Malcolm Murphy – Worst Service Ever Part 2

As I said last time, I was happy with my package with Three: my line rental is 20 pounds a month for 1100 minutes, plus a fiver for unlimited data.  In addition, I’m spending an extra 180 pounds plus a month on international calls, roaming and data. I was happy with that, as Three’s international rates were cheaper than the competition.

After a really shoddy experience with Three when my handset failed, I’ve now set myself a challenge to see how much money I can not spend with Three. Ideally, I’ll make a saving as well, but I’m happy if I just transfer all my discretionary spend to someone else.

Still, while I want to save money, it can’t be too inconvenient. For example, there have been indirect access providers around for ages, but typically they require you to dial an access number, then enter some codes, then enter the number you’re dialling. Too much like hard work – I need to select a number from my address book and press the green button.

The other downside with indirect access providers is that they are typically pre-pay, so I have to mess around with setting up accounts and keeping them topped up. However, since I’m already having to do that because of Three’s refusal to increase my credit limit, that’s now an acceptable level of inconvenience.

Right, let’s list out the things I am spending extra on:

• Receiving calls in Europe (currentlty 10p/min)
• Making calls in Europe (currently 25p/min)
• Calling International from the UK (30p or 60p / min)
• Sending SMS to International from the UK
• Sending SMS while abroad
• Data roaming

At home and in the office, I have a Wi-Fi network. Out and about, I have a flat rate 3G data plan.

So let’s look at these spending methods and see if we can get them down a little:

Receiving calls. One way to reduce roaming receipt charges is not to receive calls at all; to divert all calls to voicemail or my SkypeIn number and just pick up voicemails and call people back. Unfortunately, that’s not massively convenient, and the callback will call more than receiving the call in the first place. So, enter a roaming SIM provider. The best deal for me is SIM4travel – their charges to receive in most of my countries of interest is zero. No pence. I get a UK number that I can take abroad, and receive calls for free. Sold. The only challenge is I get a new number, so I have two choices: either leave a voicemail on my primary number saying call my other number, or divert all calls from my primary number to my roaming number, using my inclusive minutes. I’m still waiting for the SIM to arrive, so I haven’t decided which route to take yet.

Making calls in Europe. SIM4travel’s calling rates are comparable with Three’s – 25p/min to most of the countries I’m interested in. So, I won’t save money, but at least I won’t be spending it with Three. And, while I’m abroad, I will need only one device for voice, which is more convenient than having one handset for making calls and one for receiving.

There are some more complicated options I could talk about, but for now, this is what I’m settled on.

Calling International from the UK. There are actually two scenarios here – when I’m at home/office and when I’m travelling within the UK. At home/office, I typically use Skype from my PC to make international calls. There are, of course, cheaper VOIP providers, but Skype is generally reasonable quality, and I have plenty of contacts who also use Skype, in which case the call is free.

Having a Three phone, I have the Skype application on my phone already. But I gave up using it after a few early tries partly because it only gave me skype-skype calls – no IM and no SkypeOut, but mainly because using it drains the battery outrageously quickly. But I saw the recent announcement that Skype had launched a mobile version direct, rather than through the relationship with Three, that allowed both SkypeOut and IM. So I thought I’d give that a go. First hurdle, no E65 version, but after a bit of trial and error, I found that the Nokia 6131 version works ok (funnily enough, the N95 version didn’t). The application works well enough – I can select contacts from my address book and call them. It’s a hybrid data/voice application, so the call I make actually dials a UK number, then completes over Skype. So I end up paying for a UK call (or taking it out of my inclusive bundle) and paying the SkypeOut rate. That’s not a bad solution, especially as I’m already managing a Skype account so topping up is no additional hassle. It’s still a bit of a battery drain though.

So, Skype is OK. Not perfect, but OK.

Then, I rediscovered Truphone. When I first heard about Truphone a while ago, I discounted it, because I understood it as a VOIP over WiFi play. If I have WiFi, I have a PC, so I can use Skype. Plus, my experience with handset WiFi was a battery drain. But, I was persuaded to try it again. The VOIP over WiFi is okay, but the really interesting point is Truphone Anywhere – where if I don’t have WiFi it completes the call via a UK number. Effectively it’s an indirect access number without any of the inconvenience I mentioned at the start. The integration with my Symbian handset is fantastic, all I do is select the caller from my address book, and if it’s an international number it asks me if I want to make the call with Truphone Anywhere or as a regular GSM call. If I choose Truphone Anywhere, it takes about 10-15 seconds to setup the call, then it’s done. No extra steps to take.

Calling rates for Truphone and Skype are in the same ballpark – depending on the destination one may be cheaper than the other, but both are at least half of the rate that Three charge.

Sending International SMS from the UK. If I’m at my PC, I typically use Skype for this. From the handset, I can now use Truphone for this, but the originator’s number is not my primary number, it’s my Truphone number. So that’s not very convenient. But it is cheaper.

Sending SMS abroad. No way around this. Boo – I have to give Three money if I need to send an SMS.

Data. One approach is to use PAYG SIMS for each country. Some countries have great PAYG data plans – for example there’s a Spanish MVNO (Yoigo?) who have a 1.2 euro/day PAYG rate. That’s cool, but it is massively inconvenient to manage separate SIMs for each country I visit. So I’m probably going to have to give Three money for this as well. But, since I got my Vodafone USB stick, I find I’m using handset data less and less.

The conclusion? Now I’m motivated to do this, I will probably save about half of my discretionary 180ukp/month spend. Of the money I do spend, less than 10% of that will go to Three. So I will have gone from spending 180 pounds with them to maybe 10 pounds, and save myself 90 pounds a month into the bargain.

Over a year, that will be over a thousand pounds I save, and over two thousand pounds lost revenue to Three. I wonder how much it would have cost for them to loan me a handset when I asked?

16 replies on “Malcolm Murphy – Worst Service Ever Part 2”

Haha 😀

Good call, let us know how it goes with reliability etc, as im stuck in a similar position over in Finland, and will soon start to do the same sort of saving-spree.


“For example, there have been indirect access providers around for ages, but typically they require you to dial an access number, then enter some codes, then enter the number you

Are_you_serious? You didn't know about pause in setting a DTMF string to make banking etc easier?

Did you also know a long press on the N95 # key toggles between Silent & General profiles?

Hang on, bugger – just given Ewan another stick to beat the industry with……

“Having a Three phone, I have the Skype application on my phone already. But I gave up using it after a few early tries partly because it only gave me skype-skype calls

The PSTN networks in some countries demand it. The idea is that when you dial the area code the local PSTN exchange forwards the call to an exchange that can handle to the local part of the number – you have to pause to allow the inital call to complete so the second exchange can pick up the rest of the number.

I think this is because these PSTNs are implemented using commercial grade PABXs where the area code is a more sophisticated 'dialling 0 for an outside line'.

PS: My experience with this was a 3 month programming contract on an largish Errisoon PABX with a direct connection to the Telstra PSTN in the mid nineties – seriously impressive machinary but it was some time ago.

Are you sure the SIM4travel number will come out of inclusive minutes on 3? I think it's a Jersey Telecom number which is likely to be excluded. 3 certainly exclude Manx Telecom numbers from inclusive voice & SMS.

As well as p for pause, Nokias used to (& probably still do) support w for wait in DTMF. This allows you to auto-enter a string of digits & then manually enter some more. I seem to remember pressing * four times gives you w. I'll try it when I've got a min.

* + P W is the order of service for the * key on Nokias.

On SEM's longpress of * key = P, long 0 = +, long # = , er, #.

Don't know where the W is on SEM's.

I haven't checked whether the number would be included. Going to look a little bit silly if it's not 🙁

I was trying to avoid the scenario where I leave a voicemail saying “please call me on my other number”, but it might have to come to that.

I'll have to wait until I get my next bill to see, I guess.

Yes, you can, but I've got several hundred contacts in my mobile address book….

… still too much like hard work!

I'm fairly new to the Three/Skype phone; initially tempted when they came out, I was put off the PAYG by the fact that the

I'm fairly new to the Three/Skype phone; initially tempted when they came out, I was put off the PAYG by the fact that the £10 monthly just vanished after 30 days. That has now changed: the Skype stops but the credit for making calls rolls over.

Since I have an ongoing issue with BT (I'm lucky if the download stays above 400Mb for more than a few days. When will they get the aluminium wire out?) I bought a Three USB modem on the understanding that if no good then return it. I downloaded a file in less than 2 minutes that had taken over 22 minutes via BT. Modem kept. I also, before coming over to Italy, purchased a Three Skype phone. I don't use the SIM obtained with the phone but, when out and about, put the SIM from the modem in.

Whilst in Italy I've recharged my account and topped up the Internet. I don't consider £10/month too excessive and when the card is in the USB modem I can use Skype out 🙂

I'm so far happy…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.