Three – The One Plan – Review

Three Logo

The One Plan From Three

Three are both the smallest and the newest of the main UK network’s having launched in 2003 (on the 3rd of March so 3/3/3). Trading exclusively in 3G devices, Three initially struggled to gain a lot of traction, 3G phones at the time were large and cumbersome and the small network had a reputation for poor coverage and customer service. Things have changed significantly however and Three is now by far the fastest growing of the main UK networks. Customer service has become a big focus and the early problems have largely been eradicated and a clear strategy of delivering low prices and good value for money is paying rich rewards.

Three have an agreement with Orange to share access to their 2G network for calls and text where there isn’t 3G coverage but with Three’s own high speed network approaching 98% population coverage this is becoming less and less important to them.

3G Coverage

Three claim to have the largest 3G network of any of the main networks meaning they are a great choice for those looking to use a lot of data on the move. As their brand and strategy is so clearly to lead in this area (the name ‘Three’ isn’t an accident afterall) they have invested hugely in this and consumers have benefited from an ongoing battle between Three, Orange and Vodafone over who can roll out 3G coverage to the widest population throughout the UK. It’s not just the broad coverage that Three have invested in, however, but also the quality of the signal and Three have invested a lot in next generation (3.5G if you like) HSDPA+ technology which means that their signal quality, and hence speed of internet access, is amongst the very best. It also helps that there are physically less users of the network out there as more users on a given network station slows the speed for everyone.

Awards Won

Three have won a lot of awards over the past few years, particularly for their 3G and mobile broadband offerings which are a direct result of the investments they have made in this area. Amongst the highlights are a You Gov awards from very comprehensive surveys for best mobile internet speeds on iPhone, best network for tablets and number one network for mobile broadband. In addition to the high profile awards from You Gov they have also recently won awards from a collection of other providers including T3 and Macworld magazines, The Mobile Industry Awards, comparison site Broadband expert and perhaps most notably Best Network at the most recent uSwitch awards.

Customer Service

Three were once derided for poor customer service as they had less people on the ground able to help out customers. This situation has improved substantially over the last few years and although the mobile industry as a whole still has lots to do in this area, Three are definitely now in the pack rather than trailing the rest. We use a number of different Three SIMs on different accounts for which we base our advice and reviews and have not experienced any customer service issues. We have transferred numbers from other networks, checked in on allowances and checked bills and have had no difficulties. It does appear that the age of customer service being a reason to stay away from Three is over.

Value For Money

One area where Three have very clearly been a success is in value for money. Take any given price point on any given product and the chances are that Three will offer the most minutes, texts and / or data of all the networks. This is not accidental, whilst the other networks are earning profits for their shareholders, Three are privately owned and their main plan right now is to grow their market share over the next few years rather than to maximise profits in the short term. This can be great news for their customers who tend to get either lower prices or more for their money than they would with the other networks. This is the case with most of Three’s products, from dongles to iPhones but can be even more pronounced in their SIM contracts which tend to lead the market at most price points.

The One Plan

Launched in 2011 ‘The One Plan’ is something of the jewel in Three’s crown and has been one of the key factors in their rise to the fastest growing network. Not so long ago networks still made a lot of money from minutes, texts and especially data used outside of the inclusive allowances with a contract (i.e. customers who went over their allowances and paid high prices). The One Plan changed all that and was a real attempt to ensure that almost everyone would only pay their monthly account fee and no more. The One Plan includes 2,000 any network, any time minutes, 5,000 extra minutes to other Three numbers, 5,000 texts and unlimited data every month. It is available on a two year contract with most smartphones for prices up to £40+ a month but the best value deal is a SIM only contract for £25 on a one month rolling contract (so you can leave at any time with only one month’s notice). You can find out more about The One Plan here.