Three drops unlimited tethering on new SIM-only tariffs, and what it means to new and existing customers

You knew it was coming. We knew it was coming. What nobody knew was exactly when, but that time appears to be now – or certainly this week. (Edit: No, it’s now!)

Back in March, Three announced its new handset tariffs (i.e. contracts where a handset is part of the deal) that brought in a cap on tethering for the first time since Three originally launched its revolutionary One Plan tariff.

Capped at 2GB, users now have to pay for additional data if they wish to use more data when sharing the handset data with another device, such as a tablet, laptop, Smart TV or games console.

Three has always changed its SIM-only tariffs at a different time (as well as the mobile broadband tariffs which are still due a refresh to hopefully offer higher data allowances), so it was inevitable that the same changes to the handset tariffs would come to SIM-only.

EDIT (15/7/14): It’s now happened; Three has today unveiled the new tariffs and the end of The One Plan.

The new tariffs give the same ‘pick and mix’ style deal, namely being able to choose the minutes and data, while getting unlimited texts in all cases.

The options are as follows:

  • Minutes: 200, 600, Unlimited
  • Data: 500MB, 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, Unlimited
  • Texts: Unlimited

Prices will range from £7 to £26 per month, excluding special/introductory offers.

Click to enlarge

Like the handset tariffs, there will now be a tethering cap in place but at 4GB instead of 2GB. Further data can be purchased if required.

The actual amount of data available for tethering will depend on how much data you have. If you decide to pay for just 1GB of data, this is how much can be used for tethering. If you opt for 4GB, you’ll get 4GB but it will be shared. Only with the unlimited (All You Can Eat) data option will you get 4GB tethering, plus unlimited ‘normal’ data.

No handset limit

The good news is that all-you-can-eat data will still remain as an option, meaning you can still go to town on BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, Netflix and other services from your phone, rather than have to ‘take it easy’ on rival tariffs that often don’t even give enough data for a single movie download/stream.

4G access will also continue to be available as standard, with no extra cost to get access.

Three's Kitty is still considering his options
Three’s Kitty is still considering his options

The new tariffs will also offer free access to 0800 numbers, and cheap 0845/0870 access.

Access to the London Underground Wi-Fi service provided by Virgin Media is also coming. It’s not yet clear if Wi-Fi access on the Underground will also apply to existing tariffs, but hopefully that will be the case.

What do these changes mean to you as an existing or potential Three customer?

When it comes to talk of tethering and Three in general, there’s often a lot of misinformation spread about. Sometimes Three itself even gives out conflicting information, or incorrectly updates its website to create confusion by applying the wrong T&Cs to existing/legacy tariffs.

So here are the most common questions people usually have. Hopefully this will help answer your own questions, but if not – please add your question in the comments below.

Bear in mind, these are my answers – not those of Three. Although I believe the information to be completely accurate, please don’t try to call me as an expert witness in court!

Q) If I sign up before the new tariffs are announced this week, will I lose unlimited tethering when the tariffs change?

A) No. If you can get signed up before the change (and you need to be quick!), you’ll have unlimited tethering for as long as you keep your contract.

Q) I am already on The One Plan SIM-only. Will my terms and conditions change when the new tariffs are launched?

A) No. Everything will continue as normal for you. Even when you have gone beyond the minimum term (12 months or even 30 days) your terms will remain the same, unless you decide to upgrade or change tariff.

This does also mean you won’t get access to free 0800 calls or cheaper calls to 0845/0870 numbers, but having no limit on tethering might be worth a lot more to you.

Q) I am on a handset tariff that has unlimited tethering, and pay more per month than SIM-only. When I have completed the minimum term, can I change to a SIM-only tariff and continue getting unlimited tethering?

A) Not if you change your contract. If you continue paying as normal, you’ll still get tethering, but you’ll also be paying the same higher amount that you did before (to pay back the handset subsidy). If you opt to upgrade to a new phone, you’ll be switched to the latest tariff – losing the unlimited tethering in the process.

The only viable option (as I see it) would be to get a new SIM only contract now and pay off your existing contact if you are still within the minimum term. You will then need to arrange to port your number (assuming you want to keep the number), which might require porting to another network and back.

It could be a lot of messing about, but it will be the only way to get on to a cheaper SIM only deal and keep the unlimited tethering.

Q) Do I need to worry about losing unlimited tethering? Isn’t 4GB quite a lot?

A) If you consider that you can still have unlimited data on your handset, 4GB for tethering is still going to go a very long way for most people. Unless you’re trying to replace an existing fixed broadband service, 4GB should be plenty for getting a laptop or tablet online occasionally at home or on the move.

Many people consider that trying to replace a fixed broadband connection was never the original intention for Three’s offering of unlimited tethering, and welcome the changes to relieve pressure on the network. Others believe that as long as Three offers it, it’s there to be used (and that the TrafficSense data management system can be used to slow down serious offenders).

Q) I’ve got a Three PAYG SIM and just buy the £15 all you can eat data add-on every month. So far Three has never detected me tethering, so why should I be bothered about these changes?

A) Many people have revealed on forums for years that they’ve been getting away with unofficial tethering, but Three can detect it and will likely implement tighter detection in the future – similar to the detection used when roaming.

At the very least it can cause inconvenience when it halts all data until you reboot, but it could also lead to Three suspending your account for breach of contract.

3 thoughts on “Three drops unlimited tethering on new SIM-only tariffs, and what it means to new and existing customers

  1. so new customers will not be able to have the same usage as old customers.
    The effect on new customers who have been introduced to 3 by existing customers maybe a bit more sceptical to actually now use the network.
    Other companies all you can use offers are very tantalizing especially Giff gaff who for 20 pounds a month actually have unlimited data based on a fair usage policy.
    EE have a similar tariff but only with handset deals which is still encouraging to the public who need a more accessible usage policy.

  2. Hi All,

    I invite you to take part in this simple 6 question poll regarding tethering usage & requirements in the light of the UK’s only truly unlimited tethering plan coming to an end by 5th Jan 2015. Act now and who know’s we may be able to secure a group deal? Its worth a try as there is nothing left to loose now!

    tetherists dot com



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