3 is a mobile network that was launched in the UK on 3 March 2003 – this date was chosen as it can be rendered 3/3/3. Its focus was on 3G technology and they undertook one of the fastest 3G rollouts in UK history. They went live with HSDPA technology in September 2008 and currently maintain the highest level of 3G coverage in the UK.
They offer both PAYG and contract services and have been running retail high street shops called 3Store since 2003. 3 is owned by Hutchinson Whampoa who had previously owned Orange at the height of the telecoms boom. In the UK, 3 has over 3.5 million customers.
If you are interested in trying 3, you can order your free SIM from here.
In general 3 are better value than the other main networks, even as a contract customer. However, their PAYG pricing is one of the highest around and it’s easy to spend a lot of money on them. (As of July 2013, Three Mobile have come out with a brand new offer that makes them easily the best value option for low-use PAYG customers). As a network, they are highly rated by their loyal customers. However, much of this is due to their excellent 3G network which is the best in the country. 3 also are now running a truly unlimited data offer and they are one of the only networks to allow unlimited data with no fair usage policy on pay as you go.
Their call centres are in India and several users have reported difficulties with customer services and getting problems fixed. However, they do offer free access to their online portal through their phones and service in their stores is much better than over the phone.
Overall, the network quality is very good and price is incredible value for money – just customer service leaves something to be desired.
At a glance
3’s PAYG tariff charges just 3p per minute for voice calls and texts are incredible cheap at 2p each. This is an order of magnitude better than the major networks even and much better value than even the cheapest virtual networks. 0800 numbers are unfortunately not free to call.
3 also are now running a truly unlimited data offer called the All In One Plan but it is rather pricey at £15/month. However, they are one of the only networks to allow unlimited data with no fair usage policy on pay as you go. You also get 300 minutes and 3000 texts included in your £15 top-up.
There is also the option of buying just 3000 texts for £5/month.
Please see our 3 coverage page to learn about 3’s network coverage in your area. 3 runs its own 3G network but relies on Orange for its 2G network. For more information, compare it with other mobile phone networks’ coverage.
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