Mobile broadband review: 3

We continue our series of mobile broadband reviews this week with a look at 3’s mobile broadband services and provide an updated review as at March 09.

3 Mobile Broadband review

There are now a number of mobile broadband providers in Britain, moving more to compete with  those offering standard broadband services.

Already prices have come down dramatically. We recently reported that Vodafone is offering mobile broadband services for as little as £15 per month.

Well, the good news that 3 has even gone one better and are offering a £10 per month mobile broadband product. So, let’s have a closer look at 3’s costs and services.

As you would expect, when you sign up for 3 mobile broadband you receive a USB modem, a dongle, that you plug into your USB port and you can be up and running within minutes.

If you are a Mac user don’t worry, 3 provides the necessary drivers and instructions to get going.

In many ways, 3’s mobile broadband is almost identical to Vodafone’s service, or indeed the other mobile broadband providers.

3 Mobile Broadband plans

Mobile Broadband from 3 is available on a Pay Monthly or Pay As You Go basis so you can choose the best solution for you.

Your monthly costs are determined by your download limits, and the length of the contract you sign.

3 offers a Broadband Lite service at £10 per month. This is excellent value, but the 1GB monthly limit may be too little for many users. If, however, you only want mobile broadband for occasional trips, or primarily emails, it may be enough.

3 have a range of £15 per month deals, including

  • 15GB data download limit per month, 24 month contract
  • 5GB data download limit per month, 18 month contract
  • 3GB data download limit per month, 12 month contract

3 scores well when it comes to flexibility. Its Pay As You Go mobile broadband options mean you can enjoy mobile broadband with no contracts and little fuss.

You simply buy a top-up when you need it for broadband access on the move.

However, the 3 Pay As You Go option is more expensive at the outset as you have to pay around £30 for your 3 USB Stick modem, but after that you have complete freedom as to how you use it.

Pay As You Go prices per month and download limits start at £10 for the 1GB Broadband Lite, rising up to £25 for the 7GB.

3 also offer a Mobile Broadband Starter Kit. This basically give you everything you need to get started with mobile broadband. There’s the USB modem, or dongle, and a SIM card that is preloaded with the amount of data you require.

You decide how much data you want to buy and how long it is valid for. For example a 3GB broadband starter kit, costs around £60 and the data is valid for 3 months.

If you want 12GB then this will cost just under £100 and that data is valid for 12 months.

For just under £250 you can buy 24GB of data which is valid for 24 months.

Once you’ve used the initial data purchased then you can convert to a 3 Pay as Go plan and but a data top-up.

3 Mobile Broadband Coverage

3’s ‘Turbo Network’ already covers over 90% of the British population and this is set to improve further in 2009. As you would imagine, coverage is best in and around cities and large towns. This high speed signal can either be accessed through a modem or certain handsets.

In a 3G area, the internet speeds are fast, although you cannot easily find out the actual connection bandwidth and download speeds.

Speeds can reach 3.6 mbps, which isn’t as fast as the potential speeds of 7.2mbps offered by Vodafone. With any mobile broadband plan, a lot will depend on where you intend to use it so try to test out speeds before committing to any long-term contract.

A good place to start is to check the estimated broadband speed in your area.

There is also a useful broadband usage calculator that helps you select the correct subscription plan for your needs.

There is little to choose from between Vodafone and 3’s mobile broadband services, but Vodafone does seem to have the edge in some regards, data speeds of up to 7.2Mbps for example.

That said, 3’s £10 per month could provide better value if you are an occasional userand are looking for a pay monthly contract

3 do have some excellent information on the website so if you want to learn more about 3’s mobile broadband service it’s probably a good place to check out.


  1. steve says

    Be very careful here, 3 (three) mobile have charged me an exorbitant amount for going over the monthly 3GB limit.They mislead me instore by saying this was not possible, and the customer “help” is dreadful, both on the Indian no-help line and instore (Eastbourne branch anyway). I was notified (by being sent 50 messages all at once!!) 2 days after allegedly going over my limit, and later told they couldnt contact me sooner as I hadn’t been online!!! Overall they charged me £39 for one month for allegedly using 3.3GB, just 10% over the 3GB, normally £15 a month, the 7GB bundle being £25. Normally I could only use less than 1GB, the download speed being so slow. Avoid if at all possible.Three 3 mobile internet is a disgraceful rip-off.

  2. A McGuire says

    Please, please, please – DO NOT SIGN UP for Three mobile broadband. I’m covered by their so-called ‘Turbo’ network, but 50% of the time I can’t connect at all. Literally days go by without a connection. Then, when it DOES let me connect, the ‘line’ will often drop after 2 or 3 minutes (so no downloading large files… or any files, really). Frequently, the connection will be established, but the only website I’ll be able to open is…. Their customer service, both in-store and on the phone is beyond a joke, and their bundled Mac software is risibly poor. The only support I’ve wheedled out of them is five minutes with a Bombay call centre, attempting to complain to someone who, in all fairness, could not speak English. These people take your money for a service THEY DO NOT PROVIDE. It might be cheap – but it’s still appalling value for money, given that you’ll be paying for something you do not receive. AVOID, AVOID, AVOID.

  3. clem says

    I can only concur with A McGuire. This product should be avoided at all costs. it might be cheap, but considering that it won’t sign you into the network before you tried at least five times, that it will drop out regularly and that the speeds at any weekday’s afternoon/evening are unacceptable, this is actually quite expensive even at 5 quid a month. You simply will not have an internet connection, not even sufficient for browsing, leave alone watching videos, etc. The only good thing about it is that you will never ever go beyond 1Gig a month as there is no chance you will download that amount even within two months.
    I should add that I live in a turbo zone, so I really don’t know what this ‘service’ will look like if you live in a ‘slow’ zone.

    So, yes, do avoid this ‘product’ for you might as well burn the money.

  4. Ben says

    I agree that it is a rip-off — even worse Carphone Warehouse missold me the package by saying that my £150 deposit would be refundable after 6 months: when I phoned 3 to request a refund I was told a year, and they weren’t even prepared to discuss the issue with me. Carphone Warehouse themselves were unrepentent — I believe stiffer regulation is also necessary for these phone/contract dealing companies, they get away with murder.

    As for the package itself I agree about the slow service (Central Chelmsford is apparently a ‘turbo’ area, but the only thing answering that description is my boy racer next-door neighbour’s car outside. Also, as users above mention, the damned thing often drops off the net altogether, which often leads to frustrating minutes wasted with 3’s c****y software (and even fruitlessly un/plugging the modem) in order to get the b****y thing to work again. It’s a miracle I’ve even been able to write this comment, and I still have to pay for this ‘service’ for another 12 months…

  5. Martin118(Swansea) says

    This network and it’s Technical Support/Customer Services are by far the worst company I’ve had the misfortune to have dealt with. Operators have given me false names, I’ve been ignored, sworn at, hung up on, lied to, I’ve spent over £25 on an 08707 number (Escalated Tech Support) were they refused to call me back, used over 8hrs of my mobile talktime calling Tech Support and all this whilst paying for a service that has never and will never work to the advertised speeds, lowest speed was 17kbps, yes that’s 17kbps, the highest was 883kbps (tested at 5am) which is still well below what they advertise, trying to connect between the hours of 4.30pm and 2am is virtually impossible, After several months of getting nowhere via the chief executives office I resorted to e-mailing the Director of Customer Services and had my contract cancelled. I’m lucky, if seen hundreds of reviews were 3 are refusing to cancel contracts, the general public need to be warned about this rip off company. “AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE…YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED”

  6. Kashiq says

    Well Well mostly people are unhappy with 3 but i am not as i live in Central London and i get full signals and it works properly i get like 2.5MB speed witch is enough as i do have Home broadband as well. I took three because of free laptop for only 17.50 a month.

  7. Steve says

    I cannot begin to describe how awful 3 mobile broadband is. It’s quite simply shocking, particularly at peak hours (i.e. when you want to use it). Too many people trying to use it at the same time makes it grind to a halt. Don’t believe me? Put “3 mobile broadband rubbish” into Google and see how many hits you get. Kashiq, you clearly work for 3. I have used 3 all over the South East and in Central London and you are talking nonsense. Avoid this product and this company like bad warts!

  8. Wayne Quinton says

    3 mobile broadband is very bad as some of you have already said, I’ve had this contract for a year now and it has not gotten any better at all, very slow downloads which also stop halfway through, lots of drop-outs and unable to connect to their network. Phoned 3’s customer services and all I get is information they’re poorly reading from a text book, they may as well use a recorded message as the calls are always the same and nothing is ever dealt with. The final curtain call was when the customer service manager advised me that there was a problem with their transmitter in my area and that they are waiting to fix it but first they are battling with a kebab shop to gain access to the premises where the transmitter is located on the their roof! I’ll never forget this for as long as I live. A low life company stay clear. W. Quinton 15/11/09

  9. Ben says

    The biggest problem with 3 and there are many to choose from is that they are so busy chasing new customers and promoting themselves as the best thing since sliced bread that far too many existing customers suffer as a result. 3 are arrogant beyond belief, always looking to shift the blame for shoddy service away from themselves and are very difficult to deal with. As has been mentioned before stick with the leading networks. Hopefully word is spreading about 3 and their days in the UK market are numbered. Their departure, forced or otherwise, can’t come quickly enough.

  10. Isobel says

    3 Mobile might be the cheapest (or they might not), but their customer service is truly appalling. They recently had an outage in my area for 18 days in one month. No explanation or information was given. After several phone calls at my expense to their ‘customer service’ team, who were completely clueless about the problem, I was told that ‘your query has been escalated and an engineer will definitely call you within two days’. Twice. No such call ever arrived. Their ‘customer service’ appears to consist of giving their staff the minimum information and the chance to offer no or minimum compensation in order to get people to go away. All I heard were the phrases ‘I can only apologise’ (which is clearly true since that IS all they can do, and which is also a stock phrase designed to get rid of you), and ‘that is at your discretion’ from a supposed ‘manager’ who was also desperate to get rid of me. Very very poor. Companies would have been embarrassed to be giving such a poor level of service and information a few years ago, now it happens all the time, as a matter of policy. Sadly, due to their protective terms of service and refusal to admit fault, sites like this are the only forum we poor customers have to be heard. Do yourself a favour – Avoid!

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