Three minus One: Unlimited tethering comes to an end in 2015 (Updated)

They say all good things come to an end, and users on Three’s One Plan will soon be told it’s game over, marking an end to the unlimited tethering facility that was exceptional value for money, but arguably totally unsustainable. 

In the coming weeks, Three will be sending a text to customers on the One Plan, that are now out of contract, saying: “Hello. We need to speak to you about changes to your plan. Please contact us free on 08003583429 to speak to our dedicated team.”

Phoning up will result in you being told that time is up on the One Plan, and you must now change to one of the newer SIM-only plans launched earlier this year.

Or leave.

Stay or go… but please stay

Given Three is so keen to get people off the One Plan, but not go completely, those that have already received the text and made the call are finding that it’s easy to move to a plan that offers unlimited calls, texts, all-you-can-eat data on the handset itself, plus 4GB of tethering (worth £28 per month on a 30 day rolling contract) for the same money as they are paying today.

The new tariff also includes free access to 0800 numbers and calls at 5p per minute to ‘0845’ style numbers.

In other words, the top tariff will be offered for the same money as the current One Plan (for some, this will be just £15 per month). As a 30 day rolling contract, you’ll still be free to leave if you discover a better deal elsewhere.

Risky business

But that’s where Three is clearly taking a gamble. It doesn’t have the same level of spectrum for 4G that EE and Vodafone has (meaning it can’t offer the same 150-300Mbps speeds of its rivals), or anywhere near the same level of 4G coverage, but it will be hoping that things like unlimited data on the handset, a still fairly generous tethering allowance, plus other things like Feel at Home, will stop people leaving.

It’s a dangerous time to implement such a move though, especially as Vodafone and EE talk up higher data speeds, and Christmas is coming with loads of enticing offers being made by every network to get people to sign up.

It’s important to say again that those within a minimum contract on their One Plan contract will be safe until it ends, but then the same forced move will occur – until such time that there are no people left on the plan.

This is despite many other discontinued Three tariffs still being available to older customers for as long as they keep paying. But of course none of those offered such a valuable offering like unlimited tethering.

Will a 4GB cap be enough for you?
Will a 4GB cap be enough for you?

Don’t keep your head in the sand

Ignoring all contact will not stop the process, as Three will move people automatically, so it’s probably best to try and get the best possible deal – or give notice.

Three doesn’t want anyone to give notice though, so it’s as good a time as any to see if you can get a further discount or deal, especially if you might wish to buy a new phone at the same time and sign up to a new contract.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

I can’t help but feel Three is making a big mistake here though. Although I have said before that the One Plan was arguably too cheap, especially when discounted to £15 a month, kicking people off the plan and onto another one does little but create ill feeling for tens or even hundreds of thousands of customers.

And surely not every user was abusing the network?

Those that were taking full advantage of the tethering option and exceeding 100GB per month on average could (and should) have been managed with Three’s TrafficSense system. This is designed to slow down heavy users, starting with tethering first, then normal phone data users, and mobile broadband last.

TrafficSense is also designed to slow down file sharers between the hours of 1500 and 0000 to keep space free for other people, so why couldn’t this have been adapted to make best use of limited capacity?

No going back

Whatever the reasons, there’s little chance of Three changing its mind now. The damage has already been done (or will be in the coming days are more people receive their text) and news is already spreading around the forums about this rather extraordinary move.

Three might as well follow through now, and hope that people will forget in due course, and that users will be happy to stay with Three anyway.

For now, unlimited data on a handset (or a tablet up to and including 7-inches) still gives Three an edge by still offering more data than any other network (and the highest average speed on 3G), but it’s likely that many people will now be suspicious of whatever Three tells them from now on.

People will be quite justified in having little faith that unlimited data on the handset won’t be axed completely at some point in the future too – and how can Three convince them otherwise?

Bad timing

It’s rather ironic that 4G now encourages more data usage than ever before, including the streaming of HD (and one day Ultra-HD) content to big-screened smartphones and tablets with higher definition displays, but every network now wants to reduce data usage, or introduce higher fees for the higher data allowances that people will increasingly need.

Three used to be the exception to the rule, but in its desire to become more like the big networks, it seems it’s no longer fashionable or profitable to be the small guy ‘sticking it to the man’ and has decided that if you can’t beat them, you might as well join them.

UPDATE: There’s now word that people on other tariffs are getting the text too, including the £12.90 tariff that included unlimited data (but not tethering) so perhaps Three is planning to move people away from ALL old tariffs.

UPDATE 2: Yes, it seems it’s ALL old tariffs. So that’s an awful lot of people who will be told to move or leave. And, worse still, some people aren’t finding it quite as easy to bag a discounted tariff to keep paying the same as before. This is something I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on.

If you’ve received the text, please comment below and say what tariff you’re currently on – and what tariff you’ve been offered if you called up to change.

3 thoughts on “Three minus One: Unlimited tethering comes to an end in 2015 (Updated)

  1. I have been on the same tariff for 5 years, having said that I’ve never tethered although it was part of the deal. Wait and see methinks 😁

  2. This might explain all the missed calls I am getting from this number: 08003584492

    I googled it and most people seemed to suggest it was sales agents on behalf of Three so I’ve ignored it. Am guessing it’s to do with this though as the numbers are similar. No text received yet though.

    To be honest, I’m using tethering less and less these days so 4GB would still be OK but it’s still a kick in the nuts to have something taken away that you signed up for. Hopefully it will be easyish to negotiate a decent deal when the time comes.

  3. Even brushing over the unlimited tethering, rolled up with the cut in data allowance is a 70% reduction in the minutes allowance for the one plan, and a £10 increase in price to get a comparible service. Very poor show


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