Vodafone vs Three Review 2020: Awesome Perks or 5G At No Extra Cost?

In this article, we’ll compare Vodafone and Three’s price plans, data speeds and extra features.

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Latest Offer: 6 Months Half Price – Unlimited for £11 a month!

Three Mobile OfferThree 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 Vodafone?

vodafone logoVodafone is one of the largest telecommunication providers in the world and it’s also the oldest mobile network in the UK. The network launched in 1984 and as of today it has an established infrastructure in 25 countries. The carrier provides 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G coverage, while offering a wide range of SIM and device plans.

Vodafone customers can benefit from many perks unique to the network, as well features comparable with other operators. The network giant’s premium plans have the most inclusive roaming destinations in the UK. However, all these perks and features make Vodafone a costlier option compared to other networks in the UK. At the end of the day Vodafone deals may have a high price point, but they certainly deliver value.

Pro’s

  • Entertainment subscriptions bundled with premium plans.
  • Great perks such as VeryMe rewards.
  • 81 inclusive roaming destinations with Unlimited Data Max Plan.
  • Many different plans to choose from.

Con’s

  • Most complaints per 100k customers per Ofcom data.
  • Generally, more expensive plans.
 

Who is Three?

Three mobileLaunched in 2003, Three Mobile is the UK’s youngest major mobile network operator. Three claims it has the fastest 5G data speeds in the country, with all customers benefiting at no extra cost. The network is also known for its competitive prices and true unlimited plans with no restrictions or data caps.

At Half Cooked, we rate Three as the best overall mobile network, but depending on your needs another carrier may suit you better. We’re here to help you to find out if you’re better off joining Three, Vodafone or another operator.

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.
 

Table of Contents

 

Plans & Pricing

SIM Only Deals

vodafone vs three sim only dealsVodafone offers a great variety of plans and choosing the right one becomes confusing at first glance. The network currently offers three different types of SIM Only price plans and these are called Basics, Vodafone RED and Vodafone Unlimited. Vodafone SIM only deals always come with unlimited minutes and unlimited texts.

Vodafone’s ‘Basics’ are the cheapest SIM Only deals you can find on the network, starting at £6/month with only 4G network coverage. Basics don’t include the voice call quality improving features like 4G Calling & Wi-Fi Calling. You’re also automatically opted out of all entertainment options Vodafone offers. These also aren’t flexible at all as they lock you in to a 12 month commitment.

Vodafone Red dealsstart at £11/month for 1GB data and you can choose your contract length. You can be on a 30 day contract, or alternatively sign up for 12 to 24 month commitments. The longer the contract, the cheaper the monthly payments are. All Red deals include unlimited 4G and 5G data speeds, as well as 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling. You can also add an entertainment package to your deal for an extra £7/month.

Vodafone’s unlimited data plans have three different types; Unlimited Lite, Unlimited and Unlimited Max. Lite and Unlimited are subject to speed caps, respectively 2Mbps and 10Mbps. Vodafone’s only unlimited tariff without speed restrictions is the Unlimited Max plan. This plan also has a total of 81 inclusive roaming destinations, making it the best roaming deal in the UK offered by any network. Needless to say, you get all the perks and features RED members do.

Three’s prices are more competitive than Vodafone’s. Plus, all SIM only tariffs come with 5G coverage and you won’t pay an extra penny for it. In addition to that, 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling are also included in all the deals offered by Three. If that isn’t enough, the carrier has 71 inclusive roaming destinations available to all customers.

There used to be two different types of SIM Only tariffs on Three, but Essential Plans no longer exist. At the time of writing, ‘Advanced Plans’ are the only ones available. You can sign up for 1 month, 12 month or 24 month deals on Three. If you’re happy to lock in for a longer period, the network will offer you better rates per month.

TARIFFDATAPRICE
Vodafone Basics2GB£6.00 - 12 months
Three Advanced4GB£13.00 - 12 months
Vodafone Red5GB
£16.00/12 months
Three Advanced12GB£16.00 - 12 months
Vodafone Red20GB£21.00/ 12 months
Three Advanced30GB£20.00 - 12 months
Unlimited LiteUnlimited/2Mbps Max£22.00/24 months
Three AdvancedUnlimited£22.00 - 24 months
All the plans above come with unlimited minutes & texts.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

three winnerDue to its super competitive prices, no data speed restrictions and allowing all customers to benefit from great features at no extra cost Three wins this category.

Pay As You Go

Best free payg sim cardsBoth Vodafone and Three have pay as you go services. On either network you can buy monthly PAYG bundles or if you don’t want to top-up every month you can use these networks on a traditional pay as you go basis with decent rates.

Vodafone’s Pay As You Go 1 is a great deal if you’re not using your device that often. You only pay £1 for the days you use your phone, that’s all. The tariff’s rates are 20p/minute, 20p/text and 20p per 5MB of data. If you reach your daily cap of £1, you can still make phone calls and send texts without any extra charges, but the maximum amount of data you can use is 500MB. Vodafone also lets you buy a 500MB data add-on, but only once per day.

Three’s traditional PAYG rates are a bit better than Vodafone’s, but there’s no special programme like PAYG1 on Three (we’re not counting Three’s 321 Plan, as it’s only available to existing customers). However, when you compare the bundles offered by each network there’s no competition, not at all. Three offers better prices and much better value.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

three winnerWith cheaper prices, cheaper rates and better value bundles Three takes another win over Vodafone. However, you should check out Vodafone’s PAYG1 plan. It’s wallet friendly and if you’re not using your phone often, might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Pay Monthly Phones

vodafone-phone-dealsIt’s not surprising that both Vodafone and Three have a wide range of handsets deals. Both stores have their advantages and down sides. Three gives you cheaper alternatives and better value for money, but Vodafone has better rewards, more discounts and entertainment packages to accompany their deals. On top of that, they also sell some nice accessories.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

We could give the win to Three for having better SIM deals, but Vodafone brings variety to the table, and also more interesting reward programmes for buying a phone from their store.

Click here to go to Vodafone Store or here to check out Three’s Store.

Network Coverage & Speeds

2G, 3G & 4G Coverage

three-coverage-mapWhen it comes to population coverage, both Vodafone and Three boast that they have over 99% coverage, however this doesn’t mean their landmass coverage is the same. Both providers are behind EE Mobile, with the network aiming to reach 95% 4G landmass coverage soon. However, Vodafone’s 4G coverage is noticeably larger and better than Three’s. The oldest network in the UK also has a better infrastructure and independent tests show us that overall Vodafone offers better coverage. Three Mobile doesn’t have a 2G service which can be important in some remote, rural locations where coverage is limited.

As for data speeds, Vodafone again leads. According to the latest Open Signal speed tests (April 2020) Vodafone’s average download speed is recorded at 23.0Mbps and upload speed at around 8.2Mbps. Three’s average 4G download speed is measured at 19.01Mbps and upload speed at 6.7Mbps. Vodafone is the clear winner in terms of data speeds too, but the difference isn’t that noticeable, especially in big cities and established towns. However, Vodafone shines significantly more in rural areas and less crowded towns. Both networks seem to be doing fine though, as these results are decent enough, proving that they are on par with a mid-range home broadband internet connection.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

winner-vodafoneVodafone offers better network coverage, has 2G while Three doesn’t and it’s average data speeds are superior to its opponent. A strong win for Vodafone here.

5G Coverage

vodafone vs three 5gThree Mobile claims they offer the fastest 5G data speeds in the UK and these are not some empty claims. The mobile network has 140MHz of usable 5G spectrum and 100MHz is currently being used to provide 5G coverage. Compared to Vodafone’s 50MHz this stands out big time, but we shouldn’t get carried away as there are other key factors to how fast your internet speeds will be. Due to Three’s 5G having only launched in Feb 2020, we don’t have nearly enough data to definitively call the network the fastest. Currently there are 68 cities and towns using Three’s 5G services. The best part about Three’s 5G services, it’s free for all the customers on the network.

Vodafone also offers 5G coverage and it’s continuously improving, however only 44 cities and towns have Vodafone 5G at the moment. The mobile network provider’s 5G extends beyond the UK though. Vodafone provides 5G Coverage in a total of 114 places across the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. To benefit from Vodafone’s 5G, you need to be on either a ‘RED’ plan or an ‘Unlimited’ deal.

To access either network’s 5G you’ll need a compatible phone and you’ll need to be in an area with 5G coverage. Also, when networks say that they offer 5G in a city or a town, it may only mean in specific areas. We recommend checking network coverage maps before you commit to a plan.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

three winnerThree provides 5G in more cities and towns, plus it’s free for all the network’s customers. It also has significantly more 5G spectrum, which means Three could indeed offer fastest data speeds in the UK.

Vodafone's Network Coverage

Voice Call Quality

vodafone vs three voice call qualityLooking at the most recent test results published by umlaut, Open Signal and Root Metrics we see that Vodafone’s voice calls are clearer and call setup times are significantly faster than Three’s.

Vodafone scores “good” on voice call quality tests and in fact, in major cities the network scored “very good”. Three follows behind but it’s not a close race. Three Mobile not offering any 2G services obviously doesn’t help either. Most mobile networks in the UK still rely on this, especially to keep voice calls stable.

EE’s mobile network is the best when it comes to network coverage and internet speeds. This in a roundabout way affects voice calls too, for the better of course. You may want to read our extensive EE review to learn more about it.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

winner-vodafoneVodafone scores ahead of Three in tests performed by independent testing bodies.

Wi-Fi Calling & 4G Calling

vodafone-three-wifi-calling-4g-callingWith Wi-Fi Calling your handset can make HD voice calls by utilising a Wi-Fi network. Basically, your phone will be using your Wi-Fi connection rather than your mobile network operator’s network. This will make your device reachable even in areas where there’s no 2G, 3G or 4G coverage.

4G Calling is also known as VoLTE, and it allows you to make higher definition calls over a mobile network provider’s 4G spectrum.

Both Vodafone and Three offer these voice call quality and network coverage improving features. In terms of quality the experience feels similar. The key difference between the two networks under this category is, Three offers both these features for all its customers with no exception, while on Vodafone you need a pay monthly unlimited, Red or a Red Bundle (PAYG) plan.

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.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

three winnerBoth networks offer 4G Calling & Wi-Fi Calling to their customers and frankly in terms of quality the experience feels the same. However, Three offers both features in all its deals at no extra cost. As for Vodafone, only Red and Unlimited tariffs include them and they are pricier.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

vodafone vs three wi-fi hotspotsAll Vodafone members have Wi-Fi access on London Underground Stations, but this offer isn’t unique to Vodafone. Three customers benefit from this too and so do EE & O2. This service is provided by Virgin Media. EE, Vodafone, O2 & Three customers can use the underground Wi-Fi service for free as part of their plans.

Vodafone used to allow its customers access to BT Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots as part of their plan, but as of 30 April 2020 this perk no longer exists.

At Half Cooked, we believe Wi-Fi Hotspots aren’t as important anymore, but they still have value. If this is a key factor in your mobile network choice we’d strongly advise you to read our Free Wi-Fi Hotspots in the UK guide.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

It’s a clear tie as neither Vodafone nor Three offer anything different. Their customers benefit from the London Underground Wi-Fi provided by Virgin Media, but that’s about it.

Tethering

vodafone vs three tetheringTethering, or commonly known as using your phone as a personal hotspot, refers to sharing your mobile phone’s network data with other compatible devices like laptops, other phones and tablets.

When it comes to tethering, Three Mobile has been leading the way. There are no data caps, no fair usage caps, no maximum device limits & no speed restrictions on the Three Network. The only exception is when roaming internationally, but we’ll cover that in a bit under a different section (International Roaming).

Vodafone allows tethering on all their plans and bundles too, but there are some limits. For example, two of the unlimited plans on Vodafone come with download speed restrictions. Vodafone ‘Unlimited Lite’ customers only get 2Mbps speeds & ‘Unlimited Plan’ customers get a maximum 10Mbps download speed. Only Unlimited Max isn’t restricted in terms of data speeds.

We would like to remind you that tethering to other devices will mean your data will be used up at a much faster rate. You might want to sign up for an unlimited data plan, if you’re expecting to tether regularly.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

three winnerAs we stated above, Three Mobile in the UK is the best when it comes to tethering due to no restrictions or data caps etc. Not to mention its competitive prices.

International Roaming

vodafone vs three international roamingThe mobile network operators in the UK are legally obliged to provide free inclusive roaming in the EU. However, both Vodafone and Three offer more than your mandatory 48 EU destinations.

Three’s standard roaming is without a doubt better than what Vodafone offers. The scheme is called ‘Go Roam’ and it includes 71 inclusive destinations, meaning you can use your minutes, texts and data just like at home. The real benefit on Three is that this is available on all plans & not just on a premium tariff. This is a unique offer among the major mobile networks in the UK. Go Roam is not faultless though, as there is a 20GB/month fair usage limit.

Most tariffs and deals on Vodafone will allow you to roam freely in 52 destinations, however ‘Unlimited Max’ plan has the ‘Global Roaming Plus’ perk and it will increase the number to a total of 81 countries, which is the highest number offered by any mobile network in the UK. All of Vodafone’s unlimited data plans are subject to a roaming cap of 25GB a month.

If you’re planning on joining one of Vodafone’s Basics Plans, keep in mind that you won’t get any roaming at all. Your SIM won’t allow you to use your data, minutes or texts. You should make sure the tariff you’re planning to join has the ‘Global Roaming’ perk.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

three winnerAt Half Cooked, we rate Three as the best in the UK when it comes to international roaming. All plans, be it SIM only or PAYG, benefit from the ‘Go Roam’ scheme which includes 71 destinations worldwide.

Features

Vodafone’s Features

VeryMe Rewards

vodafone very me‘VeryMe Rewards’ is Vodafone’s loyalty programme and it’s available to all customers. The programme has great value rewards and offers available to use each week. With VeryMe Rewards you can get cheap cinema tickets, free coffees, high street discounts and more. Giveaways on VeryMe will change and match your interests better as you use it.

Entertainment Packages

Vodafone Entertainment PackagesVodafone’s entertainment packages are exclusive to Red 5GB (on 12 months contract), Red 20GB, Unlimited and Unlimited Max customers. However, being eligible doesn’t mean you get it for free as you’re required to pay an extra £7/month to include an entertainment option to your plan. Currently, customers can choose between Amazon Prime Video, Spotify Premium, NOW TV and Sky Sports Mobile TV for the duration of their contracts (12 months or 24 months).

Unlimited Data Plans

At the time of writing, there are three different unlimited data deals for SIM only customers on Vodafone. There’s also a pay as you go bundle priced at £50. All unlimited data plans come with unlimited minutes and texts, so you don’t have to worry about that.

Vodafone’s SIM only unlimited tariffs include Unlimited Lite, Unlimited and Unlimited Max. First two are subject to reduced download speeds, respectively at 2Mbps and 10Mpbs. Prices for these deals also change depending on the length of contract you’re willing to commit to. To benefit from Vodafone’s entertainment packages you’ll have to be on either Unlimited or Unlimited Max with at least a year long contract. The ‘Unlimited Max’ tariff has the ‘Global Roaming Plus’ perk which offers inclusive roaming in 81 destinations.

If you wish to discover what other mobile networks are offering in their unlimited plans, or just interested in some type of unlimited streaming perk, we’d recommend reading our guides.

Total Rollover

Vodafone’s data rollover feature is exclusive to Big Value PAYG customers. Your leftover data, minutes & texts from your current bundle will be moved into the following month. Vodafone’s Total Rollover works on a monthly basis, meaning rolled over data will expire in 30 calendar days. This is a common deal among the mobile network operators, Sky Mobile’sRoll’ being the only exception. Powered by the O2 Network, Sky customers can hold onto rolled over data for up to three years.

Loyalty Discount

The network offers a straightforward 15% loyalty discount to existing customers on additional plans. You can get 9 more additional plans under your account. The discount offer includes SIM only tariffs, as well as device plans. However, Vodafone will be asking for a long-term commitment, at least 12 months on SIMs and 24 months on device plans.

You can easily control all the additional tariffs with your main account. While a straightforward 15% discount sounds great, there are other great family plan alternatives on other mobile networks too.

Three’s Features

Go Roam

three-go-roamWith Three Mobile’s ‘Go Roam Around the World’ scheme you can roam freely in 71 destinations. Go Roam comes at no extra cost and it’s available on all SIM only and PAYG deals.

Go Binge

three-go-bingeThree Mobile’s 12GB or above SIM only plans come with ‘Go Binge’, which allows customers to use the following apps without having to worry about their data usage: Netflix, Apple Music, Snapchat, Soundcloud, Deezer and TV Player.

We’d like to remind you that Three doesn’t give you subscriptions to these services, only allowing you to use them without eating up your data.

Unlimited Data Plans

Three is known for its unlimited data plans in the UK and the carrier really delivers. Unlimited SIM only plans come in 1 month, 12 month and 24 month contracts. There’s also a PAYG bundle with unlimited data, but it’s pricier.

Three’s unlimited data plans are truly unlimited as they don’t have speed restrictions or data caps etc.

While Three’s unlimited data plans are already competitively priced, you might still want to consider other alternatives running on the same infrastructure. Powered by Three, both SMARTY and Superdrug Mobile offer amazing unlimited data deals that come with 3G & 4G. Make sure to read our SMARTY Review and Superdrug Mobile Review too!

TARIFFDATAPRICE
Three AdvancedUnlimited £26.00 - 1 month
Three AdvancedUnlimited £24.00 - 12 months
Three AdvancedUnlimited £22.00 - 24 months
Three PAYGUnlimited £20.00 (Special Offer)
All Three Unlimited Data plans also come with unlimited minutes & texts.

5G at No Extra Cost

three-5gThree makes a bold claim and calls its 5G services the fastest in the UK. The network launched 5G quite recently, so we don’t have enough data to verify this yet. However, the carrier’s 5G service is free to all customers, which is not the case with any other operators.

Existing Customer Offers

There are some discounts on additional SIM plans for existing Three customers, but they’re not like what other networks with family/group plans offer. These deals mostly save you around £1 to £3 a month. Given how competitive Three’s prices already are, a standard priced deal on Three may work out cheaper than other operators under a family/group discount.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

winner-vodafoneVodafone’s ‘VeryMe Rewards’ is one of the best loyalty programmes in the UK, and then you also get some entertainment packages, data rollover for PAYG and some great discounts. However, Three offers some great features too, so this is a very close win for Vodafone.

Half Cooked’s Overall Breakdown

Three offers key features like 4G Calling, Wi-Fi Calling, Go Roam and most importantly 5G at no extra cost. While Vodafone has better network coverage and faster data speeds, we think the difference between the two operators isn’t that noticeable for an end user. Three’s price plans have better value and they are more competitive.

We love Vodafone’s VeryMe Rewards, but overall Three is currently the better network.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does Vodafone have VoLTE or 4G Calling?

Yes, Vodafone has VoLTE, also known as 4G Calling. However, Vodafone Basics customers and PAYG customers with base bundles can’t use this feature. You’ll need to join on a RED plan at the very least to benefit from 4G Calling.

Does Vodafone have Wi-Fi Calling?

Yes, Vodafone customers can benefit from Wi-Fi Calling as long as they are on a Vodafone Red plan or above. Vodafone Basics plans and base PAYG bundles don’t support Wi-Fi calling.

Can you get unlimited data on Vodafone?

Yes, there are three SIM only unlimited data options on Vodafone: Unlimited Lite, Unlimited and Unlimited Max. However, only Unlimited Max has unrestricted download speed. Lite and regular Unlimited plans are subject to speed restrictions, respectively at 2Mbps and 10Mbps.

What countries are included in Vodafone’s roaming?

On Vodafone how many countries you can freely roam depends on which plan you are running. Vodafone’s standard roaming scheme is called ‘Global Roaming’ and it includes 52 destinations in which you can roam freely. Unlimited Max plan comes with ‘Global Roaming Plus’ which offers inclusive roaming in 81 countries. In total Vodafone Global Roaming can be used in 152 destinations around the world. You can check their roaming charges on their website.

Will my phone work abroad on Vodafone?

Yes, your phone will work abroad on Vodafone. However, you should check if the country you will be travelling to is supported by Vodafone’s infrastructure.

Does Vodafone have pay as you go?

Yes, Vodafone has PAYG. The network offers five different Big Value Bundles and a budget friendly SIM option called Pay As You Go 1. If you choose the latter option, you pay £1/day and only on days you use your device.

How can I keep my phone number switching to Vodafone?

If you wish to move to Vodafone, but keep your phone number, you’ll need to get your unique PAC Code from your current provider. Once you activate your new SIM with Vodafone, give the PAC Code to Vodafone and they’ll do the rest. The process may take a day.

Does Vodafone have 5G?

Yes, at the time of writing Vodafone offers 5G coverage in 44 towns and cities in the UK and also in 70 other locations across Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. In total, Vodafone’s 5G currently covers 114 places and it will continue to increase.

Is 5G safe?

Yes, 5G is completely safe to use. Both Vodafone and Three set up their 5G networks according to government legislation and international guidelines and it’s fully compliant with all national and international electromagnetic frequency regulations.

When will I get Vodafone 5G in my area?

There’s no definitive answer, unless Vodafone already made an announcement for your region. The network operator regularly makes announcements about 5G coverage and where the next extensions are going to happen. You can also use Vodafone’s Network Status Checker to see if the provider started to offer 5G in your area.

Does Three support 5G?

Yes, Three launched its 5G in February 2020. The network also has the largest usable 5G spectrum between the four major 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, the Three Network doesn’t have any 2G spectrum.. Three 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, Three has Wi-Fi Calling and the feature comes at no extra cost and it’s included in all the deals offered by the network. However, your handset must be compatible for this feature to work.

Does Three offer data rollover?

No, Three doesn’t have any data rollover features.

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

While we know that Three has the largest amount of 5G frequency spectrum in the UK, this doesn’t necessarily translate into having the fastest download speeds. There are other factors in play and given how recently Three launched its 5G, we just don’t have enough data yet. However, technically speaking Three has the potential to offer the fastest 5G internet speeds.

What countries are included in Three’s Go Roam?

You can use Three’s inclusive roaming scheme (Go Roam) in 71 different destinations across the world.