Three UK Review 2020: True Unlimited Data with 5G Coverage at no extra-cost!

Three Network combines the UK’s fastest 5G internet speeds with unlimited data, without fair usage limits or speed restrictions.

three-bannerLatest Offer: 6 Months Half Price – Unlimited for £11 a month!

Three is currently offering customers unlimited data with unlimited minutes and texts for only £11 with their 6 months half price deal. This SIM only deal offers great value, being the cheapest unlimited plan available in the UK. On top of this you still get the extra perks of 5G at no extra costs and Go Roam, which lets you roam abroad at destinations such as USA & Australia inclusive in your data plan on top of all EU destinations. This is only a promotional offer so click through to ensure you don’t miss out.

Who is Three

three-article-logoThree is one of the four major networks in the UK, and it’s constantly growing. The youngest major mobile network in the UK offers unlimited data plans with 5G coverage free of charge and without any restrictions like data caps or fair usage limitations. In our book, these are all big deals as there’s almost always a catch with other mobile carriers.

Three UK launched in 2003 being the UK’s first commercial video mobile network. The mobile network provider has been remarkable for its true unlimited plans (back in the day called all-you-can-eat), as well as being an affordable major network. It also launched the UK’s first 3G mobile network.

Three launched its 5G service just recently, in February 2020, and it’s available to all Three customers, unlike other major UK mobile networks.

Pro’s

  • 5G coverage in all plans at no extra cost.
  • 71 inclusive roaming destinations.
  • Competitive prices, both on SIM only and PAYG deals.
  • True unlimited plans. No reduced speeds, no data caps.
  • Named Best Network for Roaming at the uSwitch Mobile Awards 2020.

Con’s

  • Doesn’t have 2G coverage.
  • Not as fast as its competitors when it comes to 4G internet speeds.

Half Cooked’s overall rating for Three: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Read on for Half Cooked’s detailed breakdown to find out how Three performed in each of our main categories by clicking here.

If you wish you may skip to a specific section by choosing from the table of contents below.

Table of Contents

Three Plans & Pricing

SIM Only Deals

Three used to offer two different types of SIM Only tariffs, but essential plans don’t exist anymore, leaving only advanced plans to choose from.

The network currently has 17 different SIM only deals available and all of them include unlimited minutes and texts. On top of that you get access to ‘Go Roam Around the World’ perk regardless of the tariff you pick, which allows you to roam freely in 71 destinations worldwide. Three also has a proposition called ‘Go Binge’ which is only available to contract customers with 12GB or more available data. This allows unlimited streaming on some applications such as Netflix & Apple Music. None of your plan’s data is used when using these apps.

These plans are available in 1 month, 12 month or 24 month deals, with better rates available for customers who are happy to lock in for a longer period. You can see all the price plans Three offers in the table below.

TARIFFDATAPRICE
1 Month Plans
Three Advanced4GB£16.00
Three Advanced12GB£19.00
Three Advanced30GB£24.00
Three AdvancedUnlimited £26.00
12 Month Plans
Three Advanced1GB£6.00
Three Advanced4GB£13.00
Three Advanced8GB£10.00
Three Advanced12GB£16.00
Three Advanced30GB£20.00
Three AdvancedUnlimited £13.00 - £26.00 from month 7
24 Month Plans
Three Advanced1GB£5.00
Three Advanced4GB£6.00 - £12.00 from month 7
Three Advanced8GB£9.00
Three Advanced12GB£14.00
Three Advanced30GB£18.00
Three Advanced100GB£18.00
Three AdvancedUnlimited £11.00 - £22.00 from month 7
All Three pay monthly plans come with unlimited minutes & texts.

If you are more interested in low-key deals on 4G, we’d recommend you to check SMARTY. It’s a sub-brand of Three and it’s got some nice perks with fair prices. At the moment, for £15.00 you’d be getting 100GB of data with unlimited minutes/texts.

We truly love Three for competitively priced, high value data plans but Black Friday is not far away & Three’s Black Friday 2020 deals will surely be great! So keep your eyes open!

Pay As You Go & 321 Plans

Data Packs

Three revamped its PAYG service in the UK back in March 2020. Customers who joined Three’s PAYG before the 12th March 2020 are on a different plan named ‘321’, however they may opt out if they wish to. We’ll cover 321 plans right after Three’s Supercharged Data Packs. If you want to skip directly to 321 plans click here.

With the revamp, Three is now offering four different packs and the data allowances in these packs are considerably larger than most other networks, plus they all have 5G at no extra cost. All four deals include Three’s Go Roam perk and you don’t have to undergo a credit check to buy a data pack.

Another great thing about Three’s PAYG is it allows you to use the service on a traditional basis, meaning you don’t have to top-up monthly or buy a data pack to continue using it. You may just use the network and only pay for what you use (data, minutes and texts). Below rates only include the UK. If you are travelling abroad, make sure to check the rates for countries you’ll be travelling to.

These rates are quite wallet friendly, especially compared to some other networks, but if you’re looking for more flexibility we’d recommend you to check out giffgaff. If you are interested in an even cheaper PAYG alternative the cheapest PAYG deal in the UK is offered by 1pMobile with just 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB data. 1pMobile is powered by the EE Network.

321 Plans

Three-321-plan-payg‘321’is the new name for old PAYG deals, which are only available to existing customers. The name refers to its PAYG rates: 3/p minute, 2/p text & 1p/MB. While these are much cheaper than Three’s new PAYG rates, the bundles are less valuable. If you’re okay with solely using the service as a traditional PAYG then you’re covered, but if you are planning to buy add-ons, you might want to switch to the newer PAYG price plans.

Pay Monthly Phones

Just like all the other major networks, Three also has a wide range of mobile devices and quite often you’ll find interesting deals accompanying these handsets. In terms of phone deals Three offers contracts on low end handsets all the way to your flagship iPhones and Samsung devices. Three is competitive and is generally cheaper than the other large operators, those being EE, O2 and Vodafone.

There are also PAYG phone deals on Three’s store. You can even get a 5G handset such as this Samsung Galaxy S10 or this Xiaomi Mi Mix.

Network Coverage & Speeds

3G and 4G Coverage

Three is one of the four largest mobile network operators in the UK alongside EE, 02 and Vodafone. However, it’s the only one without a 2G service. All the other networks, which aren’t tied to Three are still making use of 2G for voice calls and texts depending on the region.

The Three Network offers over 99% population coverage for 3G & 4G, but when it comes to landmass coverage it lags behind compared to the likes of EE or Vodafone.

As for internet speeds; Open Signal’s April 2020 speed test results show Three’s average 4G download speed at 19.01Mbps and upload speed at 6.7Mbps. The speeds are more than enough to stream content, watch videos on YouTube or play video games with friends, but nowhere near the average 4G speeds provided by other networks powered by EE and/or Vodafone.

EE is still the fastest network provider in the UK with a 34.6Mbps average download speed and 9.7Mbps upload speed. To see who comes out on top between EE and Three overall, check out our detailed EE vs Three Network Comparison.

5G Coverage

three-5gRemember when we said Three is a bit behind other major networks in terms of 3G & 4G? Well that changes when it comes to 5G. Three claims to have the fastest 5G mobile network in the UK and the race isn’t even close according to them.

The mobile network’s claims are actually grounded with some evidence too. Three has 140MHz of usable 5G spectrum and they are using 100MHz of it to provide 5G coverage in the UK. Compared to Vodafone’s 50MHz and EE-O2’s 40MHz this stands out big time. However, there are some other key factors to how fast your internet will be. As Three’s 5G network launched very recently, there isn’t enough data to go by to call them the fastest 5G network in the UK. We’ll have to wait for independent bodies to run multiple tests and share their results first.

Three’s 5G network kicked off in 68 cities and towns in the UK at the end of February 2020. This means Three has the second most locations covered in the UK, being only behind EE’s 80 location-wide 5G coverage. As always, we’d like to remind you to use network coverage maps and check your frequent areas before signing up for a network.

Voice Call Quality

Voice Call QualityNot having a 2G infrastructure is still a minus even in the era of 3G, 4G and 5G. Fundamentally speaking, both 3G and 4G are data intensive services. Plus 2G is a failover technology, meaning if you can’t get 3G or 4G coverage, the 2G network would kick in and keep you connected. It’s not as essential anymore and at some point it will be decommissioned, but currently it’s still a usable spectrum and helps in keeping voice calls stable.

In the most recent network tests done by umlaut (an independent testing body, widely accepted as authoritative and objective) Three ranked at the bottom of the list between the four major networks in the UK with a score of ‘sufficient’, losing its third spot to O2. In umlaut’s voice call tests the call setup times of Three were significantly longer than those of EE and Vodafone, and slightly worse than O2’s.

Although, we shouldn’t forget that these tests were all done before Three’s new 5G network came to life. Things may change for the better in the near future for Three.

Wi-Fi Calling & 4G Calling (Super Voice)

three-4g-wifi-callingWi-Fi calling allows your phone to make HD voice calls by utilising a Wi-Fi network. With this feature turned on, your device will use a Wi-Fi connection instead of your provider’s network and of course you won’t be using any data. This way, you’ll be connected even when your area isn’t covered by 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G.

Three’s Super-Voice (also known as VoLTE/4G Calling) allows you to make higher definition phone calls over a 4G spectrum. With this perk indoor blackspots are less of an issue. If your device supports 4G calling, you can activate the feature to have clearer calls and become available in more places than before.

However, your mobile phone must be compatible to take advantage of these two perks and the network you’re on should be supporting them as well.

PAYG customers also benefit from both of these features. Whether you’re a contract or pay as you go customer you can access Super-Voice and Wi-Fi Calling on Three so long as your device is compatible.

If you want to learn more about these two great perks and which networks offer them to their customers, make sure to read our networks with Wi-Fi Calling in the UK guide.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

Wi-Fi hotspotWi-Fi hotspots are few and far between with the Three network. You will get free Wi-Fi on the London Underground at over 250 stations to keep you connected, but where some of the other networks have hotspots in useful public locations you won’t find this with Three.

There are other networks in the UK, which provide free Wi-Fi Hotspot services. You might want to check them out too!

Tethering

Three tetheringTethering or turning your phone into a personal hotspot refers to sharing your handset’s network data (internet connection) with other supported devices like laptops, smartphones, tablets etc.

Be it SIM only or PAYG, Three supports tethering to the fullest, even if you are using the network on a traditional PAYG basis. There are no limits to the number of devices one can tether to, no fair usage caps or speed restrictions. As long as you have data, you are good to go.

But don’t forget! When you tether constantly your data will get eaten up at a faster rate. You might want to get an unlimited data plan before switching this feature on.

International Roaming

Three roamingThree offers customers 71 inclusive roaming destinations around the world, including many highly travelled EU countries. This makes Three the network which offers the most inclusive destinations in the UK. You can click here to see the full list.

Three being a generous network, allows PAYG customers to benefit from inclusive roaming too. Other networks usually don’t allow their PAYG customers to benefit from international roaming perks, and when they do there’s almost always a catch, be it extra-cost or very limited usage. With Three, however, you get way more destinations and at no extra cost.

If you are travelling outside of the ‘Go Roam’ destinations don’t forget to check the rates for the locations you’ll be travelling to. Even when the rates apply, at Half Cooked we found Three as one of the cheaper operators.

Another decent network for international roaming is Vodafone. It offers inclusive roaming in 52 locations, and if you have the ‘Global Roaming’ perk you get a total of 81 destinations to roam freely. Overall, Vodafone gives you international coverage in 152 worldwide destinations.

If you want to dig deeper about international roaming in the UK, we have a detailed roaming abroad review!

Three Features

Go Roam

three-go-roamThree’s ‘Go Roam Around the World’ feature allows customers to roam freely in 71 destinations, at no extra cost. Both pay monthly and PAYG plans are included. Customers can also use their handset to tether while abroad.

Go Binge

three-go-bingeThree says it doesn’t want anything standing between you and your favourite shows, movies and music. The carrier teamed up with the likes of Netflix, Apple Music, Snapchat, Soundcloud, Deezer and TV Player to make sure customers won’t burn through their data, when using these platforms.

All SIM only plans with 12GB and above data will give customers unlimited use on the apps listed above at no extra cost. Keep in mind, Three doesn’t give you subscriptions to these services, only allowing you to use them without eating up your data.

Unlimited Data Plans

Three’s unlimited plans come in 1 month, 12 months and 24 months contracts in terms of SIM only deals. Three also offers an unlimited data pack for their PAYG service, but it’s a costlier alternative.

These unlimited data plans have got no speed tiers, data caps, throttling or any other restrictions.

If you’re okay with not having free 5G with unlimited data, you can also checkout mobile virtual network operators like SMARTY, iD Mobile and Superdrug Mobile. They’re all using Three’s network and offer similarly priced unlimited data plans. Make sure to have a look at our extensive reviews for these networks.

TariffData, Minutes & TextsPRICE
Three AdvancedUnlimited £26.00 - 1 month
Three AdvancedUnlimited £24.00 - 12 months
Three AdvancedUnlimited £22.00 - 24 months
Three PAYGUnlimited £30.00

5G at No Extra Cost

three-5g-v2We may have already covered this, but this perk deserves more recognition. No other network -be it a major one like EE, Vodafone & O2 or an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator)- offers 5G coverage on all plans. On top of that, if the network’s ‘fastest 5G in the UK’ claims prove to be true, other mobile operators will have their hands full to catch up with Three.

Existing Customer Offers

Three doesn’t exactly offer a family or group discount, however there are some discount options on additional SIM plans. Don’t expect much though, as most of these offers save you about £2 a month. Considering how competitive Three’s prices already are, they may work out cheaper at standard pricing than other operators under a family discount.

The mobile network operator also proposes student discounts, don’t forget to check them out if you’re a student or a parent to one. If you want to know which other networks in the UK offer discounts to students, head on to our best student SIM deals in the UK review!

Half Cooked’s Overall Breakdown

  • Network Coverage and Speeds – With over 99% 4G coverage and decent data speeds, Three gets the basics right. Where Three shines the most is providing 5G on all plans, at no extra cost. Three also claims it’s the fastest 5G network in the UK.
  • Voice Call Quality – umlaut rated Three’s voice call quality as ‘sufficient’ with the main issue being longer call set up times than other networks.
  • Tethering – Three allows tethering on all plans with no limitations whatsoever.
  • Wi-Fi Calling & 4G Calling – Both these perks are supported by Three, regardless if you are on SIM only plans or PAYG. You’ll need a compatible device though.
  • Wi-Fi Hotspots – Wi-Fi hotspots are not Three Network’s forte. You can’t rely on Three for this data saving perk.
  • International Roaming – With 71 inclusive roaming destinations around the world, Three has one of the best offers in the UK.
  • 5G At No Extra Cost – Three offers 5G on all plans, free of charge. The operator claims its 5G is the fastest in the UK, but there isn’t enough data to prove it yet.
  • Go Roam – Three’s international roaming perk is called Go Roam, and as stated above it offers inclusive roaming in 71 destinations. Both pay monthly and PAYG plans are included.
  • Go Binge – All the SIM only plans with 12GB and above data will give customers unlimited use on the apps such as Netflix, Snapchat, Apple Music and more, at no extra cost.
  • Unlimited Data Plans – The network offers three unlimited SIM only plans and one unlimited PAYG deal. These four are all true unlimited deals. No caps, no speed restrictions or any other limitations.
  • Existing Customer Offers – If you’ve been on a monthly plan on Three for at least 30 days, you’re eligible for existing customer discounts. Students also benefit from a similar discount. These aren’t as fancy as some other networks family/group plans.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does Three support 5G?

Yes, Three’s network coverage includes 5G as of February 2020. Three has the largest usable 5G spectrum amongst the mobile network operators in the UK with 140Mhz. The operator is using 100MHz of it to provide 5G coverage in the UK.

Does Three support 2G?

No, Three’s network coverage doesn’t include 2G. The network uses 3G and 4G for voice calls and texting.

Does Three have 4G Calling?

Yes, Three has 4G Calling but it’s under a different name. Three’s 4G Calling is named Super-Voice and free to both SIM only and PAYG customers alike.

Does Three have Wi-Fi Calling?

Yes, it does. The Three Network offers Wi-Fi Calling on all it’s plans, be it pay monthly or PAYG. It’s free of charge, but your device must be compatible.

Does Three offer data rollover?

No, Three doesn’t offer any data rollover options. Be it SIM only, PAYG or 321 plans, there are no data rollover options on this mobile network operator.

Does Three have an app?

Yes, Three has an app and it’s quite user friendly. You can view your bills, check your allowance, sort your upgrades, have a live chat with the customer support, set a data cap and so on.

Is Three’s 5G Network really the fastest in the UK?

We don’t have an answer to this question yet, as Three’s 5G released recently, in February 2020. We’ll have to wait for the newest speed test results from independent, objective bodies. However, technically speaking Three has the potential to offer the fastest 5G internet speeds, based on the fact that it has the largest amount of 5G frequency spectrum of any of the UK's mobile operators.

Where can I use my inclusive roaming allowance on Three?

You can use Three’s inclusive roaming allowance in 71 different destinations around the world.

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