What is 3G?

What is 3G? article header image


3G, very simply, is a type of mobile phone technology that allows you to make calls, texts and access the internet.

The term 3G stands for Third Generation - and Three was the first UK network to solely operate on 3G. We now have both 3G and 4G technology. As you can probably guess, historically there was also 2G – though this only allowed you to call and text – and some networks still rely on this old tech.

Because our network was designed for data, we provide our customers with the best network: our Advanced 3G network (or for the technical term HSDPA+, which stands for High Speed Data Packet Access.)

Our 3G service currently covers 98% of the UK population, and we continue to improve and update the service every day. In fact we have doubled the size of our network over the past five years.   

What can you do on 3G or 4G?

We think that everyone should be able to take the internet everywhere they go - to enjoy apps, email and browsing the net on the move.

A 3G network allows all of this, and it opens up a way of connecting to the internet for people with laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Instead of being limited to using a broadband connection at home or finding a Wi-Fi hotspot when you’re out and about, you can get online whenever you want using mobile broadband on a 3G or 4G network.

On a 3G network, you can:


  • Download music, pictures and games over 10 times faster than on a 2G network
  • Quickly access social networks, news, sport and weather
  • Stream music and videos
  • Use apps and maps that make life easier and more enjoyable
  • Upload and share photos and videos quickly and easily
  • Communicate in multiple ways – on email, messenger and social networks as well as by making calls and sending texts.



What speeds should I expect on 3G?

This is a tricky question to answer, because it depends on the strength of mobile signal you’re receiving. Obviously, the further away from the mast you are, the weaker the signal. How many people in your local network area are also using the service at any one time will also affect the speed. 

The great news is you don’t actually need more than 2Mbps to have a good internet experience - so you can continue to enjoy Three whether you’re on 3G or 4G.

4G is here too.

Everyone wants the latest technology, so in December 2013 we launched our 4G network, which we’re continuing to roll out. And today over 3.3 million Three customers enjoy 4G at no extra cost.

4G is just the next evolution from 3G, offering greater speeds for data and a reduction in latency (the time it takes to load the data) for things like real time gaming.

For the latest information on 4G and to find out when 4G is coming to your area please, check our 4G coverage page.