Virtual network operator iD Mobile is hopping onto Three’s 5G network, and customers with some 5G-enabled handsets will be able to take advantage of the ultrafast speeds for no extra cost.
The mobile operator, owned by Carphone Warehouse, is known for its budget deals, including a SIM-only plan with unlimited data for just £16 per month. However, it’s been slow to get on board Three’s next-generation network and until recently was one of just a few mobile providers not offering 5G.
That’s all changed. An announcement on the operator’s website reads: “The wait is over! 5G is finally here and is being rolled out across the iD Mobile network. All iD customers will be able to access the 5G network as long as they have a 5G compatible device, and the device has been tested and approved by us for use on our network.”
Unlike some providers, iD isn’t charging extra to access 5G or reserving it only for customers on pricier unlimited plans. However, the caveat is that you’ll need a 5G-enabled device approved by iD to use the network.
iD says qualifying phones include the Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and both the Huawei P40 and Huawei P40 Pro. Other devices, even if they are ready for 5G, including iPhones, won’t be able to log on. iD says that it expects to support additional 5G handsets soon.
The other disclaimer is that Three’s 5G network isn’t available in many locations yet. This is also true of EE, O2 and Vodafone’s next-generation networks. All have launched 5G but coverage is still concentrated in city centres and other urban areas. Three’s website has a coverage checker so you can see if you can access 5G through iD near your home or workplace.
While EE’s 5G network was just judged the best for speed by mobile research firm Opensignal, Three’s acquits itself well. It has the best availability, with devices connecting to 5G, and not slower 4G, 6.5% of the time. Three also currently owns the largest amount of continuous spectrum in 5G-suitable frequencies, which it says puts it in pole position to deliver the UK’s best 5G. But most customers can access 5G only sporadically. It’ll be some years until 5G is available everywhere. The UK still only has 66% geographic coverage from previous generation 4G.
iD sells mobile contracts on 12-month terms from around £6 per month, for 3GB of data, to £16 per month for unlimited data. You can also take out a rolling, 30-day plan—and access 5G on it—but you’ll pay more for the flexibility.