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Three Coverage and Network Review

29th February 2020

Three Network Coverage

Three has widespread 4G coverage and has now rolled out 5G in over 60 locations – with a network which could have some advantages over rivals.

But where Three really stands out is with its extras, such as free roaming in numerous international destinations, and in its competitive prices.

Below you’ll find a full overview of the network, as well as information on the ways in which it stands out and those in which it could improve.




Free roaming beyond the EU

Tests suggest latency could be improved

Unlimited data plans

Top speeds aren't as high as some rivals

Competitive prices with 5G at no extra cost


Our Rating


Three Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population


Now available in 66 locations







Unlike the other UK networks Three doesn't offer 2G, but instead only offers 3G, 4G and 5G services with 3G coverage reaching 98.7% of the population, 4G coverage available to 99.8% of the population and 5G available in 66 locations across the UK. That puts Three roughly in line with rivals and the network is investing heavily in its infrastructure.

Use Three’s coverage checker above to find out more about Three coverage in your area, including signal strengths and details on both indoor and outdoor coverage.

Coverage Comparison


4G coverage by population









Towns and cities with partial or full Three 4G coverage include (but are not limited to):

Aberdeen, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bolton, Bournemouth, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Coventry, Derby, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Gloucester, Huddersfield, Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Luton, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Sheffield, Southampton, Southend On Sea, Stoke on Trent, Swindon, Watford and York.

Not only is that just a partial list, but Three is adding to it all the time. So if you don't have 4G where you are now you likely will do soon.

5G coverage

Three 5G is now available in the following 66 places. Three are offering 5G at no extra cost on all Pay Monthly contracts, SIM Only and Pay As You Go plans, although you will need a 5G ready device to access the service.

Three 5G Coverage


Abingdon-on-Thames Aldershot













Brookmans Park


Cardiff / Caerdydd













Hedge End

Hemel Hempstead









Lower Stondon
















Shelly Green


St Albans



Swansea / Abertawe





That’s a lot of locations, and due to the amount of 5G-ready spectrum Three has it has also said that it’s the only UK network in a position to offer ‘true’ 5G at launch, which could allow for speeds up to twice as fast as rivals. Three hasn’t talked specific numbers, but given EE’s 5G speeds that could mean peak speeds of over 2Gbps.

Of course, you’ll need a 5G phone and plan to take advantage. So far on the 5G phone front Three only stocks the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, and others, with more sure to land soon.


Three has won a large number of awards over the years, with recent examples including the "Best Network for Roaming" at the Mobile Choice Consumer Awards 2019, “Most Popular Mobile Network” and “Best Network for Roaming” at the 2018 uSwitch Mobile Awards, and the “Best Network for Data” award at Mobile Choice Consumer Awards 2017, an award it also won at the 2017 uSwitch Mobile Awards.

Other awards include but are not limited to “Best Pay Monthly Network” and “Best Network for Roaming” at the 2017 uSwitch Mobile Awards, and “Best Network for Roaming” at the Mobile Choice Consumer Awards 2017.

In other words then, you should be in safe hands with Three, particularly if data and roaming are priorities for you.

Network Speeds and Frequencies

OpenSignal – Mobile Network Experience, October 2019


4G download/upload speeds

4G latency (ms)













While Three’s 4G coverage is superb, its speeds aren’t quite as impressive. According to OpenSignal it offers average 4G download speeds of 21.6Mbps, beaten by EE and Vodafone. Its average 4G upload speed of 7.4Mbps is also third, and its average latency of 46.3ms meanwhile is worse than all its main rivals.

Latency is a measurement of how long the network takes to respond to a request and it’s not normally noticeable, but can affect things like online gaming and anything else where a fraction of a second makes a difference. The good news is that if Three’s 5G service lives up to the network’s promises then it could soon be leading the pack in some places.

Network Frequencies


Frequency Band



Band 20



Band 3



Band 1


Three uses the 800MHz and 1800MHz bands for 4G. The 800MHz band can travel over long distances, making it a good fit for rural locations, where masts are often spread far apart. But it can also do a good job of penetrating walls, making it great for bringing 4G indoors.

1800MHz meanwhile isn’t quite as long range or as good at passing through walls, but it’s available in a higher capacity, which means it can cope with lots of simultaneous connections.

Three also has some other spectrum in the 3.4GHz and 3.6-4GHz bands, however this is only currently used for 5G.

For more in depth information, check out our 4G frequencies guide, or check out the table above for a breakdown of Three’s frequency usage.


Although not specifically marketed by Three as ‘4G+’, the network has launched a faster 4G service in major cities such as London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow. This uses carrier aggregation to boost speeds on average by between 15% and 33%, and you’ll know it’s active if you see a ‘4G+’ symbol on your phone.

But Three is going a step further, as it is also upgrading 6,000 sites (which in total carry 80% of its network traffic) with new antennas and spectrum, to offer 4G speeds that are up to 150% faster than current speeds. This work has begun already so you should soon start seeing the benefit in some places, but it won't be completed at all of these sites until 2023.

Planned improvements

Three is regularly improving its network, with most upgrades at the moment likely focused on expanding its 5G footprint, as detailed in the 5G coverage section above.

On top of that, Three is also improving its 4G service. As noted above, it is upgrading thousands of sites to offer 4G speeds that are up to 150% higher than current ones, but on top of that it is also switching 3G spectrum across to 4G at 12,500 sites, which will lead to speed boosts of up to 40%. This work has begun, but won't be completed in all places until 2023.

Traffic management

Three uses what it calls ‘TrafficSense’ for traffic management. In general, it’s not something you’ll notice or that will really affect you – indeed it’s designed to ensure users get the best data experience possible.

However, Three notes that “in the event of network or equipment failure, or heavy congestion, we may have to deploy technology to ensure that our network runs smoothly, supporting time-critical traffic and minimising disruption.”

When using your phone abroad in Go Roam locations, video may be delivered in standard definition, and the speed of P2P and VPN services may be reduced.


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8 GB data



£8.00 a month

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Unlimited data



£18.00 a month

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12 GB data



£10.00 a month

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Unlimited data



£24.00 a month

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1 GB data



£5.00 a month

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Three has a range of Pay Monthly, SIM Only and Pay As You Go plans. They stand out through high – and in some cases unlimited – data allowances, and numerous extra features, full details of which you’ll find below.

Three Pay Monthly Plans


Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Data Only

Plans Available

Max Data




Contract lengths

24 months

1, 12 or 24 months

1, 12 or 24 months



WiFi Calling


Data Rollover

Spending Caps


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Three’s Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans all currently come with access to Three’s Go Roam Around the World roaming service (detailed below), and give you the ability to use your data for tethering. Some also offer unlimited data.

Three did previously split its plans between Essential Plans and Advanced Plans, with Essential ones offering fewer perks, so if you’re on an older Essential Plan you won’t be able to roam for free outside Europe, or tether, but new plans all come with these features.

Three also offers Data Only plans for tablets, MiFi devices and dongles. These come with data but don’t include any minutes or texts. They are available on 1, 12 or 24-month contracts and come with up to 100GB of data, unless you get them with a mobile broadband device, in which case unlimited data is available.

Note that while 5G isn’t currently offered for phones on Three, it will be added to plans at no extra cost once available.

Other than that, the plans at their core stand out from most rivals through having potentially unlimited allowances and widespread roaming, but there’s more to them than that, with the other key extras detailed below.

Go Binge

Three now lets Pay Monthly and SIM Only customers with an allowance of at least 12GB 'Go Binge', while mobile broadband customers need at least 15GB of monthly data to get Go Binge. With Go Binge you can stream as much as you want on Netflix, Apple Music, Snapchat, Deezer, TVPlayer and SoundCloud without it coming out of your data allowance.


Tethering comes on all of Three’s current plans (but not on older Essential plans) and the network lets you use as much of your data as you want for tethering. That means if you have a plan with unlimited data you can tether indefinitely.

WiFi Calling

Wi-Fi Calling allows you to seamlessly call and text over Wi-Fi, making it ideal if you’re in an area with no signal, and it’s a service that Three offers as standard.

However, while it works on all iPhones from the iPhone 5S onwards, it only works on select Android handsets, and only if they’ve been bought direct from Three. Check out the full up to date list of compatible handsets here.


VoLTE stands for Voice over LTE, and it means being able to make and receive calls over 4G, which is handy as it allows you to continue calling in areas which don’t have a 3G signal. Call quality is also sometimes higher when using VoLTE.

Three was the first UK network to offer a VoLTE service, one which it calls 4G Super-Voice. This comes as standard on plans and is currently available to most of the UK population, but as with Wi-Fi Calling you’ll need to have bought your handset from Three if you’re using an Android phone, and it will need to be one of the ones on this list. iPhone users don’t have to have bought their phone from Three, you just need an iPhone SE or above.

Hands Free

Hands Free is another perk for Pay Monthly Three customers, one which allows you to put your hand luggage in the hold on easyJet flights at no cost.

This means you won’t have limits on liquids and should be able to get through security faster. Then at the other end your bag will be one of the first to come off the plane. Other perks of Hands Free include being able to board the plane faster and getting a free tote bag, so you can still take essentials on board.

Pay As You Go

Pay As You Go Plans


Mobile Phones

Data Only

Plans Available

Add-ons available

Max Data Allowance



Add-on expiry 

30 or 90 days Up to 24 months

Top Up Expiry

180 days inactivity 180 days inactivity


EU Roaming

Global Roaming

View Plans

Three also offers a range of Pay As You Go bundles, most of which give you an allowance of minutes, texts and data, but some of which are designed just to boost one of those three things.

Most of these bundles (other than data-only ones) last 30 days, though there is also a 90-day one, and while they don’t automatically renew you can queue them. Three allows you to tether on Pay As You Go, and you can use your allowances with Three’s Go Roam roaming service (up to a cap of 12GB of data).

If you don’t buy a bundle, or you use up your allowances, you’ll be charged 3p per minute, 2p per text and 1p per megabyte.

Roaming Destinations

Three also offers services abroad, allowing you to continue to use your data, minutes and texts at no extra cost. Previously known as Feel At Home, the full service is called Go Roam Around the World and is available on all new plans at the time of writing. This lets you roam at no extra cost in the following 71 locations:

Aland Islands, Australia, Austria, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Republic of Ireland, Romania, Réunion, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, USA, Vatican City and Vietnam.

However, be aware that on older Essential Plans (which are no longer sold) you only have access to Go Roam in Europe. This lets you roam in 49 of the above destinations, but only those in Europe, so on an Essential Plan you won't be able to roam in:

Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Macau, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, USA, US Virgin Islands or Vietnam.

Note that on Pay Monthly or SIM Only data use is only inclusive up to 20GB in Go Roam in Europe locations (or 12GB on Pay As You Go), and for all plans it's 12GB for Go Roam Around the World.

Three also offers a Data Passport, which lets you use unlimited data in 89 destinations for £5 per day.

Customer service

Customer service can be hard to judge, but based on the evidence available it seems that Three may well be slightly above average in the area.

In an Ofcom report, including data from 2018 and 2019, it was claimed that 92% of customers were satisfied with the network, 2% had a reason to complain and 59% of those who did complain were satisfied with the handling of their complaint.

The report also found that 13 of every 100,000 Three subscribers complained to Ofcom, which is fairly average in relation to rivals.


Three's 4G coverage is now comparable to rivals and the network has plenty of other benefits including unlimited data, free roaming in a large number of places, high speeds when on 4G, solid customer service and competitively low prices, along with the promise of 5G at no extra cost.

It's the network to choose if you’re a heavy data user or put value for money first.

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