Three broadband review 2023
|Value for Money||3.5/5|
Three Home Broadband is a mobile service that gives you a quick way to get online through a 4G or 5G network. Sometimes it might be referred to as ‘Home-Fi’.
You don't need a landline, so there’s no extra line rental costs to worry about. You also won’t need to waste time waiting for an engineer. To get connected, you’ll either receive a 4G or 5G Home Hub in the post, depending on the package you’ve chosen.
Because Three Home Broadband relies on a wireless network signal, coverage isn’t guaranteed across the country.
|We like||We don't like|
What is 'throttling'?
Throttling is when internet service providers deliberately slow internet connections. It's a tactic most often used during peak broadband usage times. It can also be put in place if customers go over their data caps, or don't stick within the terms of their fair usage policy.
What is traffic management?
Broadband traffic management is a way of controlling and managing data across a network. During busy periods, it tends to be used as a way of improving performance for the majority of users. However, traffic management can also be used to throttle broadband connections and can cause a serious dip in performance for certain activities, particularly file sharing. Three refers to its traffic management policy as 'TrafficSense'.
|Download Speeds (Average)||150Mb / 40Mb (5G/4G)|
|Upload Speeds (Average)||20Mb / 10Mb (5G/4G)|
|Data Usage Limit||Truly Unlimited Data|
|Type of Broadband||5G / 4G mobile internet|
|Home Phone Line?||No landline required|
|Inclusive phone calls?||No|
|Bundled Wi-Fi Router?||5G or 4G Home Hub Router|
Three Home Broadband Speed
Speed Score: 3.3 out of 5
Depending on how you use your internet, you can opt for either a 5G or 4G hub.
Three 5G Hub
- Average download speed: 150Mb
- Maximum download speed: Up to 3.8Gb (theoretical for 5G)
- Maximum upload speed: Up to 542Mb (theoretical for 5G)
- Maximum connected devices: 30
Three 4G Hub
- Maximum download speed: Up to 600Mb
- Maximum upload speed: Up to 150Mb
- Maximum connected devices: 64
As a guide, Three suggests its 4G Hub is suitable for light users, video chatting and occasional gaming. Meanwhile, its 5G Hub is more suited to hardcore gamers, or bigger families who use streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and NOW TV.
Three advertises theoretical speeds on its site and doesn’t clearly show the difference between its 5G and 4G service. For that reason (and because mobile internet performance is so hit or miss depending on your location) we’re going to take a look at data from Opensignal. These figures are taken from its 5G Mobile Network Experience Report.
Real life average speeds for Three 5G and its competitors between 1st December to 28th February 2023.
Average 5G download speed:
- Three - 237.7Mb
- EE - 122.3Mb
- O2 - 75Mb
- Vodafone - 100.6Mb
Average 5G upload speed:
- Three - 17.3Mb
- EE - 16.9Mb
- O2 - 9.8Mb
- Vodafone - 14.9Mb
It’s important to remember, not everyone will be able to get 5G broadband. You should use Three’s Coverage Checker before you sign up for home broadband service.
Read our guide for more information on 5G networks and coverage across the UK.
Three Home Broadband speed summary
We’ve taken a look at the real-time average speeds from Opensignal, as mobile broadband performance can vary wildly. We hate to say this, but you might not stand any chance achieving those stated theoretical speeds. Lots of factors, like distance from the mast, or how thick your home walls are, can have a massive impact.
The rollout of 5G still has some way to go. Coverage around the country may be limited depending on your location. 4G coverage across the UK on the Three network and the UK in general, is now excellent. Make sure you’re aware of any coverage limitations before you part with any money, and check out the 4G or 5G signal where you’re based.
All Three Broadband deals come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and there’s no set-up fee either. This gives you the opportunity to test the performance without any big commitments.
Three Broadband Customer Service
Customer Service Score: 3.2 out of 5
As always, if you go looking for bad news with a broadband provider, you’ll easily find it. Three has an overwhelmingly negative 1.3 score on Trustpilot, with many unhappy user reviews. Some customers have complained the speeds they received with their home hub weren’t as fast as advertised, or they were suffering from dropouts. Unfortunately, as Three isn’t signed up to the Ofcom code of practice for broadband speed, these issues need to be raised individually.
On the upside, they’re quick to pick up the phone to customers, so you shouldn’t be hanging on the line for too long. According to an Ofcom's 2023 Customer Service Report, it had the lowest call waiting time out of all providers, easily beating the likes of EE and Vodafone.
The Three app can help you get an answer quick through Live Chat, and this also allows you to keep on top of your bills and read up on common FAQ. Live Chat is open between 8am to 10pm Monday to Friday, and 9am to 8pm on weekends.
To get help quickly and find the right phone number or link, head to Three Broadband's customer service and complaints page.
Three Home Broadband Value for Money
Value for Money Score: 3.5 out of 5
For its flexibility, and the potential speeds it offers to customers who don’t have the luxury of a fast fibre network, the costs are very reasonable. Especially as you won’t need to pod out for line rental.
You’ll need to pay an upfront cost of £28 for a 4G Hub for all contracts other than 24-months. There are no upfront costs for its 5G data plan.
The difference in price between the Unlimited Home Broadband rolling monthly plans and the longer 24-month contracts is interesting. It’s great to see Three isn't overly inflating the price for rolling contracts. We think paying £8 extra per month to retain some flexibility, and not be tied into a two-year agreement, is very reasonable. This makes it a fantastic option for customers who want to keep things more casual, or use Three Home Broadband as an emergency back-up.
Three Home Broadband Reliability
Reliability Score: 3.3 out of 5
Taking Ofcom's 2023 Customer Service Report into account, Three doesn't fair so well when it comes to complaints. 21% of its customer base had a reason to complain (with the average being 12%). However, it's impossible to tell from this report whether these reasons were technical or admin-based.
Three's Trustpilot page doesn't paint a pretty picture, with one of the lowest star ratings we've seen for a UK provider (at the time of writing, this scored 1.3 out of 5).
Some of the issues raised concern reception and coverage. In the 5G Mobile Network Experience Report, Three had the broadest coverage of all the mobile broadband networks. However, it scored below O2 and EE for 'Excellent Consistent Quality'.
A 30-day money-back guarantee is in place for all new customers who don't feel like they're getting a reliable service.
Three bundled 4G router and 5G Wi-Fi router
Router Score: 3.4 out of 5
You won’t need an engineer visit to set up Three home broadband. When you sign up, you’ll receive your 4G or 5G router in the post, along with a SIM card.
Pay close attention to where you position your router. Three warns even soft furnishings positioned closely to the hub can affect its performance. Ideally, you’ll need to have this positioned on a windowsill.
The Huawei app is recommended to test signal strength in different places around your home.
For more information on both these devices, including how easy it is to set up, visit our Three Mobile Home Broadband router round-up.
Three Home Broadband: Expert Summary
Three Home Broadband Overall Score: 3.5 out of 5
We can think of five reasons why you might consider signing up for Three Home Broadband. Either:
- You live in an area without a reliable fibre, or full-fibre broadband network
- You carry out tasks, or work from home where landline or cable-based broadband service blackout would be a disaster
- You’re between circumstances, but want something a little more fixed than carrying around a MiFi dongle
- You split your time up between different locations
- Your landlord won’t allow you to set up a landline or cabled access
If you can tick a box against any of these, Three Home Broadband could be a great way to achieve reliable, fast broadband without costly set-up fees.
What is fibre and full-fibre broadband?
Fibre optic broadband is a service that provides fast internet speeds using fibre optic cables. It’s much faster and more reliable than ADSL broadband, which uses copper telephone wires.
Fibre optic broadband is now available in every part of the country, and for a basic package, it never costs much more than slower ADSL per month.
The majority of fibre broadband deals are also known as FTTC or ‘Fibre-To-The-Cabinet’ Broadband. This is available on the BT Openreach network. FTTC uses fibre optic cables that connect to your nearest telephone cabinet. Keep an eye out for the green boxes you see on the side of the road - those are the cabinets.
From the cabinet to your home, data then carries on across the same copper telephone wire as a standard ADSL broadband service.
Fibre broadband is also sometimes referred to as ‘Superfast’ broadband. With fibre you can expect to receive a minimum speed of 35Mb.
Full-fibre, on the other hand, gets rid of the copper telephone wiring completely. This means the fibre optic cables are installed right up to your home.
It's amazing the difference in speed this small data journey can have. With full-fibre broadband you expect to receive speeds of 1Gb+
The downside is full-fibre is only available to a small percentage of homes in the UK, and it's taking a good while to get everyone up to speed.
We think the rolling one-month contracts are excellent value for money, especially if you don’t want to commit to a lengthy contract.
Some customers have complained they’ve not received the speeds advertised. For that reason, we suggest any new customers pay close attention to the 30-day back money guarantee. You might want to regularly use our broadband speed test throughout this period, to make sure you’re happy with both your download and upload speeds.
If you’re worried about changes in performance, or you’re not sure how well the service will cope, it may be worth coughing up an extra £8 to stay out of a long-term contract. That way, if you’re unhappy, you can easily jump ship.
Only looking to use Three 4G Home Broadband for infrequent back-up reasons? Do you need something more portable? You might find the Three Mobile Broadband 4G plus (or‘MiFi’) option a better choice.
You can check out our Home vs. Mobile broadband guide for more information on using 3G, 4G and 5G mobile internet for home broadband.
Switching broadband providers
Does Three’s coverage map show you that you won’t be able to make use of 5G Home Broadband? You can see if there are any other broadband plans that suit your needs by using our comparison tables.
Use our simple deals checker to find out the broadband offers currently available in your area. Don’t forget to use our filters to help find a package that’s perfect for you in terms of price, speed or contract length.
Broadband Genie deals checker
If you’re out of contract, switching is easy, and it’s the best way to make sure you’re not over-paying for your broadband service. Check out our ‘guide on how to switch broadband and get an amazing deal’ for more hints and tips.
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