Things are changing over at Three as a new range of plans have replaced the old ones. The good news is that you can still get unlimited data and with Three’s recent 4G launch that includes 4G data, so arguably Three’s biggest selling point is still intact, but the plans have brought about a lot of other changes and they’re not all good.
We’ve already told you that unlimited data is still an option and on top of that 4G is still available at no extra cost, making Three arguably the cheapest place to get a 4G contract from and certainly the place with the least data limits.
But while 4G is still the same price as 3G, the cost of data in general seems to have gone up. For example on Three’s old price plans you could get the Sony Xperia Z1 with 600 minutes, 5000 texts and unlimited data for £34 per month, whereas now essentially the same plan (600 minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data) costs £38 per month. So that’s a £4 price hike and yes texts have been changed from 5000 to unlimited, but 5000 is essentially the same as unlimited for most people anyway.
This isn’t universally the case as the lowest price tariffs are now in many cases cheaper than they were before, but if you’re on Three for the 4G then you’re not likely to want the lowest price contracts, as those only come with 250MB of data.
In fairness £38 per month for a high end handset with unlimited data is still a great deal, as for example on EE you’ll only get 20GB of data for that money while the same phone will cost a shocking £57 per month on Vodafone with just 13GB of data, which is the most the network offers.
Three’s new plans also give you more flexibility than was possible previously. They all include unlimited texts and let you mix and match data and minutes, with a choice of 250MB, 1GB, 2GB or unlimited data and 100, 300, 600 or unlimited minutes.
We can’t really blame Three for bringing its prices more in line with its competitors, especially now that it’s fully launched its 4G service and it still offers arguably better value for money than any other network, but it’s still a disappointing change.
The bad news doesn’t end with the price changes either, as Three has also got rid of unlimited tethering. It’s not clear how many people actually took advantage of the service to begin with but it certainly had the potential to be very useful, allowing you to leverage your smartphones unlimited data plan to provide an internet connection for your tablet or laptop when no Wi-Fi was available.
Three still allows you to tether devices at no extra cost, but it now caps it at 2GB, so even if you take out an unlimited data plan you won’t be able to use more than 2GB of that data towards tethering each month.
According to Three, tethering puts a lot of strain on the network, so it’s a change which is aimed at ensuring all users have a smooth experience. We can’t really argue with that, though in all likelihood the decision was financially motivated as much as anything and in any case it’s bad news for anyone who relied on the service.
It’s especially disappointing as unlimited tethering could have really come into its own when pared with the 4G connections that Three now offers, potentially giving you broadband speeds on any and all devices anywhere with a 4G signal at no extra cost. But alas it wasn’t to be.
Free 0800 calls
Moving on to some slightly more positive changes Three now includes free calls to all 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers on its new plans, while dropping the cost of all other 08 numbers to just 5p per minute.
That’s undeniably a good thing, but in reality new Ofcom regulations will ensure that all 0800 numbers are free from 2015 anyway, so it’s only really beneficial for the next year and even then there are already apps available which let you make free calls to 08 numbers.
So it’s a nice bonus but doesn’t really make up for the scrapping of unlimited tethering or the price hikes.
Thankfully if you’re an existing customer none of this needs to affect you yet. You’ll be able to stay on your current tariff and if that tariff includes unlimited data then you’ll be able to do all the tethering you want.
But if you really want to be able to call premium rate numbers at a reduced price then you also have the option to swap over to a new tariff at any time and you’ll be able to keep your renewal date and won’t pay any additional fees, though of course you will then lose access to unlimited tethering.
The changes to Three’s plans aren’t surprising but they are disappointing as the increased flexibility, unlimited texts and free 0800 calls don’t quite seem to add as much value as unlimited tethering did, especially when the core prices have largely gone up too.
Three has long held a lot of promise as a 4G network and it was exciting to think that it might finally start to fulfil some of that promise now its network has launched, but the tethering restrictions and price hikes have dampened our enthusiasm somewhat.
Whether customers will feel the same remains to be seen, but Three still presents tremendous value for money and is still the only network to offer unlimited 4G data, which should be enough on its own to tempt a number of customers, particularly once its coverage increases.