Sort it out Three: Using data abroad feels nothing like at home! [Updated June 18th 2017]

First of all, let me say that I really like Three for everything it has done to shake up the market over the years. And when Feel at Home launched, I was one of the many customers who could save a packet when travelling abroad.

But as someone fortunate enough travel abroad quite a bit, I have to say that my experience of using data as a Three customer when abroad is beginning to annoy me.

[Here comes a long rant, so for the tl;dr brigade: Three is messing with our data when abroad, and I don’t like it – especially if I’m paying for it.]

  • UPDATE: See my follow up article here, and scroll down for the official Three response following the posting of this story.
  • UPDATE 2: JUNE 18TH 2017 – It seems Three might have stopped throttling data for those roaming in the EU, since the new rules came into force to allow all phone users, irrespective of tariff or network, to use their calls, text and data allowances within the EU. Net neutrality laws prevent the throttling or restricting of services and it appears that Three is complying. Fantastic news if true!

Free roaming in a number of countries, extending as far as the USA, Hong Kong, and Australia, is fantastic. It has no doubt saved people a small fortune. To pay no more to make or receive calls, text, or use data is a godsend. Three deserves a great deal of credit for launching it (and 3LikeHome before it).

Even if Feel at Home is not yet available everywhere in Europe, you can still enjoy data access for just £5 a day (midnight to midnight). It’s unlimited too.

So what’s not to like? 

Well, assuming you don’t just want send the odd Tweet, or post the obligatory beach photo on Facebook to wind up your mates in the office back home, using data abroad on Three can be a pretty horrible experience.

Modest expectations

Being the geek that I am, pretty much the first thing I do when stepping off a plane is do some speed testing. Anyone else who does it would be impressed, and quite possibly Tweet how great Feel at Home is.

On my travels this year to France, Sweden, and Germany, I’ve reached speed test results of over 20 megabits on numerous occasions. That’s pretty awesome right? Way more than you probably want or need, whether using your phone for business or pleasure.

Of course that would all be fine if that was the speed you actually got when doing something other than carrying out a speed test.

The problem is Three is throttling data, cutting actual speeds to as little as 0.1 or 0.2 megabits when using it for many things. We’re talking 2G-like speeds here, which is often too slow for some services to work at all.

It’s weird that Three allows speed tests to run at ‘full throttle’, unless it’s to trick people into thinking everything is fine?

Of late a lot of people are starting to notice all is not well when using their phone for more than using social media. While the ratio of people moaning about problems is far smaller than those saying how great it is, Three must be fully aware that many customers aren’t happy and are voicing their concerns on Twitter, Facebook, and forums.

Count me as one of a growing numbers of dissatisfied users.

On a go slow

You see, Facebook might work fine, but do something like download an app on your phone, and the throttling makes it barely usable.

On a short trip to Germany last week, I forgot to install the British Airways app to check in for my flight home. The app isn’t massive (it’s around 24MB), but it took the best part of 10 minutes to download. At times, it looked like it wasn’t even going to finish, and when speeds are that slow you certainly don’t want to be starting over.

That is totally and utterly unacceptable, and not a one off event caused by Google Play having a bad day.

On a holiday in France earlier this year, I had the exact same problem when needing to update some apps, and wanting to download new tracks on Spotify.

Once again, it quickly became clear that I could be waiting hours. It even appeared likely I’d run out of battery before finishing. In the end, the only viable option was to find a Wi-Fi connection.

What to do when waiting for that download to finish?

What to do when waiting for that download to finish?

And what about other things you might want to do when travelling? Okay, so iPlayer and Sky Go are out due to rights issues, but what about YouTube or Netflix? Using either app to search for content is fine, but click to watch anything and you’ll be waiting forever. That’s right, content won’t stream at all.

That’s not fun when your three year old is wanting a fix of Peppa Pig.

Where is that Three says you can’t stream video on Feel at Home, or when you’ve paid £5 for a Euro Internet pass? Where did Three mention you can download files, but only at a speed so slow that you’ll be comparing the experience with the days of dial-up modems?

Is it like home or not?

If Three wishes to restrict access because isn’t charging users in a Feel at Home destination, then say so. But what about if you’ve got the £5 Euro Internet pass?

Vodafone, by comparison, allows unhindered access throughout Europe for £3 a day on its Euro Traveller add-on, and £5 in selected countries further afield on its World Traveller add-on (albeit with a limit of 500MB per day on world traveller, irrespective of your monthly allowance).

More locations are being added at the end of the year, and the network now has over 70 countries where you can enjoy 4G roaming too. Currently Three’s list of countries that offer 4G equals zero. Not that 4G access would make much difference to a Three user being throttled at the moment.

With Vodafone you really can ‘feel at home’ when abroad, even if you have to pay for the privilege in locations where it is free with Three.

Fire up Netflix and it just works (assuming Netflix has a service in that country). YouTube; no problem. Want to download some new apps, music or even video for offline access when flying home? That’s cool too.

Turn on your mobile hotspot and you can even get your laptop or tablet online too (something Three strictly prohibits). All you need to do is keep track of the data usage, as everything you use comes from your standard data allowance.

Feel at Home might serve a certain market, but if you want more then you’re bang out of luck and Three doesn’t offer any sort of add-on to give you ‘full’ access.

It’s not me, it’s you

Ask customer services about the issue, and the response is that it’s down to the foreign network and totally outside of Three’s control. That’s a very plausible explanation, and one most people will likely believe. Indeed, I’m sure some people here will be wondering if I’ve simply been unlucky.

The thing is, throttling is easy to prove.

  1. Speed tests show the actual speed you should be getting (or at least pretty close to getting).
  2. If you invoke the use of certain VPNs, lo and behold, the problems disappear. No more slow downloads, and video streaming now works fine.

So, in other words, no local operator issues.

Earlier this year, Three’s customer support even came out and denied any throttling at all. Sorry, but that’s not true. Many other people have also asked Three about throttling, often with no response.

Is the answer to use a VPN? Well, not really as Three says it can restrict or block them, meaning it’s not guaranteed to work for the long term.

Come on Jackson - make it so data abroad doesn't suck!

Come on Jackson – make it so using data abroad doesn’t suck!

Time to be honest

It’s time for Three to acknowledge its traffic management policy, especially now net neutrality is a hot topic. The fact you can’t enjoy Netflix while in your hotel room, or departure lounge ahead of a flight, or download files without waiting an age, shows Three is quite happy to pick and choose what services it wants you to have access to.

If Three did this in the UK, there would be outrage. It would be all over the media, yet most people probably aren’t even aware of the problem when roaming. Foreign networks are no doubt being blamed every single day by users for the slow speeds that don’t happen at home.

For my future travels abroad, it has to be Vodafone all the way now, even if it means I need to have another pay monthly contract, and pay a daily fee. In my opinion it’s easier to pay £3 (or £5) a day than seek to buy a local SIM card, and then have to mess around with activations, registrations, top-ups and so on.

I’m not going to be leaving Three over this, but only because I have multiple SIM cards and devices for my work. If I travelled frequently with just one phone and SIM, Three wouldn’t look like a very good choice right now.

The clock is now ticking until EU roaming fees are axed completely, which should solve the cost problem, but will it stop networks like Three crippling access to certain services? Will networks even seek to impose even tighter restrictions to further reduce data usage?

What does Three have to say?

I contacted Three last week to ask for a response to this story and I’ve been told a reply will be with me soon. As soon as it arrives, I’ll post it and hopefully it will contain some good news!

  • Please comment on your own experiences with Three when roaming below, and if you have experiences of using mobile data on other networks (e.g. EE, O2, iD Mobile etc) then please share that too (especially if it’s better or worse).

In addition, please share this article with others to raise more awareness and help encourage Three to make it right… (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

UPDATE 1630 Nov 2nd:

Still no official response from Three’s press office, but Three UK Support has Tweeted the following to me in response to my Tweet for this story.

It seems hard to believe the response though, but it’s no different to what people have been told countless times before.

Given a VPN bypasses all the issues, it just can’t be correct unless every foreign networks is messing around with Three’s data traffic without permission (but not for, say, Vodafone) – which would be a whole different story – and arguably an even bigger one…

ThreeUKSupport: Hi Jonathan, I’m sorry to hear that you’re not happy with the data speeds that you’ve received while roaming abroad. I can understand your frustration, but it’s not possible for any mobile company to guarantee a service abroad. We’re reliant on other mobile companies infrastructures and there are so many different variables that affect the speeds that you receive.

UPDATE 1320 Nov 3rd:

Three has now issued the following, implying that everything will work but just slower. I’ve been offered an opportunity to speak to someone to clarify things further.

Three believes it has been transparent with the terms and conditions and requested I post them, which I am happy to do. Feel at Home explained.

Three spokesperson: “Three was the first UK network to allow customers to use their phones abroad at no extra cost, to prevent bill-shock from roaming charges and improve peoples’ holiday experiences. We set out to deliver national coverage for our customers in Feel at Home destinations, so we partnered with foreign operators to achieve that.  Just like using your device in the UK, the network experience will also vary depending on location and time of day as well as which foreign operator a customer is roaming on at a particular time.

We have put a number of steps in place to ensure the majority of customers are able to fully enjoy the most popular services when on holiday abroad on their handset like Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps and web browsing. There are certain usage limits for All You Can Eat customers and personal hotspot is not supported. Customers can use VPN, stream or download large files, but that will be a slower than the UK. This also applies to the Euro Internet Pass services. This is all clearly set out for customers on our website.

We believe we’ve struck the right balance with two million customers now using their phone abroad at no extra cost on Three in the last two years. This has saved those customers £1.3 billion since launch.”


UPDATE: 1633 Nov 3rd:

Another Tweet, which doesn’t make any mention of video/audio streaming or file downloading:

ThreeUK: We have put a number of steps in place to ensure the majority of customers are able to fully enjoy the most popular services when on holiday abroad on their handset like Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps and web browsing. Hopefully that clears things up 🙂

Additional notes: EE now offers a daily add-on for roaming on selected tariffs, where £3 buys a day of data comprising 100MB of full-speed 3G/4G data, followed by 400MB at a slower (unspecified) speed. O2 also offers a feature similar to Vodafone where you can use your data allowance in selected locations from £1.99 per day – but I have not been able to test either at the time of publishing.


144 replies »

  1. Currently in Florida, quite easily capable to use Netflix through hotel system direct from phone (albeit needs Wi-fi to connect to Hotel system). But unable to stream SD quality football from IPTV even though I’m currently showing as full bars on AT&T 4G Service. Shocking state of affairs in 2019, may we’ll get myself a couple of pigeons do fly back and forth with updates of the game

  2. Three Goroam hopeless in Switzerland.
    I have been GoRoaming for a month in Switzerland Thats unlimited calls and metered data. So far my service has been suspended 5 times each time for making a call for less than 90 mins.
    Each time my service is suspended my phone signal goes to ‘no service’ so i am required to seek another internet source to contact three to reconnect my service. the chat takes an hour as i go through their system.
    Hopeless service. If you wish for a inconvenient and frustrating experience, here it is.

  3. I’ve just swapped from Three to EE because of the roaming issues and the difference is incredible!
    I travel a lot in the EU and had been using a Three mobile broadband SIM which is fine in the UK, but as soon as you’re roaming it’s useless.
    At first I just believed it to be normal, which ever network I choose. After a year of struggling every time I went abroad my sister who is with EE came to visit me in Germany and had a super fast connection which made me look into it a bit more. After finding out that Three is the only UK mobile provider that doesn’t offer 4g roaming it explained it all.
    Germany for example quit expanding there poor 3g network and went straight to expanding the 4G network.
    This means that in rural areas the only choice is 2g or 4g. The 2g network hardly ever works and if it does it takes ages to load. The 4g network coverage in Germany is excellent, but Three won’t allow it! The same counts in the Czech republic and most EU countries.
    I ordered an EE SIM card for my next travels and now I can finally “feel at home” with my mobile broadband.
    A friend who came along is with Vodafone and also had an extremely fast connection.
    I’ve started advising people that Three is very good in the UK, but if you ever want to go abroad (in the EU at least) and have a mobile internet connection forget about Three and choose any of the other networks.
    If Three ever allows 4g roaming I would consider using them again, but until then, bye bye Three! Your feel at home is a big false advertising lie!

    • Well this doesnt make sense because im with three and i got superfast 4g in menorca in may and september 2018.

  4. Just to say that my experience has been the same: have tried to use three in roaming several times in the US (hope is the last thing to die), each time had to give up after days of practically not having any mobile data at all (in major cities, not middle of nowhere!), ended up resorting to a local SIM (I’d have been happy with 3G but although showing a 3G signal in practice it’s been 2G speeds, at best, when roaming with three). I’ve now given up entirely on three, moved to Vodafone (granted a daily fee for non-EU destinations but then no speed issues, often 4G: can actually use mobile data!).

  5. I am in France right now. I am a Three customer and the network is virtually unusable. I am getting speeds of less than 1mb but most of the time it does not connect at all. I was in Italy last year and it was the same story. I have a work phone but that is the only reason I am with Three.

  6. April 2018 (Movistar)

    Centre Alicante, Centre Benidorm H+ full signal strength, ISDN speeds at best (using FAST app)

    July 2018 (Movistar)
    Bogotá (airport), Northern Bogotá, Tunja, Sogamoso

    H+ full signal strength, ISDN speeds at best

    My and my wife’s phone gave similar results. Pretty much useless for browsing (and obviously streaming)

  7. I’m so upset about this. I searched and found this thread after getting back from Italy and being unable to check emails or load simple web pages most of the time.
    I only moved to three earlier this year because they advertise the most data.
    I understand that ‘free’ can come with limitations, and would accept (reluctantly) no steaming or tethering, but even basic use is not possible, so I really do think their ‘feel at home’ slogan is in breach of ASA guidelines, despite the ASA reply above.
    I would be happy (ish) to pay the £5/day bundle if this gave a proper service, but from what I’m reading here, that won’t even help.
    I really feel mis-sold too. Not at all I’m line with their brand image – and unless this changes I’ll have no choice but to leave when my contract is up.

    • I got it to work thanks. For some reason there is a polldaddy link appearing in front of your link when I view on phone and it latched onto your link creating the dead end.

      Interesting. I moved to Vodafone because of the Three throttling. I struggle to get a 4G at times but even their 3G is great.

    • http://i0.poll.fm/js/rating/rating.jsI’m in Australia and can confirm that three only allows your phone to connect to the slower 3G networks, forget using them if you want fast access abroad. This was confirmed when I was connected to 3G and the person next to me on the same network (Telstra) was on 4G, both of us had full signal. It’s definately not a feel at home service.

  8. https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsI am on Three. I was in Spain at the weekend and confirm I had no issues streaming music or video on Radio Player, You Tube or Apple Music – unlike on previous trips when these services would buffer after about 1 second or were unuseable. Comparisions made in the same locations. 3G only available. No 4G on Three.

  9. I’ve properly sorted the problem. Ive moved to Vodafone. £19 per month gets me unlimited calls and texts, 16gb data and free 4G global roaming. Using the free roaming regularly in Ireland and even when I’m kicked onto the 3G the difference between it’s speed and what I was getting with Three is phenomenal.

  10. http://i0.poll.fm/js/rating/rating.jsDid check on feel at home in Israel.
    3 IS throttling. Yes the speeds I get on “speed test.net” are ok. Real performance is abysmal.
    They are routing our traffic back to UK and THEN slowing and sorting it, so a simple speed check seems OK and frustrates typical speed checks.
    These people really should be cleaner on the feel at home data.
    I can report that regular non data activity is good. Just don’t use for local calls.
    This company is slippery

  11. Time to go for me! I was only ever with Three because I spend almost every weekend in the Republic of Ireland so free roaming even of the savagely throttled type made sense to me. But Vodafone have moved ahead of the EU deadline and are offering free 4G roaming as standard now. After a painful 20 minutes+ on the phone to an Indian call centre today I now have my PAC Code. Cheerio Three. I might have stayed if you hadn’t taken the pi** for so long…..

  12. https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsIf I saw this article earlier i would definitely not contract with Three. I just got back from Netherland, fresh experience with Three ‘feel like shit’ service. Before changing to three, I was using ee – everything fine, but expensive. Due to signal problem in my flat, I got no signal for ee so i changed to a cheaper option, when the disaster happened.
    I’m in London. With nice signal, but no internet time to time. I haven’t met these problem anytime with EE or Giffgaff (before EE). When I was in Netherland, unfortunately, even Speed test app told me the speed was around 0.01Mbps. Totally unusable. And when i contacted agent of 3, they even blame my phone setting, e.g. manually switch courier, reboot etc. Anyway, I decided to change to Vodafone soon.
    Hope to see 3 go bankruptcy.

  13. I completely agree to this article but its the deals they have done with the other providers which makes it a bit of a pain, I tested this theory whilst i was on a Bahn train in germany when the roaming went to E-plus i would get the worst possible speed literally h+ seemed like E. yet as soon as it swapped to o2-de the speed went up to a nice 5Mbps over vpn perfectly fine.

    I think its down to the provider, speed isn’t their main concern, but coverage is.

  14. Very simple Three has a contract with the Local country providers/ISP.

    Its them who throttle your connection speeds to 0 to prevent high data usage on their network.

    ISP’s get charged by other ISP’s to download content from their network. It sounds like Three negotiated a good PRICE deal on all you can eat but the caveat is that the speed is to be restricted to Kpbs and not Mbps.

    Three pay peanuts to them and we get the monkey service!

    I won’t be renewing my contract just because of that reason!

    Sorry Three you are kind people and in England great at times but abroad you drop the ball 🙁

    • Don’t think that’s the case. Looks like all the data traffic is sent to the UK then shaped here. The fact a VPN can get round the restrictions makes it look like the issue is Three themselves rather than the local operator.

      • Yes, I believe that’s the case, and how Three can offer unlimited data (subject to the ever decreasing FUP) because it can prevent heavy usage.

        I can’t wait to see what happens in June when there can’t be any restrictions (in theory).

      • VPNs don’t make a difference. I had 3 to test with that goes to the NL, UK and the US and none of them made the slightest difference.
        The bandwidth and the amount of data getting to my handset was ridiculous low. I really think the local ISP’s are the ones caping the bandwidth and restricting the amount data getting to your handset.

  15. Just adding my comments, to the long list of complaints about THREE ‘Feel at home’. I travel a lot and have this issue all the time. Obviously being seriously throttled. Unusable!

  16. Here’s the feedback I finally got from the ASA today. Not really a surprise however they added those caveats to their website long after I took out my initial contract with them.

    YOUR COMPLAINT – Hutchison 3G UK Ltd / Three Mobile

    Please accept our apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Due to an administrative error, your complaint was mistakenly grouped with a separate case that it shouldn’t have been grouped with, and it has therefore taken us far longer than it should have done to address your complaint. I can only apologise for this.

    We understand you have raised concern that the claim “feel at home” is misleading because data is severely capped on the services, and so it is difficult to stream videos on services such as YouTube and Netflix. While I appreciate your concern, I’m afraid that after careful consideration, we don’t consider further action is warranted on this occasion.

    · We note that the webpage you referred to begins with the prominent headline “Use your phone abroad at no extra cost”, and we therefore consider that consumers will understand the claim “Feel at Home” to be in reference to price as opposed to data or general quality. We note the ad states “You’ll be able to stream and connect to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) while in a Feel At Home destination but both of these will be slower than they are in the UK.” On a hyperlinked webpage, the site states “we don’t recommend streaming TV programmes and films” and makes clear some of the other data restrictions such as “if you use more than 12GB of data per month…your data usage may be blocked”. We’re therefore satisfied that the website made sufficiently clear the restrictions on data and would not be misled into thinking that they would have the same speed and volume of data available when abroad as they do at home.

    I should also add that the responsibility of the ASA is the content of ads and other marketing communications; we are not entitled to comment on an advertiser’s customer service or business practices. If you have continued concerns about the customer service you have experienced with Three Mobile, you may wish to consider contacting the Citizens Advice consumer service who provide free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. You can contact their helpline on 03454 04 05 06 (Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm) or you can find further information at http://www.adviceguide.org.uk.

    Although this may not be the response you were hoping for, I would like to thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns with us. If you would like more information about our work, please visit our website, http://www.asa.org.uk/.

    Yours sincerely,

    Sam Falk

    Investigations Executive

    • As you say, the only outcome you could expect as they took so long to investigate and Three does now, at last, say video may not work. Shame they don’t say probably won’t work or even definitely won’t work in many countries, but it does seem to be better than it was these days (video aside).

      • I had this exact issue while trying to play youtube or download spotify songs this past week in France. Is there a way around this using VPN or changing APN settings?

  17. I’ve recently moved from EE to Three because of their “feel at home” packages which are much cheaper. I didn’t like how EEs prices are without VAT so it’s actually 20% more expensive than advertised.

    Turns out Three is completely rubbish and unusable abroad unless it’s for email, things like booking an Uber or maybe posting a picture to social networks. Forget Youtube, be patient if you want to use Facebook, Spotify not happening, loading a website takes an age. It’s frustrating when you’re being sold that it works just like home. It’s false advertising and shouldn’t be allowed.

    I’ve been to Belgium, Denmark and France. In all three places I only get 3G 90% of the time. While I was on EE I visited all three same places and when roaming I would almost always get fast 4G. The two services are incomparable. There’s no point in getting 30gb a month as part of your package if you can’t even load a website normally.

    To make matters worse, I think their coverage in the UK isn’t exactly great either (I live in London) so I would advise looking elsewhere. Remember in June 2017 things will change and roaming in europe should be free. So my advice is stay on a sim-free account until then to see what the networks will offer.

  18. Hi I am using 3 Feel at home in Spain now 3rd dec 2016, absolutely 3 ARE throttling data streaming and downloads, if I speed test with Ookla I get up to 15mbps no problem, but any video streaming or app downloads, even radio is useless, just is totally unusable, down to early modem speeds. Three ARE lying when they say they don’t throttle data streams. The reason why I signed up to 3 with one of their unlimited packages was to be able to do exactly what I have described above and its a total waste of time.
    I tried using a VPN to stream and download…and guess what? it works fine can stream Utube, video and download apps no problem so 3 are most definitely lying through their teeth when they deny data throttling.
    If you are considering entering into a contract with 3 for the specific reason of using your data when abroad…forget it, pay the extra and go with Vodafone or similar.
    It is about time toothless, useless watchdogs like Ofcom cracked down on the lies and and false claims made by mobile operators and enabled customers to cancel their contracts when operators not only do not supply what they promised but actually lie to you as 3 is most definitely doing.
    3 Feel at Home, a complete waste of money, it does NOT work for data streaming abroad.

    • Which vpn service did you to open up the Three service? I’ve tried vpnuk and that makes to difference and an earlier post suggests they’ve tried 3 different vpns with no improvement.

  19. Those getting an acceptable service by using a VPN – can I ask a stupid question? Are you using an app like Tunnelbear, and connecting to a UK VPN? Or a local VPN? I’m getting the usual terrible data speed (in the heart of Brussels), and not having much luck with trial and error. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Paul, I use Tunnelbear from time to time and I still don’t get an acceptable service overseas. In my opinion it isn’t packet shaping like normal ISPs do, it’s actual constriction of total transfer speed, VPN or not.

      I report from Italy again that since I last wrote in August it’s become slightly better. There’s still an alternating 3G/2G thing going on, but the 3G seems to run for longer, making it just about usable for surfing, although even low bandwidth audio-only streaming is still beset by long stretches of buffering during the slow patches.

  20. I’m now travelling in the USA and experience the same issue. Speed is 2G only and the only app I can use without problem is WhatsApp as it doesn’t need much speed. All the e-mails, Facebook and browsing www is that kind of slow that I have no patience to use it. Tested on AT&T and T-Mobile, same slowness. I guess Three has agreement with operators to pay less but the allowance is only 2G.

    • On many handsets, you’ll only get a decent connection if you change two mobile network settings; 3G (not 4G) must be the preferred option and I recommend you don’t select the network automatically but choose one, in California I found AT&T was the best. All of a sudden I was getting decent speeds on HSPA+ (It’s like 3.5G technology)

  21. I was last week in Netherlands, Germany, and in Austria with my family with 3 phones, 3 iPads, and a mini and a car wifi. All with 3 sims and we was fxxxd.
    Even in Austria where 3 exist as drei, you can’t use it as home.
    Today the most websites contains a lot of video data like newspapers.
    So you can’t read your papers, open mails with attachment, use your vpn to have a look inside your house, load a book by amazon, listen to music, play a game like simpsons tabbed out or minions – nothing.
    This are all our daily life – but not with three abroad.
    If they ask – I pay a small charge a day to use the web, but this is nothing worth because I don’t feel so at home

  22. Yes been suffering from this since it was introduced. In Montpellier this week. Speedtest of download 25mb, upload of 3.5mb but Ping of ….wait for it 323.


    • In Toulon France and with Feel at home all streaming fails, use a VPN and I can stream UK radio, Amazon Video etc so all good and not that much hassle having to use the VPN.

  23. Three’s data service outside the UK is utterly dire. I’ve just come back from Italy and France, where I can’t even stream a mono feed of BBC Radio 4 and even loading pages in a browser is like being on a 56k dial-up. Same in Ireland. But back home, I get speeds exceeding 40Mb up and down.

  24. Jon Morris can probably give more info, but from the last time I checked only EE and Vodafone have negotiated 4G roaming agreements while Three has sat on it’s Feel at Home laurels and left roamers with 3G at best (and 3G that most of the time behaves worse than 2G).

    • The way Three UK negotiated these roaming deals, wanting to offer ‘unlimited’ data is probably why the throttling is in place and why there’s no 4G roaming. It did enable the network to do something groundbreaking at the time, although I wish there was more honesty and openness about the limitations.

      Going forward, with 4G roaming now available on most networks around the world if you’re with EE and Vodafone, it is time that both Three and O2 wake up. In fact, it’s time the virtual operators wake up too.

      4G isn’t just about faster speeds, but improved (reduced) latency, better coverage and reliability (3G sucks in this regard thanks to cell breathing) and better capacity. Vodafone wants to turn 3G off on all its networks by 2020, so time is fast running out on 3G. More and more networks are refarming 3G spectrum to 4G. Heck, even Three UK is planning to do this!

  25. I’ve been doing some further digging on this issue. I had a bad experience with 3 Feel At Home earlier in the year (reported in late April above). I bought a cheap phone specially for that trip, a Microsoft Lumia 550. The research I’ve just done (which i should have done before buying the phone, of course) has revealed that there’s no match at all between that phone and 3’s Feel At Home parties in the US. That phone supports LTE Bands 1, 3, 7, 8 & 20. 3’s Feel At Home parties in the US are AT&T and T-Mobile. AT&T principally uses LTE Bands 2, 4, 5 & 17, and T-Mobile uses LTE Bands 2, 4 & 12, so there’s absolutely no LTE Band match between that phone and the bands available to it via 3’s partners. No wonder I never, ever, got any even peripherally decent data rates! But it does suggest that perhaps the main problem I had was because of the LTE Band mismatch, and not because of any policies/actions by 3.

    (As an aside, just finding out that “the same phone” can come with different capabilities was a bit of shock. For example, my wife’s old iPhone 5s is a model A1457 which supports LTE Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 & 20; other iPhone 5s models, on sale in the UK, cover more bands, e.g. model A1453 covers 13 LTE Bands.)

    I’m now in the process of getting my iPhone 6 unlocked – the model I’ve got support LTE Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28 & 29, so I should have good connections to AT&T and some coverage with T-Mobile. The specific model iPhone 6 I’ve got is A1586 – has anyone got anything to report on using that model in the US? Because, assuming I can get the iPhone 6 unlocked in time, I’m thinking that I’ll give 3 FeelAtHome another go.

    • Tom

      I think your research is slightly irrelevant to Feel at Home, because unless things have changed recently Three don’t have roaming on 4G, while abroad you only get to use 3G on the host network at most.

  26. Before Three introduced free roaming
    I used to have a non buffer face holiday in Spain
    Now it’s “free ” it’s a rubbish annoying Download speed, that’s not worth using unless you want to wind yourself up on you relaxing holiday
    I would rather pay for a”fit for purpose”
    Than not be able to complain cos it’s free!

  27. My experience is exactly as described here.Very poor speed when abroad that makes the connection practically useless. Sometimes it-s impossible to use simple apps like UBER or GOOGLE MAPS.
    I have been roaming practically in most of the countries where Feel At Home is active and the same thing happens everywhere.
    A poor service

  28. I have the same experience of this crap service from Three
    My work acquaintance that travels with me has no problem at all on Vodafone, e.g. Sat next to each other both trying to stream the same video from YouTube

  29. I’ve just returned from a family holiday in ibiza. I have a 15gb data sim to use as mobile broadband in the uk which I use in a portable wifi hotspot. I contacted 3 before I left and was told it would just work although I would only be allowed 12gb while away.
    First problem was it didn’t register with the local networks, I left it on for a few hours at a time, sometimes while travelling, to no avail. Fortunately I did take an old phone with me (smartphone but with full sized sim) and tried it in that and it registered within a minute and worked fine. Putting the sim back in the hotspot now worked.
    Three said I could use 4g data but choosing ‘4g only’ in the hotspot gave me ‘couldn’t register on network’. 3g only worked though.
    Speeds reported by speedtest.net were around 15mb to 20mb download. As I’m in IT, I have my own server in the uk so I could do my own speedtests to that and only got 0.1 to 0.2mb download. Connecting to my own vpn service (same server) showed speedtest.net giving the 0.1 to 0.2 speeds, and now it was taking a few minutes to load the site and ping servers.
    General feel (no vpn) of browsing was poor, bbc news loaded the text but not pictures or video, even on my phone. Google searches were fine but clicking on results wasn’t. I don’t use twitter or facebook and I didn’t bother trying youtube but google maps, met office weather, guardian and slashdot sites (the ones I use in the uk a lot) generally timed out before loading completely, sometimes even the text would fail to load completely. My wife used facebook on her phone (tethered to the same hotspot) and said it was slow but usable including pictures.
    My hotspot always connected to the movistar network at full strength. On previous trips to the same location I’ve bought a sim from holidayphone.co.uk and they have recently supplied a movistar one. The speeds I obtained then were 10 to 20mb 3g (I didn’t have the 4g hotspot then) and I was able to stream and remote access my work computers (in the uk) really well. I will be doing this again next year and cancelling my 3 contract.

  30. Am in France at the moment. Am on 3 pay as you go and have used feel at home as an add-on a number of times in the past. Iplayer radio etc has been ok. This time, having gone for the £25 ‘all you can eat’ add-on i have arrived to find streaming of anything totally impossible. A few seconds of radio eventually, then nothing. As others have said, a speed test shows fine, up to about 10mbs but in reality the whole system is unusable. Email ok, browsing slow, streaming video totally impossible, even radio impossible.
    Forget it, Three. My money is going elsewhere now. I have found general coverage of 3 around the uk to be much more patchy than on my other phone (O2) but have stuck to 3 for the iphone mainly for the feel at home option. Ive had enough. The advertising is total lies. I am just going back to the 3 website to check, but i am certain that streaming was mentioned as a selling point for the feel at home add-on upgrade.

  31. I live in Northern Ireland and travel to Donegal in the Republic of Ireland almost every other week. Feel at Home was the obvious choice for me given that the border was just 90 minutes away and initially I felt quite smug as the usual automated text that you receive on picking up the local (Three.ie) network giving you local charging information was always followed up with a second text saying good news, you can forget about that since you’re a Feel at Home customer. I soon realised that the abysmal 3G speeds I was getting on my iPhone did not reflect the apparent signal strength – plus I have a local Three.ie sim that I use in a mi-fi dongle on the same network and it flies along!

    I contacted Three.ie CS about it but they claimed complete ignorance of any throttling issues and, since I was a Three UK customer, said i would have to take it up with them.

    I’m not abandoning Three over this – it’s still the best option for me given my usage, but it’s incredibly frustrating that they aren’t upfront about this. Plus I see that it isn’t really a free service anymore, since they’ve now introduced ‘Essentials’ tariffs that don’t include FAH. So effectively I am now paying for a premium service that isn’t what it is claimed to be.

  32. Just spent two weeks in France and the data service was absolutely appalling. As usual, speed tests usually showed 14M+ download speeds and 2M+ upload, but a simple google search in a browser took 30+ seconds if it worked at all. Web pages took 30+ seconds to load (if they worked) and I never once got a news video to stream from the BBC or stream music from Google play. Even thumbnail images wouldn’t download in Twitter! App updates always failed to start – seems like they are blocked. Phone calls and texts worked just fine. Knowing how bad the data service is with Three, I saved all the google maps data locally so that wasn’t a problem.

    Members of the family with EE contracts had no problems at all doing everything as normal, so my Three “Feel at Home” plan was the running joke.

    I can’t believe Three they are still getting away with this…

  33. Interested to read this. I’ve had poor speed in Norway and abysmal in Switzerland and France recently – Google Maps frequently shows limited results due to poor connection, even when speedtests were reasonable. Any view on whether Three is breaching contract with this (I’m still under minimum term and FAH was a major part of my reason for choosing it)? I can’t even find T&Cs on its website.

    • Whilst in France I left my iPhone in auto network mode and by default the roaming prefs seem to be Free>Orange>Bouygues and I was going from a tiny bit of signal to no service so I manually selected Bouygues which was so much better in comparison. Streaming was blocked and so was Spotify but for browsing and social media FAH was acceptable.

  34. Just on my last day in Italy using my 4gb inclusive EU roaming data on Vodafone. It has been a fantastic experience and far, far better than similar trips using Three. Been travelling around by train and using the Note 4 as a tethering Hotspot for all our family devices and it’s been faultless… so much so we’re not even using the various hotel wifi connections as the Vodafone signal is faster. Only area of concern was San Marino which was mostly 2 or 3g but then it’s probably a geographical issue due to the hilly location. On the other side Vodafone billing and CS is atrocious but at least my holidays are better!

  35. Currently in Miami and agree with the the feedback from others. I’m roaming onto the AT&T 3G Network and speeds are average to slow. Have used Feel at Home for the past couple of years, mainly when travelling to the USA. I have a dual-SIM Sony Xperia and have my Vodafone sim also enabled but mainly to receive SMS messages. Data is set to my 3 PAYG sim. I switch off Voda voicemail and if I see any incoming calls on that number, I just call them back on my 3 SIM.

    However, bearing in mind the cost for my 8 day trip on 3 is £25 vs £40 on Voda, with the Voda package allowing me to take my plan with me, I’m happy to pay the extra £15 to be able to roam at 4G unthrottled speeds. So I will use Voda on my next trip and ditch 3. I guess if you are travelling for a longer period at £5 per day, it could get quite expensive ie. £90 for 2 weeks. That’s when I would drop-into a cellphone store and pick-up a local SIM card. Then I would use Whatsapp or Skype for calls over 4G.

    3 claiming there is no throttling and it “feels like home” is clearly misleading and should be brought to task by the ASA.


  36. I’ve been using Three for some years now and have saved a fortune with their ‘feel at home’ deal. I constantly travel with work. I’ve spent over three months in North America this year already, and go through all the European countries featured in the deal, as well as Australia.

    I do have to say though that streaming, or downloading is usually not possible. Sometimes even trying to get a webpage to load is impossible. America has to be the worst of the lot, With Australia probably being the best. It’s hard to complain when I’ve saved so much money but then if I can’t order an Uber for example, it’s not really a reliable service. On my last trip to America I gave in and bought a local sim card.

    • James:

      I commented on this thread some months back after a poor experience with 3 FaH in the US. Can you tell me what ‘local sim card’ you bought on your last trip to the US? – we’re going back in October and I’ve been wondering what to do. Our requirements will mostly be data, e.g. Maps when walking around DC, some Facebook posts, etc.

  37. Having just used feel at home in Dublin, Kildare, Majorca, Chicago, Indiana and San Francisco (mainly all for work) my experience is no different to yours. I would like the option to refuse feel at home and pay a daily rate (not the euro traveller option though as it’s just the same). This has been the same ever since it was introduced, very disappointing service. I know it’s free and saves a ton, but when you spend a lot of time in other countries, especially for work ,things just need to work.

  38. I had the similar issue.
    I have been traveling for the last 2 years, mostly in Europe and now in USA.
    Basically: in Europe the streaming is capped in a few countries, i.e. Spain (including Canary Islands) but not in Italy for instance (that is my experience at least)

    In USA there is an effective limitation forced by the roaming provider: the hotspot modem or mobile phone (tested with Motorola E 2nd Ed.) do not allow connection to 3G,4G or LTE but only on 2G. So it’s not a matter of capping, nor of band compatibility. the Three UK support just confirmed that to me over the phone.
    While on iPhone and iPad the same SIM is allowed to connect to 3G, 4G or LTE even in USA.

    Three UK support told me that they are trying to get the deal wth USA roaming operators to get 3G/4G/LTE roaming connection for the future.

    I hope this is of help

  39. I have used, or tried to use Three data in all of the European “Feel at Home” European destinations since the inception of the service (I work as an international truck driver). Initially the service seemed to work reasonably well, however over the last 12 -18 months download speeds have been throttled to the point whereby the service is now virtually unusable. It can be a struggle to send a simple data message via Whatsapp and it is virtually impossible to send or receive any form of image no matter how low resolution it may be. As I also have a Spanish Vodafone account, I have used this to register on to the same network being used by the dongle and download speeds have been fine. It is abundantly obvious that Three are telling huge porkies when they say they do not restrict download speeds on roaming as they very obviously are. I for one will not be giving them any more of my money for a service which is quite frankly useless.

    • I’ve now dumped Three for the new Vodafone Red tariffs with inclusive roaming in Europe. Currently posting this is Mallorca using full strength, unthrottled 4G…

      Better coverage in Europe and £5/day almost everywhere else. Vote with your wallets!

      • Thanks for that, David. Unfortunately the Vodafone Red World Traveller add-on (the £5 a day offer) looks like it only applies to Pay Monthly customers. I’m still looking for something to use for just one month, or less – the occasional (once or twice yearly) trips to the USA, for which I just want a sim for one month.

  40. This article is of interest. Three admits to throttling data while roaming and discusses possible premium package offering full speeds while abroad :


    I’m a three customer in Ireland. When I use my UK sim in the Republic speeds are abysmal and streaming is impossible. I complain regularly to 3 about it as I work in both the north and south of Ireland.


    • Yet they consistently denied throttling to me through many levels of CS and blamed the local networks. This pisses me off as they knew what they were doing all the time but denied it to the customer.

    • “Topley confirmed that Three does throttle speeds, adding: We position the proposition as a holiday product and we don’t see a lot of people streaming while abroad. Consumers are very happy with the proposition based on our feedback, but we will look at how people are using data once the pricing in Europe is sorted out.”

      Topley is clearly delusional! Customers are very happy? When I complained and told them I was far from happy, I was told its “local” issues. It’s not even possible to stream on 3 while abroad, whether using Feel at Home or the 5 pounds per day service – that’s why they don’t see anyone streaming… Imbecile…

  41. Thanks for all of the great comments about this, most of the ‘review’ websites claim that it works fine!
    I have now decided to go for a Vodafone SIM-Only deal and then activate the ‘WorldTraveller’ add-on – although this will work out at about £30 for my weeks travel it will be much easier than trying a Three ‘Feels-like-home’ and then getting a local SIM because the data rates are dire!

  42. I have used 3 feel at home over the last 12 months.
    Was just “OK” on European trips but on arrival in the States last Sept didn’t work.
    Was like that for 2 days and cost me a call back to the UK to 3 understand that there was an “outage” and normal service would be returned. Generally OK in the States too when it worked.
    Have used a few trips this year and again OK.
    However my 12 months expired on my 12GB card and bought a new one for a recent trip to Spain. The connection speed was absolutely dire, many timeouts and almost unusable.
    Will look elsewhere in the future and probably buy local SIMs on arrival, not worth the bother with Feel at Home.

  43. I am in USA. i can connect to network (usu T Mob or AT&T) and get ok data. In New Orleans now and connect manually, get data for abt 5 mins then it just stops 😡

    Takes ages to manually connect and pain to keep losing data. Automatic default setting just DOES NOT WORK 😈

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