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The best phone network 2018 UK – Tech Advisor

The best phone network 2018 UK – Tech Advisor

Choosing a smartphone or tablet is just the start. In this world of constant connectivity the quality and speed of your chosen network is critical to your ability to work and play on the move. But which mobile network is best? While there’s no simple answer, we try our best to help you decide which network will work for you.

Connectivity can vary from locale to locale, and day to day. Visit the websites of all the major players and they will tell you that they have great coverage, everywhere. The truth is more nuanced.

Interestingly, according to StatCounter, October 2016 was the first time that more people accessed the internet on a mobile phone or tablet than they did on a desktop or laptop PC. It recorded 51.2 percent mobile against 48.7 percent desktop, and that’s grown to 56.55% in December 2017, making it all the more important that you choose the best mobile network.

If you’ve already got a contract and are considering buying a new phone or switching to a different network, here’s how to find out how long is left on your contract, and then how to upgrade your contract early.

It’s important to make sure you know when your contract ends in order to ensure that you are not being over charged. According to Citizens Advice, more than six million people are still being charged for mobile phones they’ve already paid for.

What’s the best phone network in the UK?

First, let’s have a look at the options. There actually only only four mobile networks in the UK, but there are several additional options that use branded services that piggyback the big four. The latter are actually ‘Mobile Virtual Network Operators’ (MVNO) and don’t have their own network space.

The big four are:

EE has the most piggybackers, including ASDA Mobile, BT MobilePlusnet and Virgin Mobile.

O2’s piggybackers include Giffgaff, Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile.

Three’s include iD Mobile while Vodafone’s include Talk Mobile.

It’s worth keeping this in mind when considering which provider you’d like to use, as coverage for the network you use may differ depending on where you are in the UK. You can use Ofcom’s coverage checker to find out.

Below we take a quick look at each operator and what they offer right now. We’ve listed them in alphabetical order.

We’ve included information from Which’s latest annual mobile customer service satisfaction survey, which was published on 24 April 2018 and involved 3,863 members of the public.

The survey revealed that, of the UK’s providers, Vodafone was rated the worst, while the likes of Utility Warehouse and Giffgaff topped the list.

We’ve also revealed which uSwitch Mobile Awards 2018 each won.

Giffgaff won the most awards, with a total of five including the overall Network of the Year award. O2 won Best Network Coverage

According to a study by RootMetrics, EE is the provider of the best mobile coverage across the UK. If you’re in England or Wales, Vodafone is the second-best option, while Northern Ireland and Scotland’s runner up is O2.

BT Mobile

  • EE piggybacker
  • Good for BT Broadband customers
  • Find out more at BT.com

BT is one of the newer players in the market, using its branded services on EE’s UK network. It’s a good option if you already have BT Broadband as you can apply for a £5 monthly discount on a contract with a handset. 

It also offers SIM-only plans for pretty decent prices. As it’s on EE’s network (which itself is a combination of the old UK networks T-Mobile and Orange) you’re likely to get excellent coverage and good download speeds.

Find out more on BT’s website.

EE

  • One of the big four
  • Good coverage across most of the UK
  • Six months free Apple Music
  • Data caps
  • Benefits for EE Home Broadband customers
  • Find out more at EE.co.uk

EE is becoming a bit of a behemoth in the UK mobile market. It was bought by BT in 2016, but that won’t really affect your choice of network. EE’s network is comprised of the old T-Mobile and Orange frequencies, so there’s a lot of coverage nationally, with few blackspots. 

Its phone contract prices can be a tad pricey, but for sheer confidence in coverage (and a big brand name to boot) it’s a solid choice.

Plus, Apple Music (which is already offered for free for six months if you sign up to an EE contract) doesn’t eat into your data allowance on EE.

You’ll get free EU roaming, there are data caps available, and if you get EE Home Broadband you can get a mobile data boost of up to 20GB per month.

Find out more over on EE’s website.

Giffgaff

  • O2 piggybacker
  • Simple SIM-only Goodybags that you can change or cancel any time
  • uSwitch Network of the Year 2018
  • Find out more at Giffgaff.com

Owned by O2, Giffgaff is a little operator but one with attractive SIM-only deals. Using its owners network, it offers great value Goodybags such as the £10 per month 3GB option, right up to unlimited internet for £25.

It’s a fine choice if you already own a handset – just get a SIM and you’re good to go. However it does offer phones on a contract if you need both. 

Giffgaff won consumer watchdog uSwitch’s Network of the Year, Best Network Customer Service, Best Network for Data, Best PAYG network and Best SIM-only Network, so it’s clearly doing something right. It also ranked highly in Which’s annual mobile customer satisfaction survey.

Visit Giffgaff’s website to find out more.

O2

  • One of the big four
  • Up to 12 months of Netflix with selected phones and tarrifs
  • Won uSwitch’s Best Network Coverage award
  • Find out more at O2.co.uk

O2 is a brand that has been around since 2002 in the UK and has been owned by Telefonica since 2005. Recently rival operator Three attempted to merge with O2 but the European Commission opted to block the move (this was in the wake of the BT and EE sale).

Despite this, O2 is one of the most well-known operators around. Its prices are high compared to some competitors but coverage is excellent and its pay as you go range is one of the best in the country. 

O2 won uSwitch’s Best Network Coverage award in 2018.

Get more information on O2’s website.

Plusnet

  • EE piggybacker
  • Data caps
  • No tethering charges
  • No phone contracts available, just SIM-only options
  • Find out more at plus.net

Plusnet, which was once LIFE Mobile, uses EE in the same way that BT Mobile does, meaning you’ll get really reliable coverage here.

Perks include no extra charges for tethering, and the ability to set a monthly price cap to stop any nasty surprises in your bill. It’s a good SIM-only option with very reasonable pricing.

It won uSwitch’s Best Value Sim-Only Public Choice Award in 2018.

Find out more and see deals on Plusnet’s website.

Sky Mobile

  • O2 piggybacker
  • Good deals for existing Sky customers
  • Piggybank Rewards
  • Flexible plans
  • Find out more at Sky.com

One of the newest additions to the UK mobile market, Sky has become a ‘quad-play’ provider by adding mobile to its TV, broadband and landline offerings. 

Existing Sky customers get the best deals, with free calls and texts. You just pay for how much data you want, on a plan that uses O2’s network. Non-Sky customers can pay extra per month for unlimited calls and texts.

There’s also a fun feature called Piggybank Rewards, which means customers can cash in their unused data allowance for savings on phones, tablets and accessories. This is part of its ‘Roll’ plans, which also allow customers to tap into their unused data from previous months at any time for up to three years.

There are also good Swap contracts that allow customers to upgrade their phone every year and Mix, which lets customers change their data allowance each month.

You’ll find more info on Sky Mobile’s website.

Tesco Mobile

  • O2 piggybacker
  • Four uSwitch awards 2018
  • Cheap SIM deals
  • Find out more at tescomobile.com

Another user of O2’s big UK network, Tesco Mobile provides contracts, pay as you go and SIM-only deals at decent prices. Again, because it uses O2’s network coverage will be decent and often the subsidies for new handsets are good. 

SIM-only prices can be under £10 per month, so if you’ve got a handset you already love it could save you a lot of money. 

Tesco Mobile won four uSwitch awards this year: Best Network for Customer Service, Best Pay Monthly Network, Best Value Pay Monthly and High Street Retailer of the Year.

Find out more over on Tesco Mobile’s website.

Three

  • One of the big four
  • All you can eat data available
  • Go Roam and Go Binge data features
  • uSwitch’s Best Network for Roaming
  • Find out more at Three.co.uk

Three offers reasonably priced ‘all you can eat’ data bundles. That’s right, unlimited data. If you can afford it, you can get the best handsets in the land with unlimited internet access.

Plus, even if you don’t choose an all you can eat package, you’ll be able to stream shows from Netflix, TVPlayer, Dave and History Channel, and songs from Deezer, Apple Music and SoundCloud infinitely without it counting towards your data allowance with the Go Binge feature.

Plus, its Go Roam Around the World adds more than 20 worldwide countries to the usual European destinations that let you roam for free.

Pay as you go rates are also pretty decent if you don’t need as much data, minutes or texts.

uSwitch awarded Three the Best Network for Roaming and the Most Popular Mobile Network in 2018.

Click here for more information over on Three’s website.

Virgin Mobile

  • EE piggybacker
  • Data rollover
  • Flexible plans
  • Data free messaging
  • Find out more at VirginMedia.com

Virgin was late to the party with 4G, but has caught up and is an attractive option if you already get your broadband connection and TV from Virgin, cutting down the number of tech providers you have to deal with.

It offers data rollover features and lets you message on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter without eating into your allowance.

There’s the ability to change your 4G plan every month, too.

uSwitch awarded Virgin Mobile Best Retailer Customer Service in 2018.

Virgin Mobile’s website offers more info.

Vodafone

  • One of the big four
  • Vodafone Global Roaming
  • Big data plans available
  • Find out more at Vodafone.co.uk

Vodafone is a staple brand in the UK mobile market, and its coverage is excellent, but it has suffered from reports of bad customer service over the past few years.

However, the actual network itself provides reliable fast 4G data connections and the SIM-only deals are well priced.

It also offers Global Roaming, which lets you use your normal data plan at no extra cost in 152 destinations on most plans.

You’ll find more information on Vodafone’s website here.

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