Three’s HomeFi gives you fast 4G home broadband with unlimited downloads for £22/month.
4G technology has now developed to the point where it can feasibly be used as an alternative to fixed broadband delivered through a phone line or cable. Three’s HomeFi is the one of the first products to bring this to the mass-market, with unlimited data currently being offered for £22/month on a 24-month contract.
HomeFi technology is perfect if you’re looking for a fast and easy to setup home broadband connection. Because it uses 4G technology that’s delivered over the airwaves, it isn’t limited by the speeds you can get through a phone line or cable. Download speeds of up to 150Mbit/s are available on the service, making it a potential alternative to fibre broadband in both urban and rural areas. There’s also the flexibility to easily bring your connection with you at any time to another address without the need to set up a new connection.
In this article, we’ll review Three’s HomeFi service including the price plans available and the included wireless router. We’ll also compare the HomeFi service to traditional home broadband that’s delivered through a BT phone line or cable.
HomeFi Price Plans
For many people, 4G technology can now deliver similar or even faster download speeds compared to traditional fixed home broadband. Three’s HomeFi gives you 4G home broadband with a maximum download speed of up to 150Mbit/s, though speeds may be closer to 15-20Mbit/s in practice.
For customers wanting to replace their fixed home broadband connection, we recommend the unlimited data plan which costs £22/month on a 24-month contract (with a free router included).
Alternatively, light users just wanting to dabble with 4G home broadband can choose a shorter 40GB plan or a Pay As You Go tariff. The following table shows a full list of HomeFi price plans that are available at the time of writing:
|Data Allowance||Contract Length||Upfront Price||Monthly Price|
|Unlimited Data||24 month contract||£0.00||£22/month|
|40GB Data||24 month contract||£0.00||£23/month|
|40GB Data||12 month contract||£0.00||£24/month|
|40GB Data||1 month contract||£60.00||£24/month|
|1GB Data (1 month validity)||Pay As You Go||£59.99||Top-up as required*|
|3GB Data (3 month validity)||Pay As You Go||£65.99||Top-up as required*|
|12GB Data (12 month validity)||Pay As You Go||£89.99||Top-up as required*|
|24GB Data (24 month validity)||Pay As You Go||£109.99||Top-up as required*|
Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to make phone calls by plugging a phone into the HomeFi router. This is because Three have disabled this on the Huawei B311 router they provide. For this reason, you’ll need to use another service for your phone calls (e.g. you’ll need to use your mobile phone or a separate landline connection).
If you decide to replace your landline connection with a HomeFi, it might be possible for you to stop paying a rental charge on your landline. This should save you in the region of £20/month, possibly making the HomeFi close to a cost-neutral solution.
Three’s HomeFi service comes with an inclusive Huawei B311 4G LTE wireless router. The router allows you to share a wi-fi connection with up to 32 devices at one time using 802.11b/g/n technology. The router supports up to Category 4 LTE speeds (up to 150Mbit/s download and 50Mbit/s upload) but download speeds will typically be lower than this depending on your location (around 15Mbit/s). You can use either the built-in antenna, or you can connect the router to an external SMA antenna for better coverage and higher speeds.
The downside of the included Huawei B311 router is it only supports Category 4 LTE speeds (up to 150Mbit/s download). Calling functionality has also been disabled, and only 2.4GHz Wi-Fi technology is supported (802.11b/g/n technologies).
If you’d really like to get the most out of 4G home broadband, it might be worth investing in a more expensive router for higher speeds. For instance, the mid-range Huawei B525 router is available for £120 unlocked. It supports Category 6 LTE speeds (up to 300Mbit/s download), as well as the faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology on 5GHz spectrum. The B525 router also includes additional ethernet ports, and allows up to 64 devices to be connected at one time. It can be paired with an unlimited data SIM card from Three.
If you’re looking for a real high-end router, it might also be worth considering the Huawei B618. This is much more expensive at £250 unlocked, but supports Category 11 LTE speeds (up to 600Mbit/s). You won’t currently be able to benefit from this extra speed on Three’s network as they only support up to Category 6 speeds. However, the more expensive router allows you to future-proof yourself somewhat and means you can benefit from faster speeds when the service is rolled out.
If you’re looking for a 4G router that also incorporates the Amazon Alexa voice assistant, Three also retails the Huawei AI Cube B900 router. It supports Category 6 LTE speeds (up to 300Mbit/s) on up to 64 devices at one time. There is also an Ethernet socket for connecting wired devices, but the AI Cube lacks a SMA socket so you can’t connect an external antenna to it. You can get unlimited data on the AI Cube router for £25/month.
The main alternative to Three’s HomeFi service is currently the 4GEE Home Router from EE. This starts at £40/month for 100GB of data, increasing to £100/month for 500GB of data. In this way, EE’s 4G Home Router is far more expensive than Three’s HomeFi service. However, the service from EE might be preferable if you’re not able to get coverage from Three where you live.
The following table shows a list of price plans offered by EE on the 4G Home Router:
|Data Allowance||Contract Length||Upfront Price||Monthly Price|
|100GB Data||18 month contract||£0.00||£40/month|
|100GB Data||1 month contract||£100.00||£40/month|
|200GB Data||18 month contract||£0.00||£60/month|
|200GB Data||1 month contract||£100.00||£60/month|
|300GB Data||18 month contract||£0.00||£65/month|
|300GB Data||1 month contract||£100.00||£65/month|
|500GB Data||18 month contract||£0.00||£100/month|
|500GB Data||1 month contract||£100.00||£100/month|
EE’s 4G Home Router supports up to Category 6 LTE speeds (up to 300Mbit/s). It is only available on a Pay Monthly contract and is not available on Pay As You Go.
Relish also offers 4G home broadband to customers in selected parts of London and Swindon. The company was acquired by Three in 2017 and will become a fully-fledged part of the Three network in April 2019.
Three offers 99.8% population coverage on its 4G mobile network and 98.3% population coverage on its 3G network.
Before joining Three HomeFi, it’s strongly recommended you check the coverage in your area. You can do this by entering your postcode on Three’s online coverage map.
Customers with a Three HomeFi can also use their service abroad in other countries through the Go Roam offer.
For more information about the coverage on different mobile networks, please see our in-depth guide to mobile network coverage in the UK.
Comparison to Fixed Broadband
Three’s HomeFi service uses 4G mobile network technology to provide a broadband service. This differs from traditional “fixed” home broadband services which typically use either a phone line or cable.
The key advantages of 4G broadband compared to traditional fixed broadband are:
- There’s no need to pay for a home phone line. Unless you’d like to keep your landline for another reason, it’s possible to do away with it entirely when you’re using 4G home broadband. This can save you in the region of £20/month on line rental.
- 4G broadband is faster to set up. There’s no need to wait for a phone line to be installed or activated. This makes it perfect for some new-build houses, or if you’ve just moved to another address and don’t want to wait for broadband to be set up.
- You can bring 4G broadband with you, wherever you go. With 4G broadband, you have the flexibility to bring your router with you to a different location. For instance, if you decide to go on a weekend away, simply bring your router with you and get an instant 4G broadband connection.
- 4G & 5G broadband will eventually over-take fixed broadband in download speed. At present, 4G broadband is comparable in speed to a traditional fixed broadband connection. In the next few years, 5G technology is due to roll out with Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) playing a bit part of this. 5G FWA will offer increased network capacity along with download speeds of up to 1Gbit/s (1,000Mbit/s).
- 4G broadband can be best in rural locations. In many rural locations, BT Openreach and Virgin Media have refused to install fibre broadband due to the prohibitive costs. In such areas, it is often far more economical to install a 4G mast and to deliver high-speed broadband over a 4G connection.
However, there are also some key disadvantages of 4G broadband at present:
- 4G broadband is more easily affected by network congestion and poor weather. For instance, you may see a reduction in your download speed due to poor weather conditions or lots of other people using the service in your area. This tends to be less of a problem on traditional fixed broadband services.
- Download speeds vary depending on location and proximity to nearby masts. For this reason, the maximum download speed of 150Mbit/s can rarely be obtained. You can maximise your download speed by placing the router close to a window, and installing an external SMA antenna.
- Latency or “ping” is higher on 4G broadband. Latency (also known as the “lag” or “ping”) refers to the amount of time it takes for data to travel up and then back down from the internet. On a 4G connection, typical latency is around ~50ms (0.05 seconds). Meanwhile, fixed broadband connections typically offer lower latency of around 10-20ms (0.01-0.02 seconds). This shouldn’t noticeably affect things like browsing the internet or watching online videos, but it may affect fast-paced online gaming. With 5G technology, latency should reduce to around 1ms (0.001 seconds).
- 4G broadband is typically more expensive. Historically, 4G broadband connections have been much more expensive than fixed broadband connections. For instance, it’s normally possible to get unlimited data on a fixed broadband connection for around £20 to £25 per month. With Three’s HomeFi service, 4G broadband is now comparable in price but other providers are still much more expensive (e.g. EE’s 4G Home Router starts from £40/month for 100GB of data, which is far more expensive than fixed broadband alternatives).
For more information about the HomeFi service, please see Three’s official webpage.