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EE vs Three: which network's best for 4G/5G coverage & speeds?

We compare Three with EE

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We compare EE and Three's networks head-to-head to see which offers the better speeds, UK coverage, inclusive roaming and deals. Last updated: 17th July 2023

Special offer news

Comparing Three and EE's networks

Do Three or EE provide better coverage?

We look at 5G/4G/3G coverage on Three vs EE

EE and Three's network coverage

EE have more widespread 4G and 3G signal

Countryside with 4G markers

See expansion plans

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

For basic calls and texts (using 2G/3G), there’s little to split EE and Three, though total blackspots are more likely in rural locations with Three. Neither uses optimal frequencies for indoor calls (but do have WiFi calling).

4G data coverage has long been EE’s strength over other networks but we’re seeing some seriously impressive improvements from Three in our tests, so do check coverage maps before writing either off.

Check anywhere you expect to use your phone, not just at home. Check at school, along your commute, your workplace and anywhere else you usually go day to day.

That said, EE are still the UK leaders for 4G data coverage (see 5G below) but you don’t have to join them directly to benefit from that (see cheaper providers on EE here).

Useful link: Our full Three network review

5G coverage is very close

Three 5G network locations map

Next rollout places

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

There are some big claims flying around about 5G from all networks. And if you look at the number of live 5G locations on Three vs EE, it’s Three that come out top (484+ UK towns and cities vs 317 on EE).

We think a lot of people will be underwhelmed with 5G. We’re finding a lot of networks are upgrading to 5G-capable transmitters but not delivering any actual improvement over 4G (or it can even be worse!).

Of the two, we’d say Three are being the most honest about the strength and quality of their 5G data on their coverage map. When you’re somewhere with strong signal, you will notice the benefits of 5G (see speeds below).

In areas EE are reporting as having 5G on their maps, particularly small towns and villages, we found no noticeable improvement vs their 4G connection in that area. That appears the case more often on EE than Three.

Useful link: See both networks' 5G maps

EE and Three's coverage maps

See what sort of signal coverage you can expect near you

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)

Our verdict on coverage:

A win for EE

"For people in larger towns and cities, there’s unlikely to be a difference between the two but for those that live rurally or travel about, EE still have the advantage."

Compare pricing and deals

Do EE or Three have faster 5G/4G speeds?

Both EE and Three make a big deal out of their speeds, but which is actually superior?

EE and Three's logos with a speedometer

4G speeds are a strength for EE and Three

EE 5G locations

Read EE 5G latest

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

We can’t test speeds throughout the country but independent network testers Opensignal can. They take millions of measurements on volunteers’ phones to produce reports on network speeds.

Opensignal put EE top of the pile for typical 4G data speeds of 44.7 Mbps, which is 50% higher than Three’s at 30.7 Mbps. But Three are themselves 50% faster than the next nearest network Vodafone.

In our own experience, EE are capable of peak speeds over 100 Mbps but they have just brought in irritating speed caps on many of their plans. You’ll also get 4G in single figures too rurally though.

Three are less likely to hit those kind of dizzying heights (the fastest we’ve ever had is 70-odd). But are probably more consistent around their typical speeds. Both networks’ results would support things like HD videos easily.

Useful link: Three’s network upgrades

Typical 5G speeds are much faster on Three

Three's fastest 5G network banner

Read why

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

Opensignal and Speedtest put typical 5G speeds on Three between 228.4 Mbps - 285.2 Mbps with peak speeds up to a blistering 687.3 Mbps. Speeds on EE sat between 122.32 Mbps - 130.5 Mbps and peak at 350.41 Mbps.

Both are marked improvements vs 4G. But for total bragging rights Three have the advantage. This is largely thanks to having secured more 5G radio spectrum next to each other, allowing greater bandwidth.

EE’s score has actually gone down too. We think that’s do with the rapid upgrade of 4G transmitters to also offering 5G, without upgrading the actual network leading to the masts. Great for 5G coverage, not for speed.

In our tests, no 5G network is flawless. You’ll often find yourself on what we’d describe as ‘pointless 5G’, where your phone is on the edge of a 5G and the connection is worse quality than the 4G available.

Useful link: Read more about 5G's benefits

Our verdict on 4G/5G speeds:

Minor win for EE

"As more and more 5G becomes available, EE’s crown as fastest network is starting to slip. For now, there’s still so much more 4G around that it counts more than Three’s superior 5G. Watch this space."

Compare pricing and deals

Do EE or Three have better extra network features?

What other network features do either network offer?

WiFi calling symbol with EE and Three logos

WiFi calling and 4G calling are great on both

Three's WiFi calling scheme called InTouch

Check device support

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

It’s important for networks to offer a good WiFi calling feature as standard. This makes it so your phone can connect to calls via WiFi signal if you’re somewhere with poor signal, without needing a separate app.

EE and Three offer great WiFi calling schemes. It’s compatible with lots of phones, it kicks in easily, you can transfer from a WiFi call to a 4G call without it dropping and SMS messaging works over WiFi/4G.

Check either networks’ list of supported phone models beforehand. Three don’t tend to list all the models that actually worked in our testing. And EE support a massive list of devices.

The feature is included on all pay monthly and Pay As You Go plans and monthly bundles at no extra cost on either network. So that just makes their schemes even better.

Useful link: Our favourite WiFi calling schemes

Our verdict on WiFi calling:

Basically a draw

"Since both networks have almost identical schemes in terms of how they actually work we can’t call a clear winner here. We’d check both networks’ supported devices lists and see if your device is compatible on either one."

Compare pricing and deals

WiFi hotspots: EE vs Three

Which network provides more free WiFi hotspots?

WiFi calling symbol with EE and Three logos

Free WiFi hotspots are provided on both networks

A map with hotspot locations

Read our guide

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

Both EE and Three offer free WiFi hotspots to help keep users connected in places they wouldn’t usually get signal and help them hold onto their data. But there are a few differences between their schemes.

EE recently introduced their WiFi Coverage Boost, giving all customers access to 150,000+ WiFi hotspots (provided by BT) up and down the country, including a few at London Underground stations and ticket barriers.

Three have free WiFi hotspots on the Underground too, but unlike EE they don’t offer any overground hotspots. So this scheme only really helps London commuters, while EE’s does that and more.

It’s good that both networks offer some free WiFi, but ultimately more is better and more customers are likely to benefit from EE’s scheme. EE are the clear winner here.

Useful link: Our EE’s guide to their WiFi Coverage Boost

Our verdict on WiFi hotspot schemes:

A win for EE

"In the end, EE do everything Three do with their WiFi hotspot scheme while also offering more hotspots around the country. So EE easily take this one.”

Compare pricing and deals

Perks and benefits on EE and Three

Comparing roaming on EE and Three

Do EE or Three still let you use your SIM abroad at no added cost?

A globe with Three and EE logos

Three include roaming passes on premium plans

Roaming built in banner

Read more

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

Three have introduced new tiers of plans, each giving you a certain amount of daily roaming passes to use in these 71 worldwide countries each year. How many you get depends on which plan you take:

Their Standard plans don’t include any. Their Plus plans give you 14/28 passes a year on a 12/24 month contract. Finally their Premium plans give you 28/56 passes a year on a 12/24 month contract.

If you run out of passes you’ll have to pay £2 a day to roam in their EU destinations or £5 in their covered worldwide destinations. The same applies if you just take a Standard plan. So roaming has become a paid-for feature.

Still, at least they offer some inclusive roaming. And this scheme is a decent option for roaming beyond the EU. But if you want a lower cost option for EU roaming, take a look at Three’s sub-brand SMARTY here.

Useful link: Three's replacement for Go Roam

EE don’t offer inclusive EU roaming

EE plans with free EU roaming

Read what’s changed

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

EE don’t include EU roaming. You have to pay £2 a day to access your regular UK allowance in the EU. You can take a Roam Abroad Pass that covers their EU destinations and five non-EU as an Inclusive Extra on premium plans:

You can get a roaming pass with one of these premium plans:

Beyond those five non-EU countries you can take a Travel Data Pass. These are small allowances you pay for each day you roam beyond the EU. They’re expensive, but cheaper than paying at these rates.

We’ve found the network experience to be slick abroad. You get fast 4G where you’d expect it. But EE also don’t offer 5G abroad and you will be limited to 50GB of your allowance even while paying to access it.

In all, roaming on EE will get expensive. If you want a lower cost option for going to the EU, 1pMobile on EE include EU roaming on all of their great value SIM only plans. As it is, roaming is a weakness on EE.

Useful link: EE's full guide to roaming on their network


Our verdict on inclusive roaming:

Win for Three

"Neither network are particularly great for inclusive roaming. But Three offer it on more plans and at a typically lower cost. And they’re a potentially great value option for roaming beyond the EU. Overall, Three take this one."

Compare pricing and deals

Shared and family plans on EE vs Three

Which network is best for taking multiple plans on one account?

A family with EE and Three logos

EE give discounts on extra plans and let you gift data

EE data gifting

Share your data

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

We put EE near the top of our best family plan networks for a reason. You get discounts and extra benefits for adding extra plans onto your account, whether you’re on a SIM only, phone or mobile broadband contract.

They give you 30% off any additional SIM only plan and off the usage (mins, texts, data) plan for their finance-based phone contracts. Or if you add a regular phone contract you get 10% off the whole thing.

And you can share data with EE’s Data Gifting. This lets you share data from one user on your account to another if one user is running out of data and another has some to spare.

This is handy for avoiding extra data charges. And it helps you avoid the inefficiency of losing unused data you've paid for, if you can pass it to someone who needs it (our data rollover guide has more about this).

Useful link: EE's guide to all their family plan benefits

Three give discounts for existing customers

Three's existing customer discounts

See latest prices

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

Three don’t have any data gifting benefits like EE’s, but they do offer some exclusive deals for Three customers that are usually a bit better value than their regular range.

There’s no consistent discount across their whole range of plans, but existing Three customers can usually expect:

£1 - £3 off the monthly cost of phone contracts, plus the upfront costs waived on mid-range and cheaper models.

£1 - £3 off the most popular SIM only plans (a smaller range of 12-month contracts)

And similar discounts on tablets and mobile broadband devices too.

While the savings aren’t massive, Three’s plans tend to be quite a bit cheaper than EE’s across most of their plans. So you will end up saving more overall with Three, even though you’re not getting much of a discount.

Three’s sub-brand SMARTY are a fantastic option for setting up a family plan. While their 10% discount doesn’t look as impressive as EE’s, SMARTY’s plans are already far lower cost in the first place.

Useful link: All prices for existing customers

Our verdict on shared / family plans:

Win for EE

"We think EE offer enough with their family plans to make the higher starting cost of their plans worth it. The data gifting is very handy and 30% off their plans is huge. EE take this one."

Compare pricing and deals

Added benefits on Three vs EE

Which network has the better smaller benefits

Three’s rewards app gives you more value

Three Plus banner

See example offers

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

Three don’t offer a lot of huge benefits any more. They don’t offer unlimited streaming data (unlike these networks here) or data rollover (read our guide here). But they have some nice small benefits.

The first of these is access to their rewards app Three+ which gives you special offers on high-street shopping, restaurants and more. And you sometimes get some total freebies as well.

You can see all the brands that have special offers on Three+ here. And you can sometimes get pre-sale tickets to concerts hosted at Three sponsored events, for example the Reading and Leeds festivals.

While it’s not a massive benefit, you can get a nice bit of extra value out of your plan with this app. That’s even better when you consider Three have the lowest costs of all main UK networks.

Useful link: Read Three's statement on Go Binge

Three also offer extra benefits on premium plans

Premium plan benefits

Read their guide

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

On top of the roaming data passes you get on Three’s Plus and Premium plans we mentioned above, there are a few smaller benefits you also get with these deals to help make the extra cost worth it.

You get a subscription to Paramount+ on both kinds of plan. On Plus plans the subscription will last for half of your contract, while on Premium plans it will last for your entire contract.

If you’re on a phone contract you’ll like the extended warranty offered on their Plus and Premium plans. And you can repair your phone screen at a much cheaper cost on Three’s Premium plans.

Overall, these benefits are mostly for phone contract customers and whether or not they’re worth the extra cost of the plans is up to you. But if you like these then take a look at their different tiers of plans here.

Useful link: Our guide to Three’s different tiers of plans

EE include some nice added benefits on premium plans

Free Apple Music data

See free trials

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

When you join EE on any pay monthly phone or SIM only contract you’ll get some free trials to a few entertainment services that give you extra value on your deal. Trials include Apple Music, Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade.

On top of that, using Apple Music on data during your trial won’t eat up your allowance. Just remember to cancel them once the trial is up if you don’t want to start paying for them.

Or you can get these Apple subscriptions included on your plan by taking out a higher end Full Works plan. These also include EE’s Roam Abroad benefit, letting you roam in the EU at no extra cost.

EE’s Full Works plans come with more Inclusive Extras than their All Rounder plans, but tend to be higher in price. Compare Full Works vs All Rounder plans below:

Their All Rounder plans are lower in price than their Full Works plans and get you one Inclusive Extra of your choosing. So, EE if you don’t mind paying a bit extra EE offer a lot of benefits for you.

Useful link: How to get claim your free trial subscriptions

Our verdict on added extras:

Depends on what you want

“We think it’s more of a toss up now between EE and Three. While EE’s Inclusive Extras are nice, they come on higher-end plans. Three don’t offer as much, but give you more value out of already decent value plans. It depends on your price range really."

Compare pricing and deals

Deals and pricing on EE and Three

Comparing SIM only contracts on EE vs Three

Use our comparison tool below to find the best SIM only deal for you

Comparing EE and Three SIM only plans



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We compare phone deals on price and flexibility

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EE now offer finance options for phone contracts

EE annual upgrade programme

How it works

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

EE now offer phone contracts on finance agreements (basically loans) where you’ll pay off the cost of your device over 24 months or 36 months and your usage plan (mins, texts, data) as separate bills.

You can pay off your phone at any point during your contract if you want to upgrade to a new device. But you can’t switch down to a cheaper usage plan or leave it until your contract for it is over.

When you take out your phone you will have to pay an upfront cost. You can set it lower or higher, but you can’t choose to pay nothing upfront. Setting it higher will reduce your monthly bill.

EE’s phone contracts do tend to be some of the more expensive of all networks and there’s no way to join via a cheaper third party reseller. EE are a premium option for phone deals, but not a bad one.

Useful link: How EE annual upgrade works

Three offer flexible phone deals via finance agreements

Screenshot of phone contracts comparison

Compare phone contracts

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

Three have changed their phone contracts and now base them on finance agreements (loans) that split the cost of paying back your device and your usage plan into separate bills that make up your monthly payment.

This means you can pay off your loan whenever to upgrade early or leave your usage plan. And Three let you set a contract length of 12, 24 or 36 months, so there’s a bit more flexibility than on EE.

You can get a Three phone contract from a third party reseller too. They buy phones in bulk and as such can offer lower cost than the networks themselves. However these are on inflexible 24-month contracts.

It’s worth bearing in mind before joining Three directly. Our phone comparison tool shows all the deals you can get via third party resellers so you can compare that against joining either network directly.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts

Our verdict on phone contract pricing

Win for Three

"Three offer just a bit more flexibility than EE when it comes to their phone contracts. And if price is your biggest concern then you can join Three via a third party reseller. Either way you’re usually better off on Three.”

Compare phone contracts

Choosing between Three and EE

Key differences between EE and Three

Here are the key points of difference between the networks to help you make your mind up:

EE could be best for you if...

Their 5G/4G/3G signal is better near you (check here)

You want the network with the fastest 4G speeds

You want an included BT Sport app and Apple Music trial

Their WiFi calling supports your phone and Three don't (check EE here and Three here)

Three could be best for you if...

Their coverage is better near you (check here)

Their WiFi calling supports your phone and EE don't (check Three here and EE here)

Their plans are better priced for what you need

Which is better EE or Three?

It depends what you value. EE are generally better for 4G coverage and speeds but are more expensive. Three are cheaper and offer faster 5G speeds than EE. Our full guide reveals all the differences.

Is EE owned by Three?

No. They’re wholly separate companies. EE are owned by BT. Three are owned by a company called Hutchinson 3G.

How do I switch from EE to Three?

If you’re out of contract, the simplest way to cancel EE is to text PAC to 65075 from your EE number. Then join Three on the product of your choice and give them the PAC. They’ll bring your number over and cancel with EE.

Are EE and Three the same network?

No. They’re on separate networks with their own pros and cons. Three’s network is best for 5G speeds. EE’s better for general coverage and 4G speeds. They do co-own some sites where masts are located but have separate transmitters.

Our other guides to Three

Other articles about EE

Individual network reviews