back to article Three is voted the best UK network

Mobile operator Three has been rated as the UK's best mobile broadband network for the second year in a row. Three, who recently proclaimed itself to be the biggest network, came out top in 8 out of 15 categories following the 2010 YouGov DongleTracker survey in which over 4,000 mobile broadband customers were questioned. UK …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Not my experience...

    3 were so bad I cancelled my contract after a few months - phone continually claimed full reception at home, but all calls diverted to voicemail and any attempt to make an outgoing call would result in the coverage disappearing.

    It took another 6-9 months before they stopped hassling me.

    ten seconds later "full" reception returned.

    No customer service, no data speed.

    Orange on the other hand have been excellent - customer service works, excellent value, pretty good reception (that actually works) everywhere I need.

    1. It wasnt me
      Thumb Down

      Please help

      "It took another 6-9 months before they stopped hassling me."

      Im happy for you. Could you share the secret? I have never been a 3 customer, and they continuously hassle me. When I ask them to remove my number from their database they just hang up.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Is it really Three?

        I had a plague of calls some months ago from an outfit who claimed to be Three customer service; they were just some mobile phone outfit down in Cardiff hoping to hassle people into phony upgrade deals.

  2. samster

    3 are great - until there is a problem

    I've been on 3 for a couple of years. Originally did it because they didn't charge roaming charges on other 3 networks. (They soon got rid of that! ).

    I'm a big user of data. It is 3's data allowance (2GB) that keep me using 3. My only beef with them is their support staff and support policies.

    On 3 different handsets I've suddenly lost 3G signal and I need to flip to flight mode a few times to get it back. The support line are abysmal. They wont help me and they are unbelievably patronising at time. Why won't they help me? .... Well my biggest beef is that 3 DO NOT SUPPORT YOU IF THE HANDSET IS NOT '3' BRANDED. I have been buying sim-free handsets from Amazon and Handtec for a number of years for both my partner and family. It's the only way to get decent handsets from HTC rather than waiting AGES for 3 to provide the same handset.

    'Frank' from 3 (obviously not his real name) told me that "3 install special software on their handsets to make them compatible' and as a result , unbranded handsets (e.g. those without the 3 logo) can not be supported. What absolute tosh. No amount of reasoning with the clowns on support helps you in this situation.

    So, yes 3's network might be OK, but you're on your own if your handset was not purchased through them. You get diddly-squat support. HTC ought to have a word....

    1. Law


      I actually bought a htc desire with a 3 contract - it came unbranded (to my delight), but when I was having text messaging issues (constantly failed to send) their support engineers kept accusing me of lying about where I got the phone, because the phone must have been branded, and they couldn't understand why I wouldn't have a "3" button on the home screen.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Better than O2 anyway, but not that good.

    Mobile broadband is a misnomer, mobile dial up is more like it.

  4. Benny
    Thumb Up


    I agree with the Orange results, I switched to Orange from O2 and its terrible!

    Still a lot better than 3 though!

    I live in Maidenhead where they have a big old office 5 mins from my house, can I get any signal?

    Can I heck. Left them after a week. Funny thing was, when I rang up to get the phone unlocked and they asked why I was leaving, I told them the signal was rubbish, but he lept on insisting that they had great coverage there...the fact that I had no signal most of the time didnt seem to convince him.

  5. Pyers
    Thumb Up

    My experience

    Well I have recently moved from O2 to 3 with my iPhone and am very pleased so far, 3G almost everywhere. Haven't needed customer service as all very smooth.

    With all these accolades I can see 3 growing their subscriber base, this could be a problem as they around half the spectrum of the other networks.

    IIRC 3 can get some spectrum released by the merger of T Mobile and Orange (correct me if I'm wrong). If this is the case I hope it happens before the network starts to sag from lack of channels...

  6. Funkstain
    Thumb Up


    I reckon this is explained quite prosaically. Due to under-investment, 3's network has been popularly regarded as crap for a long time.

    A few years ago, to break out of this perception, they started investing a huge amount of money in to their 3G network. They did this in two ways:

    - Increase coverage with the deal they signed with T-Mobile to share 3G cells

    - Increase quality of service by massive investment in the back-haul systems

    This survey appears to absolutely vindicate this approach. The key differentiator is capacity (and that is not just down to low contention as they have lowest customer base - in fact I believe they are the best-selling mobile broadband provider), which means that when you see 3G on the phone, you actually get 3G-like speeds.

    People who tried 3 a year or two ago should try again when this network enhancement programme is complete (due end of this year). I went back to them this year and was astonished at how much better the quality of service is compared to just 2008. They comfortably outperform (in terms of D/L speeds and reliability of service) every other UK network (in some cases by an order of magnitude) in my experience and I've got SIMs for them all.

    Disclaimer: I live and work in London - your mileage may vary in the country!

  7. M Gale

    I finally broke down a couple of weeks ago...

    ...and got myself a cheap toyphone. ZTE Racer. £100 on a PAYG plan, which suited me because I just stuck my old 3 SIM into the new toy (I still don't like calling them 'phones'). I'd rather have my Nokia 6288 dumbphone for making calls with, but this thing has Android 2.1 and I'm on a computer games technology degree so... 50p Android apps sounds like a plan.

    I put £10 in, and amongst the 3-to-3 minutes and free texts, I get 150MB of data that lasts for 90 days. If I use 50MB of that, and put another tenner on in a month's time, I get... another 150MB of data, giving me 200MB of data that... seems to last 90 days. Cumulative top-up bonuses I like, and the performance is not shabby compared with other networks.

    So here's to 3, the much-maligned network that's better than a lot of people think it is.

  8. xj25vm


    Been with Three on mobile broadband for about 3 years now. Good coverage and good speeds overall. Started on £15/month for 3GB when they started the service - I pre-ordered on 18 months contract. Recently wanted to take advantage of their special deal, with £10/month for 5GB (24 months contract). I've been told that because I've beens o long with them - they want to give me 5GB for £7.50 a month. I didn't refuse.

    Speed will vary, of course, depending on the time of the day and geographical location. I could get a decent connection in many places while driving in the Lake District - which was pleasently surprising.

    But I have clients on O2, T-Mobile and Orange dongles. O2 specially is abysmal. Many places in the North West of England (in large cities) where you can only get GPRS. In other places, there is no signal alltogether.

    On the other hand:

    1. Didn't have any need to use Three's customer support - except when I went for the new contract - so don't know how well that works.

    2. Didn't use their voice services, on a phone. So can't comment on that.

    3. When I went to the South in 2009, both London and the SE coast were far, far slower on the Three network. Specially the SE coast, in places like Norwich, I could barely get a connection in the middle of the town (or city, sorry, if that is the case).

  9. Maurice Shakeshaft

    A bit of a Curates Egg here.

    When connected 3's broadband mobile is very good and I can get connected in all places in UK and abroad were it matters to me.

    However, their software periodically crashes my Mac and I've not been able to get any support to sort it out - ever.... Are you listening, 3??!!!!

    Also, phone coverage and stability is, at best, variable.

    That being said, the folks are nice and helpful if you can stand the wait and are prepared to be patient with their call centre staff.

    5/10 from me.

  10. arronzhang

    are you kidding?

    I would never use 3 again. I used it for a while a few years back just for its low price, but the coverage was so bad and when I finally decided to switch they tried so hard not to lose me, by making unnecessary charges twice and making trouble providing me with PAC code.

    I don't believe they've changed from the worst to the best in such a shor time, or at all.

  11. Sarah Davis
    Thumb Down

    how ?

    everyone i know who's tried 3 have had probs. Last time i got a 3 contract they sent the wrong phone, with the wrong contract, and i still get regular, desperate, phone calls from them trying to sell me another contract

    complete FAIL

    mine the one that doesn't have 3 phone in the pocket :-)

  12. Nathan 13

    3 the best, is it April 1st today?

    Their customer service is so horrifically bad I cant begin to describe it.

    The worst company I have ever had the misfortune to deal with in my life.

  13. EvilGav 1

    Customer Service

    I was with 3 a number of years ago, back when 3G phones were still quite rare and 3 were the only 3G only operator.

    I then spent 6 months wrangling with them about the disastrous handset, being without a connection at one point for nearly 2 months - the handset would drop the connection and refuse point-blank to find it again.

    The handset went back to them on two seperate occasions, at one point the customer drone said "you may get a reconditioned handset back, as that what our contract with Nokia is" who got extremely upset when I pointed out that my contract, bought less than 6 months ago, was for a brand-new phone and I didn't give a rats arse what contract they had with Nokia.

    This got to the point where I was only speaking to a CSR at the head-office in the UK, after spending countless hours takling to an Indian person who always told me to turn it off and back-on and refused to listen when I could reel off the entire sequence of what they were about to ask me to do (as i'd done it so many times at that point).

    Just before the contract ended, I was phoned to ask if I wanted an upgrade and wat I thought of the service - the gentleman was quite taken aback when I suggested he look at the history of calls on my account and frankly where they could stick their upgrade.

    In summary - 3's network is great, but heaven help you if you need support.

  14. Elsie

    No kidding ... I think Three are brilliant!

    I've got a HTC Desire with Orange and I consider my self "lucky" to be able to call or text, nevermind use the internet. Most of the time at work I have a max of 2 bars and that normally drops to 0 if I've just received a text. Even after the fabled 'Everything Everywhere' changes (which I have signed up for), coverage is no better.

    When I bought my WiFi only iPad I also got a MiFi dongle from 3, along with a 2gb a month for a fiver "Sim Zero" contract. Using the MiFi, I get 3g almost everywhere I've been and I can connect upto 5 devices to it at a time. I take the 3 MiFi with me everywhere. If I want to use the internet on my iPad or Desire, I connect via the Mifi and surf away.

    The 3 MiFi even gave me full signal when we rented a cottage on Hadrians Wall, right on the Cumbrian / Northumrian border! I can understand why 3 got this award as my experience with their MiFi dongle has been superb!

  15. Vince


    "'Frank' from 3 (obviously not his real name) told me that "3 install special software on their handsets to make them compatible' and as a result , unbranded handsets (e.g. those without the 3 logo) can not be supported. What absolute tosh. No amount of reasoning with the clowns on support helps you in this situation."

    Actually, you're wrong. There have been 2-3 handsets I know of where the initial firmware released was not fully compatible with 3 (and other networks) and thus you needed a firmware upgrade before it worked at all, or worked reliably, so there is an element of truth.

  16. rob hindle

    Everest but not Kinder Scout

    BBC news story today - Mobile phone coverage provided up Mt Everest - but I can't get a signal on the A57 west of Sheffield

    1. howard bowen 1

      Try just 32 miles from London

      Clacton....Co16 8HW - no 3g service at all.

      3? rubbish!

  17. Equitas

    Don't make me laugh ............

    Have you looked at their own published coverage map? It seems to cover less than half the landmass of the UK.

    Sorry, I use a mobile phone to receive and make phone calls wherever I may be in the world. Coverage matters. And no, it's not enough to have coverage of cities and major towns -- it's often necessary to drive through rural areas in order to get to the said cities and towns. Serving the areas where most of the population live is something vastly different from serving most of the country. Three are an "also ran" when it comes to coverage of the landmass of the UK for basic mobile phone communications.

  18. Richard 116

    Orange results. I can believe it.

    The Orange network coverage has been disappointing to say the least since moving our business account over to them from Vodafone. Actually that's not entirely true. Back in March when we signed up everything was fine but since then the number of dropped calls and the mysterious full bars but not ringing thing has increased dramatically.

    We've signed up for the Orange/T-Mobile partnership but still had to turn off 3G on all our handsets just to make them usable. Orange CS (when you get a rep who will be honest with you) say this situation is unlikely to change until January at the earliest.

  19. bluesxman

    double-edged sword

    As intimated by quite a few people, Three usually have (on paper) really cheap, good tariffs and decent(ish) coverage -- though I'm convinced their custom firmware is programmed to prefer the weakest 3g signal over the strongest 2g signal from their partner network.

    Everything's generally fine unless you have a problem that causes customer services to deviate from their script. Actually getting the service that the Sale of Goods act requires is an ordeal and a half.

    Long story short, if you're having trouble with Customer Services, request a call via email and when someone rings, advise them that you're in the middle of writing a formal letter of complaint and "would you like your name to be on it?"

    Worked for me (and I wasn't even lying about the letter).

  20. jamesrhamilton
    Thumb Up

    The best for 3G in London

    I got my iPhone 3G with O2 when they were the only game in town for the iPhone. They got progressively worse as their traffic increased without the matched increase in capacity.

    I've now got an iPhone 4 on Three and it's been a massive change. When you get a 3G signal, you actually get some backhaul bandwidth - instead of the complete lack of throughput so often experienced with Three.

    Sure, Three's customer service is a bunch of people who frankly aren't worth the breath you'd take in talking to them, but who needs to when the network just works?

  21. RKS
    Thumb Up

    My Experience with 3

    My experience with 3 has been somewhat different than some. In a good way.

    Initially when I joined them 4 years ago it was pleasant but the phone I chose for myself and my wife was not great. It was a Nokia Slide and it was rubbish. Getting it changed or cancelling the contract became a nightmare and confusing as it and a new handset and contract also became live at the same time. Resolving the problem, plus the fact they had done 5 credit searches, became too much of a problem. Eventually after pulling out all my hair we fixed it. Got an N95 8GB and SE C902.

    Then came time for an upgrade. Got an E71 for myself and C905 Plus for my wife. Great. Problem came for me when I could hardly use my phone at work due to a lack of signal. I was in a blind spot (I had moved jobs). After having signed the new contract only 2 months earlier it wasn't looking good. 3 telephone calls later and I had a great result. They cancelled my contract with no penalty to pay. Lovely.

    However, they now were adamant they wanted the handset back. Told them regular stuff about contractual issues and that the phone was not their property. 9 calls worth of frustration later they eventually relented. They also offered me a loyalty discount to make my 500 X-network credit and 1GB only cost me £5 so I could use the phone in the evenings where I did have a signal.

    2 months ago I lost 3g signal at home. Called tech support and the first guy although trying to be helpful wasn't. Eventually got a call from their level 3 tech who diagnosed the problem to be with their cell and arranged the dispatch of an engineer. Offered me 7 days of credit without asking for it, even though I was now connected to T-Mobile's 2G network.

    Recently got my N8 on the One Plan, plus an extra 2GB of data all for £18/mth. Great deal! First handset turned out to be 'made on Friday' and was promptly replaced. New one arrived and old taken back.

    So all in all it has been a mixed bag for me. I am generally satisfied with their service. I like their new policy of not publishing unlimited data plans and I have enjoyed their 3G signal, which on the whole has been steady and stable. Calling them for service and support hasn't always been easy, but then I can't remember calling any major company and having my problem addressed promptly - Nokia, BT, my bank, ISP, local council and the list goes on.

  22. MW1

    3 the best? Pull the other one...

    Epic fail. 3 are the worst service provider I have encountered at any time and in any industry in the past 20 years and this is reflected in other customer reviews since 3 began trading. Customer services is woefully bad, staff are not trained properly, customer services is located on another continent because 3 don't want UK staff speaking to you, no desire to improve, arrogant, misleading, full of marketing hype with no end product. Stay well away from 3.

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