Compare Three mobile broadband deals
By Dan Howdle | Wednesday, March 4th 2020
In this guide
- What is Three mobile broadband?
- Do I need Three mobile broadband?
- Three coverage and data speeds
- Which other providers offer mobile broadband?
- Frequently asked questions
Of all the providers of broadband connectivity over a mobile network, it would be fair to say that Three has long been a front-runner. It was the first network in the UK to offer mobile plans with unlimited data, first to allow unlimited tethering, and is now first to unleash its very own 4G and 5G home broadband brand: Three Broadband.
As if that weren't enough, Three continues to supply data over the airwaves via mobile SIMs, data SIMs, MiFi devices and dongles. If you can put a SIM in it, Three offers it. We're going to cover all of these different ways of getting Three Mobile broadband in this guide.
What is Three mobile broadband?
Before we get into the proper nitty gritty, let's take a moment for a brief overview of the wide range of ways you can get Three mobile broadband. You may have come to this page with an idea in mind of what type you're looking for, but this is still worth taking a look at. There is always a chance you might spot a better or cheaper solution that you hadn't thought of.
- Three 4G and 5G home broadband – Three is now calling this simply 'Three Broadband' and has launched it quite recently after buying London 4G broadband provider Relish. It currently offers limited and unlimited home broadband deals delivered via the Three mobile network. 5G mobile broadband will soon be offered in large towns and cities and is already available in London
- Three mobile broadband dongles – Dongles are small, USB-stick-sized devices that plug into a laptop or desktop computer and deliver mobile broadband to that device only
- Three MiFi devices – A MiFi device is a (usually pocket-sized) mobile broadband hotspot to which you can connect to over wifi with any wifi-capable device. Your phone, laptop, tablet, whatever you like. Some MiFi devices are battery powered, others supplied by a power cable or plugged into a computer via USB
- Three data-only SIMs – A data-only SIM is one where no calling or text allowance exists – only data. These are used primarily in tablet computers, but some laptops also have a SIM card slot into which you can put one of these
- Three SIMs for mobile hotspot tethering – This would be your regular Three SIM, in your phone, with your phone switched to act as a mobile hotspot. Believe it or not this can be just as effective as dongle or MiFi mobile broadband solutions, although the range is going to be more limited, generally speaking, and you'll need to be aware of how much of your mobile data those other devices are using
Do I need Three mobile broadband?
There are a number of different instances where using one or more of Three's mobile broadband solutions may suit you.
- You have terrible fixed line broadband – There are still plenty of locations around the UK where fixed-line broadband speeds are very, very poor. However, with 99.9% 4G coverage there is a very high probability that you will be able to get a 4G signal that outperforms anything available through your phone line
- You travel for work – If you're up and down the country all day long and you never know where you'll be one day to the next, reliable connectivity can be a problem. The addition to your arsenal of a Three mobile broadband dongle, MiFi device, data-only SIM or mobile SIM may provide you just the sort of back-up and guarantees you need
- No other options – There may be situations where broadband over the airwaves is the only broadband you can get, and in those instances, Three mobile broadband – in whatever form – is one of the best solutions out there
- You need a temporary solution – Perhaps you just need to be get connected for a few months and are hesitant to sign up to a traditional fixed-line broadband deal. Three offers 12, 24, and importantly one-month contracts on its mobile broadband deals. A one month rolling contract means you can get out with 30 days notice anytime you like, though the data itself will tend to cost you more than if you were in a longer contract
Three mobile broadband coverage and data speeds
Three is one of the UK's four mobile network operators or 'MNOs'. An MNO owns and runs its own infrastructure – all the cables, all the masts, all the systems and other technology. In addition to Three the other UK MNOs are Vodafone, EE and O2. But what about everyone else? There are a whole bunch of other providers, right?
Right. But, they are what is known as mobile virtual network operators or 'MVNOs'. They offer their services by 'piggybacking' onto one of the four MNOs' network. The other providers that also operate on the Three network are iD Mobile (Carphone Warehouse) and SMARTY.
One additional thing to consider is that only the MNOs such as Three itself tend to offer such a wide gamut of mobile broadband services, whereas MVNOs tend to stick to a narrower range of things they can easily sell such as SIM-only and mobile handset deals.
If you can get 5G home broadband from Three Broadband, Three is promising speeds averaging around 100Mbps. That's plenty for any busy household, even if there are a lot of users streaming, gaming and so on.
If you can only get 4G home broadband for now, while coverage is superb you'll be getting on average 21.6Mbps according to OpenSignal. It's a bit faster than your typical standard ADSL home broadband connection and is plenty for smaller households. Ultimately, though, if you're looking into choosing a mobile network for your home broadband you probably get awful speeds from fixed-line providers. 21.6Mbps to a household that can only get 3Mbps by any other means is going to seem rather quick.
Which other providers offer mobile broadband?
With a couple of exceptions, only the main network providers extend their service offering wide enough to cover mobile broadband dongles, MIFi devices and home routers. Here's a rundown of who offers what, but since you've already decided Three is a possible candidate, just bear in mind that you're already pretty much in the right place.
- EE – Offers a full range of mobile broadband products on its own network (EE). These include dongles, MiFi devices, 4G home broadband routers and of course SIMs. It is currently rolling out 5G availability on an ongoing basis
- Vodafone – Also offers a pretty full range of products in the mobile broadband category and is looking to compete in 5G
- BT – Offers dongles and MiFi devices, but stops short of selling its own 4G or 5G home broadband solutions, preferring instead to switch you over to 4G broadband if your fixed line breaks down. BT Mobile operates on the EE network
- O2 – Offers 4G MiFi, dongles and of course regular SIMs. O2 does not currently offer any home broadband solution designed to replace your fixed line
Frequently asked questions
Is Three HomeFi any good?
HomeFi is the name Three gives to its 4G home broadband solutions. It's not much for simplicity, Three, preferring instead to offer four different 4G and 5G home routers, depending on where you're located and which services you can get. Generally, though, yes, Three HomeFi is a great alternative if you have very poor fixed-line broadband.
Does Three supply unlimited mobile broadband?
Yes. Tough at this time, at the beginning of 2020, if you can manage with a data limit you will be saving money. So think carefully about how much data you actually need before settling on an unlimited option.
Can I get Three Broadband?
Three Broadband is the new name for Three's 4G and 5G-delivered home broadband service. With 4G available via the Three network to over 99% of the UK population then chances are that yes, you can almost certainly get it.
How fast is Three 4G broadband?
Rather like fixed-line broadband the speed you get will depend on where you live. 4G speeds vary wildly across different parts of the UK, with around 8-10Mbps at the low end and 80-100Mbps at the high end. Ultimately you won't know what you're going to get until you try.
How fast is Three 5G broadband?
Three claims averages of around 100Mbps, which we don't consider far fetched. 5G technology itself is capable of delivering speeds many times faster, but this is still early days.
Should I get 3G or 4G mobile broadband?
You won't have a choice. When you get a mobile broadband device, it'll always be 4G by default. If it finds itself in a location where it cannot access 4G, but 3G is available, it will use that instead. 3G is substantially slower than 4G, but still perfectly adequate for basic online tasks.
Are there business mobile broadband packages?
Yes. However, we do not compare them on Cable. If you're looking for a business mobile broadband package, each of the UK's four network providers offer them – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – so you should pay a visit to their websites.