Best mobile network to switch to (in the UK)

Best mobile network to switch to (in the UK)

Are you looking for the best mobile network in the UK? Do you want to know which network offers the best coverage, signal, roaming, international calls, and deals for students? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, we’ll compare the main features and benefits of the four major UK mobile networks: EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three. We’ll also look at some of the smaller providers that use their networks, such as giffgaff, Smarty, Lebara, and more.

By the end of this post, you’ll have a clear idea of which mobile network is the best for your needs and budget. You’ll also learn some tips on how to switch networks and save money on your phone bill.

UK Mobile Networks: An Overview

Before we dive into the details of each network, let’s have a quick overview of the UK mobile market. There are four main mobile networks in the UK: EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three. These are the ones that own and operate their own network infrastructure, such as masts, towers, and antennas.

However, there are also many other mobile providers that don’t own their own networks, but instead rent them from one or more of the big four. These are called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), and they usually offer cheaper and more flexible plans than the main networks.

Some of the most popular MVNOs in the UK are:

  • giffgaff: Uses O2’s network. Offers low-cost SIM-only plans with no contracts and unlimited social media data.
  • Smarty: Uses Three’s network. Offers simple and affordable SIM-only plans with no contracts and money back for unused data.
  • Lebara: Uses Vodafone’s network. Offers cheap international calls and data plans with no contracts and free roaming in 41 countries.
  • Tesco Mobile: Uses O2’s network. Offers competitive SIM-only and pay monthly plans with no contracts and Clubcard points.
  • iD Mobile: Uses Three’s network. Offers value-for-money SIM-only and pay monthly plans with no contracts and data rollover.
  • Sky Mobile: Uses O2’s network. Offers flexible SIM-only and pay monthly plans with no contracts and data rollover.
  • Plusnet Mobile: Uses EE’s network. Offers cheap SIM-only plans with no contracts and data rollover.
  • VOXI: Uses Vodafone’s network. Offers SIM-only plans with no contracts and unlimited social media, music, and video data. There are many more MVNOs in the UK, but these are some of the most popular and widely available ones. You can compare them and find the best deals on our website.

How to Compare Mobile Networks

When comparing mobile networks, there are several factors to consider, such as:

  • Coverage: This is the availability and quality of the network signal in different areas. You want a network that has good coverage where you live, work, and travel.
  • Speed: This is the rate at which you can send and receive data on your phone. You want a network that has fast and reliable speeds for browsing, streaming, gaming, and downloading.
  • Roaming: This is the ability to use your phone abroad without paying extra charges. You want a network that has generous and affordable roaming options for the countries you visit.
  • International calls: This is the ability to make and receive calls to and from other countries. You want a network that has cheap and easy international calling options for the countries you call.

By comparing these factors, you can find the best mobile network for your needs. However, keep in mind that the best network for you may not be the best network for someone else, as it depends on your personal preferences and circumstances.

Mobile signal and coverage

Best Mobile Network for Coverage

🥇 EE Buy from EE
🥈 Vodafone Buy from Vodafone
🥉 O2 Buy from O2

Coverage is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a mobile network, as it determines the availability and quality of the network signal in different areas. You want a network that has good coverage where you live, work, and travel, so you can enjoy a reliable and consistent service.

According to the latest report from Opensignal1, which measures the coverage and performance of the UK mobile networks, the best network for coverage in the UK is EE. EE has the widest and fastest 4G coverage in the UK, covering 99% of the population and 95% of the landmass. EE also has the best 5G coverage in the UK, covering 160 towns and cities and 40% of the population.

The second-best network for coverage in the UK is Vodafone, which has the second-widest and second-fastest 4G coverage in the UK, covering 99% of the population and 92% of the landmass. Vodafone also has the second-best 5G coverage in the UK, covering 100 towns and cities and 30% of the population.

The third-best network for coverage in the UK is O2, which has the third-widest and third-fastest 4G coverage in the UK, covering 99% of the population and 91% of the landmass. O2 also has the third-best 5G coverage in the UK, covering 75 towns and cities and 25% of the population.

The fourth-best network for coverage in the UK is Three, which has the fourth-widest and fourth-fastest 4G coverage in the UK, covering 99% of the population and 88% of the landmass. Three also has the fourth-best 5G coverage in the UK, covering 68 towns and cities and 20% of the population.

However, these figures are based on the average coverage across the whole UK, and may vary depending on your location. Therefore, it’s always advisable to check the coverage of each network in your area before you sign up, using their online coverage checkers or third-party tools like Opensignal.

Best Mobile Network for Signal

🥇 EE Buy from EE
🥈 Vodafone Buy from Vodafone
🥉 O2 Buy from O2

Signal is another important factor to consider when choosing a mobile network, as it determines the rate and quality of the data transmission on your phone. You want a network that has fast and reliable signal for browsing, streaming, gaming, and downloading.

According to the latest report from Opensignal, which measures the signal and performance of the UK mobile networks, the best network for signal in the UK is EE. EE has the fastest and most reliable 4G and 5G signal in the UK, with an average download speed of 43 Mbps and an average upload speed of 15 Mbps. EE also has the best 4G and 5G availability in the UK, with users able to access 4G 95% of the time and 5G 28% of the time.

The second-best network for signal in the UK is Vodafone, which has the second-fastest and second-most reliable 4G and 5G signal in the UK, with an average download speed of 25 Mbps and an average upload speed of 10 Mbps. Vodafone also has the second-best 4G and 5G availability in the UK, with users able to access 4G 90% of the time and 5G 20% of the time.

The third-best network for signal in the UK is O2, which has the third-fastest and third-most reliable 4G and 5G signal in the UK, with an average download speed of 18 Mbps and an average upload speed of 8 Mbps. O2 also has the third-best 4G and 5G availability in the UK, with users able to access 4G 87% of the time and 5G 15% of the time.

The fourth-best network for signal in the UK is Three, which has the fourth-fastest and fourth-most reliable 4G and 5G signal in the UK, with an average download speed of 17 Mbps and an average upload speed of 7 Mbps. Three also has the fourth-best 4G and 5G availability in the UK, with users able to access 4G 85% of the time and 5G 10% of the time.

However, these figures are based on the average signal across the whole UK, and may vary depending on your location, device, and plan. Therefore, it’s always advisable to check the signal of each network in your area before you sign up, using online speed tests or third-party tools like Speedtest.

Best Mobile Network for EU Roaming

🥇 O2 Buy from O2
🥈 Three Buy from Three
🥉 Vodafone Buy from Vodafone

Roaming is another important factor to consider when choosing a mobile network, especially if you travel frequently to the EU. You want a network that has generous and affordable roaming options for the EU countries you visit, so you can use your phone abroad without paying extra charges.

Since Brexit, the rules and prices for EU roaming have changed for some UK mobile networks, while others have kept them the same. Therefore, it’s important to check the roaming policies and prices of each network before you travel, as they may vary depending on your destination, plan, and usage.

According to our research, the best network for EU roaming in the UK is O2. O2 has kept its O2’s roaming policy for the EU, which means you can use your UK plan allowance in the EU without any extra charges. O2 also offers free roaming in 27 other destinations outside the EU, such as the USA, Australia, and New Zealand, with some of its plans.

The second-best network for EU roaming in the UK is Three, which has also kept its roaming policy for the EU, which means you can use your UK plan allowance in the EU without any extra charges. Three also offers free roaming in 71 other destinations outside the EU, such as the USA, Australia, and New Zealand, with some of its plans.

The third-best network for EU roaming in the UK is Vodafone, which has changed its roaming policy for the EU, which means you may have to pay extra charges to use your UK plan allowance in the EU, depending on your plan and destination. Vodafone also offers free roaming in 81 other destinations outside the EU, such as the USA, Australia, and New Zealand, with some of its plans.

The fourth-best network for EU roaming in the UK is EE, which has also changed its roaming policy for the EU, which means you may have to pay extra charges to use your UK plan allowance in the EU, depending on your plan and destination. EE also offers free roaming in 53 other destinations outside the EU, such as the USA, Australia, and New Zealand, with some of its plans.

However, these policies and prices are based on the current situation and may change in the future, depending on the UK-EU relations and the market conditions. Therefore, it’s always advisable to check the roaming policies and prices of each network before you travel, using their websites or third-party tools like RoamSmart.

Best Mobile Network for International Calls

🥇 Lebara Buy from Lebara
🥈 Lycamobile

International calls are another important factor to consider when choosing a mobile network, especially if you have family, friends, or business contacts abroad. You want a network that has cheap and easy international calling options for the countries you call, so you can stay in touch without breaking the bank.

According to our research, the best network for international calls in the UK is Lebara. Lebara is an MVNO that uses Vodafone’s network and specializes in international calls and data. Lebara offers cheap international calls to over 200 countries, starting from 1p per minute, with no contracts and no hidden fees. Lebara also offers unlimited international calls to 41 countries, such as India, China, and the USA, with some of its plans.

The second-best network for international calls in the UK is Lycamobile. Lycamobile is another MVNO that uses O2’s network and specializes in international calls and data. Lycamobile offers cheap international calls to over 200 countries, starting from 1p per minute, with no contracts and no hidden fees. Lycamobile also offers unlimited international calls to 40 countries, such as India, China, and the USA, with some of its plans.

However, these rates and plans are based on the current situation and may change in the future, depending on the network conditions and the exchange rates. Therefore, it’s always advisable to check the international calling rates and plans of each network before you call, using their websites or third-party tools like Rebtel.

Best Mobile Network for Students

🥇 giffgaff Buy from giffgaff
🥈 VOXI
🥉 iD Mobile

Students are another important group of customers to consider when choosing a mobile network, as they usually have different needs and preferences than other users. You want a network that has the best deals for students, such as low prices, flexible contracts, generous data, and extra perks.

According to our research, the best network for students in the UK is giffgaff. Giffgaff is an MVNO that uses O2’s network and offers low-cost SIM-only plans with no contracts and unlimited social media data.

The second-best network for students in the UK is VOXI. VOXI is another MVNO that uses Vodafone’s network and offers SIM-only plans with no contracts and unlimited social media, music, and video data.

The third-best network for students in the UK is iD Mobile. iD Mobile is another MVNO that uses Three’s network and offers value-for-money SIM-only and pay monthly plans with no contracts and data rollover.

The fourth-best network for students in the UK is Tesco Mobile. Tesco Mobile is another MVNO that uses O2’s network and offers competitive SIM-only and pay monthly plans with no contracts and Clubcard points.

Conclusions

In this guide, we have helped you compare the best mobile networks in the UK, based on various factors, such as coverage, performance, customer service, EU roaming, international calls, student offer and SIM only offer. We have also answered some of the most common questions about mobile networks in the UK, such as how to check coverage, how to switch networks, and how to save money on plans and deals.

We hope that this guide has been useful and informative for you, and that you have found the best mobile network for you, based on your needs, preferences and budget.

Switching mobile networks is easy and hassle-free, thanks to the new text-to-switch service introduced by Ofcom in 2019. All you need to do is:

  • Text PAC to 65075 to get your porting authorisation code (PAC), which allows you to keep your existing number, or STAC to 75075 to get your service termination authorisation code (STAC), which allows you to get a new number.
  • Choose your new network and plan, and order your new SIM card online or in-store.
  • Give your PAC or STAC to your new network, and they will take care of the rest.
  • Enjoy your new network and plan, and save money on your phone bill. The whole process should take no more than one working day, and you won’t lose service or pay any extra fees.
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