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.
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.
- 1 What is All-You-Can-Eat Data?
- 2 All-You-Can-Eat Data Plans
- 3 Coverage
- 4 International Travel
- 5 Keeping Your Phone Number
- 6 More Information
What is All-You-Can-Eat Data?
Unlimited Downloads With No Limit
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
All 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
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
|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:
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
|1 month contracts
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.
iPhone 7 Plus
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.
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:
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.
With 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
If you’re joining Three on an all-you-can-eat data plan, it’s a straightforward process to keep your existing phone number.
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|
For more information about transferring your phone number between networks, please see our guide to using a PAC Code.
For more information about all-you-can-eat data, please see the Three website.
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.