Mobile broadband speed comparison: Is Three the magic number?

We are as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore. In an age where a tweet can take down a government, mobile internet needs to be available everywhere. And at the least, it needs to be available where the provider says it is. Often, it’s not.

Courtesy of Three lending us a mobile, we managed to get sim cards for four major networks, put them all in iPhone 4’s and tested their internet services. As a long-time Orange customer, the results were unsurprising.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Morrell Photography

The networks we included were Vodafone, O2, Orange and Three. We figured that T-Mobile are about to be eaten by Orange, and we don’t know anyone on T-Mobile anyway (sorry).
The tests came in two parts – the first was the speed checker at This gave a download speed for each service.

However, as we ran the test multiple times for each network at each location, with varying results each time, it was decided that a true “network speed” number would be misleading. Luckily, despite multiple tests, the networks came out in the same order each time.

The second part, the loading of large websites (such as, provided the same order, so we think we’re onto something:

Wimbledon, 9PM, Saturday
1. Vodafone
2. Three
3. O2
4. Orange

Fulham, 7PM, Tuesday
1. O2
2. Vodafone
3. Three
4. Orange

Mile End, 3PM, Thursday
1. Vodafone
2. Three
3. Orange

There are a huge number of variables in network tests, such as how many other users of the network are in your area, or if you’re much closer to one company’s mast or not. Therefore our tests can only be seen as a rough guide. We’d like to think we were being fair, three of the four corner of London, but we acknowledge that this test is by no means comprehensive.

That said, our tests reflect the opinions of people we spoke to. Vodafone and O2 customers in London tend not to complain about mobile internet signal. Orange users (me included) are infinity frustrated by it. And Three, the plucky little network that could, is quietly pleasing its small fanbase.

Three sent us a little message about their new unlimited PAYG data plans –all-you-can-eat data for Pay As You Go customers for just £15. Which at the risk of sounding like an advert, looks worth investigating.

To celebrate the launch of this new offer, Three will also be running a competition over the coming month to show the value of the deal, with prizes including a 30-day first class rail travel pass to Europe for two. Runners up prizes of a smartphone along with all-you-can-eat data, free for a year and a huge amount of free calls and texts each month will also be up for grabs.

The competition will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from the 7th March to the 1st April, with more information available at or on Twitter at @threeUK

TWIG: Three’s Human Hotspots, Chilli WatchCam and LG’s NetCast

The Week in Gadgets

If you see one of these dudes in the streets, sidle up to them, they’ll probably have something you’ll find useful  – wifi. The ‘Human Hotspots’ will use Three’s MiFi®, which uses Three’s 3G network to create a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.


I own a MiFi (I went out and bought one … well it was online so I stayed in and bought one … the point is Three didn’t give one to me) and it’s a spectacularly useful device – especially with the array of tablets, smartphones and gaming devices I carry on my person. Research by Three has shown that one third (31 per cent) of Brits are planning to buy one of this year’s hot mobile gadgets such as a tablet, Sony Playstation PSP and an Amazon Kindle, as a gift this Christmas, while 60 per cent of people already own a mobile gadget themselves.

You’ll find Three’s Human Hotspots in:

  • London  (Friday 19th November, if you can turn back time)
  • Cardiff (Friday 26th November)
  • Bristol (Saturday 27th November)
  • Nottingham (Saturday 4th December)
  • Newcastle (Saturday 11th December)

It seems like only yesterday that we were looking at Swann’s range of spy gadgets. Because it was. But it you didn’t quite get your fill of espionage related goods then you are in lucky as Chilli Technology have released the Watch Cam, a £44.99 time piece with a secret. Well a secret heavily implied in the name. The Watch Cam comes equipped with audio and video recording capabilities and can take jpeg stills as well. Recording is a one-touch affair and videos can be played back or edited on the PC. The internal memory is 2GB, which stores up to 2 hours of video captured via the 1.3 Megapixel/CMOS image sensor. The resolution is nothing fancy – simple 640 x 480 VGA, but you are unlikely to record a feature film on a watch (insert Clockers, Watchmen or War and Timepiece joke here). The battery should accommodate 2.5 hours of recording time. Chilli-Tech.

Own an LG TV? There’s a chance it just got a little bit better. Unlike the rapidly disappearing functionality of the Google TV, LG has enhanced its NetCast service to bring more internet TV services to users. Apps for your TV are the “next big thing” and LG have expanded their service offering to include Acetrax, Picasa, Google Maps, Facebook™, Twitter™ and an internet radio application. Bear in mind that a lot of these TVs feature DLNA, which means they can access your movies, pictures and music streamed over your home network. Which is insanely cool and slowly makes those set-top boxes piling up under your TV obsolete.