How to force Three to use 3G and 4G only (Android)

Edge signal receptionWhen I was with Three a few years ago, I have had two main issues with their network coverage.  The first issue was the total lack of 3G coverage in my area and the second is where my phone seems to prefer national roaming on to the Vodafone and O2 2G masts. 

While it sounds great being able to access three networks for call and texts, 2G is practically useless for data:

34% packet loss in ping test

The above was a ping test in Kilcar, a town that was without 3G on any network.  I would love to have run a speed test, but have been unsuccessful in getting a single test to complete!

If I’m in trying to use Internet radio on the move or browsing the web on the bus, the phone will spend most of its time national roaming on Vodafone or O2, particularly in areas where their coverage is stronger than 3G such as between Killybegs and Donegal town.  A full 2G signal is no match for even a weak 1 bar 3G signal.

How to tell which network you’re using:  If ‘G’, ‘E’ or ‘R’ are shown next to the signal bars and the network name is ‘3’ (without a dot), then the phone is connected to a former Vodafone O2 2G mast.  If the network name is ‘3.’ (notice the dot after 3), then the phone is connected to an O2 mast.

Update 6th September 2015: Around the 26th August, Three made a change where an O2 mast connection no longer shows as roaming or with the dot after the ‘3’.  The only reliable way to tell now is with an App that shows the registered network operator.  For example, in the Elixir2 App, go into Information -> Telephony -> More information and check what it says for ‘Operator’.  27201 is Vodafone (which Three no longer uses) and 27202 is O2.

One nice secret feature with most Android phones is they have a hidden menu to select specific network types.  For example, the OnePlus can be set to use WCDMA (3G) only, LTE (4G) only or even both, effectively preventing the phone from using 2G, even in areas without 3G or 4G coverage.

To bring up the hidden menu, dial *#*#4636#*#*:

Hidden info menuWarning!!

If you see a ‘Select radio band’ menu, do not touch it!  On some phones, changing this setting will irreversibly limit the phone to the selected radio band until the proper radio firmware is flashed, which may be impossible if there is no radio firmware available.  For example, some phones such as various Blackberry and Sony models, this menu will present one option “USA Band”, which if selected will render the phone useless outside of the USA as this setting can only be reversed by flashing the radio firmware.

Touch “Phone information”, then scroll down to where it says “Set preferred network type:”

Hidden preferred network typesLook through the options for ‘WCDMA only’ or ‘LTE/WCDMA’ (if available):

Forcing LTE WCDMA only

Don’t choose ‘LTE only’ unless using a dual SIM phone with a separate SIM for calls/texts as it may block the ability to make & receive calls.  This option might be useful to check for such coverage or if is necessary to use 4G for a large file transfers.  Note that Three uses 800MHz (LTE band 20) for 4G in some areas which is not supported by the OnePlus One and some other phones.

As far as I’m aware of, Three does not support voice calls on its 4G network yet, which means the phone needs to drop to 3G when a call is received or made.  If the phone is currently on a 2G network, it will show no signal for about a minute until it connects to 3G (H or H+) or 4G (LTE).

HSPA plus reception on ThreeThe difference this makes to data performance is incredible such as on the bus as webpages load up a lot quicker with even a weak 3G signal than a full 2G signal.  Internet radio works anywhere I get 3G coverage, not just whenever the phone decides to switch back to 3G.

On some phones such as the OnePlus One, this hidden network setting must be set each time the phone is powered off or restarted, otherwise it reverts back to automatic 2G/3G/4G selection.  When this happens, the hidden network selection needs to be changed to something else (e.g. GSM only) first and then back to the WCDMA or WCDMA/LTE option.

A few manufacturers have disabled the secret menu for some reason.  For example, the secret menu is disabled in the lollipop Android release for the LG G2 Mini, but was accessible in its earlier android versions.

Update 8th July 2015:

While in Donegal town, my phone decided to stay ‘roaming’ on O2 2G despite strong 3G coverage there, so I decided to make a screen recording of the above process to show this in action:

Note: If you are on the move, I recommend changing the setting back to allow 2G (GSM) access before heading off, unless you know you get good 3G coverage along the route.  Otherwise calls will get cut off once the phone loses 3G coverage as this trick prevents the phone using 2G masts even for calls or texts.

Update 15th March 2017:

Quite a lot of people have asked why they never get 3G or 4G at all even with the phone set to WCDMA or LTE mode.  The most likely reason is that the phone is for the wrong region, such as a USA T-Mobile network phone imported into Europe or vice versa.

The USA and Europe use separate 3G and 4G (LTE) bands.  Most handsets are designed for a specific region and generally have just a subset of the bands for the other region.  For example, US T-Mobile handsets lack support for the 900MHz 3G band and the 800MHz 4G band used in Ireland.  As these bands are used extensively in rural locations, most GSM capable US phones will only get 2G coverage in rural areas and some display HSPA+ (3G) as 4G (which is not LTE).

Before purchasing a used phone, ask the seller where the phone was purchased if not mentioned in the listing.

Update 22nd March 2017:

I revised the above text to remove mentions of Vodafone.  Three no longer permits national roaming on Vodafone 2G masts in any part of the country, at least not that I am aware of.

With some dual SIM phones such as the OnePlus 2, this trick will work for SIM slot #1 only, which must also be set as the default SIM for data.  This can be useful when using one SIM for data only and another for calls and texts.  E.g. Meteor broadband SIM for 4G data, forced in LTE only mode and a Lyca SIM for calls.  See this article for tips on combining data and phone bundles.

135 thoughts on “How to force Three to use 3G and 4G only (Android)”

      1. Going by what I can tell, it’s a dual SIM phone. With some dual SIM phones, the second SIM will only work in 2G mode. The *#*#4636#*#* only changes the mode for SIM slot #1. If the phone lets you choose the SIM slot for data and you’ve selected SIM slot #2, you will need to swap the SIMs around such that the SIM for data is in SIM slot #1. Then try the *#*#4636#*#* menu.

        If you have just the one SIM card, try it in the other SIM slot. If the slots are numbered, it needs to be in SIM slot #1.

      2. sean……..

        My Goinee F103 is not changing and I have text the code *#*#4636#*#* and it happens as you predicted but the sim is still at the same with me Etisalat it does change properly but with my Airtel its worse, preferred network is only GSM stubborn network.
        I am from Nigeria

        1. As it’s a dual SIM phone, it probably only supports the 3G/4G bands with SIM slot #1. What you can try is swap the two SIMs around to see if Airtel will switch to 3G. If this works and Etisalat then gets stuck in GSM only, then the second SIM slot can only operate in 2G mode.

        2. hello.
          I’m also making use of gionee f103 and it seems to be stuck on gsm network. I can’t switch to 3g network.. I’m using AIRTEL network.
          I’m Kenny from Nigeria

  1. Thank you so much for this guide. I’m in Dublin & just bought a new phone from aliexpress & was ready to send it back / bounce it off the ground. Running perfectly on 4G/3G now couldn’t be happier.
    Thanks again. @:)

      1. With the phone’s dialler, the same way as dialling a phone number. After the final ‘*’ is entered, it should bring up the menu. I recently found out that the LG G2 Mini has disabled this menu since Android 4.4.x, so it’s possible some other phone models have disabled it. One reason I suspect is that on some phones, there is also a ‘Select radio band’ menu which will brick certain phone models (mainly Blackberry & Sony) if its setting is changed. Basically, if you see a ‘Select radio band’ menu, do not touch it! The ‘Set preferred network type’ menu is safe to change.

        1. Mmm mine is an LG as you said it doesn’t work with it on lollipop version how do I make it work mine is an LG K7

      2. Mana dial kya *#*#4626#*#* new page phone informaction click scrool down set preferred tipe network select Lta band does not selected my phone intex aqua star 5.0 medetic divice 4.4.2 kitkat please send soluction thanks

      3. hy I m ali and my phone is Huawei g8 and this phone is not dialing this code *#*#4636#*#* when I dial this code there is nothing to be shown. plz help how I can do only 4g mode on Huawei g8.

  2. Wow !!! Thank you so much really worked for my phone Motorola moto g 4g .Really glad cuz am now getting H+ signal . thanks alot!!!

  3. Is there any way to incorporate this in a widget or a toggle, because going through the entire process is cumbersome. I have created a shortcut through to “Phone Information” using the app “Any Cut”. But changing the network type from the dropdown is not easy, as the UI is not good.

    Using Sultan’s CM13 ROM based on Marshmallow, on Oneplus One

  4. Sir it doesn’t work for my phone….. I did all the instruction you gave however every time I change the prefer network to WDMA only the signal just got off and never showing signal anymore….what should I do with it? It is really annoying men my other phone is 3G and it’s working but this phone 3G and 4G is not really working. Please help.

  5. Mine is not working. Each time I use this method and others too force it out of 2g, it goes back to it itself. Pls help me out.

    1. If you’re on the Three Ireland network, I would suggest trying the App “Network operators shortcut”. Despite its name, on the OnePlus 2 it brings up a choice of two options when launched – “Available networks” and “Network operators”. The “Available networks” option performs like the phone’s own manual network search, i.e. the phone will still switch to another network if the signal is weak. However, the “Network operators” option will prevent the phone switching to O2 or Vodafone’s 2G network until it’s later put back into Automatic network search. I haven’t tried the App on any other model, so this quirk is probably just OnePlus specific.

      On most phones, the trick on this page only works until the phone is restarted. Some other phones will undo this trick when put into and out of airplane mode.

    2. I am in Ghana and I use an at&t moto e(2nd gen with 4g LTE) but switching the preferred network doesn’t change the signal from 2g to 3g or 4g. It just goes off and a no service message displays. What should I do??? Please help!

  6. Thanks for sharing, It is awesome!
    I use Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 with Indosat provider (in Indonesia), I have tried to lock my phone on 4g network, in the menu *#*#4636#*#* – ‘phone information’ i choose ‘LTE Only’, it works. My phone stay on 4g network without any problem
    But as you said, i cant make or receive any call, is that because Indosat does not allow call on 4g network? Do I have to choose ‘WCDMA/LTE’? Is it the option that allow phone to search 3g while 4g is not available? Because actually I want to force my phone with 4g network.

    1. I actually use this app called ‘LTE discovery’ for indosat, because somehow my phone doesn’t allow me to change it to any network other than gsm only (weird eh?), idk if it needs root access or is it because I updated to marshmallow, which previously I didn’t check on lollipop.

      1. I have tried some apps, and found the suitable one, it is ‘4G LTE Only’ from hermitstudioapps, you may check it.

    1. Thank you very much. Work 🙂
      One more problem… sorry my inglish. I have a Huawei y300 with official rom and I try allmost apk. Like kingo root etc. And no one root my phone. Any suggestions?
      Thank you very much.

  7. Hi Sean thanks for this, really useful. My issue with Three is that when I leave 3g or 4g area my phone automatically connects to roaming and I get E and R indicators. That’s OK, coverage is so bad still in much of the country. But when I return to a 4g area, my phone will not automatically pick this up. Instead I have to search networks and re-register with 3(IRL) then immediately I have 4g again. It’s only a small inconvenience but it’s still really annoying. How do I “make” my phone auto select the better network?

    1. I’m having this same issue, but a couple of times a day even in Dublin as I lose coverage in the lift in my office or big supermarkets, and have to force my phone to get back onto the 4G network. I went into a Three shop and they were less than helpful – “Okaaay let’s select Net-work, then Mo-bile Net-works…”
      “Eh yeah thanks, my actual problem, if you’d listened, is having to do that a couple of times a day ”
      They basically blamed my phone and said they hadn’t heard of anyone else with such issues.

      1. Yepp, same here with a Nexus 5. I’m tweeting about this, someone from @ThreeIreland seems to take care of me, with the usual loop: 1) can you check your apn settings? 2) can you try your sim on another phone? 3) let’s change your sim 4) let’s analyze your data 5) no, it’s not your network, it must be you, your settings, your phone, but absolutely not us.

        They’re just making fun of us.. they have a very poorly configured network. When I search for networks I see three “3” networks. How can my phone choose the “preferred” one? Jokes apart, other European Three operators also use other operators for 2g roaming, but only Three Ireland configured this in a terrible way. Needless to say, my phone perfectly works with other sims, even from other European Three operators, even in roaming..

        It’s just Three Ireland..

    1. It doesn’t need to be rooted, however, if dialling in “*#*#4636#*#*#” doesn’t bring up a menu, then the phone’s software probably has this capability disabled. For example, this trick doesn’t work on most Samsung and LG phones.

      Another thing you can try is get the App “Elixir 2”, launch the App, go into ‘information’, touch ‘Telephony’ and touch ‘Turn WiMAX (4G) on’. It should bring up the same menu as dialling the code would. Again, I’ve seen an LG phone disable this workaround also, probably due to the risk of users bricking the phone changing other settings in that menu.

  8. I would recommend installing Three InTouch. As I was having week signal, and now I have installed it on my LG Nexus 5. I seem to get 4G in a lot more places. It seems to allow you to use the 800MHz 4G network which only accessible with certain phones, and a wider selection of phones with Three InTouch installed.

  9. I have a JHM-M8 android. Its a 3g network phone, however the internet on it is not as fast as it should be. Where I am located has excellent network connection with H+ signal. But my phone only shows G. Need help.

  10. I am using huawei enjoy 5. on this device I dialed *#*#4636#*#* but nothing happened. The hidden menu does not show. Is there any other option for changing network mode.

    1. One other way you can try is with the App ‘Elixir 2’. In the app, go into ‘Information’ and then touch ‘Telephony’. In the pop-up menu, touch ‘Turn WiMAX (4G) on’. This should bring the same screen as dialling *#*#4636#*#* normally would, assuming the phone firmware hasn’t disabled the hidden menu completely (like some LG phones).

  11. i will dail same number ,and set LTE/gsm ,but not connect 4g ,my mobile moto g 3g ,so how to get 4g connection, and using 4g air tel sim please suggestions tell me

  12. im using lg g2. i have notice that my phone never shows 3g even when its set to wcdma network, it always displays 4g. does this mean the phone does not connect to 3g.

    1. I have heard of this happening with some US phones/firmware as some operators called the improved 3G service (HSPA+) 4G, which would result in the phone displaying ‘4G’ when connected to a HSPA+ network.

      I’m not sure if this is what’s happening with your phone. If you have plenty of data, try running a speed test in a strong signal area, preferably off-peak such as early in the morning. If the download speed is over 30Mbps or the upload speed is over 6Mbps, it is most likely using 4G as these speeds are above what most HSPA+ networks are capable of.

      My Dad has the LG G2 Mini and like you mention, the hidden menu no longer works. LG disabled it on their handsets with their update to Android 4.4.x from what I recall.

  13. I have a mobile network issue with my galaxy grand prime, it works on 2G but then it’s very slow. Every time i want to change to 3G and 4G my network goes off (it’s terminated)… need help plz..

  14. i have a problem,please help me,my 1st sim slot is damaged.and iam using 2nd as gsm.i have to change 2nd as wcdma without first sim.please help me

  15. Hi Sean, I am on three Ireland and have a Chinese phone that has trouble connecting to 4g, I sent some logs to the Chinese phone company and they told me my roaming settings are set to 27202 and that I need to change them to 27205, do you know how I can change this? Thanks

    1. Going by what they describe, ‘27202’ (old O2 network ID) was manually selected from a network search.

      To rule this out, you can try doing a manual search on your phone and see it lists the Three 4G network. Some Android phones just show the network names (e.g. Vodafone IE, 3Irl and Meteor), while others show the individual network modes (e.g. Meteor 2G, Meteor 3G, Meteor 4G, O2-IRL 2G, O2-IRL 3G…) If yours shows the individual network names, select the three 4G from the list if it lists it (on my phone it lists as ‘3 IRL 4G’).

      If your phone just lists the network names without the ‘2G/3G/4G’, your only option here is to select ‘Choose automatically’ and see if you can force it into LTE mode through the hidden *#*#4636#*#* menu if dialling this code shows the menu on your phone.

      Another likely reason the Chinese company may think your phone is manually set to the old O2 network is that Three has renamed the network ID of most of its 3G masts to 27202, probably for compatibility with its virtual network operator SIMs such as Tesco Mobile, 48, Lyca, etc. In my area (most of Co. Donegal), only their 4G network uses the 27205 network ID.

  16. Thanks for your reply Sean, I really appreciate it. Yes it looks like my phone automatically selected the wrong 3 network like you mentioned. I went in and done a manual network search and selected 3 4g from the list. Now I ge a big 4G and a small 4G displayed beside my network signal but it seems to revert back to 3G after a few minutes. I also went into the secret menu you mentioned above because I wanted to select LTE/WCDMA like you suggest above. My phone is currently set to LTE/GSM auto. I have 3 other options to choose from. 1) LTE/CDMA Auto 2) LTE/GSM/CDMA Auto and 3) LTE only. Which one of the options do you think I should choose as the one you suggest (LTE/WCDMA) is not listed there? Thanks Sean

    1. That’s good that it’s able to connect to 4G and at least means it can use the Three 4G network. If it was missing the band, the 4G network would not have listed even right next to the 4G mast.

      Unfortunately the switching back to 3G is similar to what I experienced with Three. My phone would only remain in 4G mode when I had a full or near-full 4G signal. Three also appears to operate their 4G at reduced power as I generally always lose the 4G signal before the 3G signal even when both are broadcast from the same mast. With the Meteor network, my phone stays in 4G mode more often than when I was with Three (in 4G areas) as Meteor seems to operate their 4G masts at higher power than Three.

      The only workaround (which I did with Three) is to put the phone into forced ‘LTE only’ mode when I needed speed, such as when streaming video or transferring a large file. The main catch is that the phone cannot make or receive calls in LTE only mode, so you would need to remember to switch it back to LTE/GSM auto once you finish, like the dial-up days where using the Internet tied up the phoneline.

      The Marshmallow update got rid of the ‘LTE/WCDMA’ option on my OnePlus Two phone also. Thankfully Meteor’s 3G network is pretty quick (mainly 6Mbps to 24Mbps), so I put my phone into forced WCDMA (3G) mode when streaming music in the car as this prevents it dropping to Edge 2G mode that’s practically useless even for streaming music.

  17. thanks for the code I selected the LTE/GSM but it automatically went back to GSM only….. what can I do… am using a samsung s6 sm- g920f

  18. *#*#4636#*#* is not supported on my phone. My phone is Jhm-m8 please someone help me to fix this and I can’t find in my phone where it said phone information.

  19. i downloaded the app and after installing it. I went to the telephony but my phone says i do not have the permission to use this feature. I am using Huawei P8 lite android version 6.0

  20. Hallo how it will work for rooted mobile like main.. Micromax @310 I rooted my mobile and update the phone to lollipop 5.1.. It’s not working on my phone.. What should I do plz reply me

  21. not at all working bro. i have videocon z55 dash mobile i have followed total steps but still while changing to lte in phone information it doesnt stays in lte/wcdma it is not becoming 4g lte

  22. can anyone helo me my TCL S838M only works on 2G this has affected me badly i tried everything but i cant get it to work on 3G or 4G any help will be useful thanks

  23. does any of you guys use a TCL S838M please do i get it to 3G or 4G mine is locked i tried every code serched the internet still cant find anything i will be greatful of any help

  24. On Sony Xperia, with Android 4.4.4, the menu reverts back to “WCDMA preferred” no matter what you choose.
    Thank you very much for the article though.
    Best regards.

  25. I have tried many “Lte only” apps from play store and also try *#*#4636#*#* but all give me same problem.

    It shows only one option in “Set preferred network type” :-


    and it show in disable format, i.e., i have no option for select LTE only feature (or any other option)

    I can give you screenshot

    What should I do ????

    I am using “Intex cloud string v2” dual sim 4G VOLTE mobile.
    It give me option auto(LTE/wcdma/gsm) option instead of LTE only.

    1. On dual SIM phones, this menu only tends to work with SIM #1 and with that SIM configured as the preferred SIM for data. For example on my OnePlus 2, if I have SIM two enabled for data, the hidden menu only shows ‘GSM only’ as the only option and I have no way of forcing SIM two into 3G or 4G only mode.

      Another possibility is the phone manufacturer removed the other options from its firmware. With the OnePlus 2, they removed ‘LTE/WCDMA’ form the list with the Android Marshmallow update, the main mode I used all the time before my phone received that update. I’m not sure if there is any firmware mod that can add options to this menu.

      1. I am using Airtel 4G sim in first slot.
        (Although I can also use in second slot, because both sim support 4G VOLTE by choosing preferred sim card in sim card setting. One sim support 4G VOLTE feature at a time).

        When I enable data, signals automatically changes (LTE or H+ or 3G or E)
        I have set phone sim network with auto (LTE/wcdma/gsm). Because no other option available with LTE. i.e., LTE only.

  26. I have a mobile network issue with my TCL S838M phone, it works on 2G but then it’s very slow. Every time i want to change to 3G and 4G my network goes off (it’s terminated)… need help plz..
    i also have done the hidden code stuff, but still yet it does’nt change to 3g/4g.. my network just goes out like that.. until i switch back to 2g. please do help

    1. Going by what I can tell online, that phone seems to only have the 3G and 4G bands in the USA, which unfortunately use different frequencies to the 3G and 4G networks in most other countries. It does support all the 2G GSM frequencies used worldwide, which would explain why it’s working in 2G for you.

      If your phone is new, I would suggest contacting the seller, particularly if you were told that it would work with your country’s 3G/4G bands.

  27. Am in Ghana I have used all the networks but it can’t turn to 3gor4g. what should I do? my phone is LG K7

    1. The LG K7 comes in 4 different models going by GSM Arena’s specifications page, so depending on the model you have, it may not support the 3G/4G network bands your mobile network operator uses.

      Going by what I can tell, Ghana uses the 900MHz and 2100MHz bands for 3G (same as in Europe), so the MS330 and CDMA version of the LG K7 will not work on these 3G networks.

      Each operator uses a different band for 4G – band 3 (Vodafone), 7 (Surfline), 20 (MTN), 38 (Blu Telecom) and 40 (BusyInternet), similar to the European operators. Unfortunately I had no luck finding out what LTE bands the European LG K7 supports, but the other variants do not support any of these 4G bands either.

  28. My roaming, on my S6, in the USA hasn’t been working and I tried everything. Phone would be using tmobiles network and not be working then I’d force it to use at&t which would work for about 5mins and then it would swap over and be non existent again. I tried what you mentioned about limiting it to wcdma only and now it’s fixed. Just wanted to thank you! Life saver!

    1. For smartphone samsung you proceed: root , shortcut master lite, select code 2263 e select band: gsm, wcdma or lte and frequency, set . all right

  29. Hi,

    I’m using an umi super Chinese phoney. 3 coverage terrible and I keep seeing these 3 3g forbidden networks I can’t connect to. Tried this method but only works for a split second and goes back to E roaming. Any advice? I looked up the bands on my phone and it’s compatible with all frequencies. I can’t see more info on telephony with elixir because it’s not routed.

    1. The networks showing ‘forbidden’ are probably the Vodafone network. In the past, Three had a national roaming agreement with Vodafone where it could use its 2G masts to provide coverage in areas not served by its 3G masts. As what I suspect a way to avoid confusion, the SIM shows the Vodafone network ID as ‘3’, so when it used a Vodafone mast, it would still show ‘3’ on the screen. Although the national roaming agreement has since ended, most Three SIMs still continue to show the Vodafone ID (272 01) as ‘3’, but with ‘Forbidden’ now that Three SIMs can no longer use the Vodafone masts.

      So basically, any ‘3’ network it lists with ‘forbidden’ is actually a Vodafone mast. I have a similar issue with my Meteor SIM which also could previously roam on Vodafone masts and now my phone often shows ‘Meteor 3G (Forbidden)’ in the network list, which is actually a Vodafone 3G mast.

  30. I am using an android tablet version 4.4 and when l do as you said it still shows a GSM as the only network type

  31. Hi Sean,

    I live in donegal, am using the three network with a HTC desire 530 and had absolutely no mobile data issues up until about a fortnight ago where I seem to rarely have consistent internet from my house. After about 3 minutes of using it it would just stop working even with the H signal still on the screen.

    If I go into the nearest village/town it seems to work fine do it wouldn’t appear to be a phone issue.

    To get consistent internet at home I have to go into phone settings and force LTE only and it works fine but I won’t receive calls or texts then.

    I’m unsure what I can possibly do to get back to the way it used to be a few weeks ago so if you have any thoughts it would be appreciated.


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