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back to article Three offers free US roaming, confirms stealth 4G rollout

Is Hutchison’s Three network playing the canniest game of all with its handling of 4G? The UK operator this week expects to move 1 million customers up to LTE by the end of March next year at no extra cost. The strategy is based on only offering upgrades, thereby avoiding “selling in” new punters to 4G-only tariffs. This means …

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Anonymous Coward

!Neelie

...and do you really think this would be happening without a Neelie-shadow in the background??? 'cos I don't.

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Re: !Neelie

...also note the lack of similar facilities for EU countries that are far closer. I regularly travel through France for example. No such luck there. The last time I went to the US was 10 years ago.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: !Neelie

From a financial perspective it is easy to offer free data roaming between US and Eu.

US and Eu use different sets of 3G frequencies. Most phones ship in different EU and US versions because of this. Example: http://www.gsmarena.com/lg_nexus_4_e960-5048.php - note the two different lines for 3G :) So for all practical purposes this means Edge roaming (at best). As far as the voice it is also quite easy to get a decent interconnect rate to US mobile networks.

In fact, Vodafone used to have a similar US offer a while back. It also had a pan-European 6£ a day max data roaming fee as standard on its early mobile broadband contracts.

It _REMOVED_ both of them after Steelie Neelie forced the issue on Eu interconnect tariffs. So did the other usual suspects - the openly retalliated against what she is doing to the extent they could.

So on the balance of things I am not sure that the shadow of Steelie Neelie is particularly productive. A lot of what she is doing would have been achieved as a natural result of competition between carriers.

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Re: !Neelie

"A lot of what she is doing would have been achieved as a natural result of competition between carriers"

You mean the competition we've had in the mobile networks for decades? The competition which has so far given us such good service and low prices, and means that the operators aren't making gigantic profits rather than investing in their networks and technologies and keeping prices low and services innovative?

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Pint

York

According to EE's website, York already has 4G.

But, rather oddly a couple of weeks ago Weaverthorpe and Wold Newton were the first (and only) places in North Yorkshire to get a 4G signal from EE - two very small villages that are not exactly residential hotspots. Unless EE has a director that lives here...

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Re: York

Weaverthorpe and Wold Newton are served by the tower a friend of mine has a load of repeater gear on at Octon. Hope they've improved the interconnect to the site because on Orange on 3G it took 10 minutes to load google.com

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M_W

Re: York

Yep - York does have 4G although it's quite patchy. You will get it on Coney Street but it disappears halfway down Tadcaster Road. It doesn't cover south-west York, only north and east.

With relation to Weaverthorpe - It's probably because the TX there is very new - I remember TMobile putting the TX up - it's on the top ridge road from Weaverthorpe over the wold down towards Sherburn.

All the locals are on EE - we all knew that Orange/EE is the only carrier that gets service - they almost have a bit of a monopoly there!

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FAIL

Re: York

For the record, I didn't get a 4G signal anywhere in York yesterday.

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Steelie Neelie still not optional

"So remind us, what was the point of Neelie Kroes again?"

Three have always been the most competitive in coming up with things customers actually want. You could probably say they saw the writing on the wall as it looks like Steelie wants pan EU roaming at local costs but 3 should be applauded A) for getting in well ahead of the competition B) extending it out of the EU

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Re: Steelie Neelie still not optional

Don't you think that the EU should be dealt with first? I would imagine that people are far more likely to travel to the continent - be it Spain, France, Italy or elsewhere - than the US.

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Re: Steelie Neelie still not optional

Maybe so, but 3 are way ahead of the game with what they are offering. I have been with them 12 years and post the walled garden fiasco (2003?) they have been unbeatable, with a far better offer. Their data always works well too.

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Re: Steelie Neelie still not optional

They have only been going since 2002, but I agree. Athough my mate has just signed up for Virgin's new £15 unlimited everything SIM ony deal.

I travel round Europe for a living and prices now, while still high are so much better than they used to be. The EU forced the networks to bring their prices down much further than they would have done on their own. They may have slowly competed against each other by dropping a few pence at a time but not as fast as they were forced to. Did it cause any of them to go tits up? Data cost is the next thing they should be forced to drastically reduce.

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"So remind us, what was the point of Neelie Kroes again?"

If that isn't rhetoric, I don't think Neelie ever said anything about roaming outside the EU -- it's significant that 3 are actually doing this, but the EU's objective here is to get the mobile companies to treat it like the single market it (legally, if not yet actually) is.

We can never know if this is true or not, but I suspect 3 UK customers would still be paying extra for "roaming" onto 3 Österreich's network if she hadn't been making noises about this.

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Anonymous Coward

EE? Are they serious?

The plan mentioned in the article is really poor when compared to others.

http://store.three.co.uk/SIM_Only/Voice_Pay_Monthly

So with 3 you get a free upgrade to 4G when you are in a 4G area and your handset is 4G enabled.

For 15GBP a month on a yearly contract you ge unlimited data. Less than the EE plan and far more data.

Ok, I know that 3's 4G is not very comprehensive yet but I can't help but think that they are going about the move from 3G to 4G in the right way.

I use 3 on a 10GBP a month deal but I don't use any data so the matter of data speeds and allowances is rather moot.

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WTF?

Re: EE? Are they serious?

As an adjunct to my previous post we can be thankful that we are NOT paying US Data prices

Data is priced between $20 and $500, for between 300MB and 50GB of usage.

THis is for the latest AT&T plans PER MONTH

Verizon claims average billing per user to be $129 PER MONTH

There can only be one icon for this

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Re: EE? Are they serious?

I've never understood the premium for 4G anyway. It must be in the networks interest to get me on a more efficient protocol, and I don't care, as long as it works. If I had 4G I might use more data and then pay for a bigger data bundle, but I'm not paying just for a delivery technology that benefits the network and doesn't really offer me anything.

I assume they're just milking those that care, with the hope that they can just bump the price of all contracts up by £10 a month, and then it'll be back to being able to use whatever you can receive.

Still, can't see me still being on Orange come the end of my contract - they screwed my account over beyond belief this year by forcing me over to EE and claiming I'd asked for it (so a call centre monkey just did it to get his bonus perhaps..), whilst halving my data. Despite me calling the day I received a SIM I didn't want and saying "DO NOT MIGRATE THIS ACCOUNT", it happened anyway (whilst I was abroad.. which meant I couldn't be put back until back in the UK).

In the migration back, I lost conference calling and my Answer Fax number (neither of which could be put back, apparently) and spent literally hours on the phone trying to get everything back the way it was. This all despite being promised it would be put back, then told it isn't "technically possible" any more.

Yes, I have a nice discount until I choose to leave, but they can fuck right off come renewal time.

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Re: EE? Are they serious?

I haven't done the math, but maybe I should get a UK phone and permanently "rove" over here in Syracuse, New York, where I live.

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3 are great...

..except they have shit coverage. Seriously. Getting a signal anywhere but outside in a built up area is ridiculous. I was in a doctors waiting room the other day. No signal. Also I have had to put a 3G router in my parents house using their broadband connection because again, no signal indoors. Pretty much most indoor public places, unless they have internal boosters I get no signal while everyone on any other network has no such issues.

But you pays your money...and let's face it 3 are cheaper and offer better data.

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Re: 3 are great...

The funny thing is, my rellies live in a rural village and 3 is the only reliable network there. If you sit on the roof and hold the phone juuuust right, Vodafone will offer you two bars of signal for about 0.7 seconds. O2 and EE give you nothing, not even the vaguest sniff of hope of signal. On 3 sat comfortably inside (same handset) I get very good signal and loverly HSDPA data connection.

In fact I couldn't get Vodafone signal worth a damn in my home and at work, both in London. 3 is perfect in both locations.

Please note: These anecdotes are not valid north of Luton or west of Reading.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 3 are great...

I was worried about the coverage on three when I moved to them over a year ago. However I've had as good or better than most networks.

Vodafone doesn't have a presence at all, O2 is pretty good, EE is quite extensive but as data is slow and patchy. Three, have been fine.

It really does depend upon where you are.

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Happy

Re: 3 are great...

Hmm. I know the phrase says "Your mileage may vary", but you must live in the middle of Salisbury Plains, or something. I've had no trouble with Three whatsoever since I moved over from Vodafone.

Now, with Voda, I had bugger all signal indoors, anywhere I worked, and even in Newbury, their HQ town, of all places. And their 3G service was, and I'm putting this charitably, very patchy at best.

With Three, I've not had a single problem - and Newbury has been five bars of 3G signal wherever I've gone in the last few visits there; in London (anywhere inside the M25 belt), I've never seen a lack of signal at all - even in the middle of a shopping centre ground level (can you say Croydon Centrale?). In short, I'm very impressed with Three.

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Re: 3 are great...

Coverage is always subject to personal circumstances and for me it's great - and I'm semi rural Just the luck of the draw.

I have a phone on 3 and until last month was paying 3 £15 per month for 10Gb of mobile broadband for my iPadl, where I typically used 2-3 Gb.

Last month EE were offering 8gb of 4G data for £16 on the same 30 day contract and being a regular traveller I decided to switch for 4G in more locations.

After three weeks, I'm impressed. When I roam into 4G coverage I'm seeing up to 48 Meg and that's not in a double speed area. Compared to around 12Meg on 3's DC-HSPA network it's much brisker - but if EE hadn't been discounting heavily I certainly wouldn't have swapped. Likewise at the end of the discount period (12 months) I shan't stay if the price rises.

The problem for 4G in conventional use cases is that well managed 3G is plenty good enough, so 3 seem to have the better strategy.

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Re: 3 are great...

I'm not sure where you get the poor coverage, but my experience of has been pretty good. The only buildings I can think of as being bad are my in-laws,who have some metalised insulation in their loft that kills all signals, and a few factory buildings, which are also of metal construction.

Coverage in airports and road networks seems to excellent; but I can't comment on rail and "wilderness" areas other than bits of Devon where no-one gets a signal.

I work for a Danish company, and often visit Scandinavia, so the no-roaming charges for Denmark etc. is a nice bonus.

I used to be with Vodafone and couldn't get signal in the centre of my nearest city, Lichfield (which isn't exactly a built up area, but it's not the Gobi Desert either). All networks have some poor coverage areas, but my experience of Three is that my phone works pretty much everywhere I want/need it to.

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Re: 3 are great...

Every network has shit coverage somewhere. The trick is finding one that has good coverage in the places you usually need it.

I'm on 3 because their prices are great, and their data speeds (with DC-HSDPA) and coverage are great in the places I normally go. There's no indoor coverage at my parents' house - but then EE doesn't manage that either.

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Re: 3 are great...

Yep, I thought that and moved to GiffGaff. (o2) Got much better indoors signal but slower 3g data. I got more dropped calls and outages all over the shop. I've also got the wife on EE (on the basis that one of us will have a signal). And when I don't have a signal on three, I pretty much don't have a signal on EE. So that plan worked out real good! (not)

Seems all networks are a bit shit in one way or another. You pay your money.....

If I understand the science correctly (and I'm sure readers will correct me) the reason three have poor indoor penetration is because they operate on a higher frequency which isn't so good at getting past bricks, but the flip side is its also the reason their (3g) data is so much faster when you do get a signal compared to the others.

I've moved back to three, 18 quid a month for a one month rolling contract for all you can eat data (including tethering) (plus oodles of calls and texts) can't be beaten (even close) by anybody else. And I've done 10gb+ (1/2 tethered) in a single month (was on a long uk holiday and watched some iplayer) and they truly don't seem to give a shit (even pointed it out to me when I left the first time)

I'm sure one day it will all be lovely, until then find a network that works for you and live with the issues.....

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Re: 3 are great...

"Getting a signal anywhere but outside in a built up area is ridiculous."

As someone who has travelled all over the UK as a truck driver, lives in a county one and a half times as large as the inner M25 with 1/20th the population of London and been on Three for several years I can categorically say your claim is rubbish.

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Re: 3 are great...

I'm not so sure. At least in the north west of England, Three has pretty decent coverage almost everywhere - and that includes 3G broadband. I've downloaded entire video episodes using my 3G dongle in around 20 minutes in places. I've even used 3G on Three in the Lake District in the forest. OK - coverage was missing in some spots in Lake District - but it isn't the most populated place there is.

However, down south it seems to be a different story. Every time I visit London, the 3G barely crawls during day time where I stay. However, past 12 midnight, it gets fast enough to watch BBC iPlayer. But all this time I get full signal on my mobile. It looks like their network is quite oversubscribe in London - and probably other places as well.

So their coverage and capacity does vary from place to place - but they are still tremendous value for money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 3 are great...

You think EE are any better? They've basically admitted that I can't get a 3G signal at my house on the edge of a pretty large town. Most of the time I don't actually get a phone signal either - despite the official level of coverage being "good".

All Mobile Cos are as bad as each other - they lie and use weasel words to get you to part with your money and lock you into contracts.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 3 are great...

Are you sure?

The root metrics real world surveys of indoor and outdoor coverage in towns and cities across the UK (ivia tens of thousands of calls made, texts sent, large data transfers)consistently shows three to be the top or 2nd placed operator for call reliability, text reliability and data speed....

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Thumb Up

Re: 3 are great...

Really? I have a 3 mifi and so far it works just about everywhere I need. I only get a 2g signal on my O2 phone where I live in Gloucestershire, [and no signal on Voda], yet get a full signal with my 3 MiFi. Yup, they get my vote. When 3 bring 4G to Gloucestershire I for one will be a keen recipient

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Re: 3 are great...

I can vouch for your anecdote being valid west of Reading

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 3 are great...

Weird - Hatfield is well covered by EE as you would expect, with about a dozen sites in a tiny town. I never lose EE signal in Hatfield and as most of those sites are shared by 3, I'm surprised it's much different.

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Re: 3 are great...

> except they have shit coverage.

Possibly true once, but not now. You're going to get dead spots on all the networks.

I get Three coverage on a ferry in the middle of the Solent all the way from Southampton to Cowes on the Isle Of Wight. I suspect it's talking to Portsmouth, but I also get Three on the top of Culver Down, IOW, and Brading Down.

Once place it doesn't work is in the Days Inn at Cobham services on the M25. I think it's down to the building, but they have free wifi so it's not a huge problem. It does work in the basement meeting rooms at the office in Leatherhead though.

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Re: 3 are great...

As someone who lives in the North Downs, I will claim yours is rubbish.

3s own maps show that any county with hills in it has spotty coverage in the hollows at best - and roads tend ot run in hlllows, not , not hilltops.

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Re: 3 are great...

"Despite there being antennas very visible all over the crappy town, you cant get a signal."

Antennas don't mean there is equipment attached on the end.

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Re: 3 are great...

"The problem for 4G in conventional use cases is that well managed 3G is plenty good enough"

Exactly. I can watch iPlayer on 3's 3g with no issues and everything else works great - why do I even want 4g?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 3 are great...

My thoughts exactly, I took the whippet and her in doors down to London last weekend, voice calls on three seemed fine but data was atrocious just about everywhere we went.

Right, back t'mill lad.

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Three are also doing the bulk of their 4G on the 1800MHz spectrum that EE were forced to divest when T-Mobile and Orange merged. This is a totally reasonable thing for them to be doing, but they got access to this spectrum three months later than Vodafone and O2 got access to the spectrum that they are using - the stuff that they bought in the auction in early 2013. This meant that Three were pretty much obliged launch their network three months later than the other two operators.

That said, Three were promising 4G December for all their London customers with a compatible handset, and they are now saying that only a small number are getting it in December and most people will have to wait until January or February. Looks like their network may have one or two teething problems. Again, there is nothing too surprising about this, but some of their customers are getting a little impatient now. The timing of the announcement about free roaming to the US was a nice piece of PR, as this seems to be a very popular announcement.

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Happy

There are always teething problems when working on new features, whatever technology is involved; I'm not too worried, to be honest. I came over to Three for reasons of connectivity, yes, but the unmetered all-I-can-eat data was the icing on the cake; as long as I retain 3G, I'm happy - if I get 4G (I have a Note 3 to play with!), so much the better!

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Vodafone 4G

I just upgraded to vodafone 4G and it is fantastic in London. I get 55Mbps in my local pub! I get 35 Mbps at my desk at work, whereas on 3G I barely managed 0.5 Mbps most of the time. Let's just hope this lasts once more people are upgraded...

I'll be interested to see how Three's 4G network copes under load. I read they have a fairly narrow slice of spectrum so speeds could be low once a lot of people sign up! However, if it performs well might be a destination for me when my contract next expires.

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Re: Vodafone 4G

Three have a 2x10MHz chunk at 1800MHz, which becomes 2x15MHz in 2015 when EE are forced to divest a bit more spectrum. They also have 2x5MHz at 800MHz. O2 have only 2x10MHz at 800MHz. So although Three's spectrum holdings are not that huge, O2's are only half the size of Three's post 2015.

Vodafone have 2x10MHz at 800MHz and 2x20MHz at 2600MHz i.e. lots of spectrum

T-Mobile have 2x5MHz at 800MHz, 2x35MHz at 2600MHz and 2x50MHz (to be reduced to 2x45MHz in 2015) at 1800MHz i.e. lots and lots and lots of spectrum. (They do have to run a 2G network in that 1800MHz as well, but the can probably do that on 2x10MHz, so there is plenty of space left over that they are using and can use for 4G).

Plus there is 2x15MHz at 2600MHz that belongs to BT. It's quite possible O2 or Three will buy or licence that if they run into serious constraints.

Plus most of the operators have unpaired spectrum that could be used for TD-LTE in a pinch. (Some of this is from the 3G auction and some from the 4G auction). More of this might be auctioned, too. We will see how it plays out. My hunch is that O2 and Three will be able to find spectrum from somewhere when they need it.

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New towns with coverage is marketing blather. What does "covered" mean? According to the EE coverage maps on their web site Darlington, for example, has one transmitter site live. So that's Darlington covered, then, eh?

I'm suprised it's taken so long to get the site live as it's at the EE call centre on the outskirts of the town.

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There is a reason why it's free...

It's because they are the worst network provider and they got awards for it!

"3 has been rated the worst mobile network operator for customer service in Which?’s survey of the UK’s top 75 service providers." source: http://blogs.which.co.uk/technology/phone-networks/3-rated-worst-network-operator-for-customer-service/

I moved to Three last month (from O2) because of their cheap sim-only plans. Their coverage is crap, even inside big cities. I gave up on them after a week... bad or no signal and poor internet speed. And I live in central london!! After 5-6 hours talking to their network team, I broke the contract.

You get what you pay for...

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Re: There is a reason why it's free...

Congratulations on finding a three year old article to try to back up your argument.

I live in London, use my Three SIM only contract indoors, in cities, and around the country for voice and data - and get exactly what I pay for - usually at between 5 and 10 Mbps, and often double that.

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Re: There is a reason why it's free...

Funny 3 years ago three was the only network I could ever get a signal in canary wharf, Vodafone's 3g was unusable, I had to lock my phone to 2g JUST to get a signal....

Sure Three had shit customer service 3 years ago, that was because the customer service reps could barely speak English, 3 years down the line, their team has learned English finally and are relatively reliable now...

Sure they can't match the efficiency of a UK based call centre, or ever have the soothing effect of a welsh accent on the phone (you have to admit it is the most disarming accent in the UK), but they do the job fairly well now, and there is less of a need to ask for a supervisor because you can't understand them..

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HMB

Re: There is a reason why it's free...

You know what, you're kind of right. Do I choose between great customer service over the phone, or a great network without data limits?

Hmm.... What will I be doing the most of?.... Support calls or using the service?

I'm going to pick the better network! Wait... I already did!

In my experience 3 run a cracking network unless you're in rural Scotland, then it gets ropey.

I think they're the most competitive network so long as you don't need hand holding too much. I keep my dealings with their support to the minimum.

They also seem to be the only network not seeing 4G as a cash cow, but as a way to really strengthen their product. They seem to realise that a stronger product will lead them into a stronger position. I like their style. It's seems to be engineering lead rather than marketing lead.

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Re: There is a reason why it's free...

"It's seems to be engineering lead rather than marketing lead."

Well they sort of had to be like that. They never had any 2G spectrum of their own, so they were forced to do 3G as well as they could otherwise they'd have had no business at all.

All the other operators had big chunks of 2G, and that allowed them to be lazy in their 3G rollouts. That worked well, right up until the smartphone revolution meant that punters wanted a lot of data instead of phone calls. Three were the only operator in a position to respond to that revolution in a sensible way.

I've noticed that Three's rural coverage is gradually getting better, and they're filling in the gaps in towns too. I think their service is pretty good at 3G, and I think I'll stick with 3G for the sake of my battery life.

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Anonymous Coward

Well, when I phoned EE//Orange....

To ask if I could have 4G on my account, because I'd just bought a Nexus 5, they might as well have told me to sod off. I'll be keeping an eye on Three's coverage.

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Pint

Great news, but steady on :-)

While this is great and surprising, even shocking news given pricing patterns over the last two decades, and it doesn't hurt to be optimistic, and hopefully this endures as evidence of the mobilcomms market functioning like it should to bring low consumer prices and a good offering through competition, it's been an enormously long time coming, and is hardly a resounding confirmation of efficient market hypothesis as such!

The fact the likes of...all the other operators have, cartel-like, singularly failed to price-compete on roaming, indeed going backwards in many instances over the years, very solidly confirms the need for a Steelie Neelie. Would that we had her in other sectors. #bringbackthetechnocrats

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