All-You-Can-Eat Data Reviewed: Unlimited 4G Internet from Three

November 1st, 2016

Three offers all-you-can-eat data in the UK with unlimited downloads, 4G internet, Feel At Home and 30GB of personal hotspot.

ThreeIn the UK, Three is fairly unique as a mobile network in offering all-you-can-eat data with no limits on how much you can download.

With all-you-can-eat data, you can use your smartphone worry-free for as much browsing, streaming and downloading as you like. You’ll also get access to 4G internet and inclusive roaming in 42 countries. There’s also a separate allowance of 30GB for tethering or portable hotspot each month.

In this article, we’ll review all-you-can-eat data: the unlimited internet offering from Three. We’ll start by looking at the features of the tariff before comparing the data plans on which you’re able to get all-you-can-eat data. Finally, we’ll look at coverage, international roaming and how you can keep an existing phone number when moving to Three.

What is All-You-Can-Eat Data?

Unlimited Downloads With No Limit

What is All You Can Eat Data?

All-you-can-eat data is truly unlimited (there are no hidden limits or fair usage policies).

In the UK mobile market, Three has been fairly unique in offering all-you-can-eat data with no download limits since 2010.

The term ‘all-you-can-eat data’ originated from the fact that ‘unlimited’ policies had previously been tarnished (e.g. with hidden download limits and fair usage policies). Instead, the all-you-can-eat branding is intended to signify truly unlimited downloads with no hidden limits or fair usage policies.

In 2016, all-you-can-eat data remains a key selling point of Three’s flagship mobile deals. For instance, it’s now possible to get a SIM card from Three with all-you-can-eat data for £23/month. On other mainstream mobile networks like EE and Vodafone, the same monthly price would buy you a SIM card with about 4GB to 6GB of data per month.

Note: On Three’s website, you’ll sometimes find reference to a monthly download limit of 1,000GB. This figure of 1,000GB is based on a physical limit: it’s how much data Three thinks you’d be able to use if you were downloading on your smartphone 24/7. From the Three website:

All you can eat data gives you worry free internet use. Even if you used your phone for every minute of every day you could only use, subject to TrafficSense™, around 1000GB each month. We may use this cap to identify inappropriate use of the service, such as commercial use, which isn’t permitted under our terms and conditions.

4G Download Speeds

4G LogoAll of Three’s all-you-can-eat data plans include access to 4G, subject to coverage in your area and handset compatibility.

Unlike other mobile networks, Three will not restrict your speeds to 3G after a certain amount of usage (e.g. on giffgaff’s Always On data plan, speeds are restricted to 256Kbps after the first 6GB per month).

Tethering & Personal Hotspot

Personal Hotspot on iPhone

All-you-can-eat data plans come with 30GB of tethering per month (Pay Monthly and SIM-only).

Tethering or personal hotspot refers to the process of sharing your smartphone’s internet connection with other devices (e.g. with your laptop or tablet).

On Pay Monthly and SIM-only contracts with all-you-can-eat data, a separate allowance of 30GB per month applies to tethering and personal hotspot. Should you exceed this limit (which is incredibly unlikely), you can buy additional data for tethering with a personal hotspot add-on (currently £5/month for an additional 1GB, £7/month for an additional 3GB and £8/month for an additional 6GB).

On Essential Pay Monthly contracts and Pay As You Go, Three does not permit the use of tethering or portable hotspot.

For more information about tethering in the UK, please see our in-depth article about tethering on UK mobile networks.

Throttling & Traffic Management

Three has a traffic management policy known as TrafficSense. According to their key facts indicator, P2P file-sharing (e.g. BitTorrent) is slowed down on the network between 3pm and midnight each day. They also use video optimisation technology (for streaming sites like YouTube, videos are only downloaded at the rate at which you’re able to watch them):

We allocate a fixed amount of network bandwidth to P2P file-sharing activities and to tethering activities at peak times to manage network congestion and provide the best possible experience for the greatest number of users.

We use video optimisation to change the way video content is streamed to your device to make it play better. We use it to improve your streaming experience if our network is busy where you are.

The key factors indicator confirms that your speeds won’t be reduced for using too much data (see the section “Is traffic management used in relation to heavy users?”).

All-You-Can-Eat Data Plans

There are currently three ways of getting an all-you-can-eat data plan from Three: on a SIM-only deal, on a Pay Monthly contract, or on a Pay As You Go tariff.

Plan Type Data Allowance Tethering Allowance Monthly Price
SIM Only All-you-can-eat 30GB From £23/month
Pay Monthly All-you-can-eat 30GB Varies depending on handset
Pay As You Go All-you-can-eat No Requires £25/month add-on

In the following section, we’ll look at each of these options in more depth:

SIM Only

If you already have a smartphone that you’re happy to keep, the best way of getting an all-you-can-eat data plan is by ordering one of Three’s SIM-only deals. You can get all-you-can-eat data from £23/month on a 12-month contract and from £26/month on 1-month contract:

12 month contracts

TariffMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Advanced Plan600UnlimitedUnlimited£27.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£32.00
1 month contracts

TariffMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Advanced Plan200UnlimitedUnlimited£27.00
Advanced Plan600UnlimitedUnlimited£30.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£35.00

All-you-can-eat data plans on SIM-only include an allowance of 30GB of tethering each month. Please see the Three website for a full list of their available SIM-only deals.

Pay Monthly

If you’re currently looking to buy a new smartphone, Three offers Pay Monthly contracts with a new handset and all-you-can-eat data. You’ll also receive a 30GB allowance for tethering each month.

Pay Monthly contracts have a 24-month commitment, with the price varying depending on the handset you choose.

The following table shows all-you-can-eat data plans for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus:

Apple iPhone 7
iPhone 7
TariffMinutesTextsInternetUpfrontMonthlyTotal Cost
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£99.00
upfront
£58.00
monthly
£1,491.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£0.00
upfront
£78.00
monthly
£1,872.00
Apple_iPhone_7_Plus
iPhone 7 Plus
TariffMinutesTextsInternetUpfrontMonthlyTotal Cost
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£99.00
upfront
£66.00
monthly
£1,683.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£0.00
upfront
£80.00
monthly
£1,920.00

For a full list of available Pay Monthly handsets, please see the Three website.

Pay As You Go

If you’re a Three Pay As You Go customer, you can get all-you-can-eat data by buying the All in One 25 add-on. For £25/month, this will give you all-you-can-eat data, 500 minutes and 3000 texts. Unfortunately, you won’t receive an allowance for tethering or portable hotspot on Pay As You Go.

You can order a free Pay As You Go SIM card from Three’s website. Alternatively, you can order a new Pay As You Go handset.

Coverage

Three Coverage

Three has 97% population coverage across the UK.

Three currently offers 97% population coverage across the UK. With an all-you-can-eat data plan, you’re able to access both 3G and 4G coverage from Three.

Before joining Three, we strongly recommend checking the coverage in your area. You can do this by entering your postcode on the Three website:

Check Three Coverage (three.co.uk) »

One thing that’s worth noting before joining Three is their 4G coverage is more limited compared to other providers. At the time of writing, Three has about 63% population coverage on 4G. This compares to about 97% 4G coverage on EE, 86% 4G coverage on Vodafone and 78% 4G coverage on O2.

International Travel

Three Feel At HomeWith Three’s all-you-can-eat data plan, you’ll also get free international roaming as part of the Feel At Home offer. This allows you to use your smartphone abroad at no extra charge in 42 countries including across the EU, in the US and Australia.

Through Feel At Home, you’re able to take your UK allowances abroad with you to other countries (including your UK minutes, texts and data allowance).

If your plan has an all-you-can-eat allowance, a fair usage policy will apply when you’re abroad. Each month, you can only use up to a maximum of 3000 minutes, 5000 texts and 12GB of internet. When you’re abroad, data speeds are also restricted to 2G and 3G.

For more information about the Feel At Home offer, please see our in-depth Feel At Home review.

Keeping Your Phone Number

Transfer Phone Number to Three

It’s a straightforward process to transfer your phone number to Three.

If you’re joining Three on an all-you-can-eat data plan, it’s a straightforward process to keep your existing phone number.

You should start by asking your current mobile network to provide you with a PAC Code. You can then order your new phone or SIM card from the Three website.

When your new phone or SIM card arrives from Three, fill out this form on Three’s website. After you submit your PAC Code, Three will schedule the transfer of your phone number (normally for the next working day). In the meantime, you’ll continue receiving a service from your old network.

For step-by-step instructions on transferring a phone number to Three, please select your current mobile network from the drop-down menu below:

PAC Code Finder: Transfer Your Phone Number to Three

Your current network provider:

  More Options

For more information about transferring your phone number between networks, please see our guide to using a PAC Code.

More Information

For more information about all-you-can-eat data, please see the Three website.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 67 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. TC Chua said:

    Greetings from Singapore.

    My family is planning for 3-week holiday in UK. I find your article extremely helpful.

    I am interested in Three’s “All-you-can-eat-data”. I also need the phone (iPhone 6Plus) to be setup as hotspot for all family members to share the data connection.

    I am inclined to go for the “SIM Only” solution. They offer a “1-month contract @£30”. I wonder if this option is available to tourist? How about the “Pay As You Go @ £25/month” scheme?

    Regarding “No Tethering Allowance” for “Pay As You Go @ £25/month”, I wonder if there is a change in policy. In this article: https://www.contentedtraveller.com/found-best-sim-card-data-london/, the author says that he is able to setup his phone with “Pay As You Go” as hotspot. Please let me know if I understand wrongly.

    Warmest Regards

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi TC,
      Many thanks for your comment and hope you’re looking forward to your trip to the UK!
      Unfortunately, the “Pay Monthly SIM Only” solution will not be available to you as a visitor to the UK. The reason for this is because it’s a post-paid contract, so you’ll need to pass a UK credit check and you’ll need a UK bank account. It’s also a rolling contract, for which you’ll need to give 30 days notice to end.
      As a visitor to the UK, you’re therefore normally restricted to Pay As You Go deals. Three has a £25/month deal on Pay As You Go with all-you-can-eat data, but as you say, tethering isn’t officially allowed on this tariff. There might be a couple of “workarounds” but of course, they’re not guaranteed to work and it would still violate the T&Cs of the tariff.
      Two thoughts on this:
      1) If you’d like a Pay As You Go tariff on which you’re able to tether, you can see my guide here about tethering on UK mobile networks (in short: there are plenty of PAYG alternatives, but it really depends on how much data you want).
      2) You might find it better value (and also better for your battery life) to get individual SIM cards for each person in your family. You can expect to pay about £10 each for one-months usage, with no need to specifically choose a network that allows you to tether. This would also be incredibly useful should your group need to split up (no need to always be in range of the person who has the wi-fi hotspot).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. TC Chua replied:

        Hi Ken,

        Thank you for your comprehensive reply. I notice that your site is so much useful then the Telco sites !!! Great job.

        I am inclined to go for the £20 (Always On/6GB) from Giffgaff. This should be sufficient for our family while on the move (We are spending an average of 3 hours per day on the road).

        Giffgaff site is awfully designed and hard to navigate. They also do not offer online chat. I read through some review sites and their network level is rated 3/5. Just want to hear from you if they are good for tourists?

        Thank you so much for putting up this website. I would recommend it as a “MUST READ” site for all tourists visiting UK.

        1. Ken replied:

          Hi TC,
          No problem at all – I’m really glad to be able to help out! I think giffgaff is a fantastic network, and I’d definitely recommend them (especially so if you’re a visitor to the UK). The good news is you should be able to order a giffgaff SIM card online which they can dispatch overseas and you can also use a non-UK credit card to top-up online.
          With regards to online reviews, I’d also take them with a pinch of salt as they tend to become places for people to gripe about coverage, etc (most UK networks will have a low review score online, whereas in reality, things aren’t actually that bad). giffgaff uses coverage from O2, and their online support is managed through an online forum rather than live chat.
          Hope this helps!
          Ken

          1. TC Chua replied:

            Thanks. I will try to order a SIM online. If it dosen’t work, I will keep you and your readers updated.

            Again, many thanks for the wonderful efforts.

  2. andrew said:

    Hi,

    I have an old wi-fi unit and would like to use threes sim only packages rather than take out a new contract to get a newer device. Will the sim only packages work in my old unit? I think its about 4 years old?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for your comment. In theory, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use a SIM-only package in your old mobile wi-fi unit. However, using a regular smartphone SIM card in a mobile wi-fi device is against the terms and conditions of a regular SIM-only deal. Instead, you’ll need to get one of Three’s mobile broadband SIM cards.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  3. Nick Clatworthy said:

    When tethering, I too have struggled with data transmission rates too low to be of any use. I have had this trouble with Giffgaff but it seems other people have had the same with Three. Giffgaff assures me that there is nothing wrong at their end and that I am doing nothing wrong. My cure is to do a reset. All I have to do is to put the SIM into another phone and I am back up to full speed at once but only until I am throttled again. I think you can reset the original phone with a SIM from another company. My plan is to use SIMs from Three and Giffgaff in two phones and swap them over as the need arises. Inconvenient to say the least.

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