• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

Tethering might be a huge part of your mobile experience or it might be something you’ve never used, but in some circumstances tethering (also known as a personal hotspot on Three) can be enormously useful.

It lets you broadcast your phone’s mobile data signal as a Wi-Fi network, so other devices can connect to it and get online, giving you full connectivity for your laptop, tablet or whatever else, even when there’s no Wi-Fi available.

Three isn’t the only network to offer tethering, but it has some key benefits over rivals, as well as a few drawbacks. Read on for a full review, to find out whether Three will suit your tethering needs.

Getting started

Tethering is simple to set up, and the process is more dependent on your phone than network – as is the number of other devices that will be able to connect to your personal hotspot.

But essentially you just activate a toggle in your settings screen to start broadcasting, optionally adding a password to connect or changing the network name.

The only thing to be aware of on Three is that you need to be on an Advanced Plan to tether. If you’re on a cheaper Essential Plan you don’t get a personal hotspot allowance.

Data limits

Although Three offers unlimited data on many plans, you can only use up to 30GB for tethering (obviously if your plan includes less than 30GB of data then you can only use the allowance you actually have).

That’s still a whole lot of data though, and should be plenty for most users, unless you’re relying on tethering as your main internet connection.

That 30GB figure applies to both Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans, however you can’t tether on Pay As You Go.

Performance and limitations

Three tethering review

How good your tethering performance is on Three will depend on how good your Three signal is where you are and – to a lesser extent – the data speeds your phone can cope with.

Three coverage checker | Check coverage here

Three, like almost all networks, offers 4G speeds, but not everywhere, in fact it has less 4G coverage than EE, O2 or Vodafone, though you’ll still find 4G in most built up areas and many rural locations.

Even with 4G, the actual speed can be variable, but should be high enough for smooth performance. Testing it in our home office we average 4G speeds on our phone of around 25Mbps. That’s quite fast but half what we get in some places.

However, that speed was when using data directly on our Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. When we tethered a desktop PC to it and ran the speed test again from that we were averaging just around 9Mbps – so expect your tethering speeds to be far lower than what you get on mobile.

Despite that, websites loaded fast, and even streaming Netflix to a 23-inch monitor was smooth. Downloads will take longer of course, but as long as you have reasonable Three speeds where you are you should have a generally good tethering experience.

The one real issue with the speed drop when tethering is that the more devices you connect, the more the speed will drop, since they’ll all be sharing a connection – so while technically you can connect lots of devices to your portable hotspot (usually 5 or 10, but your handset will be the limiting factor) you might find the experience degrades if you do.

But for one device, even one with a sizeable screen and for demanding tasks like streamed video, tethering on Three impresses. And note that these limitations will be issues for other networks too – we’ll discuss in more detail how Three compares to them below.

You should also be aware that you can’t tether on Three while abroad. Although the network offers free roaming for minutes, texts and data in more locations than any other UK network through its Feel At Home service, tethering isn’t included in that.

Three Tethering Compared

Network

Monthly

SIM Only

PAYG

Three

30GB

30GB

-

EE

40GB

30GB

5GB

O2

50GB

20GB

20GB

Vodafone

30GB

25GB

12GB

BT Mobile

30GB

15GB

-

FreedomPop

N/A

5GB

-

Giffgaff

6GB

6GB

Unlimited

Plusnet Mobile

N/A

4GB

N/A

Sky Mobile

N/A

5GB

N/A

TalkTalk

4GB

2GB

N/A

Tesco Mobile

30GB

30GB

4GB

Asda Mobile

N/A

6GB

Unlimited

Many UK networks offer a tethering service, but Three ranks at or near the top for several reasons.

First, there’s its allowances. On SIM Only its 30GB tethering limit is matched only by EE and topped by no-one.

For Pay Monthly Three’s 30GB tethering limit doesn’t look quite as impressive at first glance, as O2 gives you up to 50GB, EE up to 40GB, and Vodafone, BT Mobile and Tesco Mobile match Three with 30GB.

However, that still puts it ahead of most of the UK’s MVNOs and it has an edge when you consider that if you opt for an unlimited data tariff you’re not eating into your general data by tethering. In other words, you can use 30GB to tether and then still use as much data as you want for everything else.

On all these other networks you will be eating into your general data allowance. So if you use 30GB to tether on EE you’ll only have 10GB left over for general use.

Three is also often the cheapest of the main networks. Prices regularly change, so this isn’t always the case, but it tends to be.

So Three is arguably the best network for tethering if you go SIM-Only (since although EE matches it you’ll be eating into your general data allowance on EE). However, note that EE currently has more widespread and faster 4G than Three, so if speeds and coverage are more important to you than allowances and cost then EE could be a better bet.

On Pay Monthly, Three again has allowances and cost as a strong point – though O2 can give it a run for its money here, given its hefty 50GB limits at the top end and slightly better 4G coverage.

Three’s only real weak point relative to rivals is on Pay As You Go, because the network simply doesn’t allow you to tether on pay As You Go. That’s not so unusual – many MVNOs don’t either, but EE, Vodafone and O2 all do, with O2 coming out on top with by far the highest limits, topping out at 20GB.

Technically Giffgaff and Asda Mobile both let you use as much data as you want for tethering on Pay As You Go, but at a cost of 5p per megabyte it’s not good value for money.

Conclusion

With high data limits, respectable speeds and generally reasonable pricing, Three is a great network to tether on – as long as you don’t opt to Pay As You Go or want to tether when abroad.

Although some networks can give it a run for its money in certain circumstances, EE is really Three’s only all-round tethering rival, and most MVNOs aren’t even worth considering.

But if you’re serious about tethering on Three (or any network) just make sure you have a hefty data allowance – ideally one with unlimited data, an option which is only available on Three.

Specifications

Specifications

3G.co.uk rating | 4.5 out of 5

SIM Only | 30GB tethering limit

Pay Monthly | 30GB tethering limit

PAYGo | Not available at the current time.

Speed | Depends on strength of your Three signal | Check coverage here

Availability | Depends on availability of a Three signal | Check coverage here

Help and advice | Call FREE on 0800 033 8004

 

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