Cookies on the SIM Sherpa website

We use cookies to track which pages on our website readers visit most. This helps us understand which topics people find interesting, to write more articles about them.

You can accept these tracking cookies or choose to block them. You can change these settings at any time.

X close

✖ Tracking cookies deleted and blocked

Ok, we will not track your page views as you move around any part of the SIM Sherpa website. But we will use that one cookie to remember you don't want to be tracked.

Click here to unblock tracking cookies

X close

✔ Cookies accepted

Thank you for accepting cookies for the SIM Sherpa website. This will help us constantly improve our content.

If you ever want to change your cookie settings for our website, go to our Cookies page here.

Three vs Vodafone: compare their 5G/4G networks and benefits

Three and Vodafone logos with VS between them

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

We look at whether the 5G and 4G coverage and speeds are better on Vodafone or Three, plus compare the other benefits you get on each. Last updated: 2nd February 2022

In our network comparison

Latest deals notification

How Vodafone and Three's networks compare

Is coverage better on Three or Vodafone?

We look at Three vs Vodafone’s 3G, 4G and 5G signal coverage

Three vs Vodafone's mobile networks

Vodafone's 4G/3G/2G coverage is more widespread

Vodafone banner

Read why

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

For call signal (2G/3G) you’re more likely to stay better connected on Vodafone than on Three. They cover more of the UK’s landmass and a few more places where people actually live.

The same goes for Vodafone’s 4G signal. You’re more likely to get 4G out in the sticks if you’re on Vodafone than Three, but you shouldn’t notice too much difference in big towns or cities.

We’d say good 4G coverage is the most important, as you’ll be on it more often than 5G and it’s much better for data speeds than 3G. So having better 4G coverage is a big win for Vodafone.

The best way to make sure is to use each network’s coverage checkers below. If either network has good coverage in the places you’ll use your phone, you don’t have to worry as much about the national picture.

Useful link: Vodafone's network improvement plans

Three provide 5G in more locations than Vodafone

5G locations map from Three

See latest places

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

All of the major networks (Vodafone, Three, EE and O2) are hard at work expanding their 5G networks to more UK towns and cities, as well as improving coverage within these locations.

At the time of writing, Three claim to have 5G in over 300 locations against Vodafone's 120+ locations. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.

When a network claims they have 5G in a location, it doesn’t mean you’ll get 5G all over that location. It’s still on a street-by-street basis. But you’re more likely to be covered for 5G on Three than on Vodafone.

Still, use Vodafone and Three's network maps to see if you can get 5G in your area. We found the maps to be pretty accurate to real life, so you’ll get a good idea of which is better for you.

Useful link: Three's plans for their 5G rollout

Checking signal on Vodafone and Three

Here's how to find predicted reception in your area

Three's network map

Three coverage checker

Check Three coverage

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Vodafone's network map

Vodafone coverage checker

Check Vodafone coverage

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

Minor win for Vodafone

"Outside of built-up areas, you’ll have a better chance of staying connected to calls and data signal with Vodafone. You may have a better chance to get 5G on Three, but this depends per location. Overall a win for Vodafone."

Compare pricing and deals

Are data speeds faster on Vodafone or Three?

What you can expect from each provider

Three and Vodafone logos with a speedometer

Network testers put Three just ahead for 4G speeds

Vodafone 5G speeds explained

5G vs 4G guide

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

We aren’t able to do speed tests all over the country, but independent network testers Opensignal take measurements from millions of volunteer phones to see which network gives the fastest data speeds.

Their results showed average 4G data speeds of 21.6 Mbps on Vodafone and 25.2 Mbps on Three. That’s not a massive difference, but you may notice websites load a bit faster on Three.

We found Vodafone’s speeds vary by location more than other networks. Out in the countryside we got speeds as low as 7 Mbps, while we got around 80+ Mbps in more urban areas. This variation lowers the overall average.

Our tests of Three rarely gave us speeds higher than 40 Mbps, but we also rarely went below 10 Mbps as well. We think 4G speeds will typically be more consistent on Three, so we give them the edge here.

Useful link: Vodafone's 5G speed expectations

Three's 5G is by far the fastest of all networks

Three's fastest 5G network banner

Read how

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

Three claim that they have the fastest 5G network. By looking at the independent network testers’ results, we can see whether or not this claim is backed up by the truth.

Opensignal put Three’s average 5G speeds at a fairly disappointing 103.9 Mbps. This is still a big step up over 4G and much better than Vodafone’s average 5G speeds of 73.3 Mbps.

Speedtest's results tell a different story, with Three flying ahead with average 5G speeds of 221.8 Mbps, while Vodafone has a decent average of 149.9 Mbps.

We can’t explain why the results are so different between testers, but Three comes out consistently faster than Vodafone. The advantage seems pretty clear for Three.

Useful link: What to expect from Three's 5G

Our verdict on download speeds:

Win for Three

"With better average 4G speeds and lightning fast 5G speeds, it’s a clear overall win for Three in this category. One consolation for Vodafone is that you might get higher peak 4G speeds, but this depends on location."

Compare pricing and deals

Extra network features

WiFi calling, 4G calling and free hotspots on Vodafone vs Three

Vodafone and Three logos with a WiFi symbol

Three’s WiFi calling scheme offers the most flexibility

Three's WiFi calling

See supported phones

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

WiFi calling is now a standard feature across the four main networks (Three, Vodafone, O2 and EE). This lets you make and take calls over WiFi rather than conventional mobile signal.

Three’s WiFi calling scheme is one of our favourites. It’s offered on all of their pay monthly plans and pay as you go plans, and works on most phone models (check if your phone is supported here).

So long as your phone supports it, you’ll also get 4G Calling (or VoLTE) with Three. This improves call quality as well as indoor coverage, as Three’s 4G is better at getting into buildings than their 3G.

Free WiFi hotspots aren’t a major strength on Three, but you do get a few on the London Underground with any of Three’s plans. This makes their WiFi calling a little more useful.

Useful link: Three's guide to their mobile network

Vodafone’s WiFi calling is practically the same as Three’s

Vodafone's WiFi calling

See supported phones

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

In terms of how Vodafone’s WiFi calling works as a feature, it’s pretty similar to Three’s. You can now send SMS messages over WiFi and they have 4G calling on a wide array of phone models (check supported devices here).

The main downside is that it’s not offered on their pay as you go or on their Basics plans. These are essentially bare bones SIM only plans that only let you call and use data (see our review of them here).

Android users also might find Vodafone’s support for Android models to be a bit underwhelming compared to Three’s. And Vodafone no longer offer free WiFi on the Underground.

So while the features might work the same, you’re more likely to get and make use of the feature with Three, so it’s a slight win for them.

Useful link: All mobile network features at Vodafone.co.uk

Our verdict on extra network features:

Minor Three win

"Three just offer that little bit more in terms of network features. Their hotspot scheme isn’t great, but it’s better than nothing. And their WiFi calling is just a bit easier to get working than Vodafone’s."

Compare pricing and deals

Vodafone and Three's benefits compared

Inclusive roaming on Three and Vodafone

Both networks make big claims about their roaming. But which is best?

Vodafone and Three logos with a globe icon

Three no longer offer inclusive roaming as standard

Expired stampRoaming on Three compared with Vodafone

Latest country list

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

The main mobile networks are sadly cutting back or abandoning their inclusive EU roaming altogether these days, and Three are no exception. Their brilliant Go Roam scheme is long gone for new customers.

If you want to roam now on Three you’ll have to pay £2 for every day that you’re in the EU to “unlock” your daily UK allowance. Outside the EU this charge shoots up to £5 a day.

Even though you’re paying to get your allowance, Three still impose their fair usage policy of 12GB while in the EU. In non-EU destinations there’s no cap on your data, but there is a limit on your minutes and texts.

The best thing we can say about Three’s roaming is that it might save you money beyond the EU, where rates can be ridiculously expensive. But for long-haul journeys, there are much better options.

Useful link: Roaming costs in non-inclusive destinations

Vodafone offer worldwide roaming on premium plans

Vodafone's Global Roaming passes

What's so good?

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

Vodafone still offer inclusive roaming, but it is not standard across all their pay monthly plans. Instead, you’ll have to get one of their pricier 4 Xtra Benefits plans to roam in a maximum 83 worldwide destinations.

You can only get roaming on these plans:

How many of these destinations will be included depends on your plan. If you take the Unlimited 4 Xtras plan you’ll get all these destinations. With a non-Unlimited 4 Xtras plan you can roam in 51 EU destinations.

With their regular pay monthly plans you’ll have to pay £2 a day to access your UK allowance in the EU, and £6 while beyond the EU. And Vodafone's Basics SIMs don’t work at all while abroad.

In the end you are paying extra to get roaming, but this can be worth it if you’re going far away for a long time. But paying for a more expensive contract will cost you money overall, so Vodafone’s roaming is still poor.

Useful link: Full roaming costs on Vodafone

Our verdict on roaming:

Win for Vodafone

"Neither network has a great inclusive roaming scheme, but Vodafone at least offers one, even if it is exclusive to premium plans. Three offer nothing to new customers, so a win by default for Vodafone."

Compare pricing and deals

Other benefits compared

What's better on Three or Vodafone than each other?

A giftbox with Vodafone and Three logos

Vodafone have a reward app and Entertainment plans

Vodafone VeryMe rewards apps

See example offers

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

If you like sites like Groupon that get you exclusive vouchers on certain services, then we think Vodafone’s reward scheme “VeryMe” will appeal to you. It’s available with their good customer service app.

On the app you select things you’re interested in and you’ll receive offers for those sorts of things, such as high street shopping and restaurants. You can even sometimes get total freebies. See full details here.

Vodafone also offer Entertainment plans. These are a little pricier than their regular plans, but give you a subscription to an entertainment service of your choice for the length of your contract.

All these let you choose a subscription:

You can choose between Youtube Premium, Amazon Prime (Video) and Spotify Premium. It’s usually cheaper overall than paying for the two separately, but it’s worth checking to make sure.

Useful link: Full details and terms for Entertainment plans

Three don’t offer many benefits now

Expired stampVodafone VeryMe rewards apps

Read statement

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

Three used to be one of our favourite networks for the extra benefits they offered their customers. These days, most of these benefits are a thing of the past.

The best they have for the moment is their Three+ rewards scheme. It’s fairly limited for now, but you can get money off at restaurants and pre-sale benefits for certain concerts.

It’s hard to give a strong opinion on this scheme as it’s only really just come out. For now it’s fairly useful, but we could see it becoming even better in the future.

Three used to offer much more, but now they seem almost like a no-frills network without the cheaper costs. There’s not a huge difference between Three and their low-cost brand SMARTY.

Useful link: Three's cheaper sub-brand SMARTY

Our verdict on extra benefits:

Win for Vodafone

"Vodafone offer just a little bit more than Three with their Entertainment subscriptions. We’d say VeryMe is better than Three+ for now, but we could see this change."

Compare pricing and deals

Pricing compared on Vodafone and Three

SIM only plans compared on Three and Vodafone

See if Vodafone or Three are better value for the mins, texts and data you need

A Vodafone and Three SIM card

Networks

Providers:

Three logo
ASDA logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
O2 logo
Plusnet logo
Sky logo
SMARTY logo
Talkmobile logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
Vodafone logo
VOXI logo

Plan

Data: (0MB+)

Minutes: (0+)

Contract

Maximum length: (Any)

Added features

Special offers on Vodafone and Three

Compare promotions running on the two networks

Vodafone and Three logos with a special offer ribbon

Phone contracts on Three vs Vodafone

Compare pricing on popular models between Vodafone and Three

Vodafone vs Three phone contracts

Vodafone offer more flexibility on phone contracts

Vodafone EVO

Read full details

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

Vodafone have made a big change to the way their phone contracts work. They used to offer traditional 24-month contracts (like Three still do), but their new EVO plans offer much greater flexibility.

You can choose to pay off your phone over a period of anywhere between 12 and 36 months to suit your budget. Your bill is split between the cost of your phone and your usage, letting you change your usage plan whenever.

Their contracts are based around finance, which gives you the flexibility to pay lump sums to reduce your monthly bill or even pay off your phone before your contract is over so you can upgrade early.

In terms of price, Vodafone tend to be one of the more expensive. If you’re set on going with them then we recommend looking at Carphone Warehouse and Mobiles.co.uk for cheaper deals, but with less flexibility.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts with us

Three's phone contracts are simple and decently priced

Screenshot of our phone comparison tool

Compare phone deals

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

Three’s phone contracts aren’t groundbreaking. You get your phone on a 24-month contract and every month you’re paying both for the cost of your phone and the usage.

You don’t get the same flexibility as with Vodafone. You can’t upgrade early, you can’t change contract length or your usage plan until your contract is up. The main benefit of Three is that there’s tend to be cheaper.

But if you want a cheap deal we’d recommend going with a licensed reseller such as Fonehouse or Samsung, who can get you onto a Three phone contract for much cheaper than going with Three directly.

You can use our phone comparison tool to compare Three’s contracts against Vodafone’s. You can also compare them against their resellers to see how much you could be saving.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts with us

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Draw

"Your choice between these two networks largely depends on whether you want better value or greater flexibility. For the best possible value it’s worth looking at resellers."

Compare pricing and deals

More Three guides

More articles about Vodafone

Individual network reviews