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

Three

In 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 get access to 4G internet and inclusive roaming in 60 destinations, including in most of Europe, the USA and Australia. There’s also a separate 30GB allowance 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 and how it compares to other offers from Three such as Go Binge. We’ll then compare the all-you-can-eat data plans available before looking 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.

As of 2017, all-you-can-eat data remains a key selling point of Three’s flagship mobile deals. For instance, it’s possible to get a SIM card from Three for £24/month with all-you-can-eat data included.

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 384Kbps after the first 9GB 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 usage. 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, a certain amount of bandwidth may be dedicated to tethering in areas with a congested network:

We don’t constrain the amount of data you can use (subject to your data allowances, of course) but we may dedicate a certain amount of bandwidth to tethering, so that all other types of traffic can make the most of the rest of it.

In the past, P2P file-sharing applications (e.g. BitTorrent) were slowed down on the network between 3pm and midnight each day. However, this should no longer be the case, with Three’s key facts indicator confirming there is no longer any restriction on this type of traffic.

The key facts 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?”).

Comparison to Go Binge & Other Plans

Three’s Advanced price plans come with Go Binge (unlimited data on selected services including Netflix).

Alongside their all-you-can-eat data plans, Three also provides a number of other Advanced price plans with large amounts of data (e.g. 30GB or 100GB per month).

On the 30GB and 100GB plans, you won’t have truly unlimited data. However, you’ll probably have enough data for everything you’d like to do on your phone, and you’ll have access to Go Binge which gives you unlimited data for use on selected services (currently Netflix, TVPlayer, Deezer and SoundCloud). You’ll also get the same 30GB tethering allowance and access to Feel At Home Around The World in 60 destinations.

Of course, all-you-can-eat data plans are still much more flexible as you can use the unlimited data allowance with any service you like (including BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, Spotify, YouTube and other services not covered by Go Binge). However, if you don’t need all of this added flexibility, the 30GB and 100GB plans can sometimes work out to be better value.

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 £24/month
Pay Monthly All-you-can-eat 30GB Varies depending on handset
Pay As You Go All-you-can-eat No Requires £35/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 £24/month on a 12-month contract and from £27/month on a 1-month contract:

12 month contracts

TariffMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£27.00

1 month contracts

TariffMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£32.00

All-you-can-eat data plans on SIM-only include a tethering or personal hotspot allowance of 30GB per 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 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, plus the 30GB and 100GB options for comparison:


iPhone 8
TariffMinutesTextsInternetUpfrontMonthlyTotal Cost
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£49.00
upfront
£43.00
monthly
£1,081.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£79.00
upfront
£49.00
monthly
£1,255.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimited100GB£79.00
upfront
£54.00
monthly
£1,375.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£0.00
upfront
£83.00
monthly
£1,992.00

iPhone 8 Plus
TariffMinutesTextsInternetUpfrontMonthlyTotal Cost
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£79.00
upfront
£50.00
monthly
£1,279.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£79.00
upfront
£54.00
monthly
£1,375.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimited100GB£79.00
upfront
£60.00
monthly
£1,519.00
Advanced PlanUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£0.00
upfront
£88.00
monthly
£2,112.00

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 35 add-on. For £35/month, this will give you all-you-can-eat data along with 3000 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 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 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 65% population coverage on 4G. This compares to about 99% 4G coverage on EE, 96% 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. On Advanced Pay Monthly contracts and Pay As You Go, this allows you to use your smartphone abroad at no extra charge in 60 destinations (including across the EU, in the US and Australia).

Through Feel At Home, you’re able to take your UK allowances abroad with you 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 (9GB if you’re on Pay As You Go). 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.

Your Comments 86 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 86 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Mathias Hill said:

    Three is nowhere as good as they use to be their traffic sense is basically a new term for throttling … I have got their 100GB data plan with 30gb tenthering.
    When first start tethering the speed is at 2.5Mb/s but then within 10 minutes it slows down to 300KB/s.
    So by the looks of it three doesn’t actually want you use your tethering data.
    from what I can see after the first 500Mb downloaded within a short period of time you get traffic sensed (throttled) to unbearable speeds……..
    My fiance is on EE and although her data cap is lower she actually gets a chance to use it if she wants to, which is a whole lot more than Three is offering.

  • Love the blog Ken, keep it up so informative and detailed.

    I don’t what people a lot of these users are on about. Just streamed loads of TV – all in HD from all the major TV channels including satellite, I only had one buffering moment, but moved the phone and I was fine, I’m a heavy YouTube user and only watch material in HD and it buffers but again just be patient, or move the phone.

    Currently without wired broadband, so using my Personal Hotspot heavily and the response time is a tiny bit slower in the evening, maybe my phone towers don’t have as many users on them – there’s always other phone networks, I have a Vodafone back up PAYG SIM and that fly’s along as well.

    I’ve been with 3 for about five years, and haven’t been tempted to move yet – yes every network has it’s hiccups and I’ve seen some slowdown’s in busier places (airports etc.) and coverage can you let you down but I can’t complain for the price, but for day-to-day and my recent heavier use since the loss of my broadband it’s ideal for my usage patterns.

  • John Thompson said:

    I have used 3 on Dongles for years. I paid £10 to top up with 1Gb data for one month and often I only used around 30Mb for going online on my laptop when away, and didn’t losing the 700Mb at month’s end. Twice recently I chose a new option, 3Gb for £20 as my wife accompanied me with her iPad. The Data went the first time in 48 hours, the second topup it was less then 24hours. What are 3 up to, its now daylight robbery!

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