Asda Mobile vs Tesco Mobile
By Emma Woollacott | Monday, January 24th 2022
Tesco and Asda have been selling handsets through their stores since 2000, but it is their mobile arms – Asda Mobile and Tesco Mobile – that focus on offering cheap SIM-only and pay monthly deals.
Both Tesco Mobile and Asda Mobile offer a respectable range of products and services, but there are some significant differences between the two, particularly as they use rival networks to offer their services. We weigh up the pros and cons of each.
Tesco Mobile has three pay-as-you-go systems - Rocket Packs, Triple Credit and Lite.
Rocket Packs are all-in-one contract-free bundles that give you the amount of data, minutes and texts you need. With the company's Triple Credit tariff, your call rates are the same as with Rocket Packs, but you get triple the amount of credit when you top up. Tesco Mobile's Lite tariff is a good option if you only use your phone occasionally, as there's a simple flat-rate charge for calls to UK landlines and mobiles.
Asda Mobile offers free SIMs on a pay-as-you-go basis, and added perks like free bonus data and if you sign up for their pay-monthly bundles. Asda’s free SIMs come preloaded with minutes, texts and a small amount of data, so you can essentially try before you buy.
Both Tesco Mobile and Asda Mobile now offer unlimited data pay monthly plans, so you don’t have to worry about usage caps or unexpected charges each month.
Since December 31, 2020, the EU ban on roaming charges no longer applies to customers in the UK, which means the charges your mobile provider can bill you for using your mobile phone in EU countries, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein are no longer capped.
Each of the UK’s mobile operators have different approaches to roaming charges and fair use policies. Asda Mobile runs on Vodafone’s network, while Tesco Mobile runs on O2’s; both claim 99% UK coverage, but their roaming offers vary.
Asda Mobile offers ‘Roam Like Home’ so you can use your normal allowance in 36 European destinations, and tiered roaming rates for using your mobile phone in other destinations. Tesco Mobile’s ‘Home From Home’ offering is similar, but with 48 destinations. This sounds generous compared to Asda’s offering, but the destinations are limited to usage across Europe and European territories elsewhere, so not hugely useful unless you plan to use your mobile phone in places like Martinique or French Guyana often. Like Asda, tiered roaming rates apply when using your phone from other destinations.
Data – speed and limits
As mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), neither company actually operates its own network. As mentioned above, Tesco Mobile uses O2, while Asda Mobile runs on Vodafone, and there are some clear differences between the two.
Neither Vodafone nor O2’s performance compare to EE’s in tests of speed and reliability, but both have seen a gradual average performance increase in recent years. Opensignal data shows Vodafone customers getting an average 4G download speed of 21Mbps, and average upload speeds of 8.1Mbps—both were slightly higher in the 2020 Opensignal report. O2, by contrast, had the worst performance of the big four UK networks, with a paltry average download speed of 17.3Mbps and average upload speed of 6.7, but both improved slightly, when compared with the previous year’s report.
In short, Asda Mobile (on Vodafone’s network) offers a slightly quicker download speed than Tesco Mobile (on O2’s network), and the two have similar upload speeds. The Opensignal report also shows Vodafone as joint winner with EE on Games Experience and Voice App Experience, which is worth mentioning if you are interested in multiplayer mobile gaming or regularly use mobile voice apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger. If lightning fast speed isn’t what you’re looking for, the difference between the two is negligible.
According to the latest Connected Nations Report by Ofcom , all four mobile network operators remain committed to covering over 90% of the UK population. EE, O2, Three and Vodafone - each estimate they provide outdoor coverage to 98%-99% of premises. Their networks’ coverage of the UK landmass ranges from roughly 79% to 85%. The Shared Rural Network programme agreed in March 2020 aims to extend coverage beyond this by 2025.
The latest Opensignal report on Mobile Network Experience reveals that 4G availability from both Vodafone and O2 is around 89%, meaning customers of both networks have very similar levels of satisfaction with their mobile reception.
As always, you can check the coverage and availability in your area by using one of the postcode checker tools on this page.
In a recent report by Ofcom, Tesco Mobile was found to have the fewest complaints of any pay-monthly mobile phone provider surveyed – just three complaints per 100,000 customers – which says a lot about the quality of its service generally. Asda Mobile isn’t included in the report.
Unfortunately, Asda Mobile doesn't feature in the report, but the Tesco Mobile numbers would be very hard to beat. Having said that, Asda Mobile gets excellent reviews and feedback from customers online.
Asda Mobile's customer service opening hours are 8am to 8pm on weekdays, 8am to 6pm on Saturdays and 8am to 5pm on Sundays and bank holidays. Asda’s staff can also be reached on Twitter. Tesco Mobile staff are at their desks for a little longer: 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm on Saturday and 10am to 6pm on Sundays. Tesco Mobile support can also be reached by web chat, by Facebook Messenger and Twitter.
Benefits and features
Tesco Mobile offers a few bonus freebies to its customers, in particular the opportunity to earn Tesco Clubcard points for every £1 you spend on a top-up or your monthly bill. When you have more than one contract on your account, you also get Family Perks – extra data, extra minutes, extra Clubcard points or money off - with each of you choosing your own perk.
And if you're on SIM-only, you can sign up to Tesco Mobile Xtras and get a few quid off your monthly bills when you view ads, offers and content. You can also sign up for a cap to your service, meaning you won't ever have any nasty surprises when the bill comes in. Asda, by contrast, doesn't offer any extra perks or freebies; it does have a partnership with Music Magpie for customers to recycle or trade-in old devices for cash, but this isn’t limited to Asda Mobile customers. With Asda Mobile, what you see is what you get. Nice and simple.
Overall, it's really a question of horses for courses. Asda Mobile gives a good, basic service. Its prices – at the lower end of the range, at least – are certainly very competitive. They offer a decent range of handsets available for pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go customers. On top of this, the company piggy-backs on the Vodafone network to provide its services, with good coverage and reliability across the UK. If you don't use much data, minutes or texts, Asda Mobile will give you a good deal.
However, with a good choice of handsets as well as SIM-only deals, Tesco Mobile offers a wider range of options, and perks like the Tesco Clubcard points are also a nice little draw if you do your weekly shops at Tesco. The company also has excellent customer service, with few complaints and customers raving about good value for money. On the whole, then, it's Tesco Mobile we'd recommend.