In the first of what might become a series of features, or perhaps a one-off catastrophe, I’m a-gonna pick five things about something – or someone – and deliver a verdict of Love or Hate. For example, Mobot’s Jan is very knowledgeable, and helpful, and doesn’t have a fridge, though he’s occasionally unpredictable and prone to being feisty. That’s 3-2 in favour of Love. Glad we cleared that up.
Today we’re looking at UK network Three Mobile. Will the mixed bag of treats have us singing the network’s praises, or reaching for the PAC codes?
Having launched in 2003, Three Mobile is the youngest of the Big Four UK mobile networks (not counting EE, since it’s essentially a marriage of T-Mobile and Orange), though in some aspects, it’s arguably the most mature, setting the tone for its big brothers.
Which brings me nicely to my first point…
1. Free 4G – Love!
Largely thanks to Ofcom, EE had a 10-month head start with 4G, which meant it was free to charge whatever the hell it wanted, completely unchallenged by O2, Vodafone and Three.
As such, it came as a pleasant surprise in February 2013 when Three announced it wouldn’t charge its customers extra for 4G, with the service coming “as standard”.
If you happened to have a 4G-compatible phone when the big lever swung to On in late 2013, you were – and still are – free to go 4G crazy. Don’t mind if we do.
Three was actually the last UK network to roll out 4G, pointing out that its customers were already enjoying super-fast DC-HSDPA. Great stuff.
2. The new tethering restrictions – Hate!
Time was, a man could grab unlimited data – including tethering – on Three’s One Plan, coming in at just £15PM on a 12-month SIM only contract. Unlimited data? Unlimited tethering? Rightly enough, it seemed too good to be true.
Earlier this year, Three’s David Dyson announced that new customers would be limited to a maximum 2GB personal hotspot allowance, pointing the finger at a small number of data guzzlers who were basically ruining it for everyone else.
An official statement explained: “A small percentage of customers were taking advantage of the tethering benefits, using up to 2 terabytes of data a month, making it unfair for the other 99 per cent.”
So, rather than enforce a fair use policy on that 1%, Three decided to punish everyone, a bit like dropping a nuclear bomb on New York to catch a small band of criminals.
It’s worth noting, too, that customers on the old One Plan still have access to unlimited tethering, and will continue to do so until they change their plan and/or upgrade their phone.
To be fair, Three has upped the all-you-can-eat personal hotspot allowance to 4GB, and we are talking about a mobile network; people shouldn’t be horsing Three as an alternative to home broadband.
But still, it’s a chorus of boos from us.
3. Feel At Home – Love!
This is another one that seems too good to be true, but having visited the United States of Americans earlier this year, I can confirm that Feel At Home is for real, yo.
Essentially, you can use your domestic Three allowance – calls, texts and data – abroad (in select countries) at no extra cost. Cue: semi-drunken phone calls to the UK from bars, hourly text updates, and pictures constantly being uploaded to Facebook and twitter. Yeah, it’s every bit as annoying as it sounds… for the people back home.
Same again next year.
4. India-based call centres – Hate!
When I recently mentioned an imminent rant about Three’s Indian call centres to a friend, they warned: “Be careful! That’s racist.” Taboo? Maybe. Racist? Absolutely not.
You only have to ask yourself: Why does Three outsource a good deal of its customer service to India? Is it because they provide a better level of customer service than UK agents, or because they are – quite simply – cheap labour? Answers on a postcard from Mumbai.
I speak from experience here, having trained agents in India (for a rival mobile network) to answer emails. They were given what can only be described as a crash course, and ultimately left to it. I don’t blame the agents at all; they’re not bad people. It’s the colossal companies that are at fault.
Emails are bad enough (I recently had a hell of a time trying to convey a technical issue to Sky), but calls are worse. Someone in London might have a hard time trying to understand my Glasgow accent, but someone in Mumbia? Over the phone? In what’s potentially a highly technical discussion? No. Just… no.
Indeed, giving credence to my rant, Three is in the process of transferring at least some of its customer service back to the UK. Wow, it’s almost as if outsourcing is a terrible idea that says: “We care more about money than our customers.”
5. More free stuff – Love!
Ending on a more positive note, Three is all about the free stuff these days, including 0800 numbers (with a maximum 5p charge for 084/087 numbers), and free unlocking for Three handsets. No arguments here.
The verdict – Love!
With free 4G, free calls/text/data abroad, free 0800 calls, and free unlocking, we can easily forgive the tethering cap and Indian call centres. Three, accept some love.