If you’re prepared to rely on 4G or 5G coverage, Three has a very compelling broadband proposition
- The best value deals on the market, according to our survey
- Ideal for those who can’t get fixed-line connections
- Strong solution for students or others who can’t take out long-term deals
- Speed and coverage hinges on strength of mobile network
- Doesn’t score well for customer service
Three does home broadband very differently to most providers. Instead of running fibre-optic cables to your door, it relies on the company’s mobile network to provide a home broadband service that’s based on either 4G or 5G networks, depending on the coverage in your area.
This approach has pros and cons. On the plus side, it’s much easier to install – nobody needs to dig up your property to get the broadband installed. If you’re a student in a short-term let, for example, or you live in an apartment block where installing physical lines can be tricky, Three’s solution could be ideal.
On the downside, you’re relying on mobile coverage. Even 5G networks can’t consistently match the top speeds of a full-fibre connection and mobile networks suffer increased latency, which can have an impact on applications such as video calls and online gaming.
Yet, there’s one category in which Three’s offering is an undeniable winner: value. Whether you’re on 4G or 5G, the service costs only £20/mth and the network normally throws in a few months for free when you take out a subscription. More than 8/10 Three broadband customers said they were happy with the value they were receiving, handing Three the Value award in this year’s Expert Reviews Broadband awards.
Indeed, it was a pretty strong showing from Three across the board, suggesting the company’s unusual approach to home broadband has merit. Let’s dig deeper to find out more about the service.
Three Broadband review: 4G Home Broadband
If you’re considering Three Home Broadband, the first thing you need to do is visit the Three website and check the coverage at your address. Note that coverage maps are by no means 100% reliable, and the signal can be affected by all manner of factors. As such, it’s good to see that Three offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you opt for the service and find it doesn’t work reliably.
The 4G service has a stated maximum speed of 600Mbits/sec and a maximum upload of 150Mbits/sec, but you’re never going to see those speeds. They’re the theoretical maximums of the 4G technology, but network congestion and other factors will likely drag those speeds down into the tens of Mbits/sec. Curiously, Three doesn’t state an average download speed for 4G as it does for 5G.
The 4G Hub that Three provides is a Wi-Fi 5 unit, but it can support up to 64 different devices, unlike the 30-device limit on Three’s 5G Hub. Three also offers an upgrade to Amazon eero equipment, if you want a more advanced mesh Wi-Fi network running through your home.
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Three Broadband review: 5G Home Broadband
Those lucky enough to be in a 5G area can theoretically get multi-gigabit speeds, but again, that’s highly unlikely to happen on a congested network. Instead, Three quotes an average download speed of 150Mbits/sec, which it says applies to at least half of 5G Broadband customers during the peak hours of 8pm-10pm. Three also quotes tests of its 5G network conducted by Ookla in the first quarter of 2023, which measured median download speeds of 266Mbits/sec and upload speeds of 13Mbits/sec.
If it does hit those speeds, that should be plenty for most families, though bear in mind that latency might not be good enough for demanding applications such as online gaming.
The 5G router that Three provides is a Wi-Fi 6 model, which should mean more of that speed gets beamed around the home, provided you have Wi-Fi 6-compatible phones, laptops and other devices. It’s good to see two 2.5Gbits/sec Ethernet ports on the back of the router, too, even if you’re unlikely to ever get anywhere close to those download speeds in the first place.
|4G Home Broadband
|5G Home Broadband
|Price per month (inc line rental)
* These are the stated theoretical maximums, but highly unlikely to ever be achieved in a real-world scenario (see reviews above)
** One-month rolling contract available for £24 per month
Note: The monthly price shown will increase each April by the Consumer Price Index rate of inflation plus 3.9%
Three Broadband review: Coverage
Three’s 4G coverage covers 99% of the population, according to the company itself, but there are a couple of notable caveats here. Firstly, that’s 99% of the population, not land mass. Second, that’s outdoor coverage – indoor reception, which you’ll need for home broadband, will be significantly worse.
Three doesn’t disclose what percentage of the population its 5G network reaches, but you can safely assume it’s largely restricted to major cities and towns. As mentioned above, use the postcode checker on Three’s website to get a more reliable indication of coverage for your specific property.
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Three Broadband review: Performance and customer satisfaction
Despite the vagaries of mobile reception, Three scores strongly for speed in our survey, conducted in partnership with YouGov. 7/10 Three customers were satisfied with the speed on offer, which is a better result than many fixed-line providers achieved.
Reliability isn’t bad, either, with 74% of customers saying they were happy – a better than average score across the entire industry.
Three fairs less well when it comes to customer service. Less than half of customers were satisfied here, with 1/10 customers unhappy with the service. It was another bottom-half performance when it comes to getting problems resolved with the Contact Centre. Perhaps those bargain-basement deals come at the expense of well-trained staff in the call centres?
Three Broadband review: Verdict
Three’s different approach to home broadband clearly goes down well with the majority of its customers. If you can’t get fixed-line broadband, or you simply want a low-fuss broadband service that can’t be beaten for value, it’s definitely worth exploring Three’s package – especially if you live in a 5G area. Doubts about customer service are our only big concern.
Unless otherwise stated, all of the figures are drawn from a survey commissioned by Expert Reviews, with respondents and data supplied by YouGov PLC. The total sample size was 6,316 adults and the survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Great British adults (aged over 18).
We asked people how likely they would be to recommend their broadband provider to others and to rate its customer service, reliability, value, and speed. Only the 11 ISPs with over 50 respondents are included in our results above.