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Three Broadband: Everything you need to know

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Better known as a mobile provider, Three have since branched out to also provide both home and mobile broadband services. Three gives broadband subscribers the tempting option of signing up to a broadband deal with no landline needed whatsoever. On this page, we’re going to look at all there is to know about Three and a breakdown of its broadband offer.


 

About Three

To begin, we’re going to give a bit of background information on Three, starting with a short history of the company and giving a broad outlook on where it stands today:

History

Three UK was, in a PR sense, born on the 3rd of March 2003 - 03/03/03. It did not, however, begin to sell handsets (the first being NEC e616 and Sony Ericsson Z1010) until a little later that year. It became in its first year of trading the UK’s first commercial “video mobile network” (now called a 3G network) and opened its first three 3Stores - two in central London and one in Birmingham. By late 2006, its portfolio of stores was in the hundreds and Three had a presence in practically all the UK’s major high streets.

In late 2013, Three began providing 4G data services in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Reading, and the following year expanded the network to include 450 more locations. Its 4G network has gone on to reach almost 99% of the population of the UK, and its focus now is on developing a 5G network - something it began doing in August 2019.

It’s hoped that Three’s 5G network - at present the largest in the UK and very much leading the market - will allow it to establish itself further in the broadband as well as the mobile sector, with the 4G network currently perceived as too slow to meet the demands of household internet use.

Timeline

  • 2003 - Launches its mobile service in the UK on the 3rd of March (03/03/03 for publicity purposes).
  • 2004 - Became the first network to meet the regulatory requirement of 80% UK coverage.
  • 2007 - Partners with T-Mobile in a joint venture (Mobile Broadband Network Limited) to combine their 3G networks to provide almost complete 3G coverage to the UK.
  • 2013 - Begins rolling out 4G LTE services in selected cities. Feel At Home is launched, allowing Three UK customers to communicate on Three networks around the world at no extra cost.
  • 2014 - Launch of the 3 inTouch app.
  • 2016 - Purchase of O2’s UK operations arm for over £10bn is blocked by the EU Commission.
  • 2018 - Partners with Superdrug to help launch Superdrug Mobile, exclusive to members of Superdrug’s loyalty scheme.
  • 2019 - Three UK launches its 5G network in Central London and begins rolling it out over the rest of the country.

Present day

Nowadays, Three carries more than 40% of the UK’s mobile data traffic, and its 4G network covers 98% of the population. More than 10 million mobile customers use Three’s network, which the company has invested around £2bn so far in an attempt to upgrade to 5G. It employs over 4,000 people in 300 stores in the UK, and its global parent company CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd group has mobile operations (among other interests) in 11 countries. It is particularly proud of its internet data network, for which it has won numerous awards in its history, including Best Network for Data at the Mobile Choice Consumer Awards in 2018.

Three share price

As we’ve just mentioned, Three UK is a part of CK Hutchison Holdings, which trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Its value has seen a promising upward trend over the last four months, having dipped in value to as low as HK$65.10 in August, it recovered and reached a value of HK$75.45 in December. It has not dipped far below this value at any stage since, and at the time of writing sits at HK$71.90.

Three jobs

If a career with Three is what you’re looking for, your first port of call should be the Three Jobs site. On the site, you can search for a specific job you’re looking for or you can browse for jobs by department - Three currently has vacancies for the current types of job:

  • Customer jobs
  • Finance jobs
  • Marketing jobs
  • Legal, compliance, regulatory affairs and procurement jobs
  • People jobs
  • Retail customer service jobs
  • Retail store management jobs
  • Technology and operations jobs

If Three aren’t currently recruiting in an area that interests you, you can sign up for job alerts so you’re the first to find out when one arises. If it’s to be your first job, you’ll want to look at the ‘Early careers’ section of the site, where you can learn about its Apprentice and Graduate schemes and see if there are any available in an area that interests you.

Three UK in the News

  • 9/1/2020 - Infrastructure firm Magdalene has signed a five-year deal to help develop and upgrade Three UK and EE’s Mobile Broadband Network. Magdalene will help deliver the network’s Notice to Quit (NTQ) and Towers and Antennas (T&A) in a project beginning this month.
  • 24/1/2020 - Three UK sign shirt sponsorship deal with Chelsea FC. The Three logo will appear on all first team shirts for the 2020/21 season, including the Women’s and Academy team, as the official shirt sponsor.

 

Three products

 

That’s enough background. Now let’s take a look at the products Three have to offer customers in the UK:

Mobile

We’re no experts in mobile, so we’re not going to attempt to explain to you Three’s range of mobile products - we wouldn’t know where to begin. To find out about Three Mobile deals, head over to our mobile section’s dedicated Three page (link coming soon), where they have all the details.

Mobile Broadband

If you don’t really know what’s meant by “mobile broadband”, it’s just what it says on the tin. It’s a wireless connection to the internet that you can carry around with you, and it’s a term that’s used quite loosely - Three offers a Mobile Broadband SIM which you can use in a number of ways. Here are the ways you can get connected with a Mobile Broadband SIM:

  • Dongle - a tiny modem that you can carry around and stick into USB ports.
  • Mobile WiFi - a portable modem (that needs charging) you can carry around and place where you want to transmit WiFi. This one is better for sharing, and can be used by up to five devices at a time.
  • HomeFi - like Mobile WiFi, HomeFi acts as a hotspot transmitting to numerous devices, but more devices (up to 32, in fact) can connect and the signal travels much further - meaning you don’t have to carry it from room to room in your home.
  • Tablet - if there’s a SIM slot in your tablet, you can simply stick a Mobile Broadband SIM in and always be connected - you can also use Mobile WiFi with your tablet if there’s no slot.

As we mentioned, a SIM can be placed into any of these gizmos and used to get you online. They’re available Pay As You Go or in Pay Monthly contracts, and you can get it with a Three device or as a SIM-only deal. It’s without a doubt the most flexible way to source your internet connection, and ideal for people who are always on the move (but perhaps not for those whose usage is very high).

If you head to the Three website, you’ll find plans for purchasing modems and tablets along with a data plan, but in case you’re wondering how much just the data would set you back, here's an example; it's their data-heaviest set of plans:

100G data SIM plans
1-month contract 12-month contract 24-month contract
£29 per month £26 per month £24 per month

The above plans, as their names suggest, come with 100G of data to be used over the course of a month - the longer you sign up for, the more you save. Pay monthly SIMs also include the Go Binge feature, which gives users access to the following services at no extra cost:

  • Netflix
  • TV Player
  • Snapchat
  • Soundcloud
  • Deezer
  • Apple Music

As we’ve mentioned already, you’re also able to get a Pay As You Go SIM, but these work out at quite a bit more per gig of data than getting a 1-month contract, for example, but if your usage is minimal and you only plan to use it sporadically it may be a more cost-effective option for you - the data attached to some PAYG SIMs remains active for 24 months before it expires. Here are all of Three’s PAYG SIM options and what you would pay for them:

1GB of data 3GB of data 12GB of data 24GB of data
£10 £16 £40 £60
Active for 30 days Active for 3 months Active for 12 months Active for 24 months

Before you decide that forking out more for a PAYG SIM is the right option for you, however, there are other Pay Monthly SIM plans to consider with lower data allowances. All of those providing more than 12GB of data per month also include Go Binge - an important consideration. Here they are:

2G data SIM plans
1-month contract 12-month contract 24-month contract
£13 per month £10 per month £8 per month
5G data SIM plans
1-month contract 12-month contract 24-month contract
£17 per month £14 per month £12 per month
10G data SIM plans
1-month contract 12-month contract 24-month contract
Unavailable £18 per month £16 per month
15G data SIM plans
1-month contract 12-month contract 24-month contract
£23 per month £20 per month £18 per month
20G data SIM plans
1-month contract 12-month contract 24-month contract
£25 per month £22 per month £20 per month
40G data SIM plans
1-month contract 12-month contract 24-month contract
£27 per month £24 per month £22 per month

It’s clear there’s plenty of options for all levels of commitment desired and for a usage level to suit everyone. There’s even a 1GB plan with just the option for 12 months available - this would cost you £7.50 a month. To put it into perspective for you, 1GB of data a month will allow you to do the following*:

  • Send a thousand emails
  • Browse online for ten hours
  • Download five 4-minute songs
  • Download thirty-two 4-minute songs

*These calculations are approximate and shared on the Three website only as a rough guide.

For full details on Three mobile broadband options, see the Three website!

Home broadband

Apart from Mobile Broadband, Three now also offers residential customers Home Broadband products. Among its main selling points and the main things separating Three Home Broadband from other broadband products is that it requires no landline and no engineer to get you set up.

How does it do this? Similar to its Mobile Broadband sibling, Three Home Broadband offers devices that act as wireless hotspots in your home. These are limited in availability, with certain areas of the UK not having a reliable enough 4G network to support usage as heavy as that of a home consistently. Those who are lucky enough to have it available to them, however, have two options - the AI Cube and HomeFi Plus. Let’s take a look at these options individually:

AI Cube hub

The Huawei AI Cube works as both a WiFi hotspot and a smart speaker. Once you’ve plugged it in, you gain not only access to the internet but also the Amazon Alexa voice assistant built in. The AI Cube comes with two plans, both offering unlimited data:

12-month plan 24-month plan
£32 per month £25 per month
£49 upfront No upfront cost

As well as offering unlimited data, both of these plans give users the ability to connect up to 64 devices - this seems like overkill to us, but at least you’ll never have to worry about how many devices you have connected at a time (or about giving too many people the password when you host a party!).

When you order your AI Cube Hub, you’ll receive the following in terms of kit:

  • B900 AI Cube Hub
  • SIM card
  • Power supply adaptor
  • Quick start guide
  • Ethernet cable

HomeFi Plus

The Huawei HomeFi Plus option is the less fancy of the pair. It does the basics, just like your old router used to, but doesn’t come with the Alexa voice assistant. It is entirely wireless, however, and requires neither a landline nor an installation procedure to get working - it uses 4G just like the AI Cube to create a network for your home. Here are the plans available with it:

12-month plan 24-month plan
£27 per month £22 per month
£29 upfront No upfront cost

Like the AI Cube as well, the HomeFi Plus box also gives you unlimited data and the ability to connect up to 64 devices, and you get the same kit (trading the AI Cube for the HomeFi Hub, of course) in the post from your order.

5G Home Broadband

It’s early days, but last year saw the launch of Three’s 5G network in certain parts of the UK. Watch this space, because faster 5G Home Broadband could be heading your way in the near future, posing an even more tempting alternative to the current 4G offer. If you’re super-keen, you can register your interest in Three 5G products on the provider’s website and be kept up to date with developments.

 

How do Three’s prices compare with the market average?

 

It’s tricky trying to compare Three Broadband with other broadband providers because it’s the only major provider of its kind and has its own appeal apart from the speed it offers. We can offer no guarantee that the speeds you would experience are consistently comparable to those you would get from a standard fibre deal with another provider, but we’re going to give you the stats as far as cost goes.

The comparison we’re going to make is between basic HomeFi Plus Broadband and a standard (36 Mbps) fibre broadband package - the average we’ve taken is from the six major providers:

HomeFi Plus Market Average (36 Mbps)
£27 per month £31 per month

There you have it, £4 a month cheaper. Of course, the lack of assurance regarding speed is an important consideration, but if you’re considering this sort of broadband it will be for its flexibility rather than superfast speeds. We think that on balance it’s worth considering, though perhaps not if your usage is extremely demanding.

 

My Three UK app

 

Three customers who sign up to home broadband in fact get access to two separate apps - the My3 app and the Three Broadband Support app. It may be clear from the outset what the difference is between the two, but in case you need clarification, we’re going to run you through them both:

  • View your allowances and usage
  • View a summary of your bills, including extra charges you’ve incurred, and see up to 12 months of past bills
  • Find out how to move your number to Three, change your payment date, etc.
  • See your pay-as-you-go balance (mobile only) so you can plan your next top-up
  • See if you’re eligible for an upgrade

The app is available both in the App Store for iOS and in the Google Play Store for Android, and on both it seems to work remarkably well - almost 50,000 App Store users give it a laudatory average rating of 4.4 / 5 stars, and well over 100,000 users on Google Play gave it an average of 4.3 / 5. A trifling number of these find reason to complain, which leads us to believe you can look forward to a smooth ride in managing your My3 account.

Three Broadband Support app

The Three Broadband Support app is, as you might think, more specifically for home broadband customers. In short, it’s for when something goes wrong with your internet at home and you want to get it solved quickly and easily. Here’s what you can do with it:

  • Contact a customer care agent to share information and troubleshoot quickly
  • Identify whether the problem you’re having is internal or external
  • Use the photograph tool to share an image of your hub setup with the agent
  • Allow an agent temporary remote access to your hub to make configuration changes that might be needed*

*Three are keen to point out that this can only happen with your consent while you’re logged into the app.

This app is also free to download from both the App Store and Google Play. How well it works, however, is more difficult to ascertain - no reviews have yet been posted in the App Store, and only one has been posted on Google Play. Encouragingly, though, this solitary review gives five stars and praises the app’s usefulness and ease of use:

Really helpful and got me back online with the minimum of fuss

 

Get in touch with Three

 

If you want to get in touch with Three, it has quite the tangled web of contact options to pick from depending on whether you’re a new or existing customer and what exactly you want your issue is. If you’re just a prospective customer looking for some info about buying (or you’d like to buy over the phone), here is the freephone number for Three sales inquiries:

Blue telephone

Three Sales team contact
Please check with your provider if you don't know how much a call will cost.
0800 033 8001
*Lines open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday; 9am-6pm Saturday & Sunday

If you prefer not to call, you can, of course, browse and buy online - and for any queries that crop up along the way, you can live chat to an advisor 24 hours a day, seven days a week via its website or the My3 app. For other types of inquiry, see our Three contact (link coming soon) page, where we provide all the information you need for contacting Three about any issue you might be experiencing.

 

Three Home Broadband review

 

By now you know everything about Three except for one of the most important things to know before subscribing to a company’s service - what do customers think of it? To help you find this out, we’ve scoured the internet in search of opinions from Three customers past and present. Our findings were mixed - Three’s ‘TrustScore’ on consumer review site Trustpilot is, amusingly, just short of 3 / 5, with positive reviews just edging out the negative ones.

Strangely, while 43% of almost 12,000 reviewers gave Three the top score of Excellent and around 52% recording a positive experience overall, more than a third felt the opposite and gave the provider the very worst score of Bad. So what is it that splits opinion quite so much among Three customers? Let’s take a closer look at what they’re saying:

Customer service is non-existent. Every time you contact them on the chat you are fobbed off from one person to another and they give you false promises.

The vast majority of the most recent reviews give one star and are similar to this in tone. It is worth noting that the majority of complaints seem to refer to Mobile specifically, but you’d have to assume that a company’s customer service for Broadband is no better than its customer service for Mobile. Many customers recording a positive experience cite a great deal they got as one of the reasons - could it be that the reviewer below has hit the nail on the head?

More interest in selling new contracts maybe than in customer retention.

Pros and cons

Now let’s take a quick look back at the main positives and negatives of taking out home broadband with Three. We must say that, by the look of it, if you can avoid too much interaction with customer services over the phone, you’re likely to be pretty pleased with Three Broadband.

Pros Cons
 Home and mobile broadband offer is uniquely flexible and well-priced.  Mixed customer reviews, with many unsatisfied with the customer service they have received.
 Well-functioning apps both for account management and reporting/fixing faults.  Question marks over reliability and consistency of 4G network for home broadband use.
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