back to article Hutch's Three UK users ripping through over 6GB a month

Three UK's mobile users are ripping through well over 6GB of data a month, prompting questions on whether the increase is sustainable. The figure, for Three UK users over December, emerged from the ISP and mobile provider's annual financial results, announced today. Over Three’s many markets, its customers used an average of …

  1. Vimes

    All that lovely data - soon to be shared with the Israeli company Rainbow (previously named Shine) who just happens to count the owner of 3UK as an investor...

    1. MrRimmerSIR!
      Facepalm

      @Vimes

      An ISRAELI company you say? Well that's it then! Obviously part of the Global Zionist Conspiracy to Take Over the World, one falafel at a time. Quick! Call some of Jeremy's "friends" in to sort out the problem! BDS! BDS! BDS!

      1. Vimes

        Re: @Vimes

        The important point is that it's a foreign company outside the control of the regulators here, and once we leave the EU will probably be even less willing to pay any attention to what the likes of the ICO have to say on the matter.

        Sometimes it feels like the government here is making every effort to either sell out members of the public or let the private sector do it. If it wasn't Russian made spyware being inserted into our national telecoms system then it was the excessive surveillance and cooperation with the US and the NSA.

        Americans on one side, Russians on the other, with the Chinese often interested bystanders with the likes of Huawei. Next to no thought seems to be given to the interests of the little people...

  2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    6 GB per customer per month doesn't sound too much for a mobile network. For comparison, German PAYG are moving towards 5GB LTE for about € 15 per month as a baseline, especially for "cord cutters".

    Is spectrum really the solution? Not really going to help without more base stations and they can be added anyway.

    Mobile networks biggest problem is always: which cells are expected to provide the bandwidth and that could be trickier if use is concentrated in certain areas and at certain times for, say, live streaming of football matches. But, as the linked report suggests, networks should have been managing their infrastructure to be better able to cope with such requirements using MIMO on high towers where appropriate and also judiciously throttling users at known hotspots (train stations, airports, etc.).

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      6 GB per customer per month doesn't sound too much for a mobile network.

      Given the average revenue per user on Three is reported to be £19.24 per month and for around £20 per month Three will sell you a Plan that typically includes only 2GB of data, it does seem that usage patterns are quite extreme, namely, a large number of users on cheap plans that use very little data and a much smaller number of users on more expensive plans that consume large amounts of data.

      Which basically says, that those people who actually watch streaming media such as movies on their phones are a small minority and are being highly subsidised by those on Plans with lower data caps. The vast majority of users are using data for email, social media etc. Which raises a rather big question mark over the need for ever faster download speeds and 5G...

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Pah!

    The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone..

    My family, with its appetite for Youtube, Facebook, Netflix, Snapchat, etc.. currently burns through 300-400 GB of data a month, I'd love to see a mobile operator offer us a mobile broadband contract at a sane price for our house!

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Pah!

      Cables beat radio every time.

      It's not hard to see why, or to find proof in your own house.

      Cables are dedicated, cables are isolated, cables are point-to-point.

      Wireless is shared, wireless is subject to interference, wireless is to a sphere of a radius

      I can put 10Gbps down a Cat6a cable, to as many cables as I have.

      I can't put 1Gbps in a room in my house without it dividing by two the second a neighbour turns on theirs, or another device comes online.

      Same principle applies to landline/cabled broadband vs mobile broadband. And the day it DOESN'T work like that, mobile broadband is dead because how are you going to provide the backhaul needed to the cell tower anyway?

      The rule of thumb I use for everyone who complains about their login speed over wireless:

      Expect wireless to be 20 times slower than a cable, in ideal conditions.

      It seems to hold pretty well. That one-minute login with your large roaming profile will take 20 minutes over Wifi.

      Although 4G is quite impressive, you can't expect people's demand to lessen, or the network's to improve in-line. I barely get a few Mbps to my phone most of the time. Enough for a stream or a download and really handy for browsing compared to the GPRS days, sure. But if I need to download a large backup, ISO or VM image or similar, I'm going to be plugging into a real connection.

      1. AdamWill

        Re: Pah!

        I agree with you in general, but it is worth noting that UK LTE networks are...not the best. I consistently get well north of 30Mb/sec here in Vancouver, and that's on a three year old phone which doesn't even have the latest LTE version (it's cat4).

    2. HOT_DK_Data

      Re: Pah!

      I think the issue here is a combination of things for the UK :-

      -- lack of investment by the networks

      -- lack of a fiber back bone between the cell network towers and the cell companies central data office

      -- lack of 4G LTE radio channels which have a bandwidth of 20 MHz

      -- lack of cell network infrastructure which can support 4G LTE Carrier Aggregation = " CA"

      -- old base station infrastructure which only supports 2G & 3G no 4 G in many areas

      -- old 4G networks only working with LTE release 8 and cat 4 LTE

      see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LTE_networks_in_Europe.

      -- UK goverment running off with xxxx billion pounds in license fees when the 4G licenses where sold off.

      -- Conclusion . High xxxx billion pounds in license fee to UK goverment = shit slow cell network because

      all the money goes to UK government and not into good network hardware.

      As an example :

      In Scandinavia Telia in Denmark , Sweden and Finland Support data levels up to DL=90MB / UL=40MB

      A 500GB package cost 40 UK pounds a month. Telia have fiber to most of their base station cell towers

      https://www.mobil-bredbaand-guide.dk/mobilt-bredbaand-priser/#mobilt-internet-priser.

      TDC/Telmore is a little cheaper but the average max DL link speed is lower around 40MB.

      Guess what DK government asked for a low network license fee from the networks and volla x years later

      when the when the network is rolled out there is money to make a full high speed network.

      UK it will only get worst with Brexit .... If your an engineer in UK . Move out to Scandinavia and Germany

      these countries actually pay their Engineers well. Don't move to Germany if you want enjoy good 4G LTE performance . 2 Years to find an EU job before the shutter comes down. PS . If your an IT engineer or Electronics Engineer with a UK engineering degree you can easily get a job any one these countries just speaking English if you have 5 years of the correct experience. Netherlands does not pay well . Best countries for pay are Norway (oslo), Denmark(Copenhagen) and Germany (munich Area).

      So 2 years to go before Brexit . Check out what the EU think of brexit

      https://www.euroweeklynews.com/3.0.15/media/k2/items/cache/9585589370cb01f71f694b251316ed0c_XL.jpg

      This on the wall in the Europeans Unions Brexit office in Brussels.

  4. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    Daft

    It's not about spectrum (really).

    1) It's about poor or over priced broadband, forcing users to use mobile at home.

    2) Three predatory pricing (they make a loss on data, don't have enough voice)

    3) Lack of single wholesale RAN means performance is 1/2 to 1/3 of possible in SAME spectrum

    4) Lack of masts, because more masts means more running costs and CAPEX with hardly any extra revenue. It's CELLULAR. Capacity is increased by having smaller cells and cellular is all about frequency reuse.

    5) New spectrum? The 3.5GHz and higher is useless other than for in office femto cells. The 700MHz is rubbish for cell size (too big) meaning poor capacity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Daft

      >The 3.5GHz and higher is useless other than for in office femto cells.

      DoCoMo have already commercially deployed this spectrum on outdoor cells and are selling mobile devices that use it.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Daft

        So has Imagine (in Ireland), 10 years ago, previous owner using proprietary tech, then Wimax, now LTE. It's rubbish for real mobile. You need a roof aerial or set device / aerial on a window sill with near LOS to mast.

        Basic physics.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Daft

          No problem achieving LOS if you deploy it in small cells, and DoCoMo have deployed thousands of them:

          https://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/support/area/premium_4g/

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ARPU is up

    Prices increased 4 times in 2016. Not surprising really.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's a lot of data imagine if they had four or more users.

  7. Mage Silver badge

    The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone

    Maybe DSL, but Mobile is about 1000 to 10,000 lower performance and over 200x more infrastructure capacity than fibre.

    Realistically one mast's sector can on average serve only about 5Mbps per user if it's economic and has a 200Mbps peak perfect signal for one user. Most mobile users will get about 1/4 to 1/8th by typical location of use of peak, then divide by number of users.

    Even Cable (with cabinet fibre fed) is easily 200Mbps to every user at peak time.

    Replacing fixed broadband by Mobile would need about 100x more masts and STILL be poorer than cable and especially fibre.

    Peak Mobile or lab mobile or Non-LOS above 3.5Ghz mobile is not the real world.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone"

    "The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone"

    Evidence? {Citation Needed}, or its just a flippant click bait remark.

  9. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

    6GB per month

    Beginners

    My youngest averages 160GBpcm.

    fortunately 3 do reasonable all you can eat data packages

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      fortunately 3 do reasonable all you can eat data packages

      For some value of "reasonable."

      Yep, all you can eat. Unless..

      Unless you use your phone mainly as a "personal hotspot" i.e., USB tethering or WiFi hotspot. Then you are limited to 30GB/month on your tethered machines. All you can eat on the phone, but 30G for the rest of your internal network.

      So if your primary use is tethering with relatively little usage by the phone itself, it's better to go for 3's 30GB/month plan for £15/month (might be £2 higher unless you get a special offer). Compared with £27/month for all-you-can-eat-on-your-phone-but-only-30GB-for-the-rest-of-your-network.

      So if you're thinking of something like a Huawei USB dongle for a home connection, definitely go for the 30GB/month plan.

      Which leads to the interesting question. Without deep packet inspection, how do they know? Or do they just decide 31GB/month is infeasible on a phone and then start inspecting your packets?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: fortunately 3 do reasonable all you can eat data packages

        There are a variety of methods to identify that a desktop computer is connected and three use several. First, if they can, they configure your phone to use a different APN when in hotspot mode (via the 3 supplied android phone firmware or a downloaded profile on iPhones) this instantly segregates and identifies hotspot traffic.

        If you avoid that they monitor for connections to servers only routinely pinged by desktop operating systems (e.g windows update servers) and also use more arcane methods such as checking of TTL values on outgoing packets (they're different if the packet didn't originate in the phone)

        This isn't foolproof but I expect they catch 99% of people trying to do unauthorised tethering.

        It's been a few years since I tried to bypass the checks but if I recall the only reliable way was with a rooted android phone configured to first connect to a VPN then forward all traffic from a tethered pc via that VPN.

        1. djack

          Re: fortunately 3 do reasonable all you can eat data packages

          It actually seems to be done via the SIM or network.

          For whatever reason, they used to be unable to differentiate between my tethered and non-tethered traffic. I changed phone (direct from manufacturer, not from three) and realised I needed a nano SIM. Not having one of those hoe-punch style things to hand, I went to the local store where a helpful chap swapped my SIM out for free.

          Result : my tethered traffic is now registering as being tethered - on the new phone and the old - no special firmware required. I can only guess that my previous SIM wasn't provisioned correctly.

          As a long-term customer who doesn't (often) take the mick with the unlimited data, I enjoy a very significant discount on the unlimited service. they've bumped me off my old plan the other month but as it was the first price increase in about five or six years for me I'm not too aggrieved.

          1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

            Re: fortunately 3 do reasonable all you can eat data packages

            As a long-term customer who doesn't (often) take the mick with the unlimited data, I enjoy a very significant discount on the unlimited service.

            As I said, my son seriously takes the piss when it comes to all you can eat, but they still give him a substantial discount. He uses almost no tethering, it's eating way over 100GB on his phone every month. The Mrs uses almost no data and they moved her to an unlimited plan at the same price as she'd been paying before and that is a lot cheaper than my son's one.

            They do other plans for use on tablets and mobile hotspots, these aren't as cheap but they are aimed at people who want to use this as their main Internet connection. They won't let me use my phone SIM in my laptop.

            Given what other NWs are charging for mobile data, the 30GB of tethering still seems quite generous on our contracts.

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: fortunately 3 do reasonable all you can eat data packages

              The Mrs uses almost no data and they moved her to an unlimited plan at the same price as she'd been paying before and that is a lot cheaper than my son's one.

              So when the Son's Plan comes up for renewal, I assume you will renegotiate to match your Mrs's Plan.

              Alternatively, keep your eye's open for a better deal and migrate your son across to it, when his renewal falls due. If you're being savvy, you will do this via Topcashback and so get a generous 'new contract' cashback...

              1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

                Re: fortunately 3 do reasonable all you can eat data packages

                > So when the Son's Plan comes up for renewal...

                Actually it's only recently renewed. It's a better deal than he was on before and I tried to get them to give me that on my contact and my eldest's, no deal, they said I'd have to wait to see what was on offer when it was renewal time.

                The contacts are already all SIM only, so no cash back options.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Hutch's Three UK users ripping through over 6GB a month"

    Seems barely worth their time running it if they only have three subscribers.

    Anyway, I hear that Starsky's mobile network is doing much better.

  11. Ragarath

    You what?

    The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone, which explains why legacy cable companies are so keen to merge with mobile operators

    I'm sorry but wtf? Give me a dedicated line any day. There is only so much radio spectrum to go around. You put everyone and their dog on a mobile connection and there is no way it is going to be handlled by mobile

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone

    Does that mean they're here to stay, given that landlines have plateaued at around 88% of households.

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone

      BT announced last year that PSTN (and ISDN) lines will cease by 2025. I would expect any mobile operator worth its salt to use FUD around that announcement to persuade people to become cable-cutters. So in answer to your question: yes, I think it is very likely that landlines have plateaued.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone

        So phone calls will be VOIP then.

        BT won't be getting rid of wired connections anytime soon. How else will the country meet it Broadband target? 3G/4G/5G won't hack it I'm afraid. Far too many of us live at the limits of Mobile Cells and the NIMBYS (who drive the 400yds to take their kiddiwinks to school) won't let anymore cell towers be built.

        So for us, it is landline or nothing. 4G? Are you joking.... On a good day (with no leaves on the trees) my 3G data speed is hardly more than dialup.

        1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

          Re: The fixed line ISP is going the way of the fixed line telephone

          We don't need landlines, 5G is a cloud-based system so it'll be available everywhere and will work fast, because the technology is fast. Like everything in the cloud, it doesn't actually need any physical presence, it's just virtual. Sorted.

  13. Known Hero

    Why blame us users? We are being pushed into a all online high definition online world.

    You can't exactly sell somebody a V12 jag and expect them to survive on a single litre of fuel per month

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It'd be nice if I had more choice on what was using data when, shockingly my work Iphone appears to allow more control over this more than my android.

      That might also mean we didn't have to worry about sneaky video adverts running in the background when your trying to browse the web.

  14. NonSSL-Login

    Data limits

    No chance of me giving up my fixed line ISP for a mobile only connection. It is a good option for households with minimal web browsing needs though.

    I'm still on Three's One Plan which gives me totally unlimited data and tethering on LTE for the same price I was paying 3 or 4 years ago. Some months I only use 8 to 12gb, occasionally it's 120gb in a month. Having the option there as a fallback for when its needed, such as moving house, working away or simply fixed line broadband is down, is comforting and without worry.

    How many Three customers are using an average of 6gb data because they have a data plan that limits them to 8gb and they are wary about getting close to the limit?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Hutch's Three UK users..."

    Surely they have more than three users?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One of Hutchs' Three Uk users

      I'm one of 'em, and have no complaint whatsover about the availability of the >6Gb mobile I slurp up every month.

  16. Mutton Jeff

    nice to know I'm above average

    for once in my life.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A question about bandwidth.

    I get abysmal rates via my four felines. Will I get better bandwidth if I upgrade to a fifth or sixth cat instead? I hear good things about five & six cat lines...

    1. AceRimmer

      Re: A question about bandwidth.

      Have you tried connecting using ssh?

      Ssh is a lot quieter than other protocols so you won't wake the cats up

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