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Three cheers for 3

In my debut column for .net, I suggested that the cost of accessing the internet on the move meant that mobile phone operators could easily afford to engrave each of your emails on a solid gold baby and have them delivered to your house by Girls Aloud in a helicopter made of diamonds (the baby became a horse in editing, incidentally). So hurrah for 3, who’ve come up with a much better idea: flat rate, unlimited access.

It’s a great idea: instead of paying pesky per-megabyte charges you’ll pay an extra tenner or so per month, and unless you need high-bandwidth video that’s it. But most interestingly of all, 3’s also giving you Skype. Yep, Skype, the free-calls-over-the-internet service. From a network point of view that’s crazy – why make normal, profitable calls when you can do the VoIP thing instead – but from a customer’s point of view, it’s brilliant.

I’m quick to criticise firms, so it’s only fair to be nice when they’re doing something good. 3’s idea is a great one, and I hope there won’t be any nasties in the small print. I also hope – naively, I’m sure – that other operators will follow suit. If they do, the mobile internet might actually take off.

5 replies on “Three cheers for 3”

I might be totally missing the point but I’ve been looking at upgrading my phone for a while. So while I wait for my contract to mature (January) I’ve been having a nose at what my operator has to offer. That’s T-mobile. I’ve been quite interested in their web’n’walk offer – £7.50 flat rate and unlimited use. This has been on their site for a good while now. Is this not the same thing as 3’s offer?

Not quite. The devil, as ever, is in the details:

To ensure a high quality of service for all our customers, they are not to be used for other activities such as (but not limited to): modem access for computers, internet based video/audio streaming services, peer to peer file sharing, internet based video download and internet based telephony.

The ones I quoted were the smartphone plans; there’s different T&Cs for the “Web and walk my laptop” plans, but it just mentions a fair usage policy without elaborating.

The t-mobile plans are a bit confusing. There is a fair amount of (relatively intelligent) discussion about it on the modaco.com forums. I’m on the standard (7.50) web’n’walk tariff which lets me send and receive email (when I can be arsed) and web browsing in opera mini. No streaming and IM and VoIP are strictly banned. Fair usage other than that is the same as all ISPs – basically they reserve the right to kick you off if they think you’re taking the piss.

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