BT Mobile vs Three: who offers better coverage, 4G speeds and deals in 2019?
We compare Three against BT Mobile to see which you're better off joining, for the best network coverage, 4G speeds and deals. Here's what we found. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 7th August 2018.
In our BT Mobile vs Three guide
✔ Which offers better 4G and 3G coverage?
✔ Who has the fastest 4G speeds?
✔ What other network features do they have?
✔ Who has the better joining rewards?
✔ Which offers the best other perks?
✔ Special offers
✔ Comparing SIM only deals
Three's 100GB for £20 SIM
Which has the better network?
Overall, expect better 4G coverage with BT Mobile than Three
✔ Population coverage stats for BT and Three
BT Mobile runs on EE's network and you'll get identical coverage to being with them direct. Three has its own mobile network and isn't dependent on any other providers. So how do they compare?
✔ BT Mobile have 4G in more places than Three
Although both networks boast similar population coverage for 4G (99% on BT compared to 99% on Three), we all use our phones in places where people don't live like on the roads, on trainlines and in the country.
Use the coverage checkers below but we'd say BT Mobile reach more of the landmass of the UK than Three still, not just where people live.
✔ Three and BT Mobile have similar 3G coverage
Still important for making calls and texting, 3G is also a back up for when there's no 4G data in your area. Both BT Mobile and Three are above 98% for 3G coverage.
So statistically, you're more likely to have better BT Mobile coverage than Three but it's more important to check each networks' signal where you're actually going to use your phone:
Use coverage checkers to find signal in your area
Before you sign up to either Three or BT Mobile, we'd always recommend using their official network maps to check predicted reception in your area:
BT Mobile coverage map
Three coverage map
Our verdict on coverage:Win for BT Mobile
"Using the EE network is a huge advantage for BT Mobile because it's the biggest in the UK. Be sure to check signal everywhere you use your phone before signing up, not just at your home address."
We'd expect similar average 4G speeds on BT Mobile and Three
From tests, we'd put EE, the network that BT Mobile runs on comfortably ahead of Three's average 4G speeds: 31 Mbps vs Three's 20 Mbps (second fastest).
This difference is unlikely to be hugely noticeable, especially when you consider that BT Mobile's standard plans are capped at a speed of 30 Mbps (there is no cap on Three), which will bring that average down further.
In short, there's no huge split between Three and BT on their standard plans for download speeds.
What could make the difference on speed is how long you spend on 3G vs 4G depending on coverage (which is why it's worth checking each network's using the links in the section above).
You can pay for higher speeds on BT Mobile but there's one thing you should consider first
✔ 60 Mbps will beat Three's average speedsAbout extra speed
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The top possible speed available on BT Mobile is 60 Mbps. Their standard deals come with a speed cap at a superfast 30 Mbps but BT's larger SIM or phone contract plans now have a higher cap at 60 Mbps.
You can also pay monthly for a speed boost if you're on a standard speed plan (see how it works and latest costs in this article from BT).
Before paying for extra speed, we strongly advise checking the availability of BT's extra speed 4G where you're going to use your phone using the link below.
Otherwise, you could end up paying extra for speeds that aren't actually available in your area. Click "Check if you can get Extra Speed" on the map under the link below to see if you have it:
Useful link: Check if there's extra speed 4G in your area using BT's map.
Our verdict on speed:Narrow win for BT Mobile
"How fast your downloads are will depend on whether you pay the extra for more speeds on BT Mobile and whether it's available in your area. Three's speeds should be perfectly adequate for watching HD video still."
Access to free WiFi hotspots: BT Mobile offer a better service than Three
✔ Better free WiFi on BT Mobile than Three
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It's useful to have free access to public hotpots when you're out and about because it can save on using up your monthly mobile data allowance. It's also handy abroad for avoiding roaming charges.
Out of BT Mobile and Three, it's BT that have the better service when it comes to free WiFi provision: you'll get access to 5 million hotspots with their 'BT Wi-Fi' service on any of their SIM only or phone plans.
In fact, in our guide to mobile networks offering free WiFi hotspots, it's BT Mobile that get our top ranking, because of the sheer numbers of hotspots.
If you're a regular visitor to London, Three do offer free WiFi on the Underground as standard on all their deals. This is something you don't actually get on BT Mobile.
Both Three and BT Mobile let you use your phone for tethering
✔ Use your phone as a WiFi hotspot
Not every network lets you tether your phone to other wireless devices to use it as a personal WiFi hotspot. This is because you're likely to use up more data than on your phone alone (and data costs networks too).
Both BT Mobile and Three let you use your full monthly data allowance for tethering, although it's worth noting that if you have unlimited data on Three, you'll only be able tether up to 30GB each month.
Because tethering uses up data, it's never a bad idea to check how much each network will charge you if you go over your limit. BT charge per MB and on Three, you'll buy extra data add-ons.
Which offers the better perks and extras?
✔ Three still have superior inclusive worldwide roaming to BT
Three’s long-standing unique selling point has been their free roaming abroad in selected countries. It was previous called Feel At Home but it's now called “Go Roam”.
Unlike all other networks who only offer inclusive roaming within the EU as standard, all Three's pay monthly SIMs and phones include a further 13 worldwide destinations listed here, including the USA.
In any of those places, minutes and texts back to the UK, and data for browsing will come out of your regular UK plan's allowance. There are some limits on how much data you can use while abroad (up to 19GB a month, depending on where you are).
We still rate Go Roam as the best inclusive roaming scheme of any UK mobile provider. And it certainly makes travelling outside the EU a lot cheaper than BT.
Useful link: Read Three's guide to Feel At Home on their official site.
✔ BT Mobile are catching up to Three with inclusive EU roaming
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In case you missed it in the news recently, all UK mobile networks now have to let you use your regular minutes, texts and data while you're abroad within the EU. BT Mobile are no exception:
BT Mobile call it "Roam Like Home" and it covers 47 European destinations across the continent (see the full list here), and you get it on every one of BT's SIM only plans and smartphone contracts as standard.
Compared to Three's Feel At Home Across The World, there are fewer destinations you can go free on BT and you're limited to Europe only. Everywhere else costs extra (see latest rates here).
But if you do most your travel in the EU or barely go abroad, BT Mobile roaming will be perfectly suitable.
Useful link: Learn more about Roam Like Home in BT's own full guide
✔ Three now get you free upgrades when you fly with easyJet
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In the battle for who's the best network to go abroad with, Three have just launched a nice offer that adds a little cherry on top of their already top-rated roaming: free upgrades on easyJet.
All Three pay monthly customers (phone contract or SIM only) get free upgrades to easyJet's Hands Free service, which is all about making journeys through airports as smooth as possible.
It lets you check your hand baggage free, board just after Speedy Boarding passengers and pick up your baggage at the other end first. It normally costs £5 per single flight.
There are some limitations (our full guide here looks into these) like it only works from UK airports. But otherwise, it's a little nice extra that you get on top of all other Three benefits.
Useful link: Three's full guide to free easyJet upgrades
Our verdict on inclusive roaming:Win for Three
"Now every network has to offer free EU roaming, BT Mobile have caught up with Three a bit. But Three's worldwide roaming destinations at no real price difference edges it over BT Mobile still."
✔ Three's new Go Binge scheme offers streaming that doesn't use up your data
They’ve always been one of the leaders for new ideas and now Three have surpassed themselves:
Their new Go Binge scheme gives you unlimited data for streaming Netflix and other selected providers on your mobile, so you can watch and listen as much as you like without ever using up your data allowance.
This is a really groundbreaking development, as video and music streaming is one of the activities that uses up the most data. Getting it free is great value and no other network, including BT Mobile, offers anything similar.
You’ll need to take a phone or a SIM on an Advanced plan with at least 12GB of monthly data to get Go Binge. And you also have to some regular data left for Go Binge to stay active (our review has full details).
It’s only selected streaming providers that don’t use your data, which Three publish here.
Useful link: Get full details on Go Binge from Three's info page
✔ Some BT Mobile plans get you free BT Sport app access
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The BT Sport app lets you watch football, rugby, tennis, UFC and other sports covered by their television channels live on your mobile phone (note: it won't work on your TV or laptop).
Join BT Mobile on a smartphone contract or SIM only plan that comes with 6GB data or more, and BT will include a free subscription to the app with your plan.
BT don't have anything similar to Three's Go Binge, so it's worth noting that the data you use for streaming will come out of your monthly allowance.
But if you're into those sports covered, it's a nice perk that Three can't match.
Useful link: How to get the BT Sport app with your deal from the BT website
Our verdict on entertainment extras:Win for Three
"Not using up data for streaming video and audio on Three, plus unlimited Snapchat is a benefit that BT Mobile can't match, even if some of their customers get a free BT Sport app subscription."
BT Mobile offer big joining rewards on SIM only and phones
✔ A pre-paid Mastercard to spend practically anywhere
There's nearly always an extra incentive running on BT Mobile to join them on either a SIM only deal or smartphone when you sign up online.
Currently BT Mobile's favourites are their Reward Cards. These are pre-paid Mastercard loaded with money that you can spend practically anywhere.
The value of the Reward Cards vary according to the plan you choose and when you order with the maximum we've seen worth around £100 and the minimum £5.
Use the links below to see the value of Reward Cards currently available:
✔ Three's 100GB SIM is the joint-biggest on the market
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It's a good month to join Three, with price drops across a lot of their SIM only plans. The standout deal is:
100GB data for £20 a month (12-month contract)
But there's also unlimited data for
£27 £24 a month (12-month contract), and a hidden offer that gives you more data at a lower price than advertised on the main part of Three's website: 4GB 8GB for £11 £10 a month (12-month contract)
Meanwhile on Android phones, Three have just launched the brand-new Samsung Galaxy S10 models.
Useful links: See all latest Three offers
SIM only: how BT Mobile and Three compare
Use our comparison tool below to see how BT Mobile and Three's similarly priced plans compare:
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All BT SIM only plans from £8 (£13) a month
In total, BT Mobile offer 4x SIM only plans each with steadily more minutes, texts and data and typically priced between £8 a month and £30 for their broadband customers.
Useful link: Compare all BT Mobile SIMs
All Three SIM only plans from £9 a month
On Three, there are 15 combinations of minutes, texts and data starting from £9 a month and ranging up to unlimited data options and anywhere in between.
Useful link: Compare all Three SIMs
Only Three offer shorter 30-day SIM only contracts
✖ You can't get a 1-month contract on BT Mobile
If you're after the flexibility that you get with a 30-day or 1-month SIM only contract, then Three are the only option for you, as all BT Mobile's SIMs are on 12-month contracts only.
They give you the freedom to change your plan each month if your needs change. You can also cancel with just 30 days' notice if you want.
All in all, we recommend 1-month contracts as a risk-free to try out any network.
Useful link: See Three's 30-day SIM only contracts
Summary and conclusion
Choose Three for...
✔ Good 4G coverage and speeds
✔ Better inclusive roaming with Feel at Home
✔ Better choice of SIM only plans
✔ More flexible 30-day SIM only contractsCompare Three's deals
Choose BT Mobile for...
✔ Better 4G coverage and same speeds
✔ Better free WiFi provision
✔ Larger joining rewards
✔ Savings when you take out multiple SIMsCompare BT's deals