Three’s One Plan as a substitute for mobile broadband – No download limits & cut costs

June 20th, 2011

Three’s “The One Plan” includes free mobile broadband with no download limits when you tether your phone to a computer. It’s a great alternative to mobile broadband through a USB dongle.

What is The One Plan?

Three’s “The One Plan” is a tariff for your mobile phone. Available from £25/month as a Pay Monthly tariff with an inclusive handset or as a rolling 30-day SIM-only contact without an inclusive phone, “The One Plan” comes with a massive allowance of 2000 minutes, 5000 texts and all-you-can-eat data with no download limits. Interestingly, “The One Plan” comes with free tethering. This allows you to share your phone’s 3G connection with a laptop or other wi-fi enabled devices such as a tablet or e-book reader. In effect, this means you get a free mobile broadband service inclusive with “The One Plan”. There are also no download limits for tethering. In essence, this makes “The One Plan” the only mobile broadband service in the UK with no download limits.

Is “The One Plan” designed for mobile broadband?

Yes. The Three website lists tethering as a feature of “The One Plan” tariff:

With The One Plan, as well as enjoying the great things your smartphone can do with all-you-can-eat data, you can also connect your phone to other devices via Wi-Fi or USB to get onto the internet (called ‘tethering’ or ‘using your phone as a modem’). That means you can use the internet when you’re out and about with other devices including laptops, tablets and games consoles, just by connecting them via Wi-Fi or USB to your phone. You can tether or use your phone as a modem on all our One Plan tariffs including SIM Only with a 1-month rolling contract.

Whilst “The One Plan” isn’t marketed as a standalone mobile broadband tariff, many people have successfully used it as a substitute for one.

What is the download allowance for tethering on The One Plan?

The One Plan comes with “all-you-can-eat data” for mobile internet on your handset and through tethering. This means there are no download limits associated with the mobile broadband service on The One Plan.

The One Plan is essentially unique amongst UK mobile broadband tariffs in that there is no download limit – every single other mobile broadband tariff comes with a download limit between 500MB and 15GB per month. See our guide to download limits and what terms such as 500MB and 1GB actually mean.

Is there any difference between the mobile broadband service I receive through tethering compared to a mobile broadband service received through a USB dongle?

If you were to sign up for one of Three’s standalone mobile broadband tariffs with a USB dongle, your downloads would be carried by the same 3G network as any downloads made through tethering on The One Plan. For this reason, there should be no differences between the service you would expect to receive through tethering on The One Plan and a standalone mobile broadband service accessed with a USB dongle.

How do I connect to a mobile broadband service through tethering?

Tethering can be performed using either a USB cable or a wi-fi connection. The latter method allows you to connect multiple devices to a mobile broadband connection at once including tablets and e-book readers.

With tethering, your mobile phone essentially replaces the USB dongle in a traditional mobile broadband service. You’ll need to connect your laptop to your phone (“tether”) in order to access the 3G mobile broadband service. There are two methods of doing this:

  • Tethering via a USB cable. This involves connecting your phone to your computer using a USB cable. You’ll need to install the relevant drivers on your computer to use USB tethering and you’ll need to carry the USB cable with you whenever you want to tether.
  • Tethering via a personal wi-fi hotspot. With this newer method of tethering, your phone will create a personal wi-fi hotspot over which it’ll share your 3G mobile data connection. You’ll need to instruct your computer to connect to the phone’s wi-fi hotspot. You won’t need to install any drivers on your computer but your phone will need to run iOS 4.3 or later, Android 2.2 or later or another supported operating system. One key benefit of tethering via a personal wi-fi hotspot is that you can connect all kinds of devices such as tablets, games consoles, e-book readers and laptops over the same 3G connection.

What phones are compatible with wi-fi tethering?

In order to tether via wi-fi, you’ll need a phone running iOS 4.3+ or Android 2.2+. The following key handsets on The One Plan have support for wi-fi tethering:

Samsung Galaxy Ace

Free handset

Samsung Galaxy S II

Free handset

Apple iPhone 4S (16GB)

£99 upfront

How does The One Plan compare to standalone mobile broadband tariffs?

Mobile broadband tariffs in the UK start from £7.50/month for 500MB per month increasing up to £20.99/month for 15GB per month. Whilst “The One Plan” starts at £25/month and is hence more expensive than standalone mobile broadband, you’ll also get a ton of minutes and texts with it plus an inclusive phone (unless you opt for the SIM-only tariff).

When we consider the combination of a standalone phone tariff with a standalone mobile broadband tariff, the combined price is inevitably more expensive than combining the two in “The One Plan”.

The following mobile broadband tariffs are currently available in the UK:

Network Monthly Price Data Allowance Excess Charges Contract Length
500MB per month
Vodafone £7.50 500MB £7.50 per 500MB 1 month
Orange (Racoon) £10.00 500MB 5p/MB 1 month
Orange (Racoon) £10.00 500MB 5p/MB 12 months
1GB per month
Three £7.87 1GB 10.2p/MB 18 months
T-Mobile £10.00 1GB Usage restricted 18 months
O2 £10.21 1GB Bolt-On required 1 month
Orange (Dolphin) £15.00 1GB 5p/MB 1 month
Between 1GB and 5GB per month
Orange (Dolphin) £15.00 1GB & 1GB off-peak 5p/MB 12 months
Vodafone £15.00 2GB £15 per 1GB 1 month
Vodafone £15.00 2GB & 1GB off-peak ? 18 months
Vodafone £20.00 2GB & 2GB off-peak ? 18 months
5GB per month or above
Three £15.99 5GB 10.2p/MB 1 month
Three £15.99 5GB 10.2p/MB 18 months
Three £15.99 15GB 10.2p/MB 24 months
Three £20.99 15GB 10.2p/MB 18 months
All-you-can-eat data
If you take out a mobile phone contract on Three’s “The One Plan”, you’ll get a free inclusive mobile broadband service when you tether your phone to a computer. This comes with all-you-can-eat data with no download limits. “The One Plan” starts at £25/month either as a rolling 30-day SIM-only tariff or a 24-month contract with a inclusive handset.
Three’s The One Plan From £25.00 All-you-can-eat data
Mobile broadband via tethering
2000 minutes
5000 texts
N/A 1 month/24 months

Can I use a “The One Plan” SIM card in a USB mobile broadband dongle?

No. It is against Three’s terms of use to insert a “The One Plan” SIM card into a USB mobile broadband dongle. The SIM card for “The One Plan” can only be used in a mobile handset. The mobile broadband service is only available through tethering.

Do I need to use The One Plan for my main phone?

No. You could purchase The One Plan solely for its mobile broadband service through tethering if you wish. However, the largest cost savings will be found if you replace both your phone and mobile broadband tariffs with The One Plan.

What’s Three reception like where I live?

Three provide a coverage checker on their website.

I’m switching my phone over to Three. Can I keep my existing phone number?

Yes. You’ll need to ask your existing mobile network for a PAC Code. Provide this to Three and they’ll handle the transfer of your phone number. It should take no more than 24 hours to transfer a phone number. Our PAC Code Finder tool will take you through the entire process of switching networks step-by-step.

Where can I get The One Plan?

The One Plan is available as a SIM-only contract (30-day rolling contract) or standard 24 month Pay Monthly contract through the Three website.

Like this tip? Get the most from your mobile phone...

  • Discover brand new ways to use your mobile phone
  • Techniques to get more out of your mobile phone for less
  • Be the first to learn about new mobile technology

Enter your email to receive free regular Ken's Tech Tips:

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 4 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Rolo said:

    The One Plan seems like a wonderful deal.

    However, I recently joined the One Plan on a 12 month contract and the adult filter is on by default despite the fact that Three say on their blog that contract customers don’t have the adult filter on.

    I phoned Three CS to ask them to turn off the filter. They turned it off a few hours later then the next day I noticed the adult filter is back on again. It just seems ridiculous.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Rolo,
      All UK mobile networks block adult content by default – so this isn’t unique to Three and The One Plan. It sounds as if Customer Services had a problem when turning off the filter – hopefully if you get in touch again then it should be disabled permanently.

  2. Beware of Three said:

    Be aware that three will lower your connection speeds to 200kbps without notice in rush hour, so, although their data plan is all you can eat on the one plan, they should say all you can eat at speeds below dial up *512kbps between 6pm to 12, which is what I am getting at the moment.

    Believe the hype if it is too good to be true is too good to be true.

    Stay away from Three.

    1. Len replied:

      To the person above, they don’t limit your connection speed, the only thing they limit is the speed of downloading torrents (P2P). The speed limit you must be experiencing is congestion. And the article states £25 p/m. Actual cost is £15 p/m on a 12 month deal or £18 p/m on a 1 month rolling contract.

Leave a Reply

E-Mail Notifications: By default, I'll drop you an e-mail when there's a reply to your comment. If you don't want to receive such a notification, please select the "Don't Subscribe" option from the dropdown menu above.