Three brings back their fantastic roaming deal

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Three logo

Three UK have brought back their fantastic roaming deal; a lot of people were upset when they dropped their “3 Like Home” roaming deal a few years back, but the new “Feel at Home” deal actually has some pretty good terms attached to it. As before, the deals only apply to countries where Three already have a sister network, though the deal will apply whether you are actually roaming onto the Three network or not.

Firstly, the list of countries:

  • Australia
  • Italy
  • Denmark
  • Austria
  • Sweden
  • Hong Kong
  • Republic of Ireland

What is different, however, is that it now applies to most customers and tariffs, whether you have a phone contract, PAYG SIM, 3g dongle, or even some business contracts.

So, if you had 5000 texts to send per month in the UK, you can still send 5000 texts whilst roaming without any additional charge. Also, if you have 3UK-3UK minutes, these can additionally used to ring 3 customers in the country you are roaming in. There are a few minor exceptions to this deal (eg certain numbers, such as premium numbers starting 09 would be excluded in the UK, and are still excluded when abroad), and you should check the terms before travelling (especially if you are a PAYG user, as more restrictions apply). You should also still study the remaining roaming charges (eg receiving calls from international numbers).

I should add though, that although data is included in this deal, there are a few limitations to data usage that you need to be aware of: firstly, tethering is NOT included at all, there is a 25Gb limit per month, and data speeds may be slower than the UK.

In fact, Three UK point out that should you exceed 25Gb of data, 5000 texts or 3000 minutes per month in any two months within a year, they may block the service. I doubt the text or minute limit will be a major problem, but if you assume you are limited to just under 1Gb of data a day (which is still a lot of data!) you should be fine. Obviously services such as Netflix could easily exceed that usage, so you do need to think carefully about data usage, but it’s still way more than the other UK networks currently offer.

If you want more information, especially around those restrictions, head to this page on the Three UK website for more information.


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Three now selling Nokia Lumia 610

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

3UK have announced today that they have started to sell the budget phone in the Lumia range, the Nokia Lumia 610. Now, this phone has less memory, and hence can’t run some of the multitasking features we all expect from Windows Phone; in particular, the Nokia Lumia 610 doesn’t support background tasks (especially those taking more than 90MB), fast app switching or live tiles updates (these mainly require background tasks). However, it’s available for £28 per month on the One Plan (24 month contract, but includes AYCE data and tethering support), or just £150 on PAYG, and this makes it a nice budget phone, unless you are a real power user.

Of course, the Nokia Lumia 710 is £200 on PAYG (or £32 per month on the One Plan), and that may well work out better value in the long run; the Nokia Lumia 610 does have touch buttons, whereas the Nokia Lumia 710 has real buttons (that’s a personal preference) but with the Lumia 710 supporting the full range of Windows Phone 7 features (and the new firmware that shipped last week adds the flip-to-silence and tethering options sorely missed on it), it does appear an overall better option.

However, another way of looking at it; what other device can you buy for £150 which offers free offline satnav features (Nokia Drive), free offline music (Nokia Mix Radio), and free public transport information (Nokia Transport, where data is available), and if bought on the One Plan can be used to provide you unlimited data for your other wifi devices, such as your tablet and PC?

If interested, head over to the 3UK website, where you can now purchase the phone, or, if you prefer, buy the Nokia Lumia 710.


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Roaming; how to keep costs down

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

The last article was about Vodafone European roaming rates for PAYG customers, so I thought I would jot down some of the techniques I use to try to minimise my roaming costs when going abroad. I should note for my last trip abroad I used 30MB of data (over 4 days), and a handful of texts, yet kept my total spend below £10, and could not have spent more than £20, yet that spend actually got me a bundle of texts, calls and data for the UK leg of the journey, and whilst abroad I could have used upto 100MB without spending any more money!

So, what techniques do I use:

Firstly, I carried my primary UK phone number in a phone where I turned off roaming data whilst still in the UK. In fact, as I left the UK, I turned off mobile data completely. This phone I only use for emergencies, being contacted if needed. This limited usage kept the battery going for 2 days without a charge.

I then carried a second phone, in my case, an old Android phone from a year or so ago. This had been wiped clean and just had the apps needed, with most of the sync functions turned off (actually, I kept calendar / contacts syncing, and ran a couple of Social Network clients). Although I kept the syncing turned on, to minimise usage even further, I would turn this off, as it only adds to the usage, and most changes could wait until I returned. Again, roaming data was initially turned off.

This phone carried a Vodafone PAYG SIM, which I topped up with £20 before I set off. This topup gave me minutes, texts and 500MB of data in the UK. As I’m already opted in to Vodafone Passport, I knew that if I kept data to less than 25MB per day, my data costs would be £2 per day.

Before I left the UK, I used those bundled texts that came with the topup to alert a few key people that if they needed me over the next few days to use this number in preference to my normal number.

Once I arrived, I was greeted with text messages to both phones informing me of the rates (which, given it was before the new 1 July 2012 roaming limits are imposed, were somewhat of a shock (eg £3.07/MB for data!). I then turned on roaming data on the Vodafone SIM, and then used the normal data on/off functions to control my usage. I had a data counter installed (I use 3G Watchdog Pro, which included the ability to create a widget on the homescreen which monitored and reported my roaming usage) to ensure I was kept aware of my usage.

So, with careful use of data, I kept within the 25MB daily limit Vodafone include with the Passport option, sent and receive a few texts (11p per text, but coming out of the £20 credit), and spent under £10 all in. Given the phone only had a £20 credit, even if something went wrong with the Passport data options, or I suddenly started making lots of calls (or my phone had been stolen; though I’m not sure a two year old Android phone would have been that worthy), my absolute roaming spend was limited to that £20 topup. I appreciate the UK networks have now introduced roaming cost caps to limit bill shock, but this method truely limited my costs to a fixed amount.

In addition, I ran mapping software which allowed me to download the maps beforehand, so I wasn’t paying for Google Maps type data transfers of map data all the time (and in fact, since travelling, Google Maps on Android now has a formal offline feature for downloading the maps, but not the turn-by-turn navigation). I didn’t need to drive / travel any great distance, but if I had, Nokia Drive on Windows Phone (or Symbian) still makes a lot of sense as it provides true offline navigation.

Most importantly, as I was travelling with my family, by having an old phone without every latest bit of software installed, and a need to keep data usage down, I mainly had the phone for emergencies, and enjoyed the holiday.

If you are travelling abroad this summer, you will firstly benefit from lower roaming rates within the EU, but either way, spend some time thinking about the costs and researching it before you leave, and make sure you plan a way that works best for you; this is even more key when you leave the EU, where the caps and new low rates won’t apply. With many of the networks now offering bundles and good rates on PAYG SIMs, it’s well worth considering taking a second phone (or simply an old phone in the cupboard) to best save money and keep down the risk of bill shock.


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Vodafone and European Roaming

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

As part of an EU Directive, all of the UK networks need to reduce their roaming costs, with the directive setting new maximums you pay for calls, texts, and data. Vodafone were one of the first to announce a new way forward; their new Vodafone Euro Traveller allows you to pay £3 per day and then you have full access to your UK minutes, texts and data. This is an improvement on their old scheme, which was competitive (compared to the other networks), which offered to make and receive calls for a 75p connection charge, and then use up your UK minutes.

With the £3 per day option, it’s nice and clear what you can and can’t use each day, although obviously a 14 day holiday would incur £42 of roaming charges, but at least the rest of your usage would be the same as the UK.

So, that’s nice and clear then?

Well, no.

If you opted into Vodafone Passport (to get those good roaming call rates before), then without Euro Traveller, you’ll stay on those Passport rates, except, for many people, these will no longer be the best rate to be on, as Vodafone is introducing a new set of roaming rates for non-Passport customers as from 1 July, which may well work out cheaper:

Vodafone Passport rates are:

Making a call Receiving a call Sending a text Sending a picture message Using mobile internet
75p connection charge plus your standard home rate or you can use your inclusive Vodafone Freedom Freebee minutes 75p connection charge, then no further charge for up to 60 minutes. Then 20p a minute after that. 11p a text 36p a text £2 a day for 25MB (midnight to midnight, UK time). £1 a MB after that

As from 1 July 2012, the Vodafone standard rates will be:

Making a call Receiving a call Sending a text Sending a picture message Using mobile internet
28p a min (minimum call charge of 30 seconds; after that, you’ll be charged per second) 7p a min (you’ll be charged per second) 8p a text 36p a text 69p a MB for the first 2.9MB. Then no further charge until 25MB. 69p a MB after that.

So, let’s take data; it was £2 for 25MB and then £1/MB afterwards, now it’s (assuming you use at least 3 MB) £2 for 25MB, and then £0.69/MB. The only case where it’s cheaper is if you used less than 3MB of data a day…

For calls, it’s less clear, if you make long calls, the old Passport rates may work out better overall, whereas for texts it’s clear the new rates are better.

Also, I should point out that I’ve been looking at this from a European perspective (and mainly PAYG rates); if you travel outside of the EU, you will need to study the Vodafone website very carefully to work out what deal is best for you. One nice feature (at the moment); you can opt in and out of Vodafone Passport as you please, so you don’t have to stick to one of these three pricing methods.

Vodafone continue to show a leading position in their roaming rates in my opinion, and should be a consideration for anyone going abroad.


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Mobile World Congress roundup

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

It’s been a few days since the end of this year’s Mobile Web Congress, where many (but not all) device manufacturers announce their new products for the next few months. Of course, many are well into planning future products, but right now, there’s been a lot of products announced (ie launched, not yet actually available), and I thought I’d summarise the devices that caught my attention the most…

So, in no particular order…

Nokia PureView 808

This device can’t be ignored. Yes, it’s running Symbian (but the newest version of the OS, which makes it much closer to Android), yes, people still feel Symbian is past it’s best, but this device has a major selling feature; that 41MP camera!  One of the best features is to use all those megapixels not to produce a very hi res photo, but to reduce the resolution of the end picture.  This can either be because it’s a low light situation, and having much bigger groups of pixels collecting the light will make for a better picture. The other reason is to allow for a decent quality digital zoom without any interpolation going on. As the successor to the Nokia N8, I believe this phone will sell well. Nokia have indicated that this is not a one-off device, and we will see future devices with equally high megapixel counts. For some, this may be good enough to actually replace a low to mid range camera too…

New Nokia Lumia devices

On top of the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Nokia Lumia 710 launched last year, we now have the Nokia Lumia 900 and the base model, the Nokia Lumia 610. The Lumia 900 was expected (as the US version was already launched), but I suspect this will be popular as it’s the current top of the range model, with a slightly larger screen than the Lumia 800. Personally, I don’t feel WP7 needs such a large screen, and many people will cope much better with the rest of the range. The Lumia 900 should ship around May time.

The Nokia Lumia 610 is the new base model, and will need the slightly updated Tango version of WP7 to operate. With a slightly lower spec than current WP7 models, there may be the odd application which will need some tweaks between now and June to work fine on this device, but it’s going to allow the networks to sell an even cheaper WP7 device (this could be very popular on PAYG). Microsoft and Nokia’s aim is to get WP devices below £100, which I don’t quite think they’ll manage with the Lumia 610, but given in all other respects it’s got the same capabilities as devices like the Lumia 710, it should sell well.

Nokia Application Updates

Nokia Drive will be updated in the next few weeks to v2. This will add speed camera warnings and full offline searching and routing, functions critical to anyone who travels abroad and wants to minimise data roaming bills by turning off data completely. The current version allows you to download maps for multiple regions, but needs an online connection for routing, re-routing and searching. By allowing the data stored within the maps to be used, this nearly brings Nokia Drive inline with the functionality of the Symbian version. What’s missing? Traffic data and automatic re-routing, although I’ve heard this will be coming in v3, but I have no knowledge of a release date for that version.

Nokia Public Transport will also be released. Back at Nokia World last year, I was very impressed by this application (at that time running on Symbian, but as I reported at the time, it would come to WP7), and the new WP7 version does seem to be well thought out. Two minor issues with it; firstly, it’s an online application (which in the future will allow real time data to be included within the information presented), and currently I understand that although it includes Tubes, Busses, DLR and possibly even Trams, for some reason the various London train lines are still not included. Of course, within Central London, this is not a major problem, and the app in fact looks like it could shine in the suburbs when the train lines break, and only non-train options remain available!

Asus Padfone

Finally, a non-Nokia device; the Asus Padfone was first shown off last year, but is now ready for production. It’s an Android phone (ICS, 4.3″ screen) which can be placed inside a screen dock to create a tablet device. By only using one device it means you can have both a phone and a tablet, but only need one mobile phone contract, and you won’t suffer annoying sync issues between the devices (although Android is good at syncing contacts and calendar, most other apps have no sync capabilities). By placing the phone in the 10.1″ screen dock (Station), you’ll benefit from the battery within the dock to recharge and keep the two devices going for much longer than the phone would last on it’s own. There’s also a keyboard dock (very similar to the Asus Transformer tablet keyboard dock) which has another additional battery which will increase battery life even further.  The keyboard dock also adds a memory card slot and a USB port, which really does give the impression (like the Asus Transformer) that it could replace your laptop.

This is due to be made available in April, although prices are not yet available. I suspect the keyboard dock will be an optional accessory, but I suspect (and hope) most networks will offer the phone with the main Station dock as standard.

Overall, this was a good year for MWC, and I think we’re going to see some very nice devices released and available over the next few months. I’m putting together a separate post on the HTC devices that have been released this week.


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Has the 3UK AYCE gamble paid off; it seems so

Friday, June 10th, 2011

I was able to chat with 3UK last night about their current “All You Can Eat” data contracts they now offer.  Not just are they happy for users to use as much data as they like, they have studied the actual results now it’s been available for a while, which are quite interesting.  3UK confirmed that although some of the users do manage to use up a large amount of data each month, most customers average around 1GB of data.

Similar to the PAYG statistics I obtained last year, it’s clear that most people don’t need or use excessive amounts of data, but those customers want to be free to do so, and not in fear of extra charges or getting cut off, and for that, I think the gamble for 3UK to offer such a deal has paid off.


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Vodafone update inclusive roaming data

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

I’ve covered Vodafone‘s data roaming before, but in the last day or two they have improved the deal.  Whereas before you could get 5MB per day of data roaming (within Europe, for £2/day or £10/month) they have now increased the limit to 25MB per day.  This makes the offer even more appealing, as most people are capable of keeping their phones below 25MB of data per day; before the 5MB per day limit seems designed to prevent accidental use of roaming data, but at 25MB per day I think it’s now designed to be actively used.

A few warnings and conditions of course; it’s opt-in (although recent PAYG users are automatically offered the service); without it the rates are higher, so well worth checking you have the facility. Outside of Europe, the cost is higher (£5/day with no monthly deal), and the costs are higher again for laptops / tablets.  However, if you have a recent £40/month or higher contract (often including 900 minutes or more) then you may actually get Data Traveller included with your contract (this also applies to SIM only contracts).

Thanks to Ben Smith at Wireless Worker for spotting the new tariffs.


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3UK clarify tethering options on The One Plan

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

When launched, 3UK were happy that tethering (and Personal Hotspot for Apple users) was included with their All-You-Can-Eat truly unlimited data bundle that comes with the One Plan.  Starting at £25 per month (24 month contract, price depends on selected handset), it was still very good value, given the sheer amount of minutes and texts it also comes with.

Later, when they made the All-You-Can-Eat unlimited data available on their PAYG plans they were again quick to point out that these tariffs did not come with tethering support (although with non-Apple devices it’s more difficult to control, although the mobile networks can spot you using apps like Joikuspot or the built in Mobile WiFi AP in Android).

Most recently, they have now launched The One Plan on a SIM Only basis, with a 1 month rolling contract.  SIM Only contracts are a little strange with the short minimum contract period, and are often treated more like PAYG arrangements by the networks.  So, when it came to whether or not they supported tethering, their initial response was No.  However, within hours of this decision, they confirmed via Twitter (see Ben’s post that’s documented it here) that tethering and Personal Hotspot are supported on the SIM Only One Plan.

This is good news, and a sensible decision, and is certainly a good plan to consider if you are looking to change contracts but don’t need a new phone; with 2,000 cross network minutes, 5,000 texts, 5,000 3UK-3UK minutes and proper unlimited data each month for just £25, it’s also difficult to beat elsewhere.

As always, all 3UK offers are available in the 3Store.


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Mobile Operators implementing content control, but in different ways

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Some networks, such as Vodafone, have had content control systems for some time, but due to new regulations (see here), some of the UK mobile networks have had to implement content control over the last few weeks.  O2 came up with an interesting solution, but not one that has worked well, whereas 3UK have shown some sense in their handling of a content control system.

O2 put the content block onto all contracts, forcing all traffic through a content control server.  If you pay them £1 on your credit card, they will open up the content control, and then credit your account with £2.50.  This is similar to a similar arrangement on Vodafone, but caused a lot of fuss when introduced.  However, what’s now transpires is that if you don’t pay the money, the content control server sometimes struggles to work, and a few people are reporting a worse browsing experience.

3UK went the other way; although they have enabled the content control as standard on all PAYG phones, they have not enabled it by default on any contracts (given the contract often needs a credit card to purchase the contract, and a bank account to pay the direct debit, this makes a lot of sense); if you have passed a phone contract onto someone below 18, you can contact 3UK and ask them to enable the controls though (simply send a no-cost text with the word ‘Filter’ to 33333).  In a similar way, for PAYG users you can “prove” your age by using a credit card, but another option is to go into a store and show ID proving your age; a nice sensible option and shows a little joined up thinking.

It’s important to realise that all mobile networks must implement a system, but it’s interesting to see the different implementations.

Minor update: 3UK have said the removal of the existing content control options will take up to the end of June to remove for all existing accounts.


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3UK: New phones & updated unlimited data tariffs

Monday, March 7th, 2011

It looks to be a good week for 3UK; they have already announced they will be selling the new Samsung Galaxy Pro, which combines a QWERTY keyboard with Android to provide a Nokia E71 / BlackBerry type experience.  With many people (including me!) moving away from Nokia in the short term, this may well be one device that attracts their attention.

The 2.8″ touchscreen and 3 megapixel camera may not be sufficient for many road warriors, but I think this will be a popular device.  With rumours that BlackBerry will be providing access to their BlackBerry Messenger application from Android and iOS, someone could buy one of these to replace an ageing BlackBerry and not miss the BBM IM support they are used to (once it’s actually made available).  It also features:

  • 800MHz processor
  • 3MP Full Focus Camera
  • Android Froyo+ version 2.2.1
  • 2.8” Capacitive touch screen (320 * 240)
  • 108.6 x 66.7 x 10.6 mm
  • 2GB microSD, expandable up to 32GB
  • Portable Wi-Fi hotspot

If the QWERTY phone doesn’t interest you, and you are looking for a budget Android device, possibly on PAYG, then the Samsung Galaxy Mini may well be for you.  Available in April in either Black & Silver or Black & Green, it features:

  • 600MHz processor
  • 3MP Full Focus Camera
  • Android Froyo+ version 2.2.1
  • 3.14” Capacitive touch screen (320 * 240)
  • 110 x 61 x 12 mm
  • 2GB microSD, expandable up to 32GB
  • Portable Wi-Fi hotspot

However, on top of these phones, 3UK have announced that they are extending their unlimited All-You-Can-Eat data package to a couple of PAYG tariffs too.  Today, the All-You-Can-Eat data (with no limits at all) is generally available on The One Plan (available on contract with a new phone, or on a SIM Only basis), but now it will be available on some of the current PAYG tariffs.

That last point is key; many people are still on the slightly elder PAYG tariffs, which offered lots of extras simply for topping up (the latest tariffs provide a greater range of value options once you have topped up); so you may need to change to the latest PAYG tariff first.

However, if you topup with enough money, and then select either the All in One 15 (£15) or the All in One 25 (£25) then you will get:

  • All in One 15: 3000 texts, 300 cross network minutes and All You Can Eat data (all valid for 30 days)
  • All in One 25: 3000 texts, 500 cross network minutes and All You Can Eat data (all valid for 30 days)

We should point out that the All in One 10 continues to have 500MB of data (valid for 30 days), or you can simply purchase “500MB data” for £5 (valid for 30 days); what the previous tariffs offered was “Internet Max” which gives 2GB for those same 30 days.

A lot of people stayed on the old PAYG deal due to the better data allowance available, but with these new unlimited offers, it may be worthwhile people moving to these new tariffs.  Of course, if you are regularly spending £25 per month on PAYG, you may well be better to look at the One Plan SIM Only (12 month contract) which gives you 5000 texts, 5000 3UK-3UK minutes, 2000 cross network minutes as well as All-You-Can-Eat unlimited data for £25 per month, but does come with that higher commitment.

If you are on the older PAYG tariffs (anyone who had a PAYG SIM from before September 2010 and hasn’t already elected the newer tariffs will be) will need to call 333 from their Three phone, or 0843 373 3333 to request the latest PAYG tariffs.

We also note that Tethering is not supported on the All in One deals, but is supported on the One Plan.

As always, more details are available in the 3Store.

Picture courtesy of Samsung Hub.


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