Three's Feel at Home is nice, but the name is a misnomer

August 27, 2016 0 Comments twitter, three, mobile, travel

Let me start this post off with a massive caveat. Three's free roaming offering, 'Feel at Home', is great. It allows you to use all your allowances in 42 countries around the world, absolutely free. After years of worrying about roaming costs, being able to just use your phone abroad is a revelation. Kudos to Three for offering this service.

BUT

I think Three calling the service 'Feel at Home' is rather disingenuous. Primarily because, when you're using it, you won't feel at home. The terms and conditions of the service clearly state that it's not to be used for streaming or tethering, which is probably reasonable - consuming huge amounts of data is going to cost Three a pretty penny - but the reality is that the connection is shaped, throttled, massaged and generally crippled in a whole variety of ways.

The reality of using Feel at Home goes a little bit like this. Get abroad - wow, this is awesome, I love it! Do a Speedtest (well, you do, don't you) - brilliant, look at those speeds! Reply to a few emails - all good! Send a few social network posts - hmm, that's maybe a bit slower than normal... but it works. Start using your other apps - weird things are happening. "That's taking a long time to load!" "Oh, this isn't opening at all!" "Is service 'x' down? Ah, no, it just doesn't like Feel at Home".

I've mentioned this to Three previously and the party line is that there's nothing untoward going on and 'any issues are caused by the foreign network' but this simply isn't true. While in Paris this week for the Honor 8 launch, I've been running a 3 SIM in parallel with a KnowRoaming equipped SIM (sign up with code 'PAUOB30' for a discount plus free credit). With phones connected to the same network on both, Feel At Home has been consistently struggling while KnowRoaming has delivered blistering speeds. Pretty damning. If you want a properly performant roaming experience, you need to shell out the $7.99 a day for unlimited KR service.

As I said at the start, I don't really want to hate on Three too much because a) I love those guys and b) Feel at Home is a useful service. I just think the way it's portrated right now is a little bit deceptive, because the implementation does negatively impact use well within the T&Cs.

So if you are being throttled by Three on Feel at Home... is there anything you can do about it?

The techies amongst you will be thinking VPNs and the like (admit it!). Broadly speaking, a VPN won't solve your problem. It appears as though Three are actively blocking connections to some VPN providers and with others, even if you get a connection, I suspect they inspecting the protocols in use and ensuring VPNs are shaped too.

Literally the only way around the restrictions is to ensure that your traffic is disguised, using a VPN provider that has implemented their own protocols specifically for this purpose. They do exist... you may have seen me tweet about them in other contexts... but I'm not going to list them here for obvious reasons. Loose lips sink ships, careless talk cost lives etc. etc.

Of course, the ethics of going to such measures are somewhat questionable anyway... 😇

Paul O'Brien
Norfolk, UK