I swapped to Three; I’m no longer a Vodafone customer

Five minutes was all it took to exit the relationship with Vodafone.

I phoned up on Sunday and said I’d like to either renegotiate or get my PAC number. She immediately transferred me through to the right team, no messing around.

Within a few moments I’d adjusted my wife’s mobile number to £13.50 per month. They weren’t doing me any favours. The lady just looked at her usage and offered me the corresponding price plan. My wife’s usage is super simple — in fact she hardly uses any data since she’s more or less always in WiFi range, so I didn’t have a problem with that. 

When it came to my number, we had a problem. I’m using about 1.5gig of data on average, the lady reckoned (mostly because I’m putting all of my data usage through a super-fast “4GEE” Osprey MiFi unit from EE. The jump from 1GB of data to 4GB of data was a bit expensive. Stupid, I thought.

“Is there anything you can do?” I asked the lady.


“Ok, PAC code then please,” I replied. 

She conferred with her manager. 

“We can give you a £54 credit but we’ll need to put you on the higher tariff. It’s the only way we can help, that’s equivalent to a fiver discount,” she explained.

I laughed to myself and politely declined. Deary me. 

We’re in the age of bit pipe, we really are.

I got my PAC number and called up Three. Five minutes later I had transferred my number to one of my existing Three lines. 

I now have unlimited everything. Not that I will necessarily use that. I really won’t. It’s just nice to have. 

The interesting experience for me is that I didn’t feel I’d lost something. For so long, the power of the Vodafone brand — the reputation — has held me in check. There was a time, years ago, when it really mattered. It really did. I couldn’t reasonably make a business call on the One2One network, for example. I couldn’t risk clients thinking I was an idiot, not prepared to invest in my own technology. 

So proper people used Vodafone or BT Cellnet (“O2”). Orange — with it’s incessantly brilliant branding — became a fair choice, especially with their pleasing “new handset next day” policies. 

But no one ever got fired for buying Vodafone. 

And I drew great satisfaction from knowing that my calls would always get through. 

Until, that is, they didn’t. 

Until my calls began dropping regularly. Until, dear reader, shoddy voice service became the norm — especially if you were moving at more than 10 miles per hour. This wasn’t just exclusive to Vodafone.

I towed the line. For the last two years I’ve run 12-month contracts with them. I thought I’d call and see what sort of deal they would offer me.

I was frankly surprised at the limpwristed response. I’m by no means a huge individual customer for them — about £125-£150 a month on average, including my wife’s line. I did expect a few bellytickles. 

In fairness, I could probably have ummmed and ahhhed at the lady. I could have flashed my virtual eyebrows at her and come armed with research of a competing price plan (to try and get her to match it, etc.)

Alas I was just a little bit too tired. 

Last year I felt a change in the force. I stopped thinking of my operator(s) as anything other than standard service providers. The operators have invested significant sums over the years to do their best to distance themselves from the ‘bit pipe’ reality. 

I couldn’t see the value in hanging around with Vodafone. I called up to see if they still wanted me. The answer was ‘not really’ 😉 

I was quite surprised at the speed of it all. Within about 12 minutes I’d got my PAC from Vodafone and transferred it to Three. It’s all transferring later tonight. 

So, hello Three.

I’m not new to Three. I’ve had a Three account for donkey’s years. I just haven’t ever selected them as my primary operator of choice until now. I picked the 12 month unlimited everything deal. 

Bring it on.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

6 replies on “I swapped to Three; I’m no longer a Vodafone customer”

Wow, somewhere a Vodafone marketing fairy just died. In fact, a whole tree of them. The UK’s pre-eminent mobile blogger, off to that rubbish half-arsed no-coverage kid’s network with the weird ads.

…except that was a decade ago.

I’ve been with Three since 2005. OK, it’s been a company phone. But when I changed jobs this year I could have ported my number. But didn’t. Having run both GiffGaff and Vodafone USIM’s as wife/car phones, and talked to lots of folks, it’s clear that the regular customer satisfaction surveys are right: no one network has any real edge over the other, in terms of coverage, speeds, or dropped call rates. Sure, where *you* live and where *you* work might have a black hole or two and therefore you might benefit from swapping, but overall the UK only has two ‘networks’ now in terms of the physical infrastructure and they have basically blanket coverage for where over 99% of people spend over 99% of their time.

I pay £23/month for basically unlimited everything. Including having a home access point so coverage remains at 5 bars in my rural hovel under a Faraday cliff with tinfoil for wallpaper.

Much of Europe is ‘Like Home’ for 3 customers, and I’m certain the remaining bits will be soon. Meanwhile when I go to Germany – the notable exception – it’s £5/day for unlimited 3G. Fire up BT Smarttalk and make calls like you’re using your UK landline, but with your mobile CLI. Genius. Or Facetime Audio.

The network is a bitpipe, sure. There’s still a bit of room for tinkering with tariffs and offers like Like Home.

Welcome to the (Unlimited) Pleasuredrome.

I’ve had T-Mobile/EE lines since 2006, but I also have a Vodafone line. I thought – like you – that meant I had better, more consistent coverage everywhere. But that turned out not to be the case. I drop back to EDGE whenever I move away from my city on Voda. And to top it off, the company was “working on a mast” in my area from April until June, leaving hundreds of customers (including myself) without the ability to send messages, or make phone calls for two months. And somehow, that was acceptable. They were in no rush to fix, and saw no need to offer any compensation for those two months of barely-there coverage.

I still have a plan that runs until next Spring, but it will be cancelled. EE gives me 3G/HSPA+ coverage virtually everywhere, and 4G LTE in the city. I get cheap roaming abroad, and still have some friends & family discount on the lines. I don’t hammer data, so I don’t need unlimited.

Voda is an old-school carrier that still thinks all we care about is voice calls. Its data network is shoddy, and outdated, at least it is where I live and travel to regularly.

I quite like my 3 service, cept it IS slower on 4g that other networks. Considering voda as I get works discount and free spotify.

See that’s the thing – I pay £15 for 3. With my discount on , it’s £25. Take off what I already pay for spotify it’s £15! My ex has 4g on voda and its WAY faster. Add in the 2g back up when outside civilisation (big 3 downside) then it’s a no brainer.

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