EE vs Three: 4G speeds, network coverage, roaming and deals compared in 2018

We compare Three with EE

We compare EE and Three's networks head-to-head to see which offers the better 4G speeds, UK coverage, inclusive roaming and deals in 2018. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 23rd January 2018

Compared in our EE vs Three guide

Networks
EE vs Three mobile network

UK coverage on 4G & 3G
4G download speeds
WiFi calling and hotspots

Compare EE vs Three's network

Perks and benefits
EE and Three perks compared

Inclusive roaming
Unlimited streaming schemes
Freebie subscriptions

Compare perks and benefits

Deals and pricing
Compare EE and Three deals

SIM only plans
Phone contracts
Special offers

Compare EE and Three's deals

Latest news update

Market-leading SIMs on Three
Three's latest SIM only offers

Three have market-leading prices on these big-data SIM only plans:

12GB data for £15 a month

30GB data for £19 a month

100GB data for £27 a month

See all other Three offers > (opens in new tab)

EE's 25GB for £25 SIM only
EE SIM only deals

It's a strong month for SIM only pricing on EE, on plans with huge amounts of data, plus unlimited mins and texts:

25GB for £25 a month

40GB for £35 £30 a month (save £60 a year)

See all current EE offers > (opens in new tab)

Comparing Three and EE's networks

Who has the best coverage out of EE and Three?

EE has better UK coverage than Three despite both networks growing

If you look at UK-wide population coverage statistics, it's still clear that EE has a bigger network than Three, with better coverage for 4G:

4G coverage:

EE has 4G in more places

EE 4G coverageThree 4G coverage
99%
91%

With 99% population 4G coverage, EE is the UK's largest network.

Three put their current 4G coverage at 91% so is smaller but there's still a good chance you're covered.

3G coverage:

Three and EE are equal for 3G

EE 3G coverageThree 3G coverage
98%
98%

3G coverage is still important for making calls and texts, and a backup for 4G data.

Three put their 3G population coverage at 98% and EE's is 98%.

Use Three or EE's coverage maps to check your local signal

Reception in the places you actually use your phone is the most important thing

General UK population statistics are one thing but we recommend using an official map to check a network's coverage near you before you buy:

Three coverage checker
Three coverage checker

Check Three coverage

using their official map
(opens in new window)

EE coverage checker
EE coverage checker

Check EE coverage

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Remember, EE and Three use only computer models to predict coverage. You might want double check their coverage using free-to-use independent services like Ofcom (government telcoms regulator), Rootmetrics (independent network performance testers) and OpenSignal (crowd-sourced network monitoring).

Our verdict on coverage:

"EE still have the edge over Three in terms of 4G coverage but it's still worth double-checking what signal each has in your area as there may be some local differences."

Compare pricing and deals

Do EE or Three have faster 4G speeds?

EE have faster 4G than Three but it's closer than you might think

We think it's important to consider a network's speeds on average, rather than just the very top speed they can deliver.

This will give you an impression of your day-to-day experience on that network, rather than a best case scenario. Here's how EE and Three stack up against each other:

Top possible 4G speed:

EE wins by a considerable margin

EE up to 90 mbps 4G plus

EE are achieving some impressive speeds with their up to 90 Mbps 4G+ service in these major cities

This trounces most 4G and even some home broadband but is restricted to certain pricier plans.

4G speeds on average:

EE tend to be slightly faster than Three

EE's logo
28.99 - 32.99 Mbps
Three's logo
20.39 - 22.31 Mbps

Independent network testing puts Three's and EE's average speeds in similar ranges.

EE are ahead with28.99 - 32.99 Mbpsand Three just behind with 20.39 - 22.31 Mbps.

More details EE vs Three 4G speeds 

What independent speed tests between EE and Three show

Independent speed tester logos

EE have traditionally been seen as the leader when it comes to 4G speed and coverage because they were first to launch it way back in 2012.

Their marketing since has often billed themselves as "the UK's fastest network".

But are EE definitely faster than Three? And how big is the 4G speed difference between EE and Three?

There are a few research companies that have investigated speeds on all networks across the UK. Let's look at the two main two, Ookla and OpenSignal:

Ookla's speed results show Three gaining but EE still in front

Download speeds on Three and EE compared by Ookla

To put together their results, Ookla uses data from people performing a speed check in their current location using the Ookla Speed Test app or online checker.

In their latest report on UK mobile network speeds, EE came out on top over Three and all other networks but by a lower margin than in previous periods.

They found EE's average speed across the UK on 4G to be 32.8 Mbps, beating Three in second plance, which was 22.46 Mbps.

As mobile coverage and network performance varies by location, you can also filter their results according to major UK's cities, where the results are similar to UK-wide average, with EE almost universally coming out as fastest.

EE's speed advantage over Three smaller according to OpenSignal's results

Download speeds on Three and EE compared by OpenSignal

OpenSignal's method of measuring average speeds is similar but slightly different. Their app measures speed more constantly in the background, rather than just when a user requests a speed check.

This is probably why the results in OpenSignal's Q3 2017 'State Of The UK Mobile Network' report come out different to Ookla's awards:

OpenSignal's report puts EE slightly in front with an average 28.99 Mbps 4G download speed with Three behind on 22.31 Mbps (a difference likely to be barely noticeable in practice).

Interestingly, though when you blend total average download speed performance (over 3G and 4G), it's EE who win. This is likely because Three's 4G network is smaller so customers spend more time on 3G.

i Why the results are different

Ookla relies on users initiating their own speed test whereas OpenSignal runs constantly in background to get a fuller picture of mobile use. It could be that data speed concious EE customers are more likely to initiate tests when they find they are getting faster data.

Conclusion: is EE or Three better for 4G speed?

Ookla's data suggests EE are the best network for the best peak speed performance, so if your goal is to join a network that is fastest when it's performing at its best, then EE could be the best option.

However, if your goal is reliable all-round, consistent 4G speed, OpenSignal's data shows there's little difference between EE and Three, so pricing and coverage could be the more important factors in your decision.

Our verdict on 4G speeds:

"Test results confirm that EE are the faster of the two but the margin isn't huge. Choosing between the two could depend on how much you value that bit of extra speed, which generally comes with a higher cost on EE."

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Is WiFi calling better on Three or EE?

Three's WiFi calling scheme called InTouch

Read full guide

at Three.co.uk
(opens in new window)

You have a better chance of Three's WiFi calling working on your phone

We actually rate Three's InTouch as the best WiFi calling scheme of any UK mobile network, including EE.

It's identical to EE in terms of what it does: it lets you use a WiFi signal instead of a mobile one to make and take calls as well as send/receive SMS text messages (useful for indoor blackspots).

Where Three's InTouch WiFi Calling has the edge over EE is that you don't need to have bought your phone from them in the first place (important if you're joining on SIM only).

Three's software can be installed on more phones (see latest supported device list here) and there's an app as a backup if you've got an older, unsupported device.

Useful link: The full guide to InTouch WiFi calling at Three.co.uk

EE WiFi calling is excellent but works on fewer phones

EE's WiFi calling promotional banner

See restrictions

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Using EE's WiFi calling is in no way an inferior experience to Three's InTouch: it works in exactly the same way.

Where it does fall down is in the phones that are compatible with the scheme in the first place:

WiFi calling works through software installed on your phone. If you've bought from EE directly, newer phones will come with it pre-installed already (check supported devices in EE's help article here).

EE are less flexible than Three if you've bought your phone from elsewhere. They don't have a software update available to download, so are less confident about your phone working with it.

So if you're taking a phone on a contract from EE, you can be confident. If you're considering a SIM only deal, read their help guides first to avoid disappointment.

Useful link: Full EE WiFi calling features at EE.co.uk

Our verdict on WiFi calling:

Three have the edge over EE

"Even though the basic functionality of both networks' WiFi calling is the same, you've got a better chance of your phone being supported on Three's more-flexible scheme."

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Will EE or Three ever slow your data speed down? Traffic management policies compared

Traffic management is when a mobile network slows down or blocks particular types of mobile data usage at certain times. It's common across the UK's mobile providers but isn't the bad news you might think it is.

Types of traffic managed by EE and Three

Traffic typeBlockedSlowed downPrioritised
Peer-to-peer (P2P)-Green tickThree logoEE logo-
Newsgroups---
Browsing/Email---
VOIP (voice over IP)---
Gaming---
Audio streaming---
Video streaming---
Music downloads---
Video downloads---
Instant messaging---
Software updates---
Sources: Three's TrafficSense facts document and EE's network management facts document

What policies do Three and EE have?

EE and Three have remarkably similar policies. Three's policy is called TrafficSense but EE just call theirs 'Network management'.

Both slow down P2P filesharing activity at peak times. EE call peak time 08:00-02:00 (basically the whole day) and Three define it as 15:00-00:00 weekdays and weekends.

This is the only type of traffic both networks actively slow down. So if you don't do P2P filesharing, or you don't even know what it is, you're in the clear to use your mobile at top speed for everything else.

So why do networks have traffic management policies?

It's so incredibly heavy data users can't hog all the capacity and slow everyone else down. This leaves the network clear for regular users (probably like you) to enjoy their mobile data at full on speeds.

Perks and benefits on EE and Three

Roaming compared on EE vs Three

Roaming on Three compared with EE

See all free countries

at Three.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Three have a way more comprehensive roaming scheme

For a while now, Three's best selling point has been Feel At Home that lets you use your regular UK minutes, texts and data in multiple countries abroad but what's happened now all networks have to offer free EU roaming as standard?

Well, all Three's plans now cover as standard the same 48 EU destinations including their very cheapest Essential ones on SIM only and phones. But they still go one step further than all other networks:

On Three's Advanced plans, you get 'Feel At Home Around The World', which lets you use your regular minutes, texts and data in an additional 12 countries such as the USA and Australia, at no extra cost.

More Feel At Home destinations regularly get added to the list of countries you can go and Three publish the latest full list of free roaming countries here.

Useful links: See the latest list of free roaming countries at Three.co.uk | See other roaming charges on Three

EE's free roaming is less comprehensive than Three's

EE plans with free EU roaming

See EE's free roaming

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

EE have just made a massive improvement to how their roaming works: you'll now be able to use your regular UK minutes, texts and data at no extra cost when you travel to any of these 48 European destinations.

This benefit comes on any Pay Monthly plan (both SIM only and phone contracts) and if you join on one of EE's more-premium Max plans (only available with phones, not SIM only), you'll also get free roaming in 5 extra worldwide locations including Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and USA

If you want to go anywhere other than the EU, EE offer a number of travel passes that give you a block of data to use while you're there.

Or you can pay just for what you use. Here's EE's roaming costs guide.

- Useful link: Discover all about going abroad on EE on their official site -

Our verdict on inclusive roaming:

"EE have closed the gap on Three now every network has to offer EU roaming but Three's Feel At Home Around the World still covers more destinations at generally a much lower price."

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Free entertainment streaming and subscriptions

More and more people are using their phones for streaming video and music. We look at what inclusive extras Three and EE have for this growing group of users.

Three Go Binge streaming

Read more

at Three.co.uk
(opens in new window)

EE can't beat Three's Go Binge unlimited streaming

Three have always had a reputation for game changing ideas in the mobile market and their new one’s probably among the best ever - with nothing from any other network comes close:

Their new Go Binge service gives you an unlimited data allowance for streaming Netflix, TV Player (Freeview channels), Deezer and Soundcloud (music / audio). Use them as much as you like without using up data.

Where streaming video and audio on other networks will rip through your data in no time, Three are saying this is now no problem on any of their Advanced pay monthly plans (phone or SIM) over 4GB.

There are a few restrictions like you’ll always need to have some data left for Go Binge to be active and data used for ads will come out of your allowance (read our full guide to Go Binge here) or see Three’s guide below.

Useful link: Get the full details about Go Binge on Three’s dedicated page for it

You do get some entertainment streaming on EE though

Free BT Sport on EE

See free BT Sport offer

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

EE focus on giving you free subscriptions to streaming services, including tie-ups with BT products (BT bought EE in 2016).

New Pay Monthly EE customers now get at least 3 months free access to the BT Sport App, which lets you stream content from their TV channels on your mobile. On EE's 'Max' phone contract plans, you get free access for your entire contract length (not just 3 months).

BT Sport covers every match in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League live. Plus 42 Premier League games.

If you're a BT Broadband customer, you might want to look at our EE vs BT Mobile comparison too as you can get some advantageous deals on SIMs and smartphones with BT Mobile that uses EE's network.

You'll get a free Apple Music subscription with EE's Pay Monthly plans

Free Apple Music on EE

See Apple Music offer

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

With EE, you can currently add 6 months' free Apple Music subscription worth £9.99 a month to any Pay Monthly phone or SIM only contract. The first 6 months are free but the monthly cost is added to your phone bill after that.

If you haven't heard of Apple Music before, it's a streaming service from Apple that gives you access to millions of songs and podcasts.

This is a handy free benefit from EE and with Apple Music, you'll now also get the data used for streaming free of charge too (listen without using up your allowance).

Our verdict on entertainment streaming perks:

Narrow win for Three

"This really depends on what streaming services you already have and what you're into. For us, there's more value in saving on on-going data costs with Three's Go Binge than EE's temporary free subscriptions and data."

Compare pricing and deals

Deals and pricing on EE and Three

Choose the type of deal you want:

A SIM card
SIM only plan
A generic mobile phone
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SIM only deals from £5 with Three vs £10.99 on EE

Comparing EE and Three SIM only plans

Three offer 12-month or 1-month rolling contracts, starting from £5 a month. EE currently only offer 12-month contracts online from £10.99 with option to go to one of their stores if you want a 30-day plan.

Use the filters below to find the best deal for the minutes, texts and data you’re looking for with EE or Three:

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Current offers running on Three

Market-leading SIM only prices on Three

It's not a month for complicated offers on Three, instead they're just focussing on out-and-out value compared to their competitors.

They have market-leading pricing on the following plans with loads of data:

12GB data for £15 a month (12‑month contract)

30GB data for £19 a month (12‑month contract)

100GB data for £27 a month (12‑month contract)

Plus Three will pay for 12 months Netflix for you on these top-end Samsung smartphones.

Useful links: See all Three's offers

Current deals on EE

EE's 25GB for £25 SIM only deal

It's a strong month for SIM only pricing on EE's plans with huge amounts of data, plus unlimited mins and texts:

25GB for £25 a month

40GB for £35 £30 a month (save £60 a year)

Meanwhile, if you're after a phone, there's a useful 60GB for the price of 20GB offer on the brand new Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ models.

Or £120 savings on both iPhone 6 and 7.

Useful link: See full list of EE offers > (opens in new tab)

Flexible rolling 1-month SIM only contracts

Both EE and Three offer them but EE make you go in-store to get one

EE and Three 1-month SIMs

Three's 1-month contracts start from £10 a month and EE's £12.99. Unfortunately, EE will not let currently let you buy a 30-day plan online; instead they make you go into one of their high street stores if you want one. Three do offer theirs online.

Rolling contracts are really simple and have some great benefits (you can learn more about them in our guide). Because you're only tied in for one month at a time you have the flexibility to:

  • Change your tariff month to month
  • Cancel your contract with short notice
  • Trial a network before signing a longer contract

Use the filters above to see just 1-month deals.

Money-saving 12-month SIM only plans

You'll save £3 a month with both EE and Three on their longer SIM contracts

12-month SIM only contracts save you £3

By taking a 12-month SIM contract with EE or Three, you'll save £3 a month versus the equivalent 1-month contract, with the same minutes, texts and data.

The saving is to incentivise you to commit to a longer term contract. If you already know you'll be happy staying with Three or EE that long on a SIM, it will work out cheaper.

If you don’t want to commit straight away to 12 months, SIM Sherpa recommends taking out a 1-month contract to see if you like them.

If you do, then you can ‘upgrade’ to the 12-month version of the tariff and make that monthly saving.

Use the filters above to see 12-month deals (we'll still show 1-month ones if they work out cheaper).

Mobile phone contracts - is EE or Three better value?

EE and Three have similar phone ranges with iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models, plus other manufacturers. Look out for EE's range of cheap Pay Monthly 4G phones. SIM Sherpa specialises in SIM only comparison so we do not currently have the facility to compare handset pricing. To do this we recommend directly visiting the networks' official sites to see EE's phone range and Three's mobile deals to compare pricing.

iPhone

iPhoneThree logo

iPhone from £13.00 a month.
£19.00 up front.
See all Three's iPhone deals

(opens in new window)

EE logo

iPhone from £25.49 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all EE's iPhone deals

(opens in new window)

Samsung Galaxy

Samsung GalaxyThree logo

Samsung Galaxy from £9.00 a month.
£19.00 up front.
See all Three's Samsung deals

(opens in new window)

EE logo

Samsung Galaxy from £14.99 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all EE's Samsung deals

(opens in new window)

All phones

All manufacturersThree logo

All phones from £7.00 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all Three's phone deals

(opens in new window)

EE logo

All phones from £14.99 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all EE's phone deals

(opens in new window)

Three won't increase price each year with RPI, EE will

No price increases on Three SIMsNo RPI price increases on SIM only with Three, unlike EE

Legally speaking, mobile phone networks are allowed to increase the cost of your tariff once a year inline with RPI. That's the Retail Price Index, which is a measure of inflation.

If they raise the price in-line with RPI, you have no right to cancel. Three will not raise your price with RPI on SIM only, EE will raise the price.

It's important to note that last year this rate was just 1.3%. On a £10 tariff that would add 13p to your monthly cost.

If you're on a 30-day rolling SIM, you can of course jump ship at any time if the network raises your price, even if it on to a similar tariff you see advertised at a lower cost to new customers.

Switching to Three or EE and staying happy

Keeping your current mobile number - it's simple and free with Three and EE

Bring your current number to Three

If you want to keep your current mobile number when you join Three or EE, you can. Here's how it works:

1) Order your new SIM from the network- it'll come automatically with a new number. But don't worry, that's only temporary.

2) Call your old network and tell them you want your PAC code - this is a 9-character code that mobile providers need to port (transfer) mobile numbers between them

3) Once you have your PAC code, ring Three on 333 or EE on 150 from your new SIM and give them it. They'll arrange the transfer of your current number over to your new SIM in one working day.

Remember: if you want a new number, you don't have to do anything when your new SIM comes.

We can help you compare EE and Three's deals. Compare now >

Both EE and Three give you have flexibility to cancel if you're not happy on SIM only

Cooling off period after buying online or over the phone

Once you've ordered a SIM online or over the phone from either network, you have 14 days to cancel if you change your mind. This applies both for 30-day rolling contracts and 12-month.

To cancel, call 333 free your Three SIM or EE on 150.

Bear in mind that you will still have to pay for the network's mobile services you've used up until the point you cancel.

Cancelling a 30-day SIM only contract

To cancel a 30-day rolling contract free of charge, call the network and give your 30 days' notice. It's that simple. You'll keep paying up to the end of your notice period.

Cancelling a 12-month SIM only contract early

After 12 months, you can cancel free of charge in the same way as above. If you're still in contract and want to cancel, you'll need to pay an early termination fee.

Don't miss these offers

EE's 25GB for £25 SIM only
EE SIM only deals

It's a strong month for SIM only pricing on EE, on plans with huge amounts of data, plus unlimited mins and texts:

25GB for £25 a month

40GB for £35 £30 a month (save £60 a year)

See all current EE offers > (opens in new tab)

Market-leading SIMs on Three
Three's latest SIM only offers

Three have market-leading prices on these big-data SIM only plans:

12GB data for £15 a month

30GB data for £19 a month

100GB data for £27 a month

See all other Three offers > (opens in new tab)

Other useful network comparisons

Comparing EE and O2

EE vs O2

Read our EE vs O2 guide

Comparing EE and Vodafone

EE vs Vodafone

Read our EE vs Vodafone guide

Comparing EE and BT Mobile

EE vs BT Mobile

Read differences between EE and BT Mobile

Comparing Three and O2

Three vs O2

Read Three vs O2 guide

Comparing Three and Vodafone

Three vs Vodafone

Read our Three vs Vodafone guide

Comparing Three and BT Mobile

Three vs BT Mobile

Read Three vs BT Mobile

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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