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Three review 2023: our honest verdict on the mobile network

Three logo, phone and SIM cardVisit

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

Here's what we think about Three's mobile coverage, data speeds and customer experience after joining them for real. Last updated: 4th May 2023.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates Three as a very good network
 (3.5/5, very good)

"Three have been going through a process of growing up as a mobile network recently. They’ve invested heavily in their 5G network and filling in the gaps in their 4G network too and it’s paying off.

Their 5G is universally being recognised as the fastest in the UK by independent speed testers and their 4G and 3G backups have always been in the top half for speeds, though coverage is still a little behind.

Three used to pack in a lot of extra benefits with their deals but these have mostly gone. Most-missed will be inclusive worldwide roaming, including in the EU. Go Binge streaming was well-liked too.

But doing that has allowed Three to invest in the quality of their mobile network, while keeping their prices easily the lowest of the main four networks. It’s a great combo that will keep Three popular for years."

The 3 best bits

1) UK's cheapest main network
2) Fastest 5G in the country
3) Excellent WiFi calling

The 3 worst bits

1) No more inclusive EU or worldwide roaming
2) 4G lacking outside built-up areas
3) True blackspots for calls in the country

How fast is 4G on Three?

It’s in the mid-range of speeds for mobile networks. Independent testers put it at 25 Mbps - enough to stream 4K videos even.

Does the Three network have 5G?

Yes it does. And it’s even measured up as the fastest by independent network testers. You’ll get it on all pay monthly and pay as you go plans.

Can I keep my number on Three?

Yes. Just get a PAC from your old provider by texting them on 65075 from your current SIM, then give this to Three when you sign up or at any point in your contract.

Which network does Three use?

Three is its own mobile network. It doesn’t piggyback on other network.

Does Three have WiFi calling?

Yes. In fact it’s our joint-favourite scheme. It supports loads of phones and even works with SMS text messages.

Information symbol We're a professional reviews website but we bought our Three SIM card as a regular consumer, to test what it's actually like for real life paying customers. The contents of this review are a combination of our expert industry knowledge and what we experienced during our test.

Is Three’s network any good?

Coverage: Three’s 4G network is expanding rapidly

Three 4G and 3G signal coverage

Check coverage before you buyCheck Three's signal

(opens in a new window)

Three are one of the main UK networks, meaning they provide their signal using their own masts rather than relying on another network for signal. So what is their coverage actually like?

They provide widespread coverage for calls, with signal being strongest where in places people live. You may run into blackspots in very rural areas as they’re missing some long-range pre-3G technologies and indoor signal can suffer too.

We put a Three SIM into a test phone and went out into the sticks, to the centre of a city and to the suburbs to see where signal was strongest and how their signal lines up with their coverage map.

In big cities and towns we got consistent 4G signal (see 5G below). As of the time of writing Three also offer decent 4G coverage outside of major urban areas, but 4G coverage can suffer out in the sticks.

However, that should change as Three switch their 3G masts to 4G by 2024. This will mean that Three can expand 4G into more rural areas while gradually phasing out 3G, providing faster speeds to more users.

This change could negatively impact indoor signal, and could leave users without WiFi/4G calling compatible devices in the dark.

Three’s 4G coverage is as good as any network in the areas where people live. And they’ve put massive investments into improving their rural 4G coverage (including converting 3G to 4G) which should have a huge effect.

However, it’s still very important to use Three’s coverage map before joining them. Check everywhere you’ll expect to use your phone, not just at home. And you can see all the providers on Three’s network here.

Useful link: Three’s Big Network Build project

Our overall coverage rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

4th out of 4

Not as good as:
EE, Vodafone, O2

Same as:
iD Mobile and SMARTY

4G data speeds on Three are now second fastest in the UK

Three's fastest 5G network

They estimate their download speedsRead their page

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We’ll now go over the sorts of 4G speeds you can expect on Three, using our own real life tests and comparing them to results from independent network testers Opensignal.

At the time of writing, Opensignal recorded typical 4G speeds of 30.7 Mbps on Three. Their results have steadily improved over time and they’re now in second place for typical 4G speeds.

We’re unable to test speeds in every inch of the UK’s landmass, but we were able to do some speed tests in different locations around us. We tested in the city centre, in the suburbs and in more rural areas.

The lowest speeds we got were right out in the sticks, where we went down to 7 Mbps. But we were able to get 40 Mbps in a small village, so rural 4G speeds can vary on Three.

In more built-up areas we crawled down to 9 Mbps in the suburbs, while 4G speeds shot up to 70 Mbps in the city centre. Speeds went no higher than that, but they rarely dipped below in the centre.

Overall, we can see how these speeds average out to get the independent network testers results.

That’s similar speeds to home fibre broadband and will let you stream HD videos without buffering. And in our speed tests we found speeds were most consistent around the 25 Mbps - 30 Mbps mark.

In the end, Three aren’t the outright fastest network for 4G, but their speeds are consistently healthy. It’s very rare to slow to an absolute crawl with Three unless you’re right out in the sticks.

Useful link: Latest cities to get Three's 5G rollout

5G on Three is also expanding faster than on other networks

5G logo and Three branded map of the UK

Huge investments into 5G expansionSee latest locations

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Three have 5G live in a growing list of 434+ UK towns and cities. That puts them in second place in terms of the sheer number of locations with 5G live, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story.

5G is still only on a street-by-street basis, but Three tend to be good at covering lots of different areas within their 5G-live locations. This will depend per location, so check Three’s coverage in your area here.

According to Speedtest by Ookla and Opensignal, typical 5G speeds on Three are between 228.4 Mbps - 285.2 Mbps. That makes them the fastest network for 5G. And peak speeds can get up to a blistering 687.13 Mbps.

Three offer 5G access on every pay monthly SIM and phone contract and even on Pay As You Go. All you need is a 5G-ready phone, no extra payments or hurdles to jump over. It’s as easy as that.

Useful link: Our guide to the best 5G networks

Our data speed rating:
★★★★☆ (very good)

Joint 2nd

Not as good as:

Better than:

WiFi calling and 4G calling are excellent on Three

Three inTouch WiFi calling

Make calls over WiFi and 4G signalRead their guide

(opens in a new window)

Three have one of the best WiFi calling features in our eyes. Most devices are supported, so it’s easy to get it working. And you can send texts over WiFi/4G and move from WiFi to 4G on a call without it dropping.

When we’ve tested it for real, we’ve found phones that Three don’t list as supported here did actually work. So they’re not necessarily a write-off if your phone’s not on there.

We tested Three’s WiFi calling using an Android and an iPhone device. Both were listed in Three’s supported devices and WiFi calling worked right out of the box, despite them not being bought from Three directly.

Three's WiFi calling kicked in pretty easily indoors and we successfully moved between a WiFi call and a 4G call without the call dropping (WiFi to 3G does drop though).

We then tested to see if we could send an SMS text over WiFi and it worked just as well as sending a text over regular call signal.

4G calling did seem a bit “reluctant” to work outside, as the network prefers using 3G signal to connect to calls (maybe due to the fact that call signal is stronger outdoors than indoors).

Both the call quality and speed of connection were also good. In fact we didn’t notice a big difference between calls made over WiFi compared to conventional call signal, which is a good thing.

It’s incredibly handy if you’re unable to get call signal indoors at home or work. And it comes on every Three plan at no extra cost, no matter if you’re on a pay monthly phone or SIM contract or on Pay As You Go.

4G calling (VoLTE) also comes on every Three plan. Three’s 4G is better at getting into buildings than their 3G, so total indoor blackspots should be less common. It should also improve audio quality.

Useful link: Read more about call quality on Three’s network

Our WiFi calling rating:
★★★★★ (joint best choice)


Not as good as:

Better than:
O2, Vodafone

Other network features: Three have lots to like

Tethering on Three

Tether data signal to non-data devicesRead the rules

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Considering Three are one of the main UK networks, it’s no surprise to see they offer a lot of extra features to help you get the most out of your SIM:

Firstly, you get access to Three’s WiFi hotspots on the Underground as standard. These are handy for staying connected where you’d otherwise get no signal but there’s no other national WiFi network they use.

Secondly, you can tether non-data devices to your phone’s data signal on any Three plan. You can use up to your entire allowance if you wish, and there are no limits if you’re on an unlimited data plan.

Call forwarding is also offered on every plan, letting you divert incoming calls to a different number if you want to leave a specific number free from calls.

Three don’t currently offer visual voicemail which displays your voicemails individually and lets you sort through them. They’re the only main mobile network not to offer this feature.

Finally, you can get an eSIM on Three. It’s a lot easier to do this than it used to be, as you can now take an eSIM directly from Three rather than having to take a physical SIM first.

Useful link: Read all tethering conditions

Our tethering rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)


As good as:
Practically every network

Better than:

Reviewing perks and extras on Three

Plus and Premium plans are good choices if you’ll use them

Three plus rewards app with benefits

More benefits for higher monthly costsRead Three's guide

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Three have different tiers of plan that give you a number of benefits, depending on which one you take. The tiers are Standard, Plus and Premium, with Standard being regular plan and Premium offering the highest-frills.

On a Plus or Premium plan you get a different number of inclusive daily roaming passes, letting you use your allowance in 71 worldwide and EU destinations. Premium plans and longer contracts get you more passes.

You also get a subscription to Paramount+ included on both Plus and Premium plans. But this subscription is temporary on Plus plans, while it lasts your whole contract on a Premium plan.

There are other benefits on both kinds of plan which you can see in our guide here. The main benefit of their Standard plans is they’re low cost, so if you just want some mins, texts and data they’re a good choice.

Useful link: Our guide to Three’s different tiers of plans

Three’s rewards app gives you a nice bit of extra value

Banner that reads 'The Three rewards app'

Discounts on shopping, food and moreHow to get it

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When you join on any Three plan you’ll get access to their Three+ rewards app. This gives you exclusive discounts on high street shopping, restaurants and entertainment that change now and again.

That means there’s always something to look forward to. There are even some more unique offers such as pre-sale tickets to big UK festivals. You can see all the services you can get special offers on here.

Now that the app has been out for a while we’d say it’s a nice way of getting a little bit of extra value out of your plan. And the pre-sale tickets could be a game changer for some.

Three+ just isn’t quite as good as O2's Priority or Vodafone’s VeryMe yet, but it’s still a great added benefit of being a Three customer. We just don’t think it’s a big selling point for most people.

Useful link: Our guide to Three’s rewards app

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)


Not as good as:
Vodafone, O2

Better than:
Everyone else

Inclusive roaming costs a lot for what you actually get

Feel at home update

Daily roaming passes on certain plansSee what changed

(opens in a new window)

Like most other main networks, Three don’t offer inclusive EU or worldwide roaming. There are a few ways to use your allowance abroad, but you will end up paying extra either way.

You can pay £2 a day in their EU destinations and £5 a day in their worldwide destinations to use your UK allowance. You will be limited to 12GB of data, which is frustrating considering you’re paying to use it.

Or you can get some daily roaming passes on their Plus and Premium plans. These plans are higher-end and you’re limited in how many days a year you can roam, but at least there is some way to get inclusive roaming.

The best thing about these roaming passes is that they let you roam in a massive 71 worldwide and EU destinations. That makes Three a decent choice for going beyond the EU, but otherwise there are better options.

Useful links: Other roaming costs on Three

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)


Better than:

Similar to:
EE and Vodafone

Family plans aren’t a particular strength of Three

Existing customer deals

Better value on extra plansSee the offers

(opens in a new window)

If you're looking to get your entire family or a group of friends signed up with the same network, Three are an option but they're not the most convenient one (read our family plan guide here).

Three have unique offers for existing Three customers. These take the form of phone contracts with no upfront costs or £1 - £2 discounts on some SIM only deals. But you can get better value with their hidden deals:

Their scheme is also missing the convenience other schemes offer. You can’t add each deal on the same account, each deal is on a separate one. Each deal is billed separately and there’s no data gifting benefits.

Oddly enough, Three’s sub-brand SMARTY have one of our favourite family plan schemes of all networks, giving you a 10% discount on any extra plans added to your account.

Useful link: Our guide to the best family plans

Our rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)


Not as good as:
BT, EE, Vodafone, O2

Better than:
Tesco, Sky

What other networks do better than Three

Three Big Build Network Expansion

Their focus is on expanding 5GWhat they’re doing

(opens in a new window)

Three used to offer a lot of impressive benefits on every plan as a way of making up for having the smallest overall network. These days they’ve changed their course and are a different network than they used to be:

New Three customers no longer get inclusive EU roaming on all plans, unlimited streaming data or smaller things like upgrades on easyJet. Those benefits are a thing of the past on Three.

If you’re looking for free streaming data you’re best off looking at Sky Mobile and VOXI. They offer benefits that are very similar to what Three used to offer with Go Binge.

They do tend to be the cheapest of all four main UK networks (Three, Vodafone, EE and O2) still. And if you take one of the deals below you can get a better value plan than taking it directly from their website:

Useful links: Compare SIM only plans

Three's deals and offers

What type of deal are you interested in?

Choose an option to skip to the right section:

Three's latest special offers

A quick look at what Three are promoting this month

SIM only plans on Three

We compare Three's SIMs with the competition

SIM only deals from Three – key facts

Find a SIM only plan



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Three's phone contracts

What to expect from Three’s phone deals in terms of price and flexibility

Three now offer more flexibility on phone deals

Screenshot of Three's pay monthly phone range

Compare phone deals

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Three have changed the way they sell their phone deals. They now offer them on split finance agreements (basically loans) where the cost of your device and usage plan (mins, texts, data) are billed separately.

The benefits of this are that you can set the length of your phone contract to either 12 months, 24 months or 36 months and set an upfront cost to reduce the monthly cost of your device.

Because it’s essentially a loan you can pay off the rest of your device to upgrade early. And your bills are still charged together as one monthly payment, so no need to worry about different payment dates.

You can find the best possible deal using our hidden phone contract comparison tool on our page here. You’ll still be buying from Three directly but you’ll find better offers than what they advertise on their site.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts

See phones filtered for Three

These are all the phone contracts that Three has to offer

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Three Pay As You Go

We go over Three’s Pay As You Go plans and tariffs

Three probably aren’t a great choice for Pay As You Go

Three cheapest PAYG rates

Get a free SIM

(opens in a new window)

Three’s Pay As You Go rates are a lot higher than they used to be, to the point where we wouldn’t consider them a good option for topping up with credit and paying per min, text and data:

Pay As You Go customers on Three now have to pay twice as much as they used to for their data and almost three times as much to make calls. We’d say customers looking for traditional PAYG should look elsewhere.

If you are still looking to join on pay as you go then 1pMobile are your best choice. They offer the cheapest pay as you go tariffs of all networks:

Otherwise you can see which other networks offer better pay as you go schemes here. In all, if you want to join Three but you don’t want a contract, we’d have a look at their monthly bundles (see below).

Useful link: See all PAYG rates and costs on Three

No need to pass a credit check to join on a monthly bundle

Three monthly PAYG add-ons

See add-on prices

(opens in a new window)

If you want to pay as you go but find yourself eating up a lot of credit per month (let’s say over £10) then Three’s monthly bundles of minutes, texts and data are a better value option.

Three call them add-ons, but you can take one as your main plan whether you’re a Three user or not. Your bundle lasts 30 days and after that you can leave if you wish, just make sure your plan doesn’t auto-renew.

These are typically worse value per GB than their pay monthly contracts, but you don’t have to pass a credit check to join them. And they’re still much better value than paying per min, text and MB.

If you’re looking a great value SIM only deal without having to pass a credit check then SMARTY are worth a look. They offer the same network experience as being on Three but offer 1-month deals that you can leave or switch when you like.

Useful link: How Add-ons work | Latest prices

Three customer service reviews

Customer service isn’t a particular strength of Three

Ofcom complaints data

Higher than average complaintsRead more

(opens in a new window)

We use the complaints record from government regulators Ofcom to gauge how good a network are at resolving their customers' issues. If a customer complains to them it means their network didn’t solve their problem.

The number of complaints that Ofcom receive has gone down, bringing the average to only 2 complaints per 100,000 customers. However, Three have failed to improve their record, staying at 3 complaints per 100,000 users.

According to Ofcom, "Three’s main complaint drivers related to billings, pricing, and charges (28%); complaints handling (25%); and faults, service, and provisioning (16%)".

After testing our Three SIM we phoned their customer service to cancel it and see whether or not it was easy to do so.

We got through quickly to an agent and instead of them trying to get us to stay they only asked why we wished to leave them and left it at that.

They even offered to settle up what we had left for the rest of the month so we could leave immediately. This was a nice touch and left the door open to joining again in future.

Managing your account is a lot easier using Three’s app, which is handy. And you can always contact their chat agents with any problem you’ve got. It’s a nice way of getting your issues resolved.

Overall, we didn't have any problems in our short time on Three.

But you shouldn’t write off Three too quickly as there’s loads of ways to get help. You can go into a Three store, call them using these details or use their online chat, so there’s other options if one fails.

Useful link: How to get help on Three

More articles about Three

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