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

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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: 10th January 2023

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How Vodafone and Three's networks compare

Is coverage better on Vodafone or Three?

We compare Vodafone and Three’s 5G/4G/3G coverage

Three vs Vodafone's mobile networks

Vodafone offer wider 4G/3G/2G coverage

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Read why

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In terms of call signal (2G/3G) Vodafone cover more of the UK’s landmass than Three, including more areas where people actually live. So you’re more likely to stay connected on Vodafone than on Three.

The same goes for Vodafone’s 4G data 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.

It’s more important for a network to offer good 4G coverage, as you’ll spend more time on it than on 5G and it gives you better data speeds than 3G. So Vodafone’s better 4G coverage is a big advantage for them.

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 have 5G live in more locations than Vodafone

5G locations map from Three

See latest places

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Every main UK network (Three, Vodafone, O2 and EE) are rapidly expanding their 5G networks to more and more locations around the country, while also working to improve their coverage in these places.

Last time we checked Three had 5G live in 400+ UK towns and cities while Vodafone’s was live in 140+ towns and cities. But that says nothing about their coverage within these locations.

When networks say 5G is live in a location that doesn’t mean you’ll get 5G everywhere in that location. It’s on a street-by-street basis. But Three tend to offer better coverage in their locations than 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
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Vodafone's network map

Vodafone coverage checker

Check Vodafone coverage

using their official map
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Our verdict on coverage:

Minor win for Vodafone

“Vodafone are much better for keeping you connected for data and calls outside of urban areas. You’re more likely to get 5G in your area on Three but that still depends per location. Overall Vodafone take this one.”

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Are data speeds faster on Three or Vodafone?

Here’s the sorts of speeds you’ll typically get on both

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Three’s typical 4G speeds are faster according to testers

Vodafone 5G speeds explained

5G vs 4G guide

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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 latest report revealed typical 4G speeds on Three around 30.7 Mbps while Vodafone’s were 21.2 Mbps. The difference between them has got bigger as Three’s results have gone up and Vodafone’s have gone down.

We found Vodafone’s speeds vary by location more than other networks. In the countryside we got speeds as low as 5 Mbps, while we got around 110+ Mbps in more urban areas. This variation lowers the overall average.

On Three we rarely went below 7 Mbps, but then we hardly ever got speeds higher than 70 Mbps. Still, we think 4G speeds are usually more consistent on Three, so they just take the win here.

Useful link: Vodafone's 5G speed expectations

Three have the faster 5G speeds by far

Three's fastest 5G network banner

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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.

According to results from Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla, typical 5G speeds on Three between 228.4 Mbps - 248.16 Mbps, while speeds on Vodafone were 105.2 - 133.54 Mbps. That’s a huge difference between them.

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.

As such we think Three’s 5G network is coping a bit better than Vodafone’s with the influx of customers getting 5G-ready phones and is by far the superior network when it comes to 5G speeds.

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

Our verdict on download speeds:

Win for Three

“Three offer better typical 4G speeds and considerably faster 5G speeds, so it’s a clear win for them. Vodafone can possibly get you higher peak 4G speeds, though this depends on where you use it.”

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Extra network features

Here are the other features either network offer to keep you connected

Vodafone and Three logos with a WiFi symbol

Three offer greater flexibility with their WiFi/4G calling

Three's WiFi calling

See supported phones

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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 have one of our favourite WiFi calling schemes of all networks. They include it on every pay monthly and pay as you go plan and it’s compatible with lots of different phones (see if yours 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.

You also get access to some free WiFi hotspots on the London Underground on every Three plan. That pairs well with their WiFi calling as you can stay connected to calls on your commute.

Useful link: Three's guide to their mobile network

Vodafone’s WiFi calling works almost the same as Three’s

Vodafone's WiFi calling

See supported phones

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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 biggest disadvantage is that they don’t include it on their Pay As You Go or Basics plans. These are no-frills SIM only deals only used for calls and data (read more about Basics plans 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.

While these features work identically, you’re more likely to actually get the feature to work and use it on Three, so we give them the edge for this one.

Useful link: All mobile network features

Our verdict on extra network features:

Minor Three win

“It’s not a massive win for Three here. But they offer some potentially helpful hotspots while Vodafone offer none, and it’s easier to get Three’s WiFi calling to work than Vodafone’s.”

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Vodafone and Three's benefits compared

Inclusive roaming on Vodafone and Three

Can you still use your allowance abroad like at home on either network?

Vodafone and Three logos with a globe icon

Three don’t include EU roaming on their plans

Expired stampRoaming on Three compared with Vodafone

Latest country list

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Most of the main mobile providers have removed inclusive EU roaming from their plans, and Three are one of them. They got rid of their great Go Roam scheme a while ago, so new customers can’t get it any more.

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.

What makes this more frustrating is that Three still restrict you to 12GB of your data allowance while in the EU. There’s no data limit in destinations beyond the EU, but there is a cap 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’s priciest plans come with worldwide roaming

Vodafone's Global Roaming passes

What's so good?

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

You can only get roaming on these plans:

The amount of locations where you can use your allowance depends on your plan. Their Unlimited 4 Xtras plan lets you roam in all those locations. Their non-unlimited 4 Xtras plans let you 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.

Either way, roaming comes at an extra cost on Vodafone. If you’re going beyond the EU then this might be worth it, but you’ll still be paying for a much pricier contract to do so. Vodafone’s roaming is poor overall.

Useful link: Full roaming costs on Vodafone

Our verdict on roaming:

Win for Vodafone

“Inclusive roaming isn’t a strength on either network. However, Vodafone do at least offer some inclusive roaming, even if it’s restricted to their most expensive plans. On Three you don’t get any, so Vodafone take this one.”

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Other benefits compared

What do either network offer that’s better than the other?

A giftbox with Vodafone and Three logos

Vodafone offer Entertainment plans and a rewards app

Vodafone VeryMe rewards apps

See example offers

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If you’re a fan of sites like Groupon that give you special offers on different services, we think you’ll like Vodafone’s “Very Me” rewards. You’ll be able to access these via their helpful customer service app.

There you can choose things you like, including high street food and shopping, to start receiving unique discounts on these. Sometimes you even get total freebies. All the details are on Vodafone’s page 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 only offer their rewards app now

Three plus rewards app

See example offers

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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.

But Three do have a handy rewards scheme called Three+ that gets you special discounts on shopping, restaurants and other services. And they offered presale tickets for the Reading and Leeds festivals this year.

It’s good to check now and again what they’re offering, but we’d say Three+ is still a bit behind other rewards apps for the sheer amount of services covered. But still, it’s a helpful scheme in our eyes.

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’s Entertainment plans will be a nice choice for certain customers. For now we think their VeryMe app gives you a bit more than Three+, but this still could change.”

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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



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Our verdict on SIM only pricing:

Three win

“Three are typically the lowest cost main network for SIM only contracts, while Vodafone’s deals can be some of the priciest of all networks. But it’s always worth checking to see what sorts of special offers are live on either network.”

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Special offers on Vodafone and Three

Compare promotions running on the two networks

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Phone contracts on Vodafone vs Three

Comparing which network is better for contract flexibility and price

Vodafone vs Three phone contracts

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Vodafone have very flexible phone contracts

Vodafone EVO

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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 set the length of your phone contract anywhere between 3 and 36 months depending on how much you want to pay per month. But your usage (mins, texts, data) has to be either on a 12-month or 24-month contract.

Vodafone base their contracts around finance, meaning you can pay lump sum amounts to reduce your monthly bill. Or if you’d prefer you can pay off your loan early to end your contract or upgrade to a new device.

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 for cheaper deals, but with less flexibility.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts with us

Three offer simple good value phone contracts

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Three don’t offer anything particularly special with their phone contracts. They’re all on 24-month contracts where you pay the cost of your device and usage plan together each month.

They don’t offer the same flexibility as Vodafone. They don’t let you change your contract length, switch usage plans until your phone contract is over or upgrade early. But their contracts do 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:


“Ultimately your choice between the two comes down to whether you want the flexibility to set your contract how you like it or if you want a cheaper deal. But for the cheapest contract possible we’d look at third party resellers on either network.”

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More Three guides

More articles about Vodafone

Individual network reviews