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EE vs Three: 4G/5G coverage, speeds & benefits compared

We compare Three with EE

The retailers featured on this page may compensate us when our readers follow links to their websites and make a purchase. More

We compare EE and Three's networks head-to-head to see which offers the better speeds, UK coverage, inclusive roaming and deals in 2021. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 11th November 2020

Special offer news

Comparing Three and EE's networks

Do EE or Three have better coverage?

We compare the size of Three and EE's mobile 5G, 4G and 3G networks

EE and Three's network coverage

EE's overall network is bigger than Three's

Countryside with 4G markers

See expansion plans

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

For mobile signal used for calls and texts, there's barely a difference between EE and Three in overall UK coverage. They've both got similar amounts of the country covered (although not necessarily the same parts).

EE's main advantage over Three is for 4G data reception. EE cover much of the UK's physical landmass with 4G. Although in cities and built-up areas, their advantage over Three is less significant.

Think about where you'll use your phone. If you're mainly urban Three will likely be fine and you'll benefit from better pricing and benefits. If you travel around a lot or live rurally, EE might be a more-reliable choice.

The real key is to check each network's predicted signal before you sign up (use their coverage checkers here) to avoid disappointment. Check things like your route to work/school, not just where you live.

Useful link: Our guide to indoor coverage

Both EE and Three's 5G networks are live and growing

Three 5G network locations map

Next rollout plans

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

If you're thinking of getting a 5G-ready phone, then both EE and Three are viable choices. Both providers have their 5G networks live and are expanding them rapidly into more and more places.

The number of locations each network has 5G is a fast-moving picture. But the latest numbers are 192 locations for Three, vs 160 towns and cities for EE (it's not all the same places on both networks).

Here's our pick of the best 5G-ready plans on both networks:

Within the cities both networks claim to have 5G in, EE certainly seem to have physically larger areas covered than Three, whose 5G is confined to smaller, select busy parts of town like stations.

From experience with their 4G rollouts, we'd predict EE to maintain an advantage for 5G coverage over Three in future too. But if you'll mostly use your phone where Three do have 5G, the national picture is less important.

Useful link: See both networks' 5G maps

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

Reception in the places you actually use your phone is more important than general coverage statistics.

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

"If you live in a big city, you probably wouldn't notice a difference between the two. But when you're travelling round the country, EE have signal in more places. Check in advance with both and you'll know for sure."

Compare pricing and deals

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

EE market their network around speed but is the gap between them and Three that big?

EE and Three's logos with a speedometer

EE's 4G data speeds are faster than Three's

EE 5G locations

Read EE 5G latest

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

Independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla take millions of measurements on people's phones to test what speeds they're getting on every mobile network in the UK.

Their latest reports put EE as the UK's fastest network with typical 4G downloads at 35.9 Mbps- 32.99 Mbps, vs Three's slower 22.4 Mbps- 20.39 Mbps. EE's is like a mid-range fibre home broadband - Three's low-range.

As these are averages, it's worth pointing out you can go lower on both EE and Three (around 10 Mbps) and higher (over 100 Mbps on EE, depending on phone and plan, around 40 Mbps on Three).

Both networks will comfortably support things like HD streaming over a 4G connection and fast browsing. It's just EE will be better for times like when you need last-minute downloads in a hurry when you're about to get on a plane.

Useful link: EE's guide to the differences 5G will make

Three are saying their 5G will be the UK's fastest

Three's fastest 5G network banner

Read why

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

As 5G data becomes more widespread on each mobile network and is supported by more phone handsets, it'll become more of a factor in this speeds section.

For what it's worth, Three have secured the largest amount of 5G radio wave spectrum of any UK provider. And it's on frequencies near to each other, in contrast to other networks.

Three are saying that this means they'll have the UK's fastest 5G network and their plans are already being sold as 5G-read at no extra cost.

5G has the capability to deliver speeds around 1 Gbps (10x faster than fastest real-life 4G). Its main benefit though is capacity. More people can use it at once, without a dip in speeds.

Useful link: Read more about 5G's benefits at Three.co.uk

Our verdict on 4G speeds:

A win for EE

"Prior to any real mass availability of 5G which will change everything, EE are still the better choice for super-users that want the very fastest but general users shouldn't be disappointed with Three either."

Compare pricing and deals

Is WiFi calling better on Three or EE?

EE were the first network to launch WiFi calling, so we see if Three's scheme compares

WiFi calling symbol with EE and Three logos

Three's WiFi calling works on more plans

Three's WiFi calling scheme called InTouch

Check device support

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

WiFi calling on both Three and EE lets your phone use a WiFi signal to make/take calls and send/receive SMS text messages if there's no mobile signal indoors where you are.

You'll need a phone that actually has the feature for it to work (see Three's supported device list here). Our test Android phone bought from elsewhere works on Three's scheme, even if they don't guarantee it.

Three are way more generous with their WiFi calling. You'll get it on every plan, whether pay monthly or pay as you go, SIM only or a phone deal. Other networks like EE are stingier.

Even though Three withdrew a separate WiFi calling app if your phone wasn't support, the combination of the above is why we still rate Three's Three's InTouch as the best WiFi calling scheme of any UK mobile network.

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

EE WiFi calling is excellent too but check phone support

EE's WiFi calling promotional banner

See supported phones

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. And supports SMS like Three do too.

The main downsides to EE's scheme vs Three's is that you only get it on pay monthly (phone contract or SIM only) but not on any of their pay as you go or Flex plans.

EE are a little cagey about their scheme working on Android phones that have been bought from other networks (although we think they might be being a little over-cautious to avoid disappointing people).

Their massive list here shows you all supported Android and iPhone devices). If yours is on there and you have a manufacturer- or EE-bought phone, the feature should work.

Useful link: Full EE guide to WiFi calling

Our verdict on WiFi calling:

Minor win for Three

"Even though the basic functionality of both networks' WiFi calling is the same, you don't have to worry about joining on the "right" plan to get it on Three."

Compare pricing and deals

Perks and benefits on EE and Three

Free roaming compared on EE vs Three

Which network offers better inclusive roaming abroad?

A globe with Three and EE logos

Three have axed their popular Go Roam scheme

Expired stamp Roaming on Three compared with EE

Read statement

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

Roaming was long Three's trump card over every other network. Their Go Roam scheme offered the most included countries at no extra cost, and it came on the largest number of plans (we rated it the UK's best).

That’s all been scrapped for new customers joining from 1st October 2021 and replaced with a system of £2 daily charges in the EU to use your allowances and £5 outside the EU.

It means for the time being, you might actually want to consider joining Three’s low-cost brand SMARTY on SIM only if you want to continue getting inclusive EU roaming with your deal.

Useful link: Three's replacement for Go Roam

 

EE have also scrapped free EU roaming

Expired stampEE plans with free EU roaming

Read what’s changed

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

EE have also scrapped inclusive EU roaming (although you still get it on the BT Mobile brand which uses the EE network and is part of the same company) and they never had much worldwide roaming.

Like Three, you’ll now pay daily charges of £2 when you’re abroad in the EU. But unlike Three, you can choose to add EU (and some worldwide roaming) to your plan too for a premium.

Either pay £10 a month for a Roaming Pass or if you take an EE Smart plan, choose it as your Smart benefit. This is essentially turning what used to be free into a paid extra though.

Choose a roaming pass with any of these Smart plans

While you’re abroad, you’ll get 4G wherever EE’s partner networks have it. And the experience is slick and automatic, as you’d expect from a main network.

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

Our verdict on inclusive roaming:

Minor win for EE

"This used to be a slam dunk victory for Three but now both networks are basically the same. The one minor advantage to EE is being able to add EU/worldwide roaming as a premium extra on a monthly basis"

Compare pricing and deals

Added benefits on Three vs EE

Which network throws in more added value extras?

Three have stripped out many of their best bits

Expired stampThree's Go Binge promotional banner

Read statement

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

We used to really like a benefit you got on Three called Go Binge. But it's now been removed. It was basically unlimited streaming data, when you use some selected apps (see alternatives here).

Three have also got rid of their Wuntu app, which was a loyalty programme that gave you exclusive offers to use online and on the high street for things like shopping and food and drink.

So they're now looking a little light when it comes to nice extras that make your overall deal a bit sweeter. It's a good job Three have got the lowest prices of a main network to fall back on.

We hope they've got something new in the pipeline for 2021, else they're in danger of basically becoming a no-frills provider.

Useful link: Read Three's statement on Go Binge

EE have decent extras but tend to cost more on top

Free Apple Music data

See free trials

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

Join on any EE pay monthly product, phone or SIM and they'll throw in some free time-limited trials to a few services you might find useful. The full current list includes BT Sport via the app, Apple Music and Britbox.

As well as being worth around £200 according to EE, you'll also get the data the apps use for free during the trial (a bit like Three's old Go Binge scheme). But watch out, the apps are chargeable after the trial.

On top of that, some EE pay monthly plans are designated as Smart plans. These include a choice of extra benefits, like streaming data passes, more roaming or an entertainment subscription (see all options here).

All of these include at least one Smart benefit:

They're not freebies. Smart plans cost more than standard ones. But if you're looking for a premium experience and don't mind the extra outlay, EE's Smart benefits help you get more out of your mobile and their network.

Useful link: How to get claim your free trial subscriptions

Our verdict on added extras:

Win for EE

"While Three have stripped out most their extra perks, EE have got some decent options you can take if you're interested, or leave if you're not fussed."

Compare pricing and deals

Shared and family plans on EE vs Three

If you're getting deals for multiple people, are Three or EE the better choice?

A family with EE and Three logos

EE give you discounts and let you share data

EE data gifting

See all benefits

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

EE are ahead of the game when it comes to shared plans, compared to most other networks, including Three (read our best family plan guide here). There are a couple of benefits to taking out multiple deals with EE:

The first is a straight-up 10% discount off every additional pay monthly phone, SIM or mobile broadband you add to your main account (get this when you first sign up or at any point in your contract by logging in).

The second is really innovative. It's called Data Gifting and you can read about it in full on EE's website here. It lets you move around data from person to person on your account if someone ever runs low.

This is handy for avoiding extra charges for data. 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 you discounts but no other family perks

Three's existing customer discounts

See latest prices

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

On Three, there's less of the additional facilities like EE's Data Gifting but do still reward you with discounts on extra products you add to your account.

The rule isn't as simple as a straightforward percentage off but typically existing Three customers can 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.

Considering Three's starting prices generally start from a lower place than EE, getting these discounts on top will likely still end up in a lower overall package, even if the individual savings themselves aren't so large.

Useful link: All prices for existing customers at Three.co.uk

Our verdict on shared / family plans:

Minor win for EE

"Even though we think the overall cost of all your deals added together will probably be cheaper on Three, EE's Data Gifting benefit will come in handy for many people and the discounts are more straightforward."

Compare pricing and deals

Deals and pricing on EE and Three

Comparing EE and Three's SIM only plans

Are Three always cheaper than EE for SIM only deals?

Comparing EE and Three SIM only plans

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Latest Three and EE offers compared

We look at the promotional plans on EE and Three this month

EE and Three logos with a special offer ribbon

Phone contracts on EE and Three compared

We look at both networks' smartphone deals to find any differences

EE and Three's phone contracts work similarly

EE annual upgrade programme

How it works

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

Both EE and Three offer their smartphone deals on what we'd call traditional mobile contracts:

That means you'll sign a 24-month contract (no shorter deals available) and there's no complicated loans or financing arrangements, just a straight-up bill each month for your phone and plan.

Neither network offer any strong early-upgrade deals, although EE do have a scheme where you can upgrade after 12 months on certain phones/plans (see here) but it involves handing in your old phone.

We're generally not fans of this type of arrangement, as you'll usually get a better price selling your phone elsewhere. And there are a fair amount of terms around the condition of your old phone.

Useful link: How EE annual upgrade works from their help section

Both providers also sell via other retailers

Screenshot of phone contracts comparison

Compare phone contracts

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

There's two ways to join both EE and Three on a phone contract. You can sign up with them directly via their own official websites, or they also sell via franchised resellers (Carphone Warehouse was an example but don't sell EE or Three any more).

Now there's Fonehouse, who sell both EE and Three. And the manufacturer Samsung themselves can sell you a contract on Three for their models.

All of these work by providing the phone themselves (rather than it coming from EE or Three). They buy more phones, so get better prices from manufacturers, so can offer cheaper deals to you.

It's definitely something to think about for both networks and our comparison tool on the link below includes all those third party retailers as well as joining the networks direct, so definitely use it to compare.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts

Our verdict on phone contract pricing

Three slightly cheaper on the whole

"EE and Three are closely matched but Three are probably slightly cheaper in general if you're willing to pay a higher upfront cost. Use our phone comparison tool to look up to compare specific phone/plans though."

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're happy with mainly free roaming in the EU

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)

You want unlimited streaming on loads of apps

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

Our other guides to Three

Other articles about EE

Individual network reviews