Three offers unlimited data on a range of price plans in the UK with inclusive personal hotspot and international roaming.

Three

In the UK, Three is fairly unique as a mobile network for strongly promoting their range of unlimited data price plans (also known as all-you-can-eat data).

With Three’s unlimited data plan, you can use your smartphone worry-free for as much browsing, streaming and downloading as you like. You’ll get access to Three’s 4G network with 99% population coverage, and you’re able to tether or use personal hotspot to share your data with other devices. You’ll also be able to use up to 19GB of your data abroad in other countries through the Go Roam offer.

In this article, we’ll review the unlimited data offering from Three in the UK. We’ll start by looking at the features of Three’s unlimited data price plan, including any fair usage limits and the TrafficSense policy. We’ll then look at the multiple ways you can get unlimited data, before reviewing the coverage you can expect and how to keep your existing phone number.

Unlimited Data on Three

All-You-Can-Eat Downloads With No Limit

What is All You Can Eat Data?
All-you-can-eat data is truly unlimited (there are no hidden limits or fair usage policies).

In the UK mobile market, Three has stood out for the best part of a decade amongst the major mobile networks for offering an unlimited data plan.

The network has offered unlimited data since 2010 under the brand name of all-you-can-eat data. The brand name originated from the fact that ‘unlimited data’ policies had previously been tarnished (e.g. with hidden download limits and fair usage policies). The all-you-can-eat branding was therefore intended to signify truly unlimited downloads with no hidden limits or fair usage policies.

As of 2019, Three no longer uses the ‘all-you-can-eat’ branding for unlimited data and has now returned to calling this ‘unlimited’. You can get unlimited data on a range of price plans from Three, including Pay Monthly, Pay As You Go and mobile broadband plans.

Note: On Three’s website, you’ll sometimes find reference to a monthly download limit of 1,000GB. This figure of 1,000GB is based on a physical limit: it’s how much data Three thinks you’d be able to use if you were downloading on your smartphone 24/7. From the Three website:

Unlimited data gives you worry free internet use. Even if you used your phone for every minute of every day you could only use, subject to TrafficSense™, around 1000GB each month. We may use this cap to identify inappropriate use of the service, such as commercial use, which isn’t permitted under our terms and conditions.

4G Download Speeds

All of Three’s unlimited data plans include access to 4G. Download speeds of up to 300Mbit/s are available on Three’s 4G network, subject to coverage in your area and handset compatibility.

Unlike some other mobile networks, Three does not restrict your maximum download speed once you’ve used a certain amount of data. For instance, on giffgaff’s Always-On data plan, you’ll see a speed reduction to 384Kbit/s (0.4Mbit/s) after the first 20GB of data usage each month.

At the time of writing, Virgin Mobile is the only other mobile network offering unlimited data with no speed caps. However, this is only available on a Pay Monthly contract and is an exclusive offer for customers who have Virgin home broadband.

Tethering & Personal Hotspot

Personal Hotspot on iPhone

Tethering or personal hotspot refers to the process of sharing your smartphone’s internet connection with other devices (e.g. with your laptop or tablet).

Until October 2018, Three had a 30GB monthly limit on how much data you could consume through tethering or portable hotspot. As of 2019, this limit no longer applies for both new and existing customers. You can now use your unlimited data allowance for as much tethering and portable hotspot as you like.

For more information about tethering in the UK, please see our in-depth article about tethering on UK mobile networks.

Throttling & Traffic Management

Traffic management doesn’t normally apply when you’re in the UK.

Three has a traffic management policy known as TrafficSense. According to their key facts indicator, throttling and traffic management are not ordinarily used in the UK. The exception is in heavily congested locations, where time-critical traffic might be prioritised over other traffic:

As a network built to serve its customers we have to be prepared to ensure we can provide you with a smooth and reliable experience no matter what. In the event of network or equipment failure, or heavy congestion, we may have to deploy technology to ensure that our network runs smoothly, supporting time critical traffic and minimising disruption.

In the past, P2P file-sharing applications (e.g. BitTorrent) were slowed down on the network between 3pm and midnight each day. This is no longer the case, with Three’s key facts indicator confirming there is no longer any restriction on this type of traffic.

The key facts indicator also confirms that your speeds won’t be reduced for using too much data (see the section “Is traffic management used in relation to heavy users?”).

Traffic management is used when you’re travelling outside of Europe in a Go Roam Around The World location. Video streaming may be limited to standard definition and services such as P2P and VPN might be slowed down. Usage of portable hotspot is also not included when you’re travelling outside of Europe.

Relationship to Go Binge

As an alternative to their unlimited data plans, Three offers a service called Go Binge on all Pay Monthly plans with at least 12GB of data per month. Go Binge offers unlimited data for use on Netflix, TV Player, Snapchat, Soundcloud, Deezer and Apple Music.

Of course, the fully unlimited ‘all-you-can-eat’ data plans give you much more flexibility as you can use your unlimited data allowance on any service you like (including things like BBC iPlayer, YouTube, NOW TV, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram and other services not covered by Go Binge). However, if you don’t need all of this extra flexibility, the cheaper Go Binge price plans may be more suitable for you.

Unlimited Data Price Plans

There are four ways of getting an unlimited data plan from Three: on a SIM-only basis, on a Pay Monthly contract, on Pay As You Go and on a mobile broadband tariff. In the following section, we’ll look at each of these options in more depth:

SIM Only

If you already have a smartphone that you’re happy to keep, the cheapest and best value way of getting unlimited data is by ordering one of Three’s unlimited data SIM cards. This will slot inside your existing unlocked smartphone, allowing you to benefit from the unlimited data allowance.

The following SIM card gives you unlimited data along with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and Go Roam Around The World:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£24.00

Please see Three’s website for a full list of available SIM-only deals.

Pay Monthly

If you’d like to buy a new smartphone at the same time as getting unlimited data on Three, you can choose a 24-month Pay Monthly contract. Three offers a selection of handsets from Apple, Samsung, Huawei and others, with the cost of your contract depending on the handset you choose.

The following table shows the cost of an Apple iPhone XS with unlimited data on Three:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetUpfrontMonthlyTotal Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£250.00
upfront
£58.00
monthly
£1,642.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£99.00
upfront
£65.00
monthly
£1,659.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£99.00
upfront
£69.00
monthly
£1,755.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£250.00
upfront
£65.00
monthly
£1,810.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£99.00
upfront
£72.00
monthly
£1,827.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£250.00
upfront
£66.00
monthly
£1,834.00
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£99.00
upfront
£73.00
monthly
£1,851.00

Please see the Three website for a full list of available handsets and tariffs.

Pay As You Go

If you’re a Three Pay As You Go customer, you can get unlimited data by buying the All in One 35 add-on. This will give you unlimited data along with unlimited minutes and unlimited texts for £35/month. You’ll also get an inclusive subscription which can either be a Xbox Game Pass, Rakuten TV or Readly.

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£35.00

If you’d like to pay for this in bulk, you can buy a 90-day add-on for £90. This will give you unlimited data, unlimited minutes and unlimited texts for the next 90 days.

You can order a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three’s website. Alternatively, you can order a new Pay As You Go handset from Three.

Mobile Broadband

Three offers unlimited data for £22/month on their 24-month mobile broadband price plans. You can choose from either a HomeFi or a MiFi device.

The HomeFi is designed to replace your home broadband connection. It gives you 4G broadband on up to 32 devices at one time, with no need for a landline or cable connection. Category 4 LTE download speeds of up to 150Mbit/s are supported on the HomeFi, making it a potential alternative to fibre broadband at home. See our full review of the HomeFi for more information.

The MiFi is designed to give you 4G mobile broadband whilst you’re on-the-go. It’s a battery-operated device that can instantly spin up a wi-fi hotspot for your other devices to connect to.

Coverage

Three offers 99.8% population coverage on its 4G network and 98.3% population coverage on its 3G network. Customers with an unlimited data plan are able to access both 3G and 4G coverage from Three.

Before joining Three, we strongly recommend checking the coverage in your area. You can do this by entering your postcode on the Three website:

Check Three Coverage (three.co.uk) →

For more information about comparing mobile network coverage in the UK, please see our in-depth guide on UK mobile network coverage.

International Travel

With Three’s unlimited data plan, you’ll get international roaming at no extra cost through the Go Roam Around The World offer. This allows you to use your UK allowances when abroad in 71 destinations including most of Europe, the USA and Australia.

If your plan has an unlimited data allowance, a fair usage policy will apply whilst you’re abroad.

Within Europe, this is 19GB/month if you’re a Pay Monthly customer and 15GB/month if you’re a Pay As You Go customer. Further data usage beyond this limit is surcharged at 0.5p/MB (0.41p/MB in countries where VAT does not apply).

Outside Europe, there’s a fair usage policy of 12GB/month on unlimited data plans. Your data usage will be blocked for the rest of the month when you reach this limit.

For more information, please read our full review of the Go Roam offer.

Keeping Your Phone Number

Transfer Phone Number to Three
It’s a straightforward process to transfer your phone number to Three.

If you’re joining Three on an all-you-can-eat data plan, it’s a straightforward process to keep your existing phone number.

You should start by asking your current mobile network to provide you with a PAC Code. You can then order your new phone or SIM card from the Three website.

When your new phone or SIM card arrives from Three, fill out this form on Three’s website. After you submit your PAC Code, Three will schedule the transfer of your phone number (normally for the next working day). In the meantime, you’ll continue receiving a service from your old mobile network.

For step-by-step instructions on transferring your phone number to Three, please select your current mobile network from the drop-down menu below:

PAC Code Finder: Transfer Your Phone Number to Three

Your current network provider:

  More Options

For more information about transferring your phone number between networks, please see our guide to using a PAC Code.

More Information

For more information about unlimited (all-you-can-eat) data, please see the Three website.

Your Comments 91 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 91 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • 3s unlimited is useless. I signed a contract for an unlimited mifi less than a week ago – within that time it’s dropped to an unusable 0.5mbps. My Vodafone connection, sitting right alongside gets 12.5 Mbps. Cancelling the contract tomorrow …. I’d rather have less data, but be able to use it.

  • Ive been with 3 for 13 years now always found them to be really good and by far the best for prices than any other company just gone sim only with unlimited data for 12 months nobody gets even close to that and the roaming abroad has always been better than anyone else.

  • Hi – I’ve been using AYCE now for about four years – and think I now understand its operation pretty well. Basically I tether and drive all my internet activities through the PC and phone – an old Sony Xperia. I get two bars out of four on a 4G connection.

    Up to midnight – there are constraints on speed – limits to a max of roughly 1MB (Byte) per sec – but can vary down to about 300-400kB/s – so averages about 400-500kB/s.

    However overnight – i.e. after midnight (ish) – all change – it goes up to about 4-5MB/s.

    Now this could be strain on the particular cell I connect – but it is constant each day, and I am presuming the two bars out of four has an impact as well.

    Consequently I tend to download a lot overnight – to watch next day – although at daily average of 400kB/s during the day it allows SD type viewing a-okay – but HD would really struggle.

    Sitting just now 13:30 in the afternoon – getting average of 800kB/s – so it does vary – but you never get the true unlimited throughput during the day.

    From my perspective at £20 a month for unlimited data download – which ranges between 400kB-5MB/s – seems a fantastic deal to me – and as long as you know the limitations, and it suits the data profile you need – I think its a great offering.

    • Hi Brendan,
      Thanks very much for the feedback & really interesting to hear your experiences! Just to confirm, you’re talking about speeds in Megabytes per second, so when converting this to Megabits per second (which are used more commonly by ISPs and the mobile industry), the speeds you see on the service actually range from 3.2Mbit/s to 40Mbit/s (“400kB-5MB/s”)?
      If so, I think these are actually pretty good speeds! My understanding here is you’ll need about 4-5Mbit/s to stream a HD quality video.
      Let me know if I’m mistaken!
      Ken

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