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Various logos of UK mobile networks

Three mobile review: why they're our best-rated network in 2019

Three logo, phone and SIM card

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

We still think Three offer the best all-round combination of 4G coverage, fast speeds, excellent extras and prices. Our review explains why. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: September 3rd 2019.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates Three as the UK's best all-round provider
 (4.5/5)

"No other UK mobile provider matches the overall package you get with Three. Their large network is fast and supports WiFi/4G calling and their plans are fairly priced and stuffed with so many additional benefits that they just make other providers look mean and overpriced."

Our guide below takes you through all the advantages and disadvantages there are to joining Three.

The 3 best bits

1) Generous free roaming scheme
2) WiFi calling / 4G calling on all plans
3) Great prices and 5G at no extra cost

The 3 worst bits

1) Rural 4G needs improvement
2) 3G-only roaming
3) No data rollover scheme

What's covered in our Three review?

Overall rating

Our verdict

Overall rating

Network review

Network

4G/3G coverage
Data speeds
Call quality
WiFi calling
Free WiFi hotspots
Tethering

Perks review

Perks & extras

Inclusive roaming
Data-saving schemes
Rewards/incentives
Multibuy discounts
Freebies with your deal
Data rollover
Spending caps

Deal review

Deals

Special offers
SIM only plans
Phone contracts
Pay As You Go
Mobile broadband

Customer service review

Customer service

Ofcom data

Reviewing Three's mobile network

Coverage: Three's 4G signal isn't universal outside cities

Three 4G and 3G signal coverage

Make sure you're covered up frontCheck Three's signal

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

Three own and operate their own mobile network, separate from Vodafone, O2 and EE. They don't rely on anyone else for signal (like virtual operators who piggyback on other networks do).

The latest coverage stats put Three's 4G and 3G networks as reaching 99% of the UK population. That's signal where people live. It doesn't mean 99% of the UK's physical landmass (geographical coverage).

Geographical 4G coverage is probably Three's biggest weakness. While they have 4G in most large cities and towns, you can find yourself relying on 3G more often when you're in the country, on trainlines or roads.

The picture varies around the UK, which is why we say it's really sensible to check Three's coverage up front in as many places as you can think of that you'll use your phone, not just at home.

Useful link: Check Three's coverage now using their official network map.

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
4th out of 4

Not as good as:
EE, Vodafone, O2

Same as:
iD Mobile and SMARTY

Data speeds: Three's 4G is fast and 5G's on its way

Three's fastest 5G network

Get 5G speeds at no extra costRead 5G latest

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

We expect typical 4G download speeds on Three to average out at around around the 21 Mbps mark (see independent network testers Opensignal's latest mobile network experience report here for more).

That's an average measured speed. Sometimes it will be lower (around 10 Mbps), sometimes higher (we expect up to 40 Mbps). These put Three in joint second place for speed with Vodafone and behind EE.

The 21 Mbps is similar to a low-range home fibre broadband and will comfortably support things like streaming HD videos. A high quality hour-long BBC iPlayer programme would take 4 minutes, 11 seconds to download. So overall, Three's 4G will be suitable for all but ultra-demanding users.

On top that, Three say they're building the UK's fastest 5G network, which you'll you be able to access at no extra cost when it's available in your area (you'll need a 5G-ready phone). 5G has the potential to smash even top-drawer home fibre broadband for speed.

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

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
3rd

Not as good as:
EE, Vodafone

Better than:
O2

Call technology: Three have 4G calling and WiFi calling

Three inTouch WiFi calling

Make calls over WiFi without mobile signalSee WiFi calling

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

Three don't use older GSM and 2G signal to carry their calls, which means better audio quality as standard. They also have two extra technologies to improve indoor coverage and clarity:

You get WiFi calling included with every Three pay monthly or pay as you go plan. It lets your phone use WiFi to make/take calls and send/receive SMS texts, wherever mobile signal is weak but you have WiFi.

We rate Three's scheme as the best in the UK. It works on most phones with the feature (check yours here), including ones not bought from Three. And SMS text message support gives it the edge over other networks.

You also get 4G calling (VoLTE) on every plan too. This improves indoor coverage for calls on Three, as their 4G signal is better at getting through buildings than their 3G is and calls and gives HD sound quality too.

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

Our rating:
★★★★★ (best choice)

Rank:
1st

Not as good as:
N/A

WiFi hotspot access: only on London Underground

WiFi hotspots on London Underground with Three

Three customers get free WiFi on the tubeHow to get it

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

Some mobile networks now include free access to a network of WiFi hotspots in handy public locations to help you save your mobile data allowance and get you internet connection where mobile signal can't reach.

Every Three pay monthly or pay as you go customer get free WiFi on the London Underground with unlimited WiFi 250 stations across the capital's transport network (a service you otherwise pay for).

Other than that there's no national free WiFi network access like you'd get on Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile or O2. Some of which are really slick and automatically detect your phone and log you on when you're in range.

This isn't really a huge weakness for Three. There's loads of free WiFi about nowadays anyway. And data allowances are getting so big, people don't have to guard their usage so much. But if you're on a small plan, it could be something you miss.

Useful link: How free London Underground WiFi works on Three

Our rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
Joint 4th

Same as or better than:
EE, Vodafone, Sky and all others

Tethering: It's allowed on all new Three plans

Tethering on Three

Use your phone as a WiFi hotspotRead the rules

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

Tethering is the process of using the mobile data received on your phone to create a mini WiFi hotspot around you, which you connect other devices like laptops or tablets to.

Each network have different policies to tethering but Three allows it on all their new pay monthly plans, with any phone or SIM. And also now with any Pay As You Go monthly add-on or on their 321 plan.

Data used for personal hotspot (tethering) just comes out of your regular data allowance or is charged at the normal data amount on pay as you go. Within the UK, you can use your whole plan's data for tethering. It's even unlimited on unlimited data plans.

The only limit is when you take your Three SIM abroad. In the EU you can only tether if you're on an unlimited data plan. Anywhere else or on other plans you can't tether abroad at all - without buying a Data Passport for a fixed daily cost.

Useful link: Read all tethering conditions in Three's guide.

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
Joint 2nd

As good as:
Practically every network

Better than:
N/A

Reviewing perks and extras on Three

Inclusive roaming: Three have the most generous scheme

Three Feel At Home destinations

Go Roam now covers 71 destinationsSee all countries

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

For years, the best thing about Three has been their Go Roam free roaming in selected countries (formerly Feel At Home). But how does it compare now all other networks offer EU roaming as standard too?

We'd say no other network still quite gets close to Three's inclusive roaming, which lets you use your regular UK allowances in the 23 worldwide destinations listed here, on top of the standard 48 EU countries.

You get it on all their new pay monthly phone contracts and SIM only plans. You can even get it on Pay As You Go, if you've bought a monthly add-on. No other network has inclusive roaming on so many plans.

It's worth noting that Go Roam isn't a blank cheque to use your phone permanently abroad, and there are some limitations on the amount of data you can use a month (between 12GB-19GB) and the number of minutes and texts. But for regular travellers, it'll be indispensable.

Useful links: All Go Roam terms and conditions | Other roaming costs on Three

Our rating:
★★★★★ (best choice)

Rank:
1st

Similar to:
Vodafone

Unlimited streaming: Go Binge gives you free data

Go Binge unlimited streaming

Watch Netflix and more as much as you likeSee all benefits

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

Mobile networks know that people want to watch TV and films on their phone to kill time. But most know it uses loads of data. So some have begun giving you free streaming data or social media as benefit.

Three do this and it's one of our best rated schemes (we think Sky Mobile is better if you have Sky TV). It's called Go Binge and gives you unlimied data for streaming Netflix, TV Player, Deezer and Soundcloud.

You get the benefit on any of Three's pay monthly plans that has 12GB or more (SIM only or phone contract). You're free to use any of the services on your phone without it using data.

It is a way for Three to up sell you onto a bigger plan than you might have been thinking about. But it can be worth investing to never have to put down your phone, just because you're worried about using up data.

Useful links: Full Go Binge terms and FAQs | Our Go Binge review

Our rating:
★★★★★ (excellent)

Rank:
2nd

Not as goood as:
Sky Mobile

Better than:
EE, VOXI and Virgin

Rewards or incentives: Three’s Wuntu app is worth a look

Wuntu rewards app

Daily deals and offers with Three's Wuntu appSee what you get

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

Some networks offer their customers exclusive perks and discounts on things other than their actual mobile deal. The best known example of this is O2’s popular Priority Scheme.

Three now offer something similar called Wuntu. It’s essentially an app that all pay monthly and pay as you go customers can access, giving them exclusive online and high street deals and offers.

The reviews of Wuntu so far are mixed and the scheme is relatively new. Some complain that the deals aren’t particularly unique and compare poorly against the quality of O2’s Priority scheme.

We say it’s a decent attempt that offers customers something extra for being part of Three. Even if it doesn’t challenge O2’s dominance, it’s still better than getting nothing with other networks.

Useful link: See the types of offers available with Wuntu in Three's guide

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
6th

Not as good as:
O2, Tesco, giffgaff, Plusnet, BT Mobile

Better than:
All others

Multi-buy discounts: Three have decent offers on extra plans

Existing customer deals

Discounts on additional plans for Three customersSee the offers

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

In this category, we look for how networks reward their existing customers for taking out extra plans and contracts with them. This is mostly through family plan discounts and data-sharing schemes.

Three offer existing customer discounts on extra plans as well as bonus Three to Three minutes.

On phones, you can save around £1-£3 a month vs new customer price. But more importantly, the upfront costs are typically heavily discounted or waived altogether (see phone deals here).

On SIM only, there are a select number of plans with a £2 monthly saving vs full-price new customer deals (see them here). It’s worth checking these are better value than other special offers though.

We don’t rate these as well as BT Mobile’s Family SIM plans or giffgaff’s recruiter scheme but they are good option if other friends and family are keen to join Three.

Useful link: See all latest existing customer offers

Other extras: Travel Upgrades on easyJet flights from UK

Three's free easyJet upgrades banner

Use easyJet's Hands-Free service freeHow it works

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

This review category looks for nice little sweeteners that mobile networks add to their deals to give their customers an extra bit of value. Three have something totally unique:

Join on any new pay monthly phone contract or SIM only deal and you'll qualify for Ffree upgrades to easyJet's Hands-Free service, any time you fly from a UK airport with the airline.

Worth £7 a flight, the upgrade is all about speeding up your journey through the airport, onto the plane and out the other end. It lets you check your priority-marked cabin bag for free and it comes out first once you arrive.

Added with Three's leading inclusive roaming scheme, the easyJet offer is supposed to make going abroad on the network even more enjoyable. We think it's a nice quirky little benefit that regular travellers will like.

Useful link: How to get free upgrades on easyJet

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
TBC

Not as good as:
TBC

Better than:
TBC

Data rollover: nothing on Three but have a look at SMARTY

SMARTY unused data buy back

SMARTY pay you back for unused dataSee how it works

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

Some mobile networks let you keep data you've not managed to use during the month for future months. This is generally called data rollover (see all networks with data rollover here).

Three don't offer offer data rollover on pay monthly or pay as you go, so we can only give them a poor rating in this category. But Three's low-frills sub-brand SMARTY do offer something that we think's even better:

SMARTY will pay you what the data cost in the first place, in the form of a discount off next month's bill. Data is priced £1.25 per GB within your plan. And you'll receive £1.25 back per unused GB too (full details here).

You get exactly the same coverage and data speeds on SMARTY as you do Three. But there are differences in some of the extra benefits and network features. Our Three vs SMARTY article looks at these in full.

Useful link: Our full SMARTY review

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Equal to:
All others

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

Black Friday offers on Three

Three Black Friday offers

See phone deals

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

Three have launched their Black Friday offers, which sees the return of their popular unlimited data SIM for £20:

For less data, see their hidden 4GB 8GB for £13 £8 and 12GB for £16 £12 offers, which offer more data for less money than what's advertised directly at Three.

If it's a phone contract you're after, now's an excellent time to buy on Three. There's savings on all the phones on their dedicated Black Friday page here.

Useful links: See all latest Three offers

SIM only plans on Three

We compare Three's SIMs with the competition

SIM only deals from Three – key facts

Number of plans available:
Price range: £ - £ a month
Contract lengths:
SIM card sizes: Standard, Micro, Nano

Minutes allowances:
Texts allowances:
Data allowances:
Data speed: 4G on all plans

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Three's phone contracts

How we rate taking a phone contract from Three

Simple fairly-priced contracts with loads of benefits

Screenshot of Three's pay monthly phone range

Compare phone deals

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

Three offer what we'd call 'conventional' phone contracts. They last 24 months, and there's none of the complicated financing arrangements some of the other mobile companies have (like O2, Sky and Virgin).

Generally speaking, we'd say Three are the cheapest of the big four mobile networks to join directly (Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone) for the minutes, texts and data you get with your phone, although this varies per model and tariff.

On pay monthly, Three really do offer the most value in your overall deal too. You're getting a phone and a plan at a decent price, and you're getting all Three's added benefits we describe in the perks and extras section.

If you've got a particular phone in mind, use our phone contract price comparison tool here to choose the contract length, minutes, texts and data you want, and we'll show you whether Three stack up as the best priced deal available.

Useful link: See Three's latest phone range

Compare Three's contract prices

Use our tool below to see how Three's smartphone deals stack up

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Three Pay As You Go

We look at pricing and benefits if you don't want to pay monthly

Three's basic PAYG rates are still among the cheapest

Three cheapest PAYG rates

Get a free SIM

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

If you're someone who barely uses their phone and maybe sends the odd text or makes a call every now and then, it makes sense to go for a deal where you top up with credit, and your usage is charged out of that.

Three are among the cheapest networks to take this kind of deal from. Their PAYG rates are just 3p per minute, 2p per text and 1p per MB data that you use. And the SIM card is free to order.

Out of the other major networks, only O2 can match that with their Classic Pay As You Go tariff with the same rates. You can get lower rates of 1p per minute, text or MB data at 1pMobile who use EE's network though.

On Three, your credit will never expire, as long as you keep your SIM card active by making or taking a call every 6 months. So if you're an ultra-infrequent user, Three's 321 plan could be a good choice.

Useful link: See all PAYG rates and costs on Three

Buy monthly add-ons for extra benefits and no credit check

Three monthly PAYG add-ons

See add-on prices

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

If you're a slightly more frequent pay as you go user (spending £10 or more a month on credit), Three have some other options that can get you better value for money.

They're called Add-ons, and they're essentially a fixed cost bundle of minutes, texts and data that you can use over the course of 30 days. It's a lot like pay monthly but you won't need to pass a credit check to join.

Buying a monthly Add-on also lets you use those minutes, texts and data abroad in these 71 countries around the world with Three's famous Go Roam benefit.

Compared to straight-up pay monthly 1-month SIM only contracts, these do work out a tad more expensive.

But vs paying individually per min, text and MB, they pay for themselves once you're using around 200 minutes, 100 texts and 200MB data per month, or spending £10 a month on other combinations.

Useful link: How Add-ons work | Latest prices

Mobile broadband on Three

Are Three any good for data SIMs, dongles and mobile WiFi?

Reasonable prices and a good range of sensibly-priced options

Three mobile broadband options

See all options

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

99% 4G coverage and decent average download speeds around 20 Mbps make Three a viable network to join, if you're interested in just data-only mobile broadband SIMs and devices.

On data only SIMs, there's an impressive range of contract lengths (1, 12 and 24 months) with data allowances between 1GB and 100GB per month, which stack up very competitively vs other data-only SIMs.

Even though the overall price can work out less, don't be tempted to take out a Three phone SIM to put in a tablet or broadband device. Three can detect this and will block your service, wasting your money.

If you need a mobile broadband device, Three have one by Huawei that they waive the upfront fee on if you commit to a longer 24-month contract. It's a very standard device supporting 4G speeds and lets you connect 6 devices at once.

Useful link: See all mobile broadband options on Three

Three's pre-loaded data SIMs are an option for infrequent users

Three pre-loaded SIM

Choose a plan

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

For many, getting a data SIM for their tablet or iPad is more just for the odd occasion when you're somewhere with no WiFi but want to get online. And so committing to a monthly chunk of data isn't worth it.

There's a couple of solutions: either you just tether off your phone's SIM (but this uses up that data and battery) or take a look at Three's pre-loaded mobile broadband SIMs.

Instead of giving you a monthly data allowance you're forced to use up or lose, you get a big chunk of data that you can chip away at whenever you like and at the speed you like within a period up to 24 months.

Per GB, they don't work out as cheap as taking a monthly deal but you're paying extra for the flexibility to use it at your own pace.

Useful link: Three's pre-loaded data-only SIMs

Three customer service reviews

Customer service: Three should be a safe choice

Three complaints data

Three among least-complained about networksRead more

at ofcom.org.uk
(opens in a new window)

We monitor the number of complaints that the government regular Ofcom receives about each network. If you've had to complain to the Ombudsman, it means a provider's doing a bad job of resolving issues.

Ofcom consistently receive around 3 complaints about Three per 100,000 customers. This is around the industry average or often below average. It shows Three do a decent job handling their customer issues.

One benefit of joining one of the big four networks like Three is that you can physically walk into one of their stores if you've got a problem. You can also ring them using the details here. And they have 24/7 online chat too.

If you've suffered with poor customer service from previous suppliers, Ofcom's data suggests Three are one the safest choices to make and not get burnt again (although customers will come across issues with any provider).

Useful link: How to get help on Three

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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