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Which is the best UK mobile network provider?

Friday, September 1st 2017

There are dozens of mobile networks in the UK. But all that choice can make it difficult to make a decision. We’ve cut through the technical jargon and hype to bring you the best mobile network for this month.

We take a fresh look at our top choice every month to keep you updated on which network is the best. Along with the number one mobile network, we also list the best of the rest so you can compare the competition.

The best UK mobile network in September 2017 is BT Mobile

BT takes the crown for several reasons. First, you’ll get access to millions of wi-fi hotspots – allowing you to browse the internet in most locations without using your data allowance. Second, existing BT customers get a £5 monthly discount. And finally, because it runs on the EE network, which has the best 4G coverage in the UK.

In addition, in the current sale, BT is offering 20GB for just £20 (for existing BT customers), as well as a free Amazon or iTunes voucher. Sports fans can also watch live Premier League games and Aviva Premiership Rugby matches on BT Sport Lite via the BT Sport app for free. Or if you want the full BT Sport Pack, you'll have to pay £5 per month.

Data 500MB to 20GB
Minutes 400 to unlimited
Texts Unlimited
Contract 12 months
Price From £5
Get BT Mobile
BT Mobile
Data
500MB to 20GB
Minutes
400 to unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Contract
12 months
Price
From £5

Which other mobile networks should I consider?

Of the remaining UK networks, we recommend you consider signing up to Asda Mobile, iD Mobile or Three. Here's a quick look at their offerings, followed below by why we favour these three in particular.

Data 500MB to 15GB 250MB to 10GB 500MB to unlimited
Minutes 125 to Unlimited 250 to 2000 200 to unlimited
Texts 2000 to unlimited 5000 Unlimited
Contract 12 months One to 12 months One to 12 months
Price From £5 From £4 From £5
  See deals → See deals → See deals →
Asda Mobile
Data
200MB to 8GB
Minutes
125 to unlimited
Texts
2000 to unlimited
Contract
30 days
Price
From £5 (for BT broadband customers)
iD
Data
500MB to 6GB
Minutes
500 to 2000
Texts
5000
Contract
One month
Price
From £3.99
Three
Data
500MB to unlimited
Minutes
200 to unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Contract
One to 12 months
Price
From £5

Asda Mobile offers a free SIM to allnew customers

Asda Mobile offers a small range of great-value SIM-only deals, all on 30-day contracts, meaning you can chop and change your bundle on a monthly basis if you wish - or leave without penalty. Asda Mobile runs on the EE network so coverage is good, and 4G is included as standard, where available.

iD offers data rollover on all its plans

iD offers eight SIM-only plans, and is one of the cheapest mobile providers on the market. All its plans come on 30-day contracts, with data rollover and capping options to make sure you don't overspend.

Three offers unlimited data SIM plans

Three offers a range of SIM-only plans and is one of the only networks to offer unlimited data – ideal for those who stream content in HD. Three also offers free streaming with Netflix - meaning you won't eat into your data allowance when catching up on your favourite box sets.

Which UK mobile network provider has the best coverage?

EE currently offers the best overall mobile coverage in the UK, serving 98% of the population with 3G and 98% with 4G. However, the 3G and 4G numbers differ greatly among the other three UK network providers (Three, O2 and Vodafone).

UK network provider with the best 4G coverage

EE has the best 4G coverage in the UK right now, covering 97% of the population. Vodafone covers 65%, O2 covers 66% and Three covers 53%.

Visit EE & choose a SIM plan

UK network provider with the best 3G coverage

EE, O2 and Three all tie for the best 3G coverage in the UK right now, covering 98% of the population. Vodafone covers 90%.

Visit O2 & choose a SIM plan

Always check the coverage maps before choosing a mobile phone network

Even though the coverage figures are impressive, they do not guarantee that you will get a decent 3G or 4G mobile signal where you live. To find out the coverage situation of a specific provider where you live, you'll need to use one of their coverage maps.

UK mobile networks ranked by customer service

According to the latest research from Ofcom, the best UK network for customer service is O2 with 80% of its customer satisfied overall. This is followed in joint second and third place by Vodafone and Three, both with 69% of their customers satisfied. EE came in last place with only 66% of their customers reporting their experience as satisfactory.

1st place: O2

The majority of contacts with O2 customer services (61%) were prompted by general enquiries, which may have included making changes to a package, buying a new service, or seeking further, technical-based information.

Some customers (22%) got in touch with a bill-related issue while 17% made contact to discuss a fault or repair.

Over half (51%) of those customers who had contacted O2 with an issue or enquiry were able to reach a solution without the need for subsequent contact, on par with the previous year.

Most customers (68%) had their issues resolved in less than an hour, which was in-line with the sector average (66%).

Around 17% had to wait several hours for a solution but still reached it that same day, while one in ten (10%) waited two days or more. Waits of five days or longer were the least common (5%).

The vast majority of O2 subscribers who had contacted customer support in 2015 (80%) were satisfied overall with the service they received – a slightly higher share than rival network operators.

Visit O2 & choose a SIM plan

Joint 2nd: Three

Half of the contacts made to Three’s customer service department (51%) related to general matters such as package changes and technical enquiries.

One in five (20%) got in touch to discuss a fault or repair, which according to sector-wide statistics may have related to poor coverage or reception, call disconnections or delayed text or voicemails. Around three in ten (28%) were in contact to discuss a bill-related issue.

Around two out of five of those who contacted Three with an issue (44%) felt it had been completely resolved without the need for further discussion. This suggests that the remainder had to get in touch with the provider on at least one other occasion.

Over two-thirds of customers (70%) had their issues resolved within an hour of contacting customer services. One in every five (18%) had to wait longer but still managed to reach a resolution before the day’s end.

Around one in ten customers (6%) waited up to four days for a solution while a small minority (6%) were left waiting at least five.

Most customers (69%) said that they were satisfied all in all with the quality of Three’s customer service, which was in line with the industry average.

Visit Three & choose a SIM plan

Joint 2nd: Vodafone

The reasons for contacting Vodafone customer services were spread rather evenly across billing issues, fault and repair related matters, and general enquires. Under half the customers (45%) got in touch with the provider to discuss matters relating to package changes, new service purchases and technical enquires.

Sector data suggests issues with payments, and unexpected or inaccurate bills prompted a further 43% of customer service requests, while 12% were focused on problems with reception or other technical issues with the service.

Less than half of those contacting Vodafone (44%) had their issue completely resolved after one exchange with the provider’s customer service team, on par with the previous year and slightly above the sector average.

Two-thirds of customers (67%) had their issue resolved within an hour of contacting customer services, while one in five found a solution by the end of the same day (18%).

Around one in ten customers (5%) waited up to four days before having their problem solved, while 9% waited at least five.

The majority of Vodafone customers (69%) were satisfied overall with the customer service they received.

Visit Vodafone & choose a SIM plan

Last place: EE

The most common reason among customers (44%) for contacting EE support was to discuss general service matters such as changes to packages.

Around a third of calls (31%) were driven by bill-related issues, which may have included problems with payment or inaccurate billing. Over a quarter (26%) of the calls were motivated by faults with the service or matters associated with a repair.

Two out of five customers (44%) only had to contact EE once before having their issue resolved, suggesting that the remaining had to get in touch with an advisor on at least one other occasion.

Three out of five customers (61%) were able to find a solution to their problem in less that an hour of contacting EE, with a further 21% coming to a conclusion before the day was out.

Some customers (9%) had to wait two to four days before having their problem sorted – others (9%) waited five days or more.

Approximately two-thirds of EE customers (66%) who had contacted the provider’s support service said that they were satisfied overall with the help they received.

Visit EE & choose a SIM plan

Which UK mobile network has the most customer complaints?

EE and Vodafone generated the most complaints throughout 2015 – both at a volume above the sector average and considerably higher than rivals O2 and Three. For EE, the amount of complaints decreased in the second half of the year, whereas Vodafone’s went up.

Which mobile provider is best for network-to-network calls?

Giffgaff is currently the best UK provider offering free network-to-network calls (calls to other giffgaff users). It is one of four UK mobile providers to offer this without any catches.

Giffgaff beats the other three, however, because of its focus on community. Its members are known as ‘giffgaffers’ and many are active members of the provider’s online forum, which offers assistance to new users. All giffgaff pay monthly plans benefit from free giffgaff-to-giffgaff calls to further enhance this community.

Data 100MB to unlimited
Minutes 150 to unlimited
Texts 500 to unlimited
Contract 30-day rolling
Price From £5 per month
Visit giffgaff & choose a SIM plan
GiffGaff
Data
100MB to unlimited
Minutes
150 to unlimited
Texts
500 to unlimited
Contract
30-day rolling
Price
From £5 per month

Other networks you should consider for free network-to-network calls

Only three other providers offer free inter-network calls: TalkTalk Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Three. Two of the three impose usage limitations, so come in behind our top dog, giffgaff.

Data 300MB to 20GB 250MB to 2.1GB 500MB to unlimited
Minutes 300 to 5000 200 to 1000 200 to unlimited
Texts Unlimited 250 - Unlimited Unlimited
Contract 30-day rolling 30 days to 12 months One to 12 months
Price From £6 per month From £5 per month From £6 per month
  See deals → See deals → See deals →
Virgin Media
Data
300MB to 20GB
Minutes
300 to 5000
Texts
Unlimited
Contract
30-day rolling
Price
From £6 per month
TalkTalk
Data
250MB to 2.1GB
Minutes
200 to 1000
Texts
250 to unlimited
Contract
30 days to 12 months
Price
From £5 per month
Three
Data
500MB to unlimited
Minutes
200 to unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Contract
1 to 12 months
Price
From £7 per month

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile features free network-to-network calls to other Virgin Mobile customers. You do not need to be a Virgin Media broadband customer in order to buy a Virgin Mobile deal.

TalkTalk Mobile

TalkTalk SIM-only deals are only available to existing TalkTalk broadband customers, but you can make free calls to other TalkTalk customers. The majority of the SIM plans are available on a 12-month contract, although there is one 30-day contract – 500MB of data with 200 minutes and unlimited texts for £5 per month.

Three Mobile

Three also offers free network-to-network calls on its pay monthly and SIM-only plans. However calls are limited to 2000 minutes and must be made within the UK.

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