Three stops selling 3G mobile phones

Three is to stop selling 3G-only devices for the first time in its 15 year history, becoming the first UK operator to move its entire device portfolio to 4G.

The CK Hutchison-owned operator entered the UK market in 2003, becoming the fifth major network. It was the world’s first 3G-only mobile operator having won spectrum in the infamous 2000 spectrum auction.

While O2, One2One, Orange and Vodafone were still focusing on 2G devices and struggling to find investment for 3G networks given the cripplingly large sums paid out for their spectrum licences and a lack of use cases, Three had no choice but to go for it.

Three's 3G network

Since then, Three has amassed more than ten million customers in the UK and gained a reputation for innovative offers such as inclusive roaming, zero-rated streaming services and for being the most data-centric network. Indeed, its customers use more data per month than on any other.

“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do as a business and we are therefore continually striving to provide the best possible experience for them on our network,” said Dave Dyson, Three CEO.

“Our research has shown that the customers that are using all the benefits of 4G are happier and enjoying all the benefits of being able to stream, share and snap to their hearts content.

“We recognise that this is a significant milestone for us as a business and for the market, just as the introduction of 3G was at the turn of the century and we are proud to be driving the industry forwards once more.”

That’s not to say Three isn’t focused on 3G any more. It has the best 3G network of any major operator, with the rollout of technologies such as HSPA+ boosting speeds to near standard 4G levels.

Then again, with no 2G network to fall back on, it has had no choice. It was also the last of the four major UK operators to launch 4G.

It’s future in the UK has been called into question ever since it failed in its bid to secure a £10.25 billion merger with rival O2. The EC blocked the deal amid competition concerns as it would have reduced the number of operators in the UK to just three.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.