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Three UK Targets Delayed eSIM Support for September 2020

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020 (8:16 am) - Score 37,881
three uk mobile broadband

Mobile operator Three UK still appears to be slowly dragging its feet over the proposed addition of eSIM support to their 4G and 5G network, which is despite last December pledging to launch customer trials “within the next few months.” We’re still waiting, but it may now launch around the start of autumn.

Just to recap. Traditional SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards are the tiny chips that authenticate your identity to a mobile operator, usually as soon as you slide one into a new mobile phone or other supporting device. SIM cards can also store a basic list of your contacts, although online contact lists have largely superseded that feature.

Meanwhile a growing number of new Smartphones are now shipping with eSIM technology, which essentially embeds an electronic SIM into your phone and makes it easier to switch between carriers via multiple account support (i.e. no more waiting for new SIM cards to arrive or fiddling with different ones when trying to change network).

Rival operators including O2, Vodafone and EE have had this feature for a while, albeit with varying different levels of support (i.e. it’s sometimes only enabled for selected devices). Under the original plan Three UK signalled that they’d add support by “autumn 2019,” but it didn’t materialise. After some prodding by ISPreview.co.uk the operator told us in December 2019 that they’d be “trialling eSIMs within the next few months.”

Fast forward over 7 months and our inbox has once again begun receiving a steady stream of requests for an update from frustrated customers. Sadly a spokesperson for Three UK duly informed us that there was “no update on eSims at the moment,” which is despite this their social media accounts giving out a little bit more detail to some users (we’re unsure why they couldn’t just give this to us too but.. hay ho..).

The operator has, over the past couple of weeks, confirmed to some customers that “we’re still working on it … but we don’t have an actual date.” However, they told another customer something different a couple of days later (last Friday): “Unfortunately, due to coronavirus, we’ve had to delay our trials, which were due to take place in March. This is now likely to move out to July with launch in September 2020.”

Sadly, the operator’s support staff have said their trial is “not something you can volunteer to participate in” and they remain coy on whether or not their implementation will work with the Apple Watch. “We’re aiming for a wider ‘eSIM for phone’ release later in the year,” said the operator to another customer.

Mind you customers have been told by Three UK that eSIM support is coming “soon” since.. what must now feel like the dawn of time. Take all of this with a pinch of salt and hopefully we won’t be back here again in December 2020 to mark off yet another missed year for launch.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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49 Responses
  1. Ryan says:

    Three have gone massively downhill over recent years and the 5G “launch” to a postage sized stamp area doesn’t help.


    1. Yatta! says:

      A complaints group isn’t itself evidence of Three having “gone massively downhill over recent years” Ryan.

      The 5G roll-out, for all the networks, is unsurprisingly being delayed by the pandemic, and now is being compounded by our governments political decision to prohibit the use of Huawei kit.

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      In the last 12 months they’ve really gone downhill fast.

      120mb September-October 2019,
      January 2020 10mb (with constant disconnects – with up to 20 router reboots a day to get anything),
      March – July 2020 30mb-50mb at best. Router in same position.

      Say no more.

    3. Ryan says:

      Buggerlugz several people in this thread saying oversubscribed masts or further issues so a random twitter channel isn’t just anecdotal – look on every HUKD post with 3, 3 are struggling at the moment

      5G I agree but when 3 can’t even get 4G right at the moment even with this setback I don’t have faith in them.

      Left them last year after 10 years as the data speed fell off a cliff.

      Now with EE – if only they were better than the 25 I get at home couldn’t use them for home broadband.

    4. Pete nik says:

      i am on three for both internet and phone the internet has been seriously sloww in the last few months i have had data rates down to 39bytes a second or nothing at all i have spent a considerable time on the phone to them they are SUPPOSEDto be updating my local cell that is massively over subscribed we will see.

    5. Dave says:

      Three have collapsed under the pressure and cannot cope. Their 5G roll out has been nothing short of a disaster. My 4G speeds had been 50+mbps, dropped a little during covid to 25mbps which was fine, but end of June down to dial up speed and now sitting around 5mbps.

      I’m glad they’ve postponed this, everything from traffic management disasters to slow speeds to an inept customer service it can’t get much worse.

      I’ll see out my contract but after this I’m upgrading to another provider.

    6. Leex says:

      I have a three sim for business backup and it’s mostly a joke compared to ee (10-50mb)or Vodafone (20-120+mbs) vodafone is very aggressive at deploying g4+ ee not so much

      3 really needs to get 4g+ deployment going faster and it needs to be on each mast not just overlapping masts (as in Warrington area it does have 4g+ but only if your in range of 2 different cells) ee has lots of 4g+ but it’s not always where it’s needed

      Vodafone is in a very powerful position as it has mast sharing agreement with O2 and has lots of overlapping coverage (unsure about O2 as I don’t have a contract sim with O2, just giffgaff witch gets the lowest data speeds and inconsistent data reliability)

    7. John San says:

      We are now end of September and Three still hasn’t an offer for Apple Watch owners! Ridiculous.

  2. Saajan says:

    It’s a shame Three’s 4G network is so heavily congested. I rejoined them after having had a good experience with their 3G network 5/6 years ago. I actually find I get better speeds over 3G alot of the time, sadly there is no break clause for poor network quality in the T&Cs. It seems like Three will happily oversubscribe the network which is a real shame. The Three SIM has now been relegated to the car, where the in-built stereo only has a 3G radio. I get solid speeds of 5-10mbps from that.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      There needs to be a maximum amount of subscribers set to a mast these days, otherwise this sort of underhanded selling of excessive customer accounts will just continue.

  3. Saajan says:

    eSim support isn’t vital, but it’s welcome, especially if you travel alot and want to use your physical slot for a local sim. I’d say full rollout of IPv6 is more important at this point.

    1. Bob says:

      Needed if you want a 4G Smart Watch

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      Not if it comes with CGNAT it isn’t.

  4. Michael V says:

    It’ll be a useful feature to have, but I’m happy to wait for Three to get it right before they launch it. It really doesn’t matter that they are not the 1st to launch it.
    It’s not really a massive inconvenience to swap a physical SIM card.

  5. Mike says:

    I was with three network for many years and left all because they would not recognise the Apple Watch

    1. sean says:

      I agree, been with three now for years.I want the apple watch and ive been patiently waiting for it to arrive, if its not here by the end of the year, i too am going to leave three…

  6. Mike says:

    Will Vodafone ever support eSIMs in phones?

  7. Buggerlugz says:

    From experience with Three it don’t matter one bit if its an ESIM connection or not if there isn’t enough capacity on your local Three mast to supply a decent connection.

    Just me speculating, but I bet Huawei have lots of ESIM phones in the works.

  8. Samuel says:

    The 4G Three coverage here is terrible in residential areas (right near the mast) yet when I go to the nearby wooded area (further away), full of trees, it works much better. Hilarious.

    1. Pete nik says:

      That is very eadybti explain you are in the shadow of the aerials so will be hetting a weak signal is the normal but there is also the other option that yiu are in such a strong signal are that your device is being swamped and hence is finding it difficult to decode your information in okd CB terms you are being broadbanded ie front end overload

    2. Leex says:

      Excuse post

      I wish the merger with three and O2 had happened they would of been able to compete with Vodafone and ee (overall three is the last network I would use, ee or Vodafone been first 2)

  9. Nanu Patel says:

    3 net work is use less for customer service. They all need proper training.

  10. Nanu Patel says:

    Very very poor customer service.

  11. Emil says:

    Stay away from three useless customer service

  12. Emil says:

    If you are with three they will rep you off soon or later no way you get away the worth customer service ever you deal with Nancy

  13. Mohammad Miah says:

    Outage today 15.07.2020 called three customer services and l told them that mobile broadband and mobile data is not working, also combined masts with 3, 4, and 5g in one antenna in my area. The customer services was very rude, not sorting my issues at all.

  14. Gambit says:

    Got my new sim from 3 with 5g compatibility no problem. Didnt see or hear anything to the contrary until this…
    Definitely agree that 4g speeds in the UK are lagging but will say that the ‘go roam’ contract works brilliantly in other countries and speeds/connectivity are great!

  15. Martin Foster says:

    3 are ripping people ofc with data on mifis!!

  16. Martin Foster says:

    3 ripping people off with data on mifis

  17. SteveL says:

    Interesting to read this thread about side issues. I’ve got homefi, unlimited, with 3. Download speeds can be 60, but usually 40 ish. But, in the past few months, opening a Web page in any browser can take 10 seconds. The comments here explain it – I think!

  18. Chris says:

    I see people complaining about new features not being added to the 3 network while the can’t solve problems with basic coverage in London. Take KT66, the whole area is currently hit and miss with network coverage. No signal for basic calls and texts in the entire area. To ask for 3g or 4g in the area would be stupid in such conditions. And yet, although the problem has been repeatedly reported starting last year, nothing has been done to fix the issues.

  19. Chris Patten says:

    I was originally with three in 2002. They were abysmal then, but had one uk call centre who were adequate. I risked them in 2016 and they were all right. Since 2019 they have fallen off a cliff. No data coverage at home or work. They have haemorrhaged long term senior management.Id is worse.

    1. AM says:

      Interesting, as they launched on 03/03/2003.

  20. SunjayB says:

    Three homefi speed was dreadfull in Croydon, I was lucky if I got 5mg download speed. I moved to EE 4G home broadband which cost a lot more of 36 pounds with a 500gb limit which is enough for me as I live alone but the 4g speed are around 120 download and 45 upload. Glad I moved to EE even if it is more expensive.

  21. Chris Patten says:

    I am confused about one thing. Hasn’t the latest consumer legislation given us the right to end our contracts if they are not delivering satisfactory connection? Or has the bar been set to low?

    1. John H says:

      The was a forum post ref an Ofom ruling on a Three complaint recently about the lack of webpage response ie not loading or taking ages, basically Ofcom ignored the technical side of the complaint and said as there was a connection and that was all that was needed Three were in the clear. That the connection was unusable was not addressed. Chocolate Teapot’s and bloody expensive too.

  22. Dave says:

    Bets are on an esim will cripple the Three network altogether.

  23. Stephen Hazlehurst says:

    Is the delay because the external carriers, which support the ‘go roam’ offering don’t support esim yet. So a visit to country X would require the std sim to be reinserted.

  24. Mike says:

    Left Three 6 months ago, EE speeds are consistently better and the latency dropped by two thirds, the introduction of RPI hikes is what triggered my leave.

  25. Quinton Frame says:

    Well according to three they where meant to get the Apple Watch in 2015 this is a link to there other website


    So they are complete liars as they say anything to keep customers and get them to sign another contract and then s***w them over.

    1. ? says:

      Thats not a three website !

  26. LizzyL says:

    I have given up waiting and moved to another provider so I can make full use of my Apple Watch. Until recently, 3 had better customer service than some rivals, but that has now lost its edge and is certainly not enough to keep me tied to them indefinitely when they keep pushing back supporting E-SIM.

    A few weeks ago, my patience completely ran out. I visited their store – last chance for them to give me a date. The sales staff said “maybe” end of the summer/autumn, but not sure and unable to give me any guarantees. Ten minutes later I was in the O2 store round the corner making arrangements to switch.

    At last, I can leave the phone at home when e.g. walking the dogs or pottering in the garden, but still be able to make/receive calls and texts, or summon help in an emergency. Sorry, Three – you snooze, you lose.

  27. Kevin says:

    It’s September tomorrow. Will give them until the end of the month to issue me an eSIM. If it’s still not available by the 29th, I’ll be requesting a PAC code by text. Utterly fed up with their delaying tactics and excuses. This has been promised for almost THREE years. Need a network that can deliver. Sadly, the name Three is appropriate because it sometimes seems as if they think of their customers as being third class.

  28. Mike says:

    I chased 3 on Twitter the other day. Their response:
    “Keep your eyes peeled for announcements nearer the end of the month”


    Can only hope – I’ve waited this long…

  29. Mike says:

    I moved to O2, but miss Three. I always had good service and the prices and coverage was great where I was.

    However… I’d like an Apple Watch, and I want to see what Three offer. My wife also really wants a cellular one for running and not taking a phone places. She is still on three. Fingers crossed.

    1. sean says:

      I am too waiting for the apple watch support, if its not here by the end of the year im moving to another carrier after 10 years with three.

  30. John Fish says:

    I’m a long-standing THREE customer, we have several devices on the network and I’m almost done with them. The network coverage where I live is dreadful, I often can’t get a data connection at all, they brag about 5G but I’d just like a reliable data connection of any speed. So with contracts coming due I’ll be off to a different network and I’ll be looking for one with e-sim support.

  31. Tom Blandford says:

    What’s going on with Three eSim? They started it in a few stores. Now they have stopped the roll out. When will it really arrive? I want to use it as a second sim while living in EU. I’ve been away 18 months of my 24 assignment and I’m still waiting!!

  32. Charlie says:

    I have just been chatting with Three customer support requesting an Esim. They informed me they are currently unavailable but will be launching soon (not how soon). They have recorded my interest and will send me one when available. On asking for a time frame I got told “Soon.” I won’t hold my breath!

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