Three launches its 4G UK network, extends inclusive roaming to USA [Update: Roaming limitations!]

This time last year, there was only one option available if you wanted 4G in the UK. EE was the nation's first 4G service provider, but it is no longer the only one, as rival networks have launched their own competing offerings in recent months. 

O2 launched its 4G service at the end of August, around the same time as Vodafone. Smaller virtual operators (MVNOs) in the UK are also gearing up for 4G, with Tesco Mobile having launched its services for just £2.50 a month extra, and Telefónica's giffgaff preparing to launch in March next year. 

Three announced its plans for 4G earlier this year and today, the company confirmed that its 4G rollout has now begun. 

The initial rollout is happening in stages, with customers that have 4G-compatible devices being gradually upgraded to be able to connect to its 4G network. Availability of the network will be limited at first too; tweets from the company indicate that its 4G signal has only been switched on in London, Birmingham and Manchester so far, with only "a few thousand customers" having been upgraded as of yesterday. 

Three says that by the end of January, all of its customers with a 4G-ready device will be able to use its 4G network when in a connected area. The rollout of its 4G signal will accelerate considerably next year, as the company plans to reach a further 50 cities by the end of 2014, with 98% of the UK's population covered by the end of 2015.

Unlike other UK networks - which all charge a premium for the privilege of using 4G - Three has committed to offering 4G at no extra cost compared with its existing price plans. A further unique proposition of Three compared with its rivals is its commitment to offering truly unlimited data plans on 4G at no extra cost.

A SIM-only 12-month plan with 2,000 cross-network minutes, 5,000 texts and unlimited 'all-you-can-eat-data is available from Three for £15 a month; by comparison, a SIM-only 12-month plan with unlimited cross-network minutes and texts, but only 20GB of data, would cost a staggering £61 a month from EE.

According to independent figures from Enders Analysis, Three already carries more data than any other UK network - 41.5% of UK data traffic, followed by EE with 29%, O2 with 20% and Vodafone at 9.5%. Three says that it is adding significantly more capacity over the next two years, adding a further 3,000 masts to its existing network of 14,000 sites by the end of 2015. 

The launch of its 4G network wasn't the only announcement that Three made today, though. It also announced that it is extending its international 'Feel At Home' feature, which allows customers to use their UK minutes, texts and data while roaming in numerous countries. 

From today, Three customers will be able to take advantage of this feature while visiting the USA, while Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Macau have also been added to the list, joining Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, the Republic of Ireland and Sweden. 

This means that a Three customer visiting, for example, the United States will be able to make and receive calls, send and receive texts and use their data from their UK allowance while in the US - or indeed in the other ten countries listed - with no additional charges. Three says that it is the only UK operator to offer this feature at no extra cost while abroad, and customers can use any network in those countries to roam, not just Three partners. 

The company's chief executive, Dave Dyson, says that more countries will be added to the list soon. 

Source: Three Media Centre


Update: A few people have asked (both in the comments below and elsewhere) whether they can use unlimited data or tethering while travelling to the US and the other countries supported in the Feel At Home service, so we thought it would be helpful to clarify this. 

Three's support pages explain that there are, in fact, several restrictions on what you can do while abroad. There's no tethering when you're in a Feel At Home country, and if you're a new Pay Monthly customer, you won't be able to use your SIM abroad at all for the first 30 days of your contract. Streaming and VPN connections will be allowed, but "both of these will be slower than in the UK". 

The real kicker, though, comes in the form of limitations on your allowances. Even if your UK price plan includes unlimited texts, unlimited data or more than 3000 minutes of calls, your allowances while in a Feel At Home country will be restricted. You will be able to use only 3000 minutes and 5000 texts back to the UK, and 25GB will be your maximum data allocation abroad, in any one month. If you were hoping for unlimited data while travelling, you're out of luck. As always, be sure to check all the small print for further details before you travel. 

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) 2013 R2 released; adds Windows 8.1 support

Next Story

Android founder Andy Rubin working on Google's robotics project

47 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

25GB of free roaming data on my £15/mo contact is not so be sniffed at!

I'm travelling in Ireland right now for a couple of days, and I'd normally be looking at a £80 odd bill when I get home. Make those savings a couple of times a year and the contract almost pays for itself.

I know, but as I said I wouldn't turn down 25MB of free data from my current contact that currently offers me exactly **** all.

"You will be able to use only 3000 minutes and 5000 texts back to the UK, and 25GB will be your maximum data"

Very generous to be honest, you probably would find it hard to even get 25GB on other networks here in the UK as it is, not without paying a lot more.

We need carriers like this in Canada... I pay $136 per month for two cell phones with Unlimited Canada-wide calling/texting and 1GB of data. Also this is with discounts, the normal price is listed as $198!

Bertch said,
We need carriers like this in Canada... I pay $136 per month for two cell phones with Unlimited Canada-wide calling/texting and 1GB of data. Also this is with discounts, the normal price is listed as $198!

I imagine if our country were as large as yours, our prices would rise sharply.

This will be my 3rd year with Three now, and I must say, it is FAR better than any of the other networks. Have not had any problems, and the Three Support twitter was excellent when I wanted to add tethering to my plan. Was up and running in a couple of hours. Very impressed!

I love Three. They're the only major network that has realised that you'll get more from customers when you don't screw them over.

This new 4g is 14mbps average (real world speeds). The previous speed was around 12mbps average. Some customers will get slower speeds, some much faster.

Will be looking at 3 when my contract ends next year. Seems to be the only company looking at data over voice/sms which is exactly what I need.

Three are ok as long as you never have to interact with their customer service who don't understand a word of english and could do with a common sense transplant.I dont understand why companies insist on using these indian call centres. It supposed to save money but just causes complaints.

Indeed that really annoys, same with o2 and Virgin in my experience sadly. The only time i ever spoke to someone who could speak proper English was when i wanted to leave o2 and get my PAC code.

RossDundas said,
Three are ok as long as you never have to interact with their customer service who don't understand a word of english and could do with a common sense transplant.I dont understand why companies insist on using these indian call centres. It supposed to save money but just causes complaints.

I have found that their twitter support is pretty good, so for non urgent things its often best to use them. If using phone support, try to get past the 1st line service and have someone from 2nd line call you back. They are usually much better!

If all else fails - fill in the complaint form on their website.

Kushan said,
So wait, Three users with unlimited data now get unlimited data in the US?

I can see a lot of Americans importing simcards now lol

InsaneNutter said,

I can see a lot of Americans importing simcards now lol

I imagine they would quickly fall foul of these terms:


Feel At Home is designed for UK residents who are customers of Three UK and who are visiting other destinations. If you use Feel At Home exclusively for a full calendar month, at least three times in any 12 month period, we reserve the right to suspend international roaming on your account. This means you wouldn't be able to use your Three device abroad. Don't worry, we'd let you know before we did this.

AND


If your plan or Add-on includes all-you-can-eat data, unlimited texts or more than 3000 minutes, when using Feel At Home you'll only be able to use 25GB of data, 5000 texts to the UK or 3000 minutes of calls to the UK in any one month. We reserve the right to suspend our service if you exceed any of these limits for more than any two months within a twelve month period.

They do an unlimited data with 200 mins for £12.90 which you could use. I think it's actually cheaper than their data only sims.

But you have to use the data only sim for the tablet or could you just use depicus idea? 12,90 would be a bargain for always connected tablet

watkinsx2 said,
3 block tethering from those plans. Only the One plan has tethering. £12.90 is ultimate internet IIRC

Odd because I have tethered from iPhone just fine ?

Three seem to intermittently block tethering from phones but if you start putting that sim in a tablet or modem they pick it up pretty quick.

well - tethering and tablet are two completely different things. one thing is putting the device as a router into a network - the otherone is a device in a network

What does 4G mean in this context? Which technology is it?

Also, why does the UK have such crap coverage? It's such a small country compared to the US.

Rosyna said,
What does 4G mean in this context? Which technology is it?

LTE

Rosyna said,
Also, why does the UK have such crap coverage? It's such a small country compared to the US.

Coverage is so "crap" due to their being a delay in roll-out because the UK government (at the time) would not allow 4G to be offered over the existing bands the networks already owned for 3G/2G (this has now changed apparently).

As a result networks had to buy capacity, which was only being auctioned off by the government once we had complete the transition of terrestrial TV to being digital. Even then, the auction was further delayed due to the various networks disagreeing with Ofcom's (the UK communications regulator) proposed terms of how the auction would be run.

In the meantime, Orange UK & T-Mobile UK merged, into EverythingEverywhere. This meant that together, they now had surplus bandwidth (even taking into account the ruling that they had to sell of some of it). EverythingEverywhere thenn sought permission to re-use some of their 1800Mhz spectrum for 4G (LTE) while the spectrum auction was being planned/finalised. Ofcom allowed this, which meant EverythingEverywhere could launch 4G in automn 2012 under the "EE" network brand.

So...in summary, coverage is bad due to 4G only being available in the UK for just over 12 months.

It is expected that 98% of the UK population will have coverage by the end of 2014 on EE (owing to the 12 month, headstart) and 2015 from O2, Vodafone and Three.

I am with Three and would never switch to another operator. The value is just too good.

I am actually sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting for a friend to come out of an op typing this on my tablet using my 920 as a WiFi hotspot on three. No worries about cost - just battery life as I can't see any sockets in the area...

its nice that they keeping prices really low, but I would never go to 3. Heard a lot of bad things about their coverage and service.

Soldiers33 said,
its nice that they keeping prices really low, but I would never go to 3. Heard a lot of bad things about their coverage and service.

Customer service is pretty bad but there is nothing wrong with their coverage. Coverage now is nothing like it was even just a couple of years ago.

I used to hear terrible things a few years ago which put me off joining for a while. I've been a Three customer for three years now - only for mobile broadband, not for my handset plans - and I've been satisfied with the coverage, impressed by the speed, and indifferent to the customer service (no better or worse than other networks on that front).

In a nutshell, I personally don't feel that there are any strong reasons not to sign up to Three - but I hope that others will share their experiences here too (both good and bad) to give a more balanced view.

I'm paying £12.90 for unlimited data and amazingly can use my Nexus 5 to stream music while out running in the woods, that never happened on o2 where you couldn't even make a call. Have to say the coverage is very good but support wise no better or worse that any of the others.

I was with three in the bad days, and returned a year ago. They have greatly improved, and deserve another try. I wouldn't go with any other operator now.

Soldiers33 said,
its nice that they keeping prices really low, but I would never go to 3. Heard a lot of bad things about their coverage and service.

I've just moved to three and now get faster mobile net than my home broadband!