. Avatar photo Jack says:

    Wanted one of these boxes for a while as my business unit is a Faraday cage in the middle of the country side that gets no less than 100dB of signal.

    WiFi calling does not work on that many devices and they don’t respond to requests to add support to more phones.
    Why it is a locked down feature idk…

    Just means my work uses VOIP instead. Total loss for Three.

  3. Avatar photo David Dickinson says:

    Does anybody know of an alternative to purchase?……, thanks ….. Dave

    1. Avatar photo KangarooJack says:

      Arent these kits like £50 on Aliexpress ?

  4. Avatar photo FFFFF says:

    I know some that are on Three & theyre advised to use WiFi calling… only problem is Three is their broadband provider too. Theyve been strung along by Three who state the coverage is improving & a mast is down. We’re fixing an issue with our network in this area.

    It states; {“data”:{“outages”:{“xxxxxx”:{“endpoint”:”RAN_UNPLANNED_OUTSIDE”,”endpointFlags”:[“s4″,”c5″,”c4″,”s9″]}},”content”:{“RAN_UNPLANNED_OUTSIDE”:{“headline”:””,”body”:”We know that there’s a problem with the service in your area and we’re working on getting it fixed. Check back within 7 days for an update.”}}}}

  5. Avatar photo Cancunia says:

    I wondered when Three would stop the Home Signal service, I’ve been using it for a couple of years, it’s not perfect but better than no signal. In anticipation of the service stopping, I bought a Pixel 4.
    You can force WiFi calling on Android phones (maybe also iPhones) by selecting Airplane Mode, then enabling WiFi, it is possible to set WiFi permanently on while in Airplane mode via a couple of ADB commands.
    I use 2 Macrodroid scripts, one to activate Airplane mode when in range of my home WiFi and another to deactivate it when not.
    On a slightly different topic, Android phones were locked to a single provider for WiFi calling, but newer phones are not. There was no real way to unlock them, even when the Mobile service was unlocked.

  6. Avatar photo Kerry Lunt says:

    This would mean my whole family who is with three, wouldn’t be able use our phones, I’ve unplugged the the box and we all get 1 bar, we can’t receive SMS if box is turned off, I sure if three are unable to supply you with a signal they are in-breach of contract

    1. Avatar photo Michael says:

      Kerry…. Have you gone through settings to see if the devices support WiFi [& VoLTE] calling. Or is there any 3G-HSPA fall back in your area?

  7. Avatar photo Walter says:

    just been through this with EE who have done the same thing. If you read your contract it shows they do not guarantee their service to work, and no signal assurance. So you only have 1 option, switch networks. If you can’t then you are stuck. Luckily O2 just put a 4/5g lamp post up 1km away so hoping to switch to them to get a useable service back. I doubt EE will care.

  8. Avatar photo simon says:

    my signal box has worked brilliantly for the last couple of years 5 bars. Where I would only get 1 to 4 bars, sometimes no signal in a rural location.
    Im sick of companies pushing to get 4g 5g and more. I just want a reliable signal for calls. invest in proper total coverage first. Reliable signal is way more important then yet another speed increase most cant get.
    I have good fibre internet and Wifi calling is not reliable (iPhone), its not the answer.
    so why is a Three home signal box reliable and wifi calling isnt? I give up.

    1. Avatar photo bb says:

      But wifi calling is very reliable. Check your router settings to setup for VoIP and make suer have decent speed broadband (10Mpbs+) and your Wifi band isn’t congested. The Iphone wifi calling should work as good as the mobile network

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