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iD Mobile vs Three: the key network differences and similarities

Three and iD Mobile logos

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Do you get a worse network experience by joining iD Mobile instead of Three? We look at coverage, speeds and benefits to find out. Last updated: 30th March 2022.

In our Three vs iD Mobile guide

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iD Mobile and Three mobile network differences

Is coverage identical on iD Mobile and Three?

We see if you'll get the same signal on both networks

Mobile signal bars with iD and SMARTY logos

Network coverage is the same on iD and Three

Get ready for free 5G on iD

See their map

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

iD Mobile piggyback off Three for their signal, while Three own and operate their own network. This means you’ll get signal in the same areas on iD as you would on Three.

Three have the smallest call signal (3G/2G) and 4G signal coverage of all the main UK networks, meaning you’re more likely to find yourself in a blackspot while travelling around. They should be fine in urban areas, however.

5G has been available on iD Mobile for a while, and it’s definitely Three’s biggest network strength. They cover 300+ UK towns and cities, with decent amounts of those locations’ area covered for 5G.

So, there’s no difference between them here. Still, it’s worth using their coverage checkers to see how coverage is in your area before taking your SIM. Check at home, at work and anywhere else you’ll use your phone.

Useful links: Three's latest network developments

Use one of their coverage checkers

Don't just check at home - look at everywhere you'll use your phone

iD Mobile network map

iD coverage checker screenshot

Check iD signal

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Three network map

Three coverage checker screenshot

Check Three signal

using their coverage checker
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:


"You’ll get signal in the same areas with the same signal strength on both iD Mobile and Three. The big differences between them will be the other features they offer."

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Data speeds on iD Mobile vs Three

Are there any differences in download speeds?

iD Mobile and Three logos with a speedometer

The two share the same 5G and 4G speeds

Three 5G banner

Latest 5G news

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

We tested both networks against each other in real life, measuring speeds in the same areas at the same time. From this we found no evidence of speed differences. So the speed results from Opensignal apply to both networks.

They measure average speeds on Three at 25.2 Mbps. In reality you’ll find speeds as low as 9 Mbps in rural areas and we got peak speeds of around 44 Mbps in the city centre.

The biggest benefit being on Three is their super fast 5G speeds. Results from Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla show average 5G speeds between 103.9 Mbps - 246.65 Mbps, by far the fastest in the UK.

You’ll likely struggle with data speeds while you’re out in the countryside on Three, but that’s true to an extent for all networks. But it’s their 5G speeds that make them stand out among the other networks.

Useful link: iD Mobile’s 5G guide

Our verdict on data speeds:

Another draw

"This is another category where there’s nothing to separate the two networks. You get the same speeds in the same areas."

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Network differences between iD Mobile and Three

Here are some network features that either network offer

Gears icon with Three and iD Mobile logos

Both networks offer WiFi calling and 4G calling

iD WiFi calling banner

See list of phones

at iD Mobile's help guide
(opens in new window)

Since Three and iD broadcast their call signal (2G/3G) on frequencies that aren’t great at getting indoors, it’s important for both networks to offer extra features to help with this. Both offer WiFi calling as a solution.

WiFi calling lets your phone connect to calls using WiFi signal when conventional call signal is poor. Both networks also let you send/receive SMS messages via WiFi and let you move from WiFi to 4G without your call dropping.

Of course, both offer 4G calling which means you can take calls over 4G. But iD don’t offer it on pay as you go, while Three do. Three also offer WiFi hotspots on the Underground that pair well with WiFi calling.

Another big difference is that Three’s list of supported devices is much longer than iD’s, meaning you’ve got a better chance getting WiFi calling to work on Three than on iD.

Useful link: Read what difference 4G calling makes

Three have free WiFi hotspots on the Underground, iD don’t

Free WiFi on the London Underground Three

How to connect

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

London commuters may find Three’s free WiFi hotspots on the TFL network quite useful for staying connected on the way to work. You can access WiFi at platforms and ticket barriers on any of Three’s plans.

There’s no limits to how much you can use the WiFi. And you only need to sign in once for your phone to automatically log in next time you’re near the hotspot.

It pairs very well with their WiFi calling as you can stay connected to calls where you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. But it’d be better if the trains themselves also had WiFi. For now they don’t.

In the end it’s a good way of staying connected and saving a bit of data and battery. They aren’t at the top of our list for best WiFi hotspot schemes, but it’s a nice little extra to get on top of your plan.

Useful link: Full details on Three's free WiFi on the Underground

Our verdict on extra network features:

Small win for Three

The biggest difference between the two is Three’s WiFi hotspot scheme, but this won’t be useful for everyone. Three’s WiFi calling is a little better than iD’s, but not massively. Overall it’s a small win for iD."

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Differences in benefits between Three and iD Mobile

How roaming compares on iD Mobile vs Three

Are iD as good for going abroad as Three?

Three and iD Mobile logos with a globe

Three no longer offer inclusive EU roaming

SMARTY discount for unused data

See updated scheme

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

Three used to be our favourite network for roaming, as you used to get free inclusive roaming in a massive number of EU and worldwide destinations (Three’s included countries list here). But that scheme is gone now.

Instead, you’ll usually have to pay £2 a day to access your regular UK allowance, and normally £5 a day in their worldwide destinations. There’s no way around paying that daily rate.

Even though you’re paying to access your UK allowance you’re still limited to 12GB while in the EU. If you get through that you’ll have to top up and pay at their regular pay as you go rate.

Finally you can only tether if you’re on an unlimited plan or if you buy an add-on to be able to tether. All of this is why Three sits at the bottom of our EU roaming list.

Useful link: Full roaming costs and terms on Three

iD Mobile offer free inclusive EU roaming

iD Mobile roaming fair use policy

Read fair usage policy

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

Like most of the smaller networks, iD have kept their EU roaming policy in place. You can access your UK allowance of minutes, texts and data while roaming in these EU destinations.

One thing that holds iD’s roaming back is that they have an overly complicated fair usage policy. The amount of data you can use abroad changes depending on your plan, and even cheaper plans can be limited.

Also if you’re going beyond the EU, then you’ll have to top up and pay as you go at some pretty expensive rates depending on the location.

Finally we did find some issues connecting to 4G abroad in our review of them. But this will vary per location. In the end they’re a decent choice for EU roaming, and much better than Three.

Useful link: All roaming costs on iD Mobile

Our verdict on roaming:

Win for iD

"iD definitely aren’t the strongest network for EU roaming, but they’re much better than Three. Worldwide roaming will be expensive on either. iD are good enough for short trips to the EU."

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Other benefits of iD Mobile over Three

What do iD Mobile offer that Three don’t?

iD Mobile greater than Three

iD Mobile offer a nice data rollover scheme

iD Mobile Data Rollover

Read iD's full guide

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

iD used to pride themselves on being one of the very first networks to introduce data rollover, where the data you don’t get through in one month gets added to your next month’s allowance. Now more networks offer it.

Your unused data will be added automatically to your allowance when the month is up, and you’ll get through your rolled over data before your new allowance. You can also use their brilliant app to manage it manually.

Not only do you get to use the data you’ve paid for, but it helps avoid iD’s pretty expensive extra data charges if you have to use more data than usual and you have a bit saved up.

It’d be a better scheme if they let you keep data for longer (on Sky Mobile it lasts 3 years!). Or if they gave you money back for unused data like SMARTY, but overall it’s a good scheme.

Useful link: Get the full story on iD's Data Rollover

Benefits on Three over iD

What do iD Mobile offer that Three don’t?

Three greater than iD Mobile

Three’s rewards app offers special discounts

Three Plus rewards app

How to get it

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

The main networks usually offer ways of sweetening the deal and giving their customers a bit of extra value. O2 have their Priority rewards app, Vodafone have VeryMe and Three have something very similar:

They call it Three+ and it’s a new rewards scheme that’s growing steadily. For now there are only a few offers on a limited number of food delivery services, restaurants and cinemas (see full list here).

They do claim that they’ll be bringing out some even better offers on more services, such as presale tickets to festivals and other services. This is obviously an attempt to match O2’s priority tickets for sports and music events.

For now we can’t give much of an opinion on it, other than it’s not yet as good as their old Wuntu app or other networks’ rewards apps. But it’s nice to have on top of your deal.

Useful link: See our full guide to Three+

Plans and pricing on iD Mobile vs Three

SIM only deals: how iD and Three compare

Which network has the cheaper SIM only deals?

SIM card with iD Mobile and Three logos



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Special offers on Three and iD

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Phone contracts on Three vs iD Mobile

Both networks offer phone contracts, so what are the differences?

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Both networks offer the same sort of phone contracts

Screenshot of iD Mobile phone range

Compare phone contracts

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

Both Three and iD offer phone deals on traditional 24-month contracts with the cost of your phone and your usage (mins, texts and data) bundled into one payment.

So there’s no options to set a different contract length or upfront costs, nor can you change your usage plan or upgrade your phone early. This does mean it might be easier to pass their credit checks.

Since they don’t offer any special flexibility options, you might as well look into buying via a reseller such as Samsung, Fonehouse, buymobiles.net for a Three contract, or Curry’s Mobile for an iD contract.

These resellers also buy more phones than Three, meaning they can usually give a better overall deal. You can use our phone comparison tool to find the best deal for you on the phone you want.

Useful link: See iD's range of phone contracts

More iD Mobile guides

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