View Full Version : Your 3 UK network coverage experience
11th October 2005, 12:32 PM
The [often heated] debate roars on unabated on many forums. For sure, 3 caused a huge stir in the mobile phone user population since its launch. Expectations were set [in my opinion] unreasonably high for a brand new start up network technology - many of us will recall the trials and tribulations of first generation cellular telephony, then GSM, then PCN and now we have 3G to go through it all over again.
To be absolutely clear, and taking up 3SellerNW's valid point, each person has their own experience of the technology (handset and network) which colours or clouds their judgement of 3 specifically. However, this experience is valuable for us as a whole to see how varied the picture really is.
3's coverage maps tell a tale of UMTS availability in the UK. Us lot down here in the South East appear to be best provided for. Further up north the picture differs. But paradoxically we get reports on here and elsewhere of excellent northern coverage.
So, to the purpose of this thread, what is the true picture? What is your personal experience of 3's 3G?
House Rule; In keeping with Talk3G's policy there must be no personalisation nor "dissing" of others in this thread. We are here to share our experience and have to accept that another's [possibly] different end of spectrum experience is equally valid as is ours.
11th October 2005, 12:44 PM
Ok, I'll go first.
I bought in to 3 right at the off with a pair of 3ToGo NEC e606 handsets which cost me just over £400. The Link could not demonstrate them in Bluetwater as UMTS coverage did not reach there but they did show some previously downloaded videos and so I was sold.
Once out of Bluewater's dip (it is an old chalk quarry site) I found that UMTS was reasonably available in and around the area I live. Playing around with voice calls, texting and Videocalls I found the overall quality quite good for a first generation product. The network was stable.
I took the handsets to show them off at work in Canary Wharf - using them to demonstrate Videocalling on the 9th floor of the office tower. Again, quality and stability were acceptably high, even walking around the building core I was able to hold the Videocall througout.
A short trip along the A2 and the M25 to the Croydon area gave me an example of a solid UMTS signal - save for one total mobile phone blackspot shortly before the A2/M25 intersection [no mobile signal works there]. And so I was content with what I'd bought into.
Subseuqently, I had a big lay-off of 3G following several serious issues with 3's back office and CS teams. These are charted elsewhere and are not relevant to this thread.
Following the 4Q/2004 Threepay sell-off I picked up a Motorola a835 to have a bit of a play with 3G and see if it had improved any. I was pleased to get reception almost everywhere I went in North Kent. So much so that I bought a 3 contract Motorola E1000 which was delightful. The best recorded experience I have had is a continuous voice all from Dover to Gravesend without a single blip, drop or cut off.
Since then I have used other 3 handsets (A1000, LG U8110/20 and of late a Nokia 6680) with similar exellent network and handset function.
My only experience of poor UMTS availability has been in and around Tower Hill, London. Even using the handset on the DLR from Canary Wharf to Tower Hill I got good signals until I got into the immediate Tower Hill area. Then the 3G signal dropped out to be replaced by 2.5G from O2.
Occasionally, very occasionally, I have only 2.5G in my home area - I can only put this down to evening/weekend maintenance taking out the local transmitter which I can see from my study window. Otherwise its 5 bars signal all the way.
I can, thus, strongly recommend 3 for handset and network in the South East with personal experience of North Kent, East and West Sussex and Surrey as all being very good areas of operation.
11th October 2005, 04:48 PM
I joined 3 in August 2004 with a LG U8110 from The Link on a £5.00 a month / 500 minutes deal. At home I found I had no 3G coverage, only O2's 2G coverage. Although at work (and at plenty of local places) I recieve good 3G coverage (which I was surrprized about as I live in a rural village in Oxfordshire).
Since them I've renewed my 3 contract with a SE K608i, which I am very pleased with. Overall, my coverage experience has been good with 3, having 3G coverage, not at home, but very close by, even in a very rural area. I have also only had promlems with dropped calls once on holiday, between 2G / 3G areas, when the phone seemed to constantly be between the 2 networks, and unable to recieve any signal at all! But really I'm extremely pleased with their coverage overall.
11th October 2005, 06:31 PM
I suspect my own experiences are some of the best known on 3G forums but for the sake of this thread i'll try and be as concise and summarise what I personally found.
June 2003: Bought NEC e606 on £25/month contract. (Just had to have a new 3G handset after 6 trouble free years with Orange). A disaster. Almost impossible to make and complete even short calls from most locations in Glasgow and the West of Scotland.
September 2003: After numerous complaints the e606 was replaced. The handset was cited as the cause of the call dropping, so i was told. That was not true and by November I had become so annoyed I had the contract cancelled when Oftel stepped in and took up my complaint. Luckily sold the NEC (which 3 did'nt want back) for £95 on ebay! So back to Orange and no problems with calls during the length of the 12 months contract.
March/April 2004: Got a Motorola a835 on ThreePay to try and see if things had improved after reading how much better things were on 3 with it. Guess what - not in Glasgow they wer'nt.... it was just as bad as the NEC a nightmare but luckily it could be unlocked and used on 02 with a ThreePay USIM, which i did until the credit expired. Its now on 02 proper PAYG (3G).
October 2004: Time to try 3 again with a Nokia 7600 at £5/month on T/T 600. It was better than either of the previous handsets I owned but a pain to use. Still dropped calls but nowhere near as often as the older models. When the Motorola c975 appeared on ThreePay at £49 it seemed like a good traditional phone to use the contract USIM in. Bad mistake, it was worse than the a-835, a real nasty lemon that i smased in a rage one night with a hammer....very satisfying too. The Nokia has struggled on and whilst far from perfect has been the best phone I have used on 3. It still drops calls and comes up with silly netwoork error messages far too regularly to be taken seriously. It's time is almost up now and I'm heading to the end of the contract period with notice already provided to have it disconnected. I wont go into the horrors of my dealings with 3's customer service, they are best avoided at all costs really, but if you can get the call to hold long enough they might be able to read some nonsense off a script that sounds plausable ("take the SIM out of the phone and wipe with a cloth...").
June 2005: My primary mobile communications needs were reviewed and it was Vodafone who had all the best solutions. Best small handset (Samsung Z500), 1/2 price line rental, Inclusive texts, Stop the Clock, Free Vodafone Live, Open Internet access and low cost Passport roaming in Europe and beyond. I just cant believe how good the Samsung is and how stable Vodafone's network is compared with 3. I dont look to see what technology it makes a call with now (unless I am going to use it as a modem) because it really does'nt matter. What is important is that it connects and allows me to complete a call every time and that is the primary reason one buys a mobile phone service.
I managed to sell on a 3 USIM and I will also sell the Nokia 7600 after my contract expires and I have time to have it factory reset. Overall I have had 4 handsets suppled by 3 and have paid them about £200 for the lot including the services over 30 months or so. I got back £95 for the NEC and £20 for a USIM and expect to get £30 for the Nokia, so in all it has only cost me £55 for 4 3G handsets and 30 months line rental and calls.
Was the experience of 3 good? No, but it provides an insight into how technology can go badly wrong sometimes, and I did try it in quite a few areas of the UK whilst travelling over 30 months. The alarm bells should ring loudly when you see something advertised at a price that is completely out of step with the competition, its like that for a very good reason. Hutchison are not philanthropists or a charity, they are in business to make money and by all accounts they are pretty good at that. They know what a 3 deal's true market value is and my experience has convinced me that if you are 'easy going' and dont mind second rate services then 3 is the right choice. Would I buy 3 again? Probably not, I cant see any good reason to now with 4 other alternatives at reasonable prices.
A long time ago when I strated decorating my house I was advised to buy Dulux or Crown paint and avoid cheap brands. I listened, of course, but when I saw a big tin of what looked like the same white emulsion for 1/2 the price of those I went for it. It did'nt cover nearly as well and after more than double the effort trying to get decent coverage I ended up having to buy Dulux/Crown in the end to get a proper job done. Moral of the story, you get what you pay for and sometimes 'cheap' ends up more expensive in the end. The analogy is pretty similar to my 3 experience really.
Good luck to those who have had a perception of value from 3, nice if you can get it, but I felt frustrated and let down by the service and it nearly put me off UMTS completely. I suspect there will be many who will have been scared away from 3G having lived through the same but hope that they (like I) give 3G a second chance as it really is a leap forward in terms of mobile technology when it has been implimented properly and has proper seamless fallback to legacy services.
11th October 2005, 07:40 PM
When I got my e606 initially the network down here was awful. Folks with the Moto's had a similarly bad experience as me who live locally.
Now, though, 3 works fine here. The signal isn't very strong but it doesn't drop voice or video calls like it used to and my phones never roam onto O2 anymore. There is, however, increased latency on calls placed over 3 compared to calls placed over other networks and the sound quality is sometimes a bit naff. I guess I must be a long way from a switching place. My guess is that a few years more of network rollout and the quality will be impossible to differentiate from other providers.
11th October 2005, 08:40 PM
I've had a 6680 on three for about 5 months and it has been pretty good. I live in the West of Glasgow. The main thing about the coverage is that my house seems to be right on the edge of 3G coverage (although recently it seems to be constantly a strong 3G signal). This often meant that if I was on the phone and walked about the house, it would drop the call beacuse it would switch to O2 or vice versa. A pain but I have learnt to live with it, especially seeing as I have a terrific phone on a good tariff and my bills aren't very high.
Most places I go now all have strong 3G signal although occasionaly the call will drop if you are moving about a lot.
I would say the coverage for me is very satisfactory, however, if you are a heavy voice user it may be more of a problem if a call is dropped every so often.
12th October 2005, 10:17 PM
For me Three has the best signal in my area.
I live in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear and first joined Three in May 2004 with an LG8810. I had heard bad reports and rumours about Three's coverage but i was determined to try it for myself. I can honestly say that Ive never had a problem with coverage on Three.
At all times my signal bar on my N90 is at the upper end of the scale and I always have 3G. I dont no wether it has anything to do with the fact Sunderland is a fairly flat area but Three has one of the best signals around here.
Orange and O2 both have laughable 3G coverage up here. In particular Orange has even been struggling to deliver a stable 2G coverage recently.
At the moment I have returned to Three (after open data access) and had no problems whatsoever.
12th October 2005, 11:00 PM
I've been with Three since the launch 03.03.03 of which i had a NEC e606, my then partner worked for Three's Head Office in Maidenhead, so i was on the family and friends plan.
I payed £99 for the phone and had total free unlimited usage until May of 2004, 14 months totally free usage!
I have to admit the NEC was totally sh*t (i still have the phone now) and i suffered horrendous dropped calls, no signal etc, all previous 606 owners will know what i mean!!
So in May 04 i upgraded to the LG 8110, once again similair problems with this handset too, and once again i have kept this phone too...
Three really did'nt want much to do with it so about 6 month later i purchased an NEC e616v on 3pay,i payed around about £70 for it...
Well that phone, i know alot of people had problems but for me it was marvellous, instantly the dropped calls were at least 70% better, not amazing but a hell of alot better then my 2 previous models..
This phone lasted until my last upgrade in May 05 to the Nokia 6680, well what can i say, marvellous phone :)
Dropped calls for me are now a faded memory, signal is always good and in my experince better the o2 2g signal, i do have a program on my Nokia that allows me to lock it to 2g so have tested this. I now only use this if i have cained my phone and the phone is bleeping low battery as i know it saves battery power!
I have noticed in the past 2.5 yrs that the signal has greatly improved, i do travel around the UK a fair bit and can't remember the last time or place where i did'nt get a 3g signal, infact my phone never roams onto o2 unless i have set my installed application to only work on 2g networks!
Now with great value service plans, good signal and almost proper internet access Three have come on leaps and bounds, specially in 2005
One last thing i'd like to say is i have recently put my usim back into my NEC 606 and that was awful, dropped calls and no signal, so now i wonder in the early days was it the phones that was mainly to blame for all the bad press and criticism Three experianced??
Oh sorry one other.. Customer Services is by far the worst i have ever experianced with a mobile phone company, but i can see improvements again within this year and i know it will be a slow process to make them anywhere near good, but i think their heading that way!!
12th October 2005, 11:53 PM
Well, I might as well add my short flirtation with Three for what it's worth.
Around the time Orange launched their UMTS network to the public I'd had enough of a 6650 that, although made a great 3G modem, did little else to allow me to use of a network that had been designed for so much more. So I had a look about and noticed Three were flogging cheap, and I mean £40 cheap, 3G Moto C975s. Great, I'll have one of them, it'll be unlocked in a day and my Orange USIM will be straight in there. However, it took a little longer to get unlocked than I anticipated so I thought, I've £15 to waste on this SIM, and I did!
At home on the south side of Glasgow call quality and reception were fine, I know where Three's WBTS is, so I expected no less really, there was nothing to distinguish them from any of the other operators, at home at least. The moment I took a drive down the road things changed, a few dropped calls, however, nothing major. It picked up O2 a lot of the time, but really it didn't bother me, I was still able to make a call, whatever route it took meant nothing really.
At the time Three's content was dire, £2.50 wasted on a video later, that took a long time to arrive, I thought that would be the first and last download to this handset. I do appreciate that Three are now making an effort to give the public what they want in terms of internet access and now TV! And I'm also pretty sure as the subs have come on board the links to their WBTSs will have been increaced capacity wise. Good stuff.
There wansn't anything Three provided that made me want to stay, they were cheap and that was about it. I think their initial handset rollout was probably the worst in history and has tainted their image so much that some people may never return.
The only thing that annoyed me about them was the butchering they did to the handset SW, which really I can't complain about because I was unlocking it, however, it's the only point I've got!, and it's probably something a great number of the public did, much to Three's hate I'd presume. I remember seeing queues outside unlock shops after Christmas and inside all that was being unlocked were NECs and Motorolas. On my Moto the customisation of the SW ran so deep into the programming that it left it almost un-useable to all but 2G GSM SIMs. For love nor money could I get another 3G SIM to work in the unlocked C975, it would constantly request access to Three rather than the Orange I wanted it to. Somewhere deep inside it, it felt a longing... a calling for 3UK.
So, the credit on the SIM ran out. The handset went on eBay. I never needed to talk to customer services. I had UMTS coverage at home and I actually made money, which only makes my experience of Three even more rosey!
I have nothing against them, in the main I think they provide a decent enough telecomms service to most people at less cost than the other operators. If they don't, then go somewhere else, that's why you have the choice of 5, there'll be something to take your fancy elsewhere.
13th October 2005, 08:06 PM
Not a totally 'personal' experience but just to shed some light on some recent contact I have had a couple of interesting conversations about 3's coverage in Glasgow. One was today with a young lady as she left her 3 branded SE K608i on the desk where I was working (could'nt fail to notice it). I asked her about it, did she like the phone? Camera Quality, Music Playback etc etc. All very positive responses.
Then I asked "Do you get cut off sometimes when you make calls?"
"Yes" she replied, "how do you know that?" (I explained and showed her my Samsung Z500 on Vodafone. "I could'nt afford that" she said "I can put up with redialling folks because this phone is much cheaper than my last one" Once I explained what I paid she was very surprised not having considered all the options including 'Stop The Clock' etc.
Much has been said about the better handsets and how they perform much better than older models. I suspect there is some truth in that, but I also suspect that 3 are still far from as reliable as other networks in many parts of the UK even with new handsets. I have heard the same story from 2 different 3 customers in Glasgow's East End this week (6680 + K608i) and both report that they bought on price and calls drop fairly regularly with 3 but they like the handsets and are prepared to put up with the inconvienience because it costs less. Perhaps that was the H3G UK gameplan all along?
One has to take others word for how things are from time to time as it's impossible to buy every handset on every network and test it for yourself. I am pretty confident the opinions and experience I had detailed were accurate and those seem to be bourne out by 'timothythetim' above who has confirmed his experience locally with his 6680.
13th October 2005, 08:45 PM
Just discovered this forum, my experience of 3 is a good one. Well it has been for the last 18 months. I joined 3 right at the start and I admit it was terrible I couldn't hold a 2 minute conversation without the call being dropped. But now in Birmingham at least 3 are a solid network as reliable as any of the so called big boys. I usually always have a 3G signal and I no longer have any dropped calls. :) Its a nice forum you've got here still.
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