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Three has unveiled a suite of improved SIM only plans, as it bids to capitalise on the growing number of consumers opting not to upgrade their handset.

Starting at £7 per month, the revamped tariffs now offer free 0800 calls, with calls to other numbers that begin with the ‘08’ prefix priced 5p per minute.

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Three has also introduced more data allowance options (you can pick from 500MB, 1GB, 2GB, 4GB or 'unlimited').

And in what could be huge selling point for the company that was first to permit tethering on smartphone contracts, all customers on plans with 1GB, 2GB or 4GB of monthly usage can opt to use all of their data through tethering.

This is when a smartphone is used as a stand-in mobile broadband dongle to get online with a laptop or tablet.

Texts are unlimited across all plans, in a further sign that SMS messages are now deemed less and less of a valuable commodity as a result of the rise of instant messaging apps, such as Whatsapp.

In keeping with cost-conscious consumers’ concerns, Three has also introduced spending tools.

These enable customers to set a limit on high-cost numbers that are outside their allowance and set-up warning messages that are sent when they get near the end of their limits.

Three's entry-level £7 per month deal entitles takers to 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data per month.

At the other end of the spending scale, for £23 per month you get all-you-can-eat data, minutes and texts. The tethering limit on this plan is 4GB of data per month.

Announcing the new SIM plans, Three’s Marketing Director Tom Malleschitz said: “People want choice and control so they are able to enjoy their devices without worrying about bill shock. These SIM-only plans give them exactly that.

“They’ll also benefit from free 0800 numbers and with Feel At Home customers can use the internet and call and text home while in Australia, France, Italy, the USA and twelve other countries out of their UK allowance.”

Three’s SIM only gambit comes after a CCS Insight survey found that mobile phone sales are due to slide by 11% in 2014.

The trend is thought to be driven by ‘handset fatigue’ deriving from lacklustre new smartphones that do not give consumers a compelling reason to upgrade, as well as a market currently flooded with attractive SIM only deals.

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