By Dan Howdle | Monday, February 10th 2020
Three is one of the four major networks in the UK, offering decent network coverage and a good array of SIM-only deals, as well as pay monthly handset contracts. But is it any good?
With a host of rewards and data-friendly tariffs available, as well as a range of phones that includes some of the more niche interest handsets and a promise that things are '5G-ready', Three has got some positive attention over the years.
Not only that, Three has been the market leader in offering unlimited mobile data, with the rest of the industry only just beginning to catch up. Here we will take a look through Three's plans, devices, network coverage and more.
One of Three's main selling points is its unlimited data plans. However, unlimited data is no longer unique for Three. Three had its own way in this respect for a good few years, but other providers have caught on and you'll find unlimited data from a good number of other providers now. It's not even particularly expensive.
If you're still okay with a limited package then as long as you opt for one of 12GB per month or above, you you'l get 'Go Binge'. Go Binge allows you to stream your favourite shows on Netflix and the like, as well as stream music on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and the rest without using your data – essentially upping your limit.
If you want a pay monthly deal, Three has a number to choose from. Firstly, there’s the Advanced Plans, which give you all of Three’s benefits, including the Go Roam Around The World feature, so you can use your phone abroad. These tariffs are available to those who have a device included, or to customers who have a SIM-only deal.
Most pay monthly deals with a handset are subject to the usual two-year contract, although there are some attractive SIM-only deals ranging from 4GB a month to unlimited, that last just 12 months. These all come with unlimited texts and calls too.
If you’re looking at a pay-as-you-go deal, then Three also has you covered. The rates are bog-standard for the market, but if you want more than the allowances on offer in the basic package, you have the chance to beef up your numbers with All-In-One Add-ons, so you can get extra with a bundle for your calls, data and texts. You can buy the aforementioned add-ons through the Three app, which is available to download on Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Currently, you get a free allowance of 10MB every time you pay for a top-up, with more available if you want to pay a little extra.
On the downside, Three manages traffic with a system called TrafficSense, which means you could see some throttling (slower download speeds) when you’re trying to use its network at certain times.
Three has recognised that the majority of customers are looking for a new Apple or Samsung phone, so the company’s shopfront reflects that, as it does with most providers. However, that isn’t the whole story – there is more to choose from, should you be in the market for an alternative. Away from the usual choices, you'll find phones from Honor, OnePlus and Xiaomi too.
There are also a number of options for tablets, with the typical range of iPads, as well as devices from Samsung and Huawei. Three has the main bases of iOS and Android covered.
Like most companies, Three has a comprehensive online support system, which is a move to try and ease the pressure on those who work in their call centres dealing with the complaints and concerns of disgruntled customers. You can live-chat to support agents online, but if you prefer to pick up the phone, Three does have staff waiting to take your call.
As for a general customer service rating, as in most business cases, the bad news travels faster than the good. Reviews of Three on Trustpilot are the typical mix of those complaining about poor service, and those who are reasonably happy. As ever with these kinds of sites, they tend to be skewed in the favour of poor reviews, since satisfied customers don’t generally tend to feel the need to vent their feelings on the internet.
That said, Three scores an ‘average’ rating on Trustpilot, which is solid enough when looking at the network’s competition. Of course, these scores are to be taken with a pinch of salt, although there are some legitimate concerns in there, should you want to peruse them at your leisure.
Three’s information on how to resolve complaints, or indeed take them to an independent adjudicator, is refreshingly straightforward, and it has a dedicated page where you can get all the information you need.
When it comes to getting the most bang for your buck, Three is reasonably consistent with its peers. There are good deals to be had, but you can certainly find cheaper options elsewhere. One of the major savings to be had with Three is through the unlimited data bundles since they are some of the cheapest around. If you lead a data-hungry life, then Three’s tariffs could be ideal for you.
As for value when it comes to PAYG, they’re solid enough. It goes without saying that the PAYG deals aren’t going to give you the same data allowances as those on a pay monthly contract. You can bump it up through add-ons through the Three app, bu bear in mind, depending on how much extra data you need, this can get very expensive indeed.
Three's 4G coverage covers 99.8% of the UK population. It's very early days for 5G, by contrast, and so although all of Three's SIMs are '5G-ready' it'll be quite a while before you can expect 5G wherever you go. And don't forget, if you want 5G you'll also need a 5G-ready handset, which right now, at the beginning of 2020, is not cheap.
Like all mobile networks, the way coverage is calculated can only measure so much. It takes into account things like the reception you get within a radius around a masts, as well as the surrounding natural terrain. However, if you live in a house with thick stone walls in the middle of a mountain range, your signal could be worse than stated. However, these issues can be found with all providers – not just Three.
Three allows unlimited tethering, cost-effective unlimited data deals and a good range of handsets and tablets. We also like the Wuntu rewards app, which is great for rewards and deals. The included roaming options are also pretty good if you’re someone who travels frequently.
The choice of handsets offered by Three presents some interesting additions as well as the usual devices from Apple and Samsung. The traffic management is one of the few drawbacks, but all-in-all, Three offers some great packages, with something to suit everyone.