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Three pay-as-you-go review

Three has the cheapest pay-as-you-go tariffs of any UK provider. Its mobile data is cheaper than that of every other provider and you can make cheap calls from other countries too.

In fact, this plan has little in the way of issues apart from the fact that your mobile phone needs to be unlocked to work with a Three SIM, which you will have to pay for, and tethering your phone’s internet connection to another device is not permitted. Here’s how Three performs in detail.

Cable.co.uk overall rating
4.6

Three has the cheapest pay-as-you-go tariffs in the UK. The SIM is provided free. You get an extra 150MB of data when you top up. There are several bundles to choose from; some of which come with unlimited data. Coverage is widespread and 4G is available, for no extra cost, if you’re within range.

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Coverage & data speed

Rating

4

Three is a major UK mobile provider, offering both 3G and 4G services on its own network. You can get online with your smartphone on both 3G and 4G, but with the latter, web pages will load faster and it won’t take as long to download apps.

Three’s 3G coverage extends to 97% of UK homes and businesses. Coverage of 4G services runs to 91% of UK homes and businesses. You won’t need a different SIM or plan to use 4G: all of Three’s pay-as-you-go plans are compatible; you just need to be in an area with sufficient coverage.

Three’s average download speed on 3G is 7Mbps. This is fast enough for most online activities, including web browsing, emailing, and checking social media. Three’s average 4G speed is more than twice as fast, at 17Mbps. The actual speed you’ll get will depend on signal strength, your smartphone’s model, and the amount of other people using the network at the same time.

3G coverage
98%
4G coverage
48%
Average 3G speed*
5.2Mbps
Average 4G speed*
10.7Mbps
Call allowance
Bundles, or; 3p per minute
Text allowance
Bundles, or; 2p per text
Data allowance
Bundles, or; 1p per MB
PAYG handsets
Yes
*According to Ofcom
Prices from
3G coverage 98%
4G coverage 48%
Average 3G speed* 5.2Mbps
Average 4G speed* 10.7Mbps
Call allowance Bundles, or; 3p per minute
Text allowance Bundles, or; 2p per text
Data allowance Bundles, or; 1p per MB
PAYG handsets Yes
Prices from Free
*According to Ofcom
Info

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Data usage

Rating

5

On the standard pay-as-you-go plan, you pay for mobile internet as and when required. You’ll get a free allowance of 150MB with every top-up to use for 30 days, then pay 1p per megabyte (MB).

Alternatively, you can choose one of Three’s pay-as-you-go add-ons. There are two main types: an All-in-One bundle and a data bundle. All-in-One bundles start from £10 and come with a set amount of minutes, texts and data to use for 30 days. Some of these come with unlimited data (all-you-can-eat data).

You can’t tether with a pay-as-you-go SIM, so if tethering is important to you then it would be better to choose a SIM-only plan instead.

Calls & texts

Rating

5

Three’s standard pay-as-you-go rates are some of the cheapest in the UK. For calls, you pay 3p per minute. To send a text message, you pay 2p each time.

If you think you’ll be making lots of calls within a month, you can choose an All-in-One bundle. All-in-One plans include a set allowance of minutes, texts, and data and start at £10 per month.

A similar deal applies with text messages. If you’re planning to send a considerable amount of text messages, you can take one of the All-in-One bundles outlined above (all of which come with 3,000 texts to use in a 30-day period).

Extra features

Rating

4

One of Three’s extra features is an extra 150MB of data when you top up your pay-as-you-go credit. This is in addition to your credit or any bundles you may have added, and lasts for 30 days.

Another extra feature is Three’s Feel at Home service. This lets you make calls, send texts, and browse the web in several international locations for your standard tariff rate. So if you make a call in France, for instance, it won’t cost you any more than if you made the same call in the UK. The Feel at Home service, which includes Australia, Sweden, Italy, and the United States, covers 19 international destinations.

To use Feel at Home on pay-as-you-go, you need to convert your credit into an add-on bundle. There are two bundles that contain inclusive minutes, texts, and mobile data. As an example, the All-in-One 10 bundle contains 100 minutes, 3,000 texts, and 1GB of data, costs £10 and lasts for 30 days.

Value for money

Rating

5

Three is the cheapest mobile provider in the UK for pay-as-you-go. Calls cost 3p per minute, texts cost 2p each, and mobile data is charged at 1p per MB. There are also bundles for inclusive calls, texts, and data and last for 30 days.

Minimum top up is £10. You can top up online, through Three’s website, at a Barclays or HSBC cash machine, or over the counter at a shop, petrol station, or supermarket.

A few other costs may apply. If you need to unlock your phone, this costs £15.32 (Three won’t lock your handset to its network, this only applies if you’re moving from another network to Three). If you make a video call over your phone, and not through Skype or a similar service, you’ll be charged 52p per minute.

Three also offers a range of pay-as-you-go handsets. This requires buying the phone outright.

Overall Rating

4.6

Three charges far less for its standard pay-as-you-go rates than any other UK provider. Its bundles are generous, you get 150MB of data for free whenever you top up, and with the Feel at Home service, roaming is more affordable than it is with other providers (assuming you’re holidaying in one of the countries covered by Three). However, you can’t use a pay-as-you-go SIM to tether.

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