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Mobile Internet from 3

3G in the UK Explored

This page contains information about 3G, the high-speed mobile data service available in the UK.

What is 3G?

3G Shot
Not sure what 3G is? Need some help and advice?

3G was launched in the UK in March 2003 by the network operator 3. The other UK network operators later launched their 3G services.

3G stands for the "third generation" of mobile phone handsets... (1G was the old analogue system, 2G was the digital handsets that we were using a few years ago, with 2.5G representing handsets with data capabilities over GPRS).

3G is all about data, and letting mobile phones and mobile computers surf the 'net using Broadband speeds over a mobile phone network. The features you can get from 3G are as follows:

  • Location based services on 3 Super-fast surfing and downloads: 3G offers speeds in the Megabit range not the Kilobit range - offering a much faster download service than we've been used to in the UK.
  • Download video: This was the big selling point when 3G launched - the ability to watch streamed video clips on your handset - this can be live TV, sports snippets, music, news headlines, weather forecasts, adult content, or movie trailers.
  • Video calls: Make and receive video calls to/from other 3G users. See who you're talking to in real time
  • Pictures: 3G phones can take still digital pictures as well as coping with video. You can send photos to other 3G users, as well as to users with non-3G phones that use MMS. Data speeds are considerably faster than a standard 2.5G MMS phone.
  • Location-based services: See a map of where you are, and where to find nearest shops, banks, etc (Location info). Some handsets, like the Apple iPhone have built-in GPS for navigation
  • Games: Download games up to 30 times faster than on a standard GSM phone, and play online games such as Bomberman, Splinter Cell and the old favourite Scrabble.

The UK Networks:


The UK's first 3G network operator. They offer ThreePay (a pay-as-you-go service), and a pay monthly service starting from £15 per month with a free handset and free minutes.

More on our 3 page, or at

o2 o2 is offering a range of 3G handsets, and data tariffs. Their range is changing all the time, so it's best to check at
Orange Offering 3G to 70% of the UK. For more information, go to
Vodafone Also with a range of 3G data service and handset offerings, including data cards and high-volume business tariffs. More at .

T-Mobile's 3G network now covers a reasonable amount of the UK. At the time of writing, their Mobile Broadband tariffs provides high speed mobile Internet access using a USB modem or 3G data card that connects to your laptop offering speeds of up to 1.8Meg.

The card is free when you take out a 12 month contract. More at

Tip: If you're looking for deals on 3G handsets, try Dial-a-phone , Carphone Warehouse and MobileShop


Skypephone from 3Specials from 3:

The Skypephone from 3 is a standard 3G mobile that lets you make free Skype calls to other Skype users. As well as being a standard mobile phone, it can make free Skype calls, and it's got an MP3 player, 2 Meg camera, Internet, email and Bluetooth

Available free on contract, or under £40 on pay-as-you-go. Great for free calls over Skype to the 170 million Skype users around the world. FREE calls to anyone, anywhere at anytime.

More details on 3's Skypephone page. We've also reviewed the Skypephone.


The handsets:

A quick look at some notable 3G handsets released in the UK:

Nokia 6220 3's Skypephone
Nokia 6220
  • 5 Megapixel camera with Xenon flash
  • Video capture and playback
  • GPS satellite navigation
  • 256 MB built-in memory
  • TV Out socket

Free on some tariffs - More on our Nokia 6220 page

  • Skypephone from 3Free calls to Skype users worldwide
  • 2Meg Camera (stills & video)
  • Media player
  • E-mail and Web
  • Removable memory

More on our Skypephone page

Available from

Apple iPhone 3G Nokia N95
Apple iPhone
  • Launched in July 2008 with massive hype, the iPhone offers 3G, GPS and an amazing interface
  • Full-featured web browser, powered by Safari
  • Revolutionary touch screen interface and navigation
  • 8 or 16 gigs of storage for photos, music, podcasts and video
  • Third-party applications now available
More on our Apple iPhone UK page
  • Nokia N95Quad-band phone with Wi-fi
  • GPS - Onboard satellite receiver.
  • USB, Infrared, Bluetooth, GSM, WCDMA, HSDPA and Wi-fi
  • 5 megapixel camera, with Carl Zeiss optics and VGA video capture
  • Stereo FM radio and supports Visual Radio

Free on some tariffs - More on our Nokia N95 page


T-Mobile Web'n'walk USB modemFast Mobile Internet on your laptop?

If you want to connect your laptop to the Internet while away from home or the office, there are two offers worth looking at currently.

  • T-Mobile Mobile Broadband - Their Mobile Broadband tariffs provides high speed mobile Internet access using a USB modem. Price is £15 a month, for 3GB a month's surfing. The USB modem is sent for next-day delivery. More at
  • 3 Broadband to Go - 3 is offering a high-speed service with a USB dongle for laptops - There are three options: Lite, Plus and Max, with monthly download limits of between 1GB and 15GB. Prices starting from £10 a month. A free USB modem is provided on all month contracts. For £49, you can buy a pay-as-you-go modem. More at
  • o2 USB modemO2 - Recommended. They're offering mobile broadband with their PC and Mac compatible USB dongle for £15 a month, with a 3gig a month cap. The Pay-as-you-go option offers top flexibility - Modem is under £30, as you can be charged for a day or week's usage, not by the megabyte. Details at
  • Vodafone - Mobile Broadband from Vodafone costs £15 a month for a capped 3gig a month service. A choice of USB stick modem, or USB dongle is available

More on high-speed USB modems on our USB Modem page.


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