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Networks piggybacking on Three: the best virtual providers

Three logo with a mobile mast

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

If you know you want to be on the Three network but don't want to join them directly, here are your options for providers that use their signal. Last updated: 10th February 2022.

In our guide

Get the quality of Three’s network with different benefits

Three logo, mobile mast and a SIM card

Use Three’s masts with other providersSkip to the networks

When we did our full review of Three, we found that the best thing about them is their superfast 5G speeds. But with many of their better benefits like worldwide roaming gone, Three feel more like a no-frills network now.

You should check their SIM only deals below (we often have hidden offers) before writing off Three completely. You can also use our phone comparison tool here if you want a phone contract.

But nowadays most of the networks that piggyback off Three’s network get access to the same 4G and 5G speeds and coverage as their host and can offer cheaper deals or have unique selling points to joining.

Here, we’ll go through all the providers that piggyback off Three’s network and outline their speeds, coverage, benefits and how their plans differ from being on Three directly.

Skip to: Who uses Three’s network | SIM only plans | Phone contracts

Who uses Three?

SMARTY: a cheap alternative to being on Three directly

Screenshot of SMARTY's coverage checker

Same coverage as being on ThreeCheck for yourself

at smarty.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Same 5G/4G/3G/2G coverage
Green plus sign Cheap, short, flexible deals
Green plus sign Network features like WiFi/4G calling

What we don't like:
Red minus sign No phone contracts
Red minus sign Online-only customer service

SMARTY were set up by Three as a cheaper alternative to rope in people looking for the best possible deal. You get the same coverage and speeds as being on Three directly, as we found no difference in our Three vs SMARTY guide.

They recently introduced 5G on all their plans. This is amazing, as Three have the fastest typical 5G speeds according to Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla of between 110.9 Mbps - 246.65 Mbps. You’ll get it in these 300+ locations.

They also offer WiFi and 4G calling similar to Three’s. But SMARTY offer some unique benefits of their own. They have a brilliant family discount scheme of 10% off additional plans and offer inclusive EU roaming while Three don’t.

SMARTY tend to be better value than Three for SIM only plans. They also offer plans that get you discounts for unused data, but they’re not as great value. All their SIMsare on 1-month plans, so you can change or leave when you want.

The worst parts about SMARTY are that they don’t offer phone contracts at all (unlike the next network we’ll go over) and they also only offer online customer service. You can’t call them or visit a store.

Useful link: Read our full review of SMARTY

iD Mobile: cheapest phone contracts on Three’s network

Screenshot of iD Mobile's coverage map

Same signal coverage as ThreeCheck iD signal

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

What we like:
Green plus sign Full access to Three’s network
Green plus sign Cheaper phone contracts
Green plus sign Network features like WiFi and 4G calling
Green plus sign Data rollover

What we don't like:
Red minus sign EU roaming isn’t great
Red minus sign Few extra benefits

iD Mobile are another low-cost network on the Three network who also offer the same network experience as being on Three directly. You’ll get the same speeds and coverage as Three, and you get WiFi and 4G calling as well.

However, unlike SMARTY, iD don’t really offer many unique benefits that you won’t get on Three. They do offer data rollover, that lets you keep your unused data for your next month, which helps you get the most out of your deal.

They offer well priced 1-month SIM only plans, so you’re free to switch or even leave iD altogether without giving notice. You can get a longer contract if you want a better overall deal, however.

iD’s phone contracts are usually a lot cheaper than Three’s and you can possibly get an even better deal getting an iD phone contract via currys.co.uk. Use our phone deal comparison tool to get the best possible value.

Useful link: Our full review of iD Mobile

Honest Mobile: a network for environmentally conscious users

Honest 5G banner

They recently introduced 5GRead their guide

at honestmobile.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign They now have access to Three’s 5G
Green plus sign Discounts for staying on their network
Green plus sign The only carbon negative network

What we don't like:
Red minus sign More expensive than rivals
Red minus sign No WiFi or 4G calling yet

Honest Mobile market themselves as the only carbon negative network. They will use part of the money you pay them to plant trees on your behalf and will show you what the impact of your custom has been.

Now that they have 5G, you get access to the same data and call signal as you’d get on Three. They did have something called SmartSignal which let you connect to other host networks, but it’s temporarily unavailable.

Their EU roaming is arguably better than iD’s and SMARTY’s as there’s no fiddling around with account settings or complicated fair usage policies. Your deal is also discounted the longer you’re with them too.

But this is arguably necessary as Honest tend to be a lot pricier than their low-cost rivals. It’s a 5% discount after each year, with a maximum discount of 30%. Before the discount they’re actually more expensive than Three:

As you can see there’s not a lot of variety in the deals they offer. Overall, we think there are still areas of improvement, but Honest are still a decent choice, especially if environmental issues are important to you.

Useful link: See our review of Honest Mobile

Superdrug Mobile: flexible contracts and extra Superdrug points

Screenshot of Superdrug coverage checker

Get points on your loyalty cardSee for yourself

at superdrugmobile.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Access Three’s 4G/3G network
Green plus sign No contracts or commitments
Green plus sign Extra points to use at Superdrug

What we don't like:
Red minus sign No 5G connection
Red minus sign Few SIM only plans to choose from

If you’re a regular Superdrug shopper, we’d say Superdrug mobile are worth a look. The money you spend on your monthly bill will get you points on your Superdrug Health and Beauty card.

Add to that the fact you’ll earn double the usual points and that begins to sound even better. The biggest downside of Superdrug mobile is that they don’t offer 5G. If you’re looking for the fastest speeds, look elsewhere.

Other than that they have some nice benefits. You get data rollover similar and since all their plans are on 1-month contracts you can leave or swap plans whenever you please.

They generally work out quite a bit cheaper than Three while offering more flexibility in contracts. However there are no phone contracts and only four SIM only plans to choose from.

When you first sign up you’ll also get extra Health and Beauty card points which work out to the same amount as what you paid for your month. So it’s almost like getting your first month free.

Useful link: See their help page for more information

SIM only plans on Three-based networks

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