We all depend upon our mobile network providers. It’s no overstatement to say that a rock-solid data connection is a requirement for modern life; there’s little more irritating than losing signal at a critical moment, particularly when those around you are having no trouble staying connected.
When you consider just how much we now demand of our mobile networks, it’s crucial to find one that can handle all the trials of modern mobile life, from media streaming and video calling to wherever you happen to be. And of course, you shouldn’t have to pay through the nose for the privilege.
We at Expert Reviews want to help you choose the best mobile network for your needs. That’s why we asked you to tell us what you thought of your current provider. We asked you to rate your network’s reliability and value for money, and dish the dirt on its customer service. Without giving too much away, one provider in particular came out on top across the board here.
We also wanted to know whether you had made the upgrade to 5G and whether you had noticed an improvement in speeds. Your responses revealed that it’s still relatively early days for 5G; only 18% of you own a 5G phone and almost 64% of those individuals notice almost no change in network speeds in daily life. Around 51% of 5G users said that their 5G phone rarely connected to a 5G network, which tells us that the 5G rollout still has a long way to go.
We used your responses to help us understand the UK’s mobile network industry and to separate the good providers from the bad. Below, you’ll find the results of our survey. We’ve picked out the class leaders in three distinct categories and crowned an overall winner that stood out as the best of the bunch by some margin.
Welcome to the Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards 2021.
Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards 2021
Overall winner: Sky Mobile
Highly commended: Giffgaff
Sky Mobile is our overall winner and your favourite mobile network across every category. The provider came out on top for customer service, value for money and reliability, with an impressive 96% of respondents saying they would recommend the network to their friends. This latter result isn’t the best in its class but combined with Sky’s fantastic results elsewhere it earns the network a win overall.
Sky Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that piggybacks on O2’s mobile network to provide 4G coverage across a claimed 99% of the UK. It also shares 5G coverage with O2.
The network offers a host of unique benefits for all customers, including the option to rollover unused data each month or share it with family members, and it offers strong incentives for existing Sky broadband or TV subscribers. These customers can stream content via any of Sky’s mobile apps without impacting their data allowance.
Earning our highly commended award this year is Giffgaff. Incredibly, it was the only provider to be recommended by more respondents than Sky Mobile: 97% of the customers we surveyed would recommend the network to a friend although its performance across the rest of our categories wasn’t quite so strong. Giffgaff also takes home highly commended awards for both value and reliability, however, narrowly losing out to Sky Mobile in both categories.
The good news is that every single network received at least 75% positive responses in this category. BT Mobile, Tesco Mobile, O2 and EE all performed well, with at least 88% of their customers saying they would recommend them to a friend. Three, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile performed the worst, with 24% of Virgin customers in particular expressing that they wouldn’t recommend the network.
Best customer service: Sky Mobile
Highly commended: Tesco Mobile
Our overall winner, Sky Mobile, came out on top in the customer service category, with 64% of respondents reporting they were Very Satisfied with the care they received from their provider and 34% that they were Satisfied. More impressive, however, is the fact that not a single respondent said they were unhappy with Sky Mobile’s customer service – no other network managed this.
Tesco Mobile and Giffgaff were close competitors for our highly commended award in this category. Both networks produced identical average results but it’s Tesco Mobile that picks up the win with a higher proportion of Very Satisfied customers (58%). Only 3% of Giffgaff’s customers were unhappy with their network’s customer service, however, beating Tesco Mobile’s score of 7%.
Just missing out on a highly commended award in this category is EE, which reported the third-lowest number of negative responses here after Giffgaff. Virgin Mobile brings up the rear with a worrying 16% of customers saying they were either Dissatisfied or Very Dissatisfied with the support they received.
Best value: Sky Mobile
Highly commended: Giffgaff
Sky Mobile takes home the trophy in the Best value category, beating out more established money-saving brands such as Giffgaff and Tesco Mobile in the process.
A healthy 79% of respondents were Very Satisfied with the value of their data plan. This is over 10% higher than the next-best network and it’s bolstered by zero negative responses in this category and a total of 96% happy customers. That means a mere 4% of Sky customers surveyed fell outside of the Satisfied or Very Satisfied brackets by responding neutrally – another winning result.
Our runner-up, Giffgaff, tails Sky Mobile by a close margin in this category. Only 1% of Giffgaff customers were unhappy with the value their network offers, while 4% responded neutrally on the topic, leaving 95% of respondents feeling happy with the value they were getting.
Tesco Mobile also did well here, with 91% of customers responding positively. In fact, Vodafone was the only provider to receive lower than 70% positive responses. EE, O2, BT Mobile and Three tended to produce higher numbers of Satisfied customers than Very Satisfied but with the exception of Three kept negative responses to 10% or below.
Vodafone customers were a conflicted lot: 11% of them were dissatisfied with the value of their plan, and 28% responded neutrally.
Most reliable: Sky Mobile
Highly commended: Giffgaff
Yet another victory rounds out a phenomenal set of results for Sky Mobile in our mobile network awards. To measure reliability, we asked you how well you felt your network coped with web browsing, audio streaming via Spotify or similar and video streaming, for example, via Now or BBC iPlayer.
In our survey, a massive 97% of Sky Mobile customers said they consistently had a strong enough signal for web browsing and 94% for audio streaming. Meanwhile, 87% felt they consistently had a strong enough signal to stream video – BT Mobile produced a better score here (88%), but it lagged behind in the other areas.
You might be forgiven for wondering what’s going on here, especially given that speed tests by benchmarking group Rootmetrics indicate EE is the fastest network around, with O2 (Sky Mobile’s parent network) the slowest. Beyond a certain point, however, it seems outright speed doesn’t seem to matter all that much, with Sky Mobile customers perfectly happy with the speeds they get.
In this category, it’s another O2-based network that takes the highly commended award, with GiffGaff scoring an average of 92% across browsing/social media, audio and video streaming, a mere 1% behind Sky Mobile. In this category, the lowest scores were reported by Three customers, with a mere 67% saying they were able to get a fast enough signal for streaming video with reliability.
Between 3 June and 16 August 2021 we asked our readers to complete a survey, hosted on the Expert Reviews website, about their mobile network providers.
They were asked whether they would recommend their network to others and rate aspects of their customer service on a scale from Very Dissatisfied to Very Satisfied. We also looked at complaints data published by the telecommunications regulator, Ofcom. To be the overall winner, a supplier must have received fewer complaints than the average across all suppliers according to the most recent figures.
To finish, we asked how readers rated their mobile network for value for money and whether they felt their network was fast enough to deliver on certain core types of mobile activity: general web browsing and social networking, audio streaming and video streaming. A total of 987 people responded to the survey.