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Three – 3G Mobile Broadband Provider

  • UK’s largest 3G network
  • Number 1 for speed & reliability
  • PAYG or pay monthly options

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Three operates the UK’s largest 3G network and offers the widest range of mobile broadband packages of any provider. Customers of 3 enjoy up to 7.2Mb broadband with more than 97% network coverage. Subscribers can create and share localised wi-fi with Three’s MiFi dongle making it perfect for iPad users.

About Three

Three first launched in the United Kingdom on the third of March 2003 (03/03/03), and was the first mobile phone operator in the country to have a clear focus on third generation (3G) mobile technology. The company was formed as a result of the sale of 3G licenses in the the UK, entering a market already dominated by several 2G operators (Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile, O2 and several 'virtual' operators like Virgin Mobile operating on the infrastructure of the others).

As 3G coverage was not uniform across the country, Three teamed up with O2 (and later Orange) to offer 2G services in areas where Three's network was 'out of range'. However, the higher cost of doing this has given the company an incentive to focus on 3G services, and it currently has the highest 3G mobile network coverage in the UK. Two years after its launch, the company had the most 3G subscribers of any of the networks.

This wide coverage has allowed Three to compete effectively in the mobile broadband market, as has the fact that the company has a shorter association with exclusively mobile phones than the other networks. It now offers mobile broadband on both 'pay monthly' and 'pay as you go' options. Unlike landline broadband, users do not pay extra for a higher maximum download speed.

Instead, all customers will receive the fastest speed available in their area at the time (Three's headline maximum speed is 7.2Mbps). What customers do pay a different price for is download limits. Pay-as-you-go deals include a fixed amount of download usage – currently 1, 3 or 12GB – which must be used within a month, when it will expire.

Users also need to purchase a Three USB modem (or 'dongle') to access services, currently around £30 to £40, although Three now offers packages with extra download credit if bought at the same time as the modem. The company offers two types of contract packages – either with or without a wireless dongle included.

The longer term contracts (currently eighteen months or more) also include a free wireless modem, whilst also offering greater download limits for the same price, compared to twelve month or pay as you go arrangements. Three offers discounts for phone customers, and some phones can themselves be used as wireless modems when connected to a computer.

As part of Three's long term aim to make mobile broadband the primary method of internet access, they also offer mobile broadband routers, which allow mobile broadband to be used in the home, and 'split' between several computers.

The company is still expanding its HSDPA network across the country, and expects to offer the very highest speeds of 7.2 mbps in several main cities of the UK by 2010, and aims to offer its standard service to 98% of the UK population in the near future. One way it has done this is by way of a new service agreement with T-Mobile, which will see the two networks sharing coverage in those areas served by only one of the companies, giving Three the joint-highest 3G coverage in the UK for the forseeable future.

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