3 UK will launch a new contract called SIM Zero with a minimum contract period of 30 days and the ability to make free Skype calls, all for the princely amount of £0 per month.
In what is probably one of the first PAYG/Pay monthly hybrids, 3 will try to convince PAYG users from other networks to join UK's smallest mainstream mobile operator by luring them with average calls and text prices below average.
(ed: Virgin Mobile has something similar which allows you to pay by Direct Debit (opens in new tab) and although the prices are cheaper, you still don't get MSN or Skype. You might also want to visit our Ultimate Mobile UK SIM Only Comparison Guide - 58 Offers On 8 Networks!).
Customers will be able to make free Skype-to-Skype calls and instant messaging, free Windows Live messenger and free voice mail in the UK. As expected, the contract does not include any mobile phones.
For the occasional one off calls or texts, 3 will charge users 20p per minute regardless of the networks and the time of call while texts will cost users 10p each. Furthermore, each MB of data will be charged at 30p which is fairly reasonable.
If you are likely to make more than 45 minutes worth of calls per month AND you'd like to stick to 3, then they've got a £9 price plan (opens in new tab) that gives you 100 anytime, any network minutes or texts, or any mix of the two plus free 300 minutes of 3-to-3 calls and a free mobile phone.
Users will not be coerced into topping up their mobile account regularly; 3 recommends using either theh INQ1 or the Skypephone S2 which are both available for £70 for the contract. Nevertheless, you should be able to plug any 3G phone to get the service.
Andy Nuttall, Head of Pay Monthly at 3 said in the press release that 'For customers who are fearful of commitment, SIM ZERO has minimal ties. Customers can try us out and if they don’t love being with us, they can leave with just one month’s notice.' Although if you have bought the phone too, that could be an expensive month, unless the handset is refunded as part of the deal.
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Another great offer from 3. The Hutchinson-Whampoa based company is doing what it can to differentiate itself from the rest of the traditional mobile market. Its partnership with Skype is what is currently its strongest USP - at least for me - and it is likely that in the next few months, 3 moves to embrace even more life as a mobile data network.
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