There are plenty of factors to consider when deciding on which mobile phone network to join, or switch to. There are the quantifiable factors of cost and the new customer perks that come with signing up, and then there are the less quantifiable factors – like coverage.
Mobile phone users in built-up areas and cities might not be able to tell the difference in the strength of signal and speed of data that comes with different providers, but for many rural customers swapping from Vodafone to O2 could make all the difference in their area.
Image Source: Which
Even in the largest of the UK’s cities, there are notable fluctuations in the speed that some network users process data.
Of course, it’s difficult to know which specific network performs the best in your area, but with the following information available your decision on which provider to join will hopefully be made a little bit easier – so you’ll be able to start using your 4G to check the latest football scores or Strictly Come Dancing news with ease.
It’s worth checking out comparison sites like SmartphoneChecker to ensure that you find your ideal match.
Below is a digestible list of the UK’s worthmost popular network providers and their array of coverage nationwide:
When it comes to coverage and data, EE might well be the cream of the crop for mobile phone networks.
With its standard 4G network covering 99% of the United Kingdom, you’d be hard pushed to find a competitor that caters for more users domestically. EE’s quality of service is head and shoulders ahead of the chasing pack too. The network’s 4G data services operate at an average speed of 28.9Mbps – almost 7Mbps faster than the nearest competitor.
It’s worth pointing out that the overall connection speed you’ll get as a customer of EE will vary depending on the handset you own and the plan you’re signed up to, but even the most modest of plans on this network is capable of providing connections of up to 60Mbps for users. In parts of central London EE’s 4G speeds have been known to reach up to 150Mbps.
There’s also the added perk of EE’s piggybacking companies like the well-priced BT Mobile and Plusnet, which use EE’s network to provide their own services.
EE services also come with the added perks of roaming for no extra charge in 53 countries, offers for BT Sport subscriptions and options to cap your data usage.
USwitch calculates that 3’s 4G network coverage extends to around 91% of the UK’s population, which is respectable but you may want to check whether your location is covered by the provider before taking the plunge.
While 3’s data speeds are modest in relation to the might of EE, it does comfortably beat competitors when it comes to the best 3G services around the country. Overall, 3’s data coverage extends to 97% of the population when combining both 4G and 3G services.
3’s average 4G speeds of 18.78Mbps are modest but competitively priced. Some contracts on the network also carry the added perk of allowing users to watch content on the go like Netflix on their ‘GoBinge’ scheme, without losing any data allowance. There’s also the opportunity for customers to roam in 71 countries at no extra charge through 3’s Go Roam incentive.
O2’s an old favourite in the network game, and its 99% combined 3G and 4G coverage across the UK illustrates the reach that the company has built over the last two decades. There’s also the added bonus of customers being able to tap into one of 15,000 dedicated public WiFi hotspots across the country.
Their toil in setting up a comprehensive network was rewarded in 2018 as O2 won the USwitch award for Best Network coverage. However, it’s clear to see that the provider’s data speeds have struggled to keep up with developing competitors in recent years. Which.co.uk has estimated that O2’s average 4G data speeds weigh in at 14.61Mbps – almost half the pace of EE’s 28.9Mbps.
The same lagging is prevalent when measuring O2’s 3G speeds – their average of 4.58Mbps falling some way behind leaders EE and 3.
O2 has overcome its shortcomings through an effective rewards scheme coupled with O2 Priority – an exclusive program which features excellent offers and freebies for customers as well as early access to concert tickets and performances.
O2’s inclusive roaming inside 47 EU countries is a great addition for city breakers everywhere.
Vodafone is another classic name when it comes to UK mobile phone networks. Its 4G service covers 97% of the nation, and if you’re looking for confirmation that you don’t reside in the unfortunate 3% missing out, their website features a handy postcode checker.
When it comes to 4G speeds, Vodafone is the closest competitor to EE, offering up an impressive average of 21.92Mbps. While the power of its 4G coverage is promising, Vodafone’s sadly lacking when it comes to 3G – with average speeds of 4.58Mbps customers may find themselves lagging behind the likes of EE and 3.
Despite EE’s stranglehold on market performance, Vodafone offers some excellent counter-incentives to customers that includes Vodafone Pass – a premium service that allows users to stream music and videos without affecting their data allowance. There’s also the chance to roam free of charge in 110 destinations around the world for all monthly contract customers – an excellent addition for jet-setters.