3 Mobile and All You Can Eat Data tariffs

3UK's PAYG add-ons, with AYCE data for £15/month

3 recently announced the availability of “all-you-can-eat” data on their Pay As You Go (PAYG) plans. For £15 a month you get 300 minutes, 3000 texts and unlimited data. That’s great value. In fact, better value than the plan I’m currently on with 3; their £15 pay monthly SIM300 plan which gives me 300 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB data.

Pay monthly has in the past always given you more for your money, but it looks like the tables are turning. When I queried this via 3’s Twitter account, I was told that pay monthly does have an ‘all-you-can-eat’ option – at £25/month (2000 minutes, etc etc)… Now, 300 minutes is more than enough for me, I’m not much of a talker (I work from home, I have a Skype subscription), but I do have an HTC Desire, which eats data for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Data is much more important to me.

I replied on Twitter, asking “So I would have to pay £25 to get AYCE data on monthly, or £15 on PAYG? Strange! (when comparing like for like at £15)” – their response was “You can’t tether on PAYG though.”

So there you have it – if you don’t mind not using your phone as a modem/mobile hotspot, and you don’t talk a great deal on the phone, then it really is a better deal to move to PAYG. Which I can’t help but find a little odd. As someone who has had several contracts with them, and pays monthly by Direct Debit, you kind of hope that they would look after existing customers. It looks like I’ll have headed from a contract, to rolling monthly SIM only (they couldn’t give me a better upgrade deal than one they give to new customers), to PAYG, and I’ll actually be better off for my usage patterns. Which is, again, odd.

So I think that this rather rambling blog post is a bit of a complaint really, in that 3 need to look after existing customers a lot better. They weren’t able to give me a good upgrade, and now their PAYG offering is better than what I pay for month by month. The next question is, will I stay with 3 when I look around for my next phone? They’d better try a lot harder to keep me.

nokia e71 Symbian S60

De-branding my 3UK Nokia E71

I bought my E71 last year from 3 UK (as a PAYG handset) to replace the first-generation 3Skypephone that I had grown to hate with a passion.

The E71 has been such a wonderful improvement over the Skypephone in just about every way possible. But it hasn’t been without its faults. The camera shutter can randomly take upwards of 5 seconds to take a photo, some photos have a horrible purple hue to them, and I have been unable to get online outside of a 3G area.

As regular readers know, I’ve been very forgiving with the E71’s camera, even taking some of its faults to my advantage. But on hearing about new firmware releases for the E71 that fixes the issue, I was, to be honest hoping that 3UK would do the right thing and update their branded firmware soon afterwards. No such luck.

But still, I wanted those fixes and improvements, and despite waiting for many months, 3 haven’t given them to us. Thankfully, I’m not alone, and “Gerrymoth“, all-round Nokia fan and also on the 3 network, wrote a guide to debranding a 3UK Nokia E71 to a generic “EURO1” phone.

In a nutshell, all Nokia phones have a product code stored inside them. When you connect your phone to the Nokia Updater, it compares the code in your phone against a list of available updates. If 3UK haven’t provided Nokia with a customised version of the latest firmware, then Nokia Updater tells you that there are no updates available for your model.

You can use freely available software, as described in his guide, to change the code in your phone from a code that identifies it as being tied to a specific operator (like 3) to a code that identifies your handset as being a generic, unlocked phone, in need of a firmware update.

I am now the owner of a generic, unbranded Nokia E71 with the latest firmware update, and much happier I am too! The camera is improved, I can get online in a 2G area, and it would appear that the already excellent battery life is slightly better too.

Time well spent.

[Update] De-branding does not affect using 3’s Skype client, so you can still use your free allocation of Skype messages and minutes on a generic E71 without any problems. I have also been told that this also doesn’t affect video calling. To download the “Skype for 3” client (only if you’re on 3) go to


3’s Internet Max add-on and the brick wall

I’m 12 months into an 18 month contract with mobile operator 3 here in the UK, and until now, I’ve been very happy with the service that they have provided.

But there’s been a bit of a hiccup. Yesterday evening, I received a text message stating that I had reached my “allowance under the 3 Fair Use Policy” which for the Internet Max addon, is 1GB/month. 

3 reach fair use allowance

Since this arrived on the 20th November (and my billing cycle is the 14th), this means I’ve used 1GB in just 6 days on my phone. I don’t use it that much! So I checked the log on my E71:

E71 data use

So I used 84MB, in the last 30 days, according to my phone. This is a long way from 1GB. It appears then, that 3 have made a mistake. Or my data logger doesn’t work properly.

So today, I called 3 Customer Services via my handset. I spoke to a representative called Sarah, who explained to me that I had reached my allowance, and that I could not use the internet on my handset until 14th December. That’s a long way off! I explained, carefully and calmly, that the data logger on my phone showed that I had use a lot less, and that in fact, I hadn’t used data on the phone much since the last billing cycle. This got me nowhere. She confirmed my details, and checked to see what phone I was using on their system. They seemed to think I was still using my Skypephone, despite me updating my account via My3 to reflect that I now use a Nokia E71 back in September. She then put me on hold to confirm that the E71 did in fact have the capability to log data usage.

I explained roughly how much I had used, according to the phone, and the fact that these figures were for the last 30 days. She asked my how many “MB” were in a “GB” and I explained – 1024MB = 1GB. Less than 90MB was a long way from 1GB.

This also, got me nowhere. I requested that she check my exact data usage, and was told that they have no way of checking exact usage when using the Internet Max add-on. It was all automated, and if I got a text saying that I had reached my allowance, then it must be so. 

She offered to remove the Internet Max addon, and I could continue to access the internet on my phone by paying £2/MB. I carefully explained that this was not acceptable as it was very expensive, hence me paying for the add-on. Quite resilient to any form of complaint, I was essentially told I would have to wait until my bill arrived, mid-December, to find out the exact use, and there was nothing more that they can do.

I asked if there was anyone else I could talk to as I did not find it acceptable to be cut off from the Internet, when as far as I am concerned, 3 have made a mistake. I, the customer, should not be penalised for a mistake made by the company providing a service that I pay for. Of course, it was like talking to a brick wall, and all very frustrating.

Let’s hope I can find another way to get in touch with someone at 3 and resolve it – the 14th of December is a long way away!



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3Skypephone, originally uploaded by *Tom*.

Tehm and I recently bought a pair of Skype mobile phones from mobile operator ‘3‘. The “3Skypephone” as it is called is a wonderful little device. Skype works well for voice and text chat (with a few minor synchronisation niggles), and overall the phone is small, light, and packed with enough features to keep me playing with it for hours.

We opted to get the phones for free on a £12/month contract, which comes with 100 minutes of cross-network voice minutes or texts, and 300 minutes of 3to3 calls. Add Skype to that, and it was too attractive a deal to ignore.

Assuming the Skype ‘fair use’ is 4000 minutes per month, with 10,000 Skype Chat messages, that’s a potential total of 4,400 minutes of chat. My jaw would fall off before I could use all of them up, I’m sure.

If that wasn’t enough connectivity, you can add their “Internet Max” (1GB) data add-on for £5/month. I did this as I know for the first month I’ll be playing endlessly with the phone, and installing every Java application I can find on it.

I’ve whittled the applications on my phone down to:

Google Mail
Google Maps
Opera Mini 4 (an alternative web browser for your phone for those who don’t know)

These are the essentials in my opinion, especially Opera Mini 4, as the built-in web browser isn’t very good. Opera Mini 4 set to small fonts on a 3G connection is great!

I’ll blog more about the phone over the coming weeks with some tips and discussions about some of the bugs (no phone is perfect, after all).

If you’re bursting to ask a question about the phone you can leave a comment here, or head over to the busy 3Skypephone forums.