Three SIM only deals explained
In this guide
- Why choose Three?
- Is Three a good network?
- Data and calling features
- Frequently asked questions
Three has been a major player in the UK mobile market since its launch in 2003. Owned by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, Three places a big focus on large data packages and even has unlimited SIM deals available, as well as features that gives its users data-free use of certain apps.
Three has a range of handsets available from popular manufacturers including Apple, Google, Huawei and Samsung as well as being the only provider in the UK to stock Razer phones. But here we’re focussing on SIM deals so let’s take a look at exactly what Three has to offer in that regard.
Why choose a Three SIM only deal?
You’d be forgiven for thinking SIM deals are all roughly the same no matter who the provider, but each network has something unique to offer and Three is no different, with a range of features that make its SIM only deals about much more than the standard data, texts and minutes.
- 4G data speed – Analysis from Opensignal shows that Three’s 4G network offers average download speeds of 18Mbps. That’s a little behind Vodafone and EE but ahead of O2, for comparison. Three’s average 3G download speed, at 8Mbps, was the fastest in OpenSignal’s analysis.
- Data rollover – Three doesn’t offer any sort of data rollover scheme, but its plans tend to be pretty data-heavy, plus there’s the Go Binge feature which accounts for some popular data-intensive apps.
- Tethering – Three makes a point of saying you can use your data to create a personal hotspot and get online with another device (a process known as tethering). And there’s no limit for this – you can use your whole data allowance this way if you like.
- Wifi calling – Three is one of an increasing number of providers offering wifi calling, a technology that lets you make calls and send texts over wifi when you don’t have access to a mobile network (3G or 4G).
- Data gifting – Three doesn’t have any sort of data gifting scheme in place, but you can use tethering as a way of helping your friends and family to get online using your data allowance.
- Data caps – Three allows you to control your monthly spend by stopping your phone from calling certain numbers but the provider doesn’t have any sort of data cap in place.
- ASDA Mobile – ASDA Mobile uses the EE network to provide a range of pay as you go bundles on monthly rolling contracts.
- BT Mobile – BT Mobile’s SIM plans usually come with a BT reward card and its more expensive plans include a BT Sport subscription. BT Mobile uses EE’s network.
- EE – EE’s SIM-only deals include six free months of Apple Music and the option to set a data cap so you can be in full control of your spending.
- giffgaff – giffgaff, which runs on the O2 network, offers 30-day contracts so you can change plans every month. And like Three, you can use your data to tether your phone to get another device online.
- O2 – O2 offers a choice of 30-day, 12-month and 18-month SIM contracts, all of which come with membership of O2 Priority.
- iD Mobile – All of iD Mobile’s SIM deals come on 30-day contracts and include data rollover, so you can keep your unused data and use it the following month. iD Mobile uses Three’s network.
- Plusnet Mobile – Plusnet, which runs on the EE network, has 12-month and 30-day SIM deals and there’s often extra data on offer if you’re already a Plusnet broadband customer.
- Sky Mobile – Sky Mobile, which runs on O2’s network, has a small selection of SIM plans with a good number of features including storing your unused data for up to three years.
- SMARTY – SMARTY, running on the Three network, does 30-day SIM plans with a twist on data rollover where you get a discount for any data you don’t use.
- Tesco Mobile – Tesco Mobile runs on the O2 network and has a wide range of 12-month and one-month SIM deals with data allowances ranging from 250MB to 50GB.
- Virgin Mobile – Virgin Mobile uses the EE network and offers data rollover with its SIM deals as well as data-free use of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter.
- Vodafone – Vodafone rivals Three when it comes to roaming, as its Red Entertainment plans feature inclusive roaming in 77 destinations.
Go Binge is included with most of Three’s SIM deals and allows you to stream movies, TV shows and music from Netflix, Apple Music, Deezer, Lifetime, SoundCloud and TV Player, and use Snapchat, as much as you like without using up any of your data allowance.
All mobile providers like to shout about free roaming in the EU, but on certain plans Three will let you use your allowance in 71 destinations. We’ll go into this in more detail in the roaming section below.
wuntu is an offers and rewards app for Three customers available via the App Store or Google Play. Each week, you get a new round of offers from the likes of Deliveroo, Hotel Chocolat, Costa, Domino’s, Majestic Wine and Rakuten TV.
Unlimited data SIM
Three is one of the few providers to offer an unlimited data SIM. It’s available on either a monthly rolling contract or a 12-month deal.
Three allows its customers to use some of all of their data allowance as a personal hotspot, so you can get online with other devices even when there’s no wifi.
All of Three’s SIM plans come with unlimited texts. This is true for a number of providers but it’s good to know that when you’re not using WhatsApp or Messenger, you don’t need to worry about how many messages you’re sending.
Control your spending
Three lets you block calls and texts to numbers that fall outside of your allowance such as 0845 and 118 numbers.
Is Three a good network?
Three is one of four UK mobile networks, the others being EE, Vodafone and O2. All other UK mobile providers are actually MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that piggyback onto one of these four. Three has always said that its network was built for the internet and it currently handles 36% of the UK’s mobile data traffic, with Three customers using 3.5 times more data than the average Brit, according to Three.
Three’s 4G network covers 98.3% of the UK population and supports 4G Super-Voice, which gives you a better indoor signal and gives you clearer voice calls over 4G. In the latest analysis published by OpenSignal, Three’s 4G network was given a 76% availability score, meaning OpenSignal’s testers could get a 4G signal just over three-quarters of the time.
Data and calling features
Increasingly, mobile providers are including additional data and calling features in their offerings to make using your phone, and therefore life, a bit easier. We’ve rounded up a few of the most popular ones and will now look at whether Three offers them or not, as well as looking at Three’s data speed.
If you're unsure about some of the terms used here, or elsewhere on the site, our broadband jargon guide might help.
Roaming on Three
All UK mobile providers have to let you use your data allowance throughout the EU without hitting you with additional roaming charges. It’s the law, or at least it is for as long as the UK is still a member of the EU. Some providers include more than just the EU states in their list of roaming destinations.
Three’s Essential plans come with Go Roam in Europe, which means you can use your phone like at home in 49 European destinations. Advanced (more expensive, more data-heavy) plans come with Roam Around the World, which takes the total number of destinations in which you can use your allowance with no extra charges to 71.
Three’s Go Roam destinations are Aaland 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 (including Corsica, Mayotte and Reunion), French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece (including Crete and Rhodes), Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy (including Sardinia and Sicily), Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Madeira, Malta, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United States (including Florida Keys), Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Vatican City and Vietnam.
Three also offers something called a Data Passport, which allows you to use as much data as you like for a day, for £5. It’s available to Three customers with a pay monthly contract, including SIM-only contracts, and you can buy it from the Three website. You’ll also get a text from Three with a link to buy the Data Passport when you arrive in an eligible country.
You can use Three’s Data Passport in the UK as well as Aland Islands, Austria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Azores, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, 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, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macau, Madeira, Malta, Malaysia, Martinique, Mayotte, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Réunion, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, US Virgin Islands, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, USA, Vatican City and Vietnam.
Which providers offer good alternatives?
Three isn’t the only provider of SIM-only deals around, of course. The UK market is very competitive, so let’s have a quick look at the alternatives.
Frequently asked questions
What size SIM will I get from Three?
As is the case with other providers, Three will send you a SIM card with three different sizes on it – standard, micro and nano. You just need to pop out the size that fits your phone.
Can I keep my old number when switching to Three?
In most cases yes, you can keep your old number after you’ve moved to Three. You’ll need to get a PAC from your old provider and then you can move your number using the Three app or via the Three website.
How do I contact Three?
You can call 333 from a Three phone or 0333 338 1001 from any other phone to get in touch with Three customer services.