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Three UK Finally Starts Adding Mobile eSIM Support to Website

Friday, September 25th, 2020 (7:50 am) - Score 54,192

Good news. Mobile operator Three UK appears to be holding to their September 2020 launch window (here) for eSIM support on their network (4G and 5G) and have now added an eSIM Support and Activation page to their website. But there’s still no firm word on whether or when Apple Watches will be supported.

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 SIM cards can also store a basic list of your contacts, although online contact lists have largely superseded that feature on modern devices.

Meanwhile a growing number of new Smartphones and Smart Watches 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).

Three UK has been promising to add eSIM support to their network for years, but a few months ago they confirmed that this would finally go live in September (after trials) and they appear to be holding to that. But initially they’ll only be supporting eSIM on Smartphones (not watches).

As one support agent told a customer via social media this week: “We’ve been testing eSIM for phones and plan to release it very, very soon. We’re still working on eSIM for secondary devices though. It’s a little more complex, but we’re working on it.” Since then they’ve added an eSIM Support and Activation page to their website (credits to Graeme for spotting), along with this video.

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).

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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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65 Responses
  1. Sam says:

    Vodafone now have esim support too.

    1. Chayne says:

      Sam, is that for phones too? They were only supporting esims for Apple Watch but not for phones the last time I checked

    2. Jack says:

      For phones and smart watches (and similar devices) now

    3. ALIP says:

      3 has finally decided to launch ESIM in the UK but only in one area for trials

      Staff will be going through training over the next few days but data costs have not been released.

      From the 28th September the following 3 outlets will be offering E sim ( Compatible phones only ). Not Smart watches.


    4. Gary says:

      When will I be able to get a esim for my three network?.

  2. AM says:

    will they support eSim for prepaid customers or postpaid only like Vodafone?

  3. R N says:

    So I was on the phone with Three to switch my SIM to eSIM, they claiming that this is something cannot be done over the phone and has to be done in-store, I explained to them that the nearest Three stores are over an hour drive and the whole idea of going to the store for such thing is just utterly stupid.

    You don’t go to the store to request a SIM replacement, why with eSIM? I am lost for words.

    1. Zeph says:

      The three website seems to say that you can simply request changing to eSIM via their website, but there’s currently no active link to do so. I’m guessing you were told by the the person on the phone to go into a store because they either had no clue what they were talking about, there are currently some IT issues that’s preventing it being done over the phone, or perhaps they have some security concerns about “SIM swap”, which is a huge source of fraud. More info from Three about how to swap to eSIM here:


    2. R N says:

      Hey Zeph,

      When I spoke with them, they had no clue about eSIM been offered on the website, I had to give them the link address to prove it, they went on about (no we don’t offer eSIM), it’s sad their customer services at completely out of the loop of their product.

      Also, I have told them this is something that can be done online as it stated in their website, but all I got was the guy trying to avoid any embarrassment and advised to go too the nearest store.

      As you said, they probably have some technical issues still and couldn’t be done over the phone just yet.

    3. Paul says:

      I have had the same issue. when I rang three I was told to go to the store and they even alleged they had set up a case on the system and gave me a reference number to present at the store. I drove an hour to the store only to be told by the store manager that three don’t do eSIM yet. I rang customer service to complain and was told they don’t do eSIM and I was misinformed and should not have been sent to the sore.

  4. Billy miles says:

    What happened to that article about three 5G that was on the website yesterday?

  5. Dean Mason says:

    What devices are eligible for this please?

  6. Edward Hunter says:

    Hi hope the iPhone SE 2020 is compatible as is supports esim but three claim a 5G handset, I hope not and it works with 4G as well

  7. Dean Mason says:

    Where do I find a full list of eligible phones?

    1. Zeph says:

      Three has some info here. It doesn’t look exhaustive.


  8. Fin says:

    Spoke/web chatted with several three representatives today and have been told the following;

    Using chat three tell me they are starting the service 280920.
    Separately using chat three tell me they have no dates for esim being released.
    Rang Bexleyheath store, they asked me what an esim was!!
    Rang Orpington store, they told me they are coming soon but no idea when.
    Rang Bluewater store 6 times, they didn’t answer.
    Rang Bromley store they say 2 months until they are released and only for phone not for watches.
    Spoke to an upgrade person via 333 couldn’t understand most the question serious language barrier but said it was something they couldn’t help me with.

    1. Zeph says:

      You could have saved yourself a lot of phone calls! Info from Three here – it seems it’s a bit of a work in progress.


  9. Edward Hunter says:

    Just spoke to three promotions department and they said it was being rolled out on the 28th of September at selected stores and there is no date to when all stores will have eSIM support yet and it’s not something you can do over the telephone,

    She couldn’t advise on what phones with supported Ava and with mainly interested in selling me a new device rather than actually answering my question but she did say the information and only just come through by email so she was reading it while I was on the phone to them,

    1. Zeph says:

      Three’s latest info can be found here. Looks like they’re planning to allow you to do it all online, but there’s no active link to do so yet


  10. Henry Askari says:

    since almost 2 months we have a problem with Internet access in Edinburgh. I have 3 contract with three UK and many other costumers that I know have the same trouble, when is it finally possible to have access to Internet again for many three costumer to?

    1. Stephen Wakeman says:

      This is ISP Review, an independent website that is not owned or operated by Three. If you have a problem with Three’s service then you should contact them.

  11. Stuart Steven says:

    When will three support Samsung smartwatch?

  12. ap says:

    Three customer service is absolutely useless . Tried to engage with them about esim for the new Apple Watch. What a total disaster from start to finish. Their representative couldn’t understand English that well ( As a paying customer we should get better service ). Their representative asked me if I wanted a second sim. Then kept apologising for his disappointment that he couldn’t be of service.

    I agree with other customer experiences. Three are not keeping up with new technology and I feel if they can’t offer us a service to support new hardware / technology then our contract should be terminated without any early cancellation penalty. We should be free to move on to another service provider.

  13. Fabrizio says:

    I wonder, once the physical SIM to eSIM swap works, if I could use my existing broadband SIM so I could use as Data only for my iphone SE. It’ll probably only for for Mobile SIMs only and Data Only physical SIMs will be excluded at a wild guess…

  14. Orlando Junior says:

    Hi all, spoke with them today and they confirmed that the eSims will be available from tomorrow (28th of September) and they said “it will be compatible with Apple Watch cellular”.

    1. R N says:

      I spoke with them this afternoon inquiring again about the eSIM launch, they did confirm the launch is happening on the 28th however as a trail, not everyone can switch.

      And funny you asked them about Apple watch support, guess what, they said there will be no support just yet and they don’t know when it will happen.

      So Three is either lying, clueless or full of sh*t.

  15. Gareth Lowrie says:

    I spoke with Three customer services this morning and they told me to go to my nearest store to swap over my existing line to eSIM, which was Metrocentre, Gateshead. I got there and the manager told me they don’t support them yet and that they are currently starting a trial in North West England and they aren’t available elsewhere yet.

    I rang back up customer services and he did a check for my nearest store that had eSIM capabilities and he said there was none in my area.

  16. Kevin says:

    Three have been nothing short of unprofessional. They have consistently delayed the eSIM launch for the past 3 years. In the last few months, their conflicting responses (on Twitter) have ranged from ‘we are sorry we don’t know anything more about it, but you’ll be the first to hear when we do’ to ‘it’s in trial stage just now and will be launched at the end of September’. Now it’s the end of September and looks like they are only starting the trial. For new customers, on selected devices, only in selected areas.

    Go to hell Three!

  17. James says:

    I have just got an esim yesterday from the store in Southport. They told me I was their first customer for this and I saw the paperwork that they had which stated it was a local trial as mentioned in another comment above.
    In terms of them working, I can say the only issue I had initially was it took about 30 minutes before I had any data. But since then, I have installed my works physical sim in my phone and have that and the 3 esim operating together without issues so far.
    Unfortunately, I don’t have an apple watch so I can’t say if it would work with this. Hopefully they will start rolling these out and finally give the people want we’ve been after for years!

    1. James says:

      I should also mention, I am an existing customer and just did a swap from a physical sim to an esim.

  18. AM says:

    Why we have to go the store? Why is eSim not available in their app like eSim from T-Mobile in US?

    1. Fabrizio says:

      Or Truphone in the U.K.; you just install the app and within a minute or so the eSim profile was installed and working on my phone SE, it’s for data but it’s great to top up when data runs out on my sky sim.

    2. James says:

      I think with the trial you have to go in store, but when it properly launches you can do it online. There is a section on the esim support page but the link isn’t working yet. Guessing it will do when they launch it properly and the trial has finished.

  19. Tahir Gul says:

    I called three customer team and advisor told me to visit three store. Next day again I called this time the advisor placed ordered for me and I received esim next day. Very simple to setup but even after 4 hours not activated so called again. Customer service advised that due to some IT glitch instructions not processed and he sorted out. In next couple hours up and running once I take out physical sim for the same number ie esim. Now using physical sim from another operator.

  20. AM says:

    And how much did you pay for eSim at Three? What is the cost?

    1. Raja Rathinam says:

      It’s free of cost.

  21. Robert says:

    Requiring customers to pick up a QR code on cardboard defeats one of the purposes of eSIM – the ability to provision the eSIM remotely. It is particularly crazy that they require a trip to the store during Covid.

    All they need to do is allow you to download a QR code from the website – or they can even display the QR code on the screen and the phone can be provisioned that way.

  22. Bart B says:

    Is there an updated list of stores that are able to issue QR code?
    Did anyone else receive one via post after ordering it over the phone?

    I have ordered mine, and after clear explanation that I need an Esim, I received old type sim card – so frustrating!!!

    1. Raja Rathinam says:

      I have received esim by post, and I also has to insist twice to the customer support and got it correctly

    2. alex123 says:

      Raja what did you have to tell them in order to be able to get an esim sent by post?

    3. BB says:

      Same here Raja, let me know too please, as I am fed up asking.


    4. Bart B says:

      I think Raja is telling porkies or you have a family working in Three. Spoke to 3 different departments and I am being told that its impossible to send via post , which is absolutely pointless in my opinion.

      Thanks BB

  23. Fin says:

    I asked for mine via post as im in London and came in two days, they said it would automatic activate and it didn’t. Rang then up and was on in seconds.

    I ordered mine 021020 after seeing Tahir Gul post, and just kept saying esim to the guy and making him say it back to confirm.

    I had rang a few days before and they had said not a chance can you have one via post but as I say saw the post 011020 and I rang back

    1. alex123 says:

      Mind boggling roll out of eSIM from three.. called them up and they told me they could provision an eSIM, but then they told me they are OUT OF STOCK – It’s a piece of paper with a QR code! Why not just send an email with the QR code or just provision the eSIM profile from their app?

    2. Pedro Soares says:

      I was told the only yesterday(5/11/20), the only way of getting one was to go to a store and stores are now closed. Lol

  24. Yirmi says:

    Do you happen to know if I can use the Three e-sim service when I’m outside the UK?

    1. Pedro Soares says:

      It should work, it works like any other sim

  25. Trevor Marron says:

    3 are not now issuing any eSIMs at all, and have not intimated when they are likely to restart doing so.

  26. Jamie says:

    I used the online chat with 3 yesterday (6 Nov 2020), I explained I needed an esim because of travel (business before you ask!) and need to be able to put a local sim in for data as it’s not a country I can use my 3 allowance in (UAE). I just politely asked if they would be able to provision one for me and have the little card with the QR code sent to me through the post and the person on the chat said he made a special request and it would be with on Monday and it actually arrived this morning although I’ll wait to activate it in my new iPhone on Friday. I was really surprised how easy it was given some of the comments above but all sorted super quick with no fuss or drama. I had previously tried to get one through support on Twitter earlier in the week but they couldn’t help.

    1. Jamie says:

      I forgot to mention, they processed it as an esim replacement simpack even though this was the first one for me. The product code used on the delivery note is 35401 if that helps anyone.

    2. alex123 says:

      thanks for the info Jamie. I tried to obtain one with no luck, just told me they are out of stock both over phone and online chat. Even quoted the product code.

      My guess is that they are having teething problems with activation as some have indicated in the comments and are cautious of a mass rollout. Incredible how long it has taken for them to sort this out.. about 1 1/2 years now! With lockdown closures and social distancing it should be a priority for them to sort this!

  27. Marcus Berry says:

    Tried on chat today and they say they can’t send out by post for security reasons

    Hi Marcus, For the security reasons – the e-SIM can’t be processed or sent via post but you need to get it from nearest Three store hence we won’t be able to arrange e-SIM at this moment as we don’t have an option send e-SIM.

  28. Dan says:

    I tried to get an esim today via chat. Was told they cannot currently do it online and I’d have to visit a store. Politely told them I have no store near me and we are currently on lockdown. They then said 15-30 days before its available online but I don’t quite believe them.

  29. Dan says:

    Added to the above.

    Called them to upgrade my contract (I was out of contract) and specifically asked I would need an esim. Was told that shouldn’t be a problem and he would transfer me after the updgrade. Transfer never happened to had to ring support again and explained the above. Was told the three esim was only a trial in some areas and it has now stopped but it might start up again early in the new year. I said that wasn’t good enough for me so have cancelled the contract completely. But pissed with 3 after all these years. Ill go somewhere where its not difficult to get an esim.

  30. Andrew says:

    What is strange is that Three Mobile in Hong Kong has long offered eSim support, including for Apple watches – Three Mobile in UK and Hong Kong are both owned by Hong Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison. So the excuses about technical trials really don’t add up. I’m sure this is all about arguments with Apple over money.

  31. Mathew Bourne says:

    Dont care about the square matchbox watch what about Samsung watches. Wonder if its gonna be a charging thing, or, because its no extra cost as you would be using the same phone number as your mobile, will they do as some other counry carriers have done and let you keep your phone number in your phone,and let it switch to your watch esim when they are out of connection of each other. Obviously when they are both switched on.

  32. Marcus Berry says:

    Equally annoying is that 3 Denmark, Austria and a few others also do visual voicemail. Not in the UK though.

    1. Christopher Allen says:

      I used to love this on a different network – such a simple but really effective feature that lets you see quickly who you have messages from and allows you to decide when to listen to them without having to dial up and go through the system.

  33. Andrew Mumford says:

    Just bought a new iPhone purely on the strength of the ad stating eSIM is now available from 3, only to be told that they have been withdrawn. Apparently I will get a text when they are available again – but they don’t know when. This is really not good enough, and their advertising, which is still online, is very misleading.

  34. Dan Hockley says:

    Incredibly frustrated with Three – I have asked several times about swapping to an esim and each time I get a different answer.
    Their website is very misleading – “you can swap your physical SIM for an esim” except you can’t.
    Was told by one customer service (I use the term loosely) that I could get one from any three store – but you can’t.
    Was told by another that they would be available online within a few days.
    Another told me it would be sometime in the new year.
    Nobody there has a clue.

  35. Terence Gerber says:

    Has anyone managed to get an esim from 3?

    1. GailM1 says:

      I’m also interested to know this as I’m looking to buy an apple watch but still don’t know about connectivity for it

  36. Bob dylan says:

    So I just got a delivery of my nice Galaxy watch 3 (4g) being a three customer. The thought never crossed my mind in 2021 that a mobile provider wouldn’t be providing or supporting esims… Should have just got the WiFi version of the watch

    1. Gary Swift says:

      Got my watch coming Sunday, gob smacked to now start realising three don’t support it. Has anything changed?

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