Three launches The One Plan - the complete communication package
The shackles are finally off at Three, according to the company's CEO, with the launch of its all you can eat contract - The One Plan.
The basic tariff offers 2000 any network minutes, 5000 Three-to-Three minutes, 5000 texts and 1GB of data for £25 a month for one year SIM only. The idea is to offer all your communication needs in one.
The One Plan is also available, as of today, together with any smartphone you can find on the network with the only downside that the length of the agreement tends to jump up to 24 months. An HTC Desire would come in at £35 per month, an Xperia X10 Mini at £30 and a 16GB iPhone 4 at £45 with no additional handset cost.
On top of that, these handset deals will also include 6 months free Spotify Premium use and all the Skype favour that Three has been happy to offer in the past. Three CEO Kevin Russell said:
"We're tying to bundle all your communication needs into one simple tariff. It's what we've wanted to do for the last three years".
The jump to such a generous calling package has become possible because of Ofcom's commitment to lowering mobile termination rates - an issue that has plagued Three with higher call costs as the smallest UK network since its creation. Although the reported drop in rate from 4.5p per call to 0.5p is likely to begin from April, Russell and his team have decided to get ahead of the game.
"We're going early. I believe it's going to come down in April but it's not smart to wait until then. It's important for us to go hard and go hard now".
Three is hoping to build up enough of a head of steam in this medium to high tariff area while its competitors are still pushing the similar handset package deals at prices closer to £60 and £70 per month.
The increase in data allowance up to 1GB on smartphones as part of this arrangement is also going to be trickling down to current Three 500MB data customers. Those on Text 500 packages and thereabouts will be given on upgrade from now on, even if they've signed up in the last few months.
Where the majority of smartphone customers on Three only use around 200MB of data per month, the company's statistics showed that a significant proportion were hitting more like 700/800MB and the rise is again to offer peace of mind as well as make a statement of intent.
"We don't think it's smart to put the price up on data when more people are using it", said Russell in an unguarded attack on O2 who has recently axed its unlimited data arrangement.
"We want to lead easy access to internet in the market place. We're not looking to eke out an extra 50p here or there but get the £25 in the first place for making the sale".
With 97 per cent of traffic on the Three network being data, the increase in allowance across the board can only be challenged currently by T-Mobile who offers a 3GB package for Android handsets. Three is also responsible for 50 per cent of all the UK's data traffic - mostly created by the company's mobile broadband offering - so the next move of the day to add transparency can only help customer relations and market hold.
"One of the dumbest things I've ever done as CEO is to follow the market trend with the use of the term "unlimited" in our contracts", admitted Russell.
"As of today, there is no more unlimited; not for data, text or voice. It's so for a customer communication standpoint".
The final move for Three was to announce that the network sharing partnership the company has with T-Mobile will only blossom further now that the latter provider will be merging with Orange.
"For the first time, I can say we have the best network, the best plans and the best tariffs. Now we're in a position to double the size of the business over the two years".
The company's plan also relies heavily on the government releasing more spectrum at 800MHz and 2.7GHz for Three to use, and with the iPhone now on board as well the network is certainly in the best position it's ever been in.
"I always wanted to get the iPhone on my terms. I don't mind saying that we ended up getting it on Apple's but, if you don't have the iPhone, as a data centric network, you're fighting the battle with one hand tied behind your back".
Three expects to see the launch of The One Plan to boost smartphone sales from 40 per cent of its total revenue in January 2010 to 80 per cent of it by July.
With the completion of its network coverage plans scheduled for October and an increase in 3G coverage in urban areas between 25-50 per cent, as well as significant improvements rurally as well, it's a bold looking future for what's been the runt of the five major mobile service providers up until now.