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O2 Coverage and Network Review

17th February 2022

O2 Network Coverage

O2 has now had a 4G network for years and it’s been busy in that time, bringing speedy 4G coverage to around 99% of the UK population indoors, with that figure growing all the time, while 5G coverage is rapidly increasing too.

But is it the right network for you? To answer that we need to look at more than just coverage, which is why this review addresses plans, tethering, roaming, extra perks and more, as well as the availability of 4G and 5G.

So read on to get a clear picture of whether O2 is your ideal network. And if you’re ever looking for a new network in future, make sure to check back here, as we’ll be keeping this page updated as O2’s network evolves.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Free EU roaming

Possibly less 4G coverage than some

O2 Priority

Lower 4G speeds than main rivals

Our Rating

Table of Contents

Coverage

O2 Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

5G

Now available in 194 locations

4G 

99%

3G

99%

2G

99%

O2 coverage checker

5G coverage

O2 launched its 5G service on October 17th, 2019. It initially launched in six cities but its 5G service is now available in many more locations. At the time of writing you can get O2 5G in parts of at least 194 places, including but not limited to:

Aberdeen, Ambleside, Ashford, Aughton, Aylesbury, Banstead, Basildon, Basingstoke, Beaconsfield, Bedford, Belfast, Bilston, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Blackburn, Blackpool, Blaydon, Bolton, Bournemouth, Bradford, Bradley Stoke, Bridge of Don, Brighton, Bristol, Brombourgh, Bury St Edmunds, Byfleet, Cambridge, Cardiff, Chadwell St Mary, Chatham, Chelmsford, Cheltenham, Chesterfield, Chipstead, Clacton-on-Sea, Colchester, Coventry, Darlington, Dartford, Derby, Dewsbury, Dinas Powis, Doncaster, Dudley, Dundee, Dunstable, Durham, Dyce, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Egham, Epsom, Esher, Eton and Windsor, Falmer, Gateshead, Gatton Bottom, Gillingham, Glasgow, Gloucester, Gravesend, Grays, Great Yarmouth, Halifax, Harlington, Harlow, Hastings, Hebburn, Hemel Hempstead, Hextable, High Wycombe, Hove, How Wood, Huddersfield, Hull, Inverness, Ipswich, Iver Heath, Jarrow, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Lisburn, Liverpool, Llandudno, London, Longford, Loughborough, Lowestoft, Luton, Maidstone, Manchester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Monifieth, Morley, Musselburgh, Newcastle Upon Tyne, New Denham, Newbury, Newtownabbey, North Shields, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Orpington, Oxford, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Potters Bar, Rainham, Reading, Redhill, Rochdale, Rotherham, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Rugby, Salford, Sheffield, Shepperton Green, Slough, Solihull, Southampton, South Shields, Southend-On-Sea, Staines, Stanraer, Stevenage, Stockport, Stockton, Stoke-on-Trent, Strathclyde, Sunbury, Sunderland, Swansea, Swindon, Thundersley, Tynemouth, Wakefield, Warrington, Washington, Watford, Wavetree, West Bromwich, Weybridge, Whickham, Whitley Bay, Wolverhampton, Worthing, and York.

The network no longer publishes an up-to-date list of where 5G is available at the time of writing, and there’s no news on where O2 will bring 5G to next, but expect more populous places to get it first.

If you don’t have O2 5G where you are yet, it should be worth waiting for, as it is far faster than 4G, so you can download and upload files faster and stream in higher quality. More excitingly, 5G could open up whole new use cases, such as truly smart cities and things we haven’t even envisaged yet.

To take advantage of its power though you’ll need a 5G phone. A number of these are now available, and O2 stocks many of them, such as the Samsung Galaxy S21Samsung Galaxy S21 PlusSamsung Galaxy S21 UltraiPhone 13iPhone 13 ProiPhone 13 Pro MaxiPhone 13 MiniiPhone 12iPhone 12 ProiPhone 12 Pro Max, and iPhone 12 Mini.

4G coverage

O2’s 4G coverage currently rivals Vodafone's at around 99% of the UK population, but is seemingly slightly behind EE's and Three’s, based on the latest available information at the time of writing. The difference is small though – we’re talking a percent at most, so you can be confident that across the UK as a whole you’ll get competitive coverage on O2, though it’s always worth checking what coverage is like in your area before signing up to a network.

4G from O2 is now available in thousands of UK towns, cities, and villages. The major towns and cities include but are not limited to: Antrim, Bradford, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bridgend, Brighton, Burnley, Castleford, Coleraine, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Leigh, Liverpool, Livingston, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, London, Macclesfield, Newtownabbey, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Pontypool, Poole, Portsmouth, Reading, St Albans, Sittingbourne, Southampton and Tamworth.

Basically though, if you live in a remotely urban area then you’ll more likely than not be able to get O2 4G, and many rural areas will have access too.

3G coverage

O2 has around 99% population coverage with 3G, so it’s a similar situation to its 4G. That’s better 3G coverage than some networks, but then this is also a slow, dated technology now – but still better than nothing.

You can use O2’s coverage checker above to find out more about O2 coverage in your area, including signal strengths and details on both indoor and outdoor coverage.

Plans

O2 offers Pay Monthly phones, along with SIM Only plans and Data Only plans, all of which you can see details of below. The network also offers Pay As You Go (detailed further down), and mobile broadband plans.

O2 Pay Monthly Plans

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Data Only

Plans Available

Max Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Contract lengths

3-36 months

1, 12 or 24 months

1 or 12 months

 

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SIM Only Deals
O2

12 Month Contract

150 GB data

Unlimited mins

Unlimited texts

£24.00 a month

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O2

24 Month Contract

5 GB data

Unlimited mins

Unlimited texts

£11.00 a month

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O2

12 Month Contract

1 GB data

Unlimited mins

Unlimited texts

£12.00 a month

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O2

24 Month Contract

10 GB data

Unlimited mins

Unlimited texts

£12.00 a month

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O2

12 Month Contract

5 GB data

Unlimited mins

Unlimited texts

£15.00 a month

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O2 has a range of Pay Monthly, SIM Only and Pay As You Go plans available. 5G is also available at no extra cost.

O2’s Pay Monthly plans are flexible, as while they default to 36 months in duration you can also edit them, choosing anything from as little as 3 months, with prices changing accordingly. You can also adjust how much you’re prepared to pay upfront and how much data you want (up to a maximum of unlimited data). They also allow tethering, and you can use as much of your data allowance for that as you want.

O2’s SIM Only plans come in at 24 months, 12 months or just 1 month long. They also come with a lot of data, topping out at unlimited. As with Pay Monthly, they also allow tethering, and you can use as much of your data allowance for that as you want.

Both phone and SIM plans also include VoLTE and Wi-Fi Calling, which we’ll dig into further down in this article.

O2 also offers Data Only plans for tablets, MiFi devices and dongles. These are designed to give you data, without minutes or texts.

They are available on 1 or 12-month contracts with up to unlimited data.

Pay As You Go

O2 Pay As You Go Plans

 

Mobile Phones

Data Only

Plans Available

Add-ons available

Max Data Allowance

100GB

20GB

Add-on expiry 

30 days Up to 12 months

Data Rollover

1 month x

Top Up Expiry

6 months inactivity 6 months inactivity

Tethering

EU Roaming

O2 has a number of Pay As You Go bundles available, giving you an allowance of minutes, texts and data that last for 30 days. They’re available in both phone and data-only forms and top out at 100GB of data for phones or 20GB for data-only, and in the case of phone SIMs they let you roll over up to 1 month of data, giving you extra time to use it.

They also come with tethering and European roaming as standard.

O2 Perks

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Data only SIM

5G

Roaming

Tethering

Wi-Fi Calling

VoLTE

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

Unlimited Data

Family Plans

Credit Check

O2 Priority

O2’s plans come with many perks and additional features, as you can see in the table above. We’ve detailed these in full below.

5G

O2 offers 5G as standard on Pay Monthly plans (with a 5G phone), SIM Only and Data Only plans, so you won’t have to pay any extra to get it, and you can get it on a wider range of plan types than some networks.

Roaming Destinations

You can roam (up to a fair usage allowance of 25GB) at no extra cost in the following 48 locations:

Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Islands, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Vatican City.

O2 stands out here as it’s the only major UK network that isn’t currently charging or planning to charge for European roaming.

Select plans also let you roam for free in the following 27 destinations: Argentina, Australia, Botswana, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greenland, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Rwanda, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yemen, with 120 minutes, 120 texts and unlimited data.

But to roam further afield you'll have to pay at least £4.99 per day, with that money getting you 120 minutes, 120 texts and unlimited data in: Albania, Anguilla, Argentina, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Bermuda, Botswana, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Columbia, Cost Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Greenland, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Montserrat, Myanmar, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St Kitts & Nevis, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Turks & Caicos islands, UAE, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela, Yemen and Zambia.

Tethering

O2 offers tethering as standard on all of its plans, allowing you to use any or all of your data allowance towards it – though the network doesn’t recommend this use and warns that this can use up your data quickly.

Fortunately, O2 also has plans with high data allowances, currently topping out at unlimited, so you can have a lot of data to play with.

However, there is a fair usage policy saying not to use more than 650GB of data per month, and not to tether more than 11 devices.

Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi Calling means making calls over Wi-Fi with your normal number and calling apps – so you can stay in touch as normal when there’s no signal, as long as you’re connected to Wi-Fi.

O2 offers this at no extra cost on Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans, but only currently for select handsets, including but not limited to the iPhone 13 range, iPhone 12 range, iPhone 11 range, Samsung Galaxy S21 range, Samsung Galaxy S20 range, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 range, OnePlus Nord, Google Pixel 5, Google Pixel 4a, Sony Xperia 1 II, and Sony Xperia 5 II. Head here for a full, up to date list.

In the case of some Android devices, your phone also needs to be running O2 firmware for Wi-Fi Calling to work.

VoLTE

VoLTE is also known as Voice Over LTE or 4G Calling, and it means you can call and text using 4G, rather than your phone having to switch to a 2G or 3G signal. This in turn means you can call and text in places that only have a 4G signal, and can potentially get superior call quality.

VoLTE works on the same selection of handsets as Wi-Fi Calling, including but not limited to the following:

iPhone 13 range, iPhone 12 range, iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone X, iPhone XR, iPhone 8 Plus, 8, 7 Plus, 7, 6S Plus, 6S, 6 Plus, 6, SE, Samsung Galaxy S21 range, S20 range, S10 5G, Note 10, Note 10 Plus 5G, S10, S10e, S10 Plus, S9, S9 Plus, S8, S8 Plus, Note 8, S7, S7 Edge, J3 2017, A10, A20e, A50, A70, A8, A3 2017, A6, J6, J5 (2017), A5 (2017), Note 9, A7, J6+, J4+, A9, A90 5G, A40, Xcover 4S, Sony Xperia XZ2, Xperia XZ3, XZ2 Compact, XZ Premium, Xperia XA2, Xperia XZ1, Xperia XZ1 Compact, Xperia 10, Xperia L3, Xperia 5, Xperia 1, OnePlus 5, 5T, 6, 6T, OPPO Reno 5G, Huawei Mate 20 X 5G, P20 and P20 Pro. Head here for a full list.

As with Wi-Fi Calling, you also need to be running O2 firmware if using certain Android devices.

Data rollover

O2 doesn’t offer data rollover on Pay Monthly or SIM Only plans, but you can get it on Pay As You Go, meaning that you can roll over any unused data to a second month, so that you have a second chance to use it.

Not many networks offer data rollover at all, though it being restricted to Pay As You Go here is quite limiting.

Spending caps

O2 lets you add a spending cap to your account, of between £0 and £200. That refers to how much you can spend outside of your standard monthly price, for example on premium rate or international calls, or when you’ve used up your allowances. You can also choose not to have a cap if you’d prefer.

Unlimited data

O2 offers unlimited data on most plan types other than Pay As You Go, so if you don’t want to worry about using up all your data, you don’t have to. There is however a fair usage policy of 650GB per month, and no more than 11 tethered devices.

Family plans

O2 lets you add multiple plans to your account, and these can be used by different people. It doesn’t frame this as a ‘family plan’, but you can have up to 20 connections on one account, and you’ll get a 20% discount on the airtime portion of the costs for any extra device or SIM that you add, so it’s cheaper than having multiple O2 accounts.

Credit checks

Like most networks, O2 carries out credit checks. However you can avoid these by opting for a Pay As You Go plan.

Unique perks

All Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans come with access to O2 Priority – so you can grab exclusive offers and early gig tickets. O2’s plans also allow you to automatically connect to many of the network’s Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK. Plus, you can roam across much of Europe at no extra cost – and in some cases even further afield. We’ve got more details on roaming above.

Some plans also chuck in additional freebies. At the time of writing for example, you can get up to a 12-month subscription to Amazon Prime Video, Audible, or other things with some plans, or a 6-month subscription to Disney Plus or Amazon Music Unlimited, among others.

Awards

O2 has won a lot of awards, including the Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) Most Reliable Network award for three years in a row, from 2018 to 2021.

O2 also won the Network of the Year award at the Mobile Industry Awards 2021, and the Best Network Performance award at the Mobile News Awards in 2020 and 2019. That’s a decent selection of awards, even by major network standards.

Network

Network speeds

Opensignal – Mobile Network Experience, September 2021 and April 2020

Network

Download/upload speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

44/9.7Mbps

36.0ms

Three

25.2/6.3Mbps

48.3ms

Vodafone

21.6/7.4Mbps

39.0ms

O2

17.1/5.4Mbps

38.1ms

O2’s average download speed is 17.1Mbps according to Opensignal, while its average upload speed is 5.4Mbps, and its average latency (the time in which it takes for the network to respond to a request) is 38.1ms.

Those results aren’t great – as you can see in the table above O2 comes out slower than any major rival, with EE in particular storming ahead at around twice the speed, though its latency is better than Three or Vodafone.

Note that the speed results are from September 2021 and combine all available network types (so 5G, 4G and 3G), while the latency is from April 2020, as recent reports don’t include that.

As for 5G on its own, a September 2020 report from Point Topic found that O2 managed average 5G download speeds of 115.7Mbps. That’s a lot faster than 4G, but slower than rivals in the same test, with Three leading at 158.7Mbps, followed by EE with 149.9Mbps, and then Vodafone with 143.6Mbps.

There’s also an Ookla test from the first half of 2021, which found O2’s median 5G download speed was 155Mbps, putting it slightly ahead of EE at 151Mbps, but slightly behind Vodafone at 159Mbps, and well behind Three at 231Mbps.

O2’s low speeds in the chart above then can be explained by low availability of 5G compared to the other networks.

Traffic management

O2’s traffic management policy allows you to use your full data allowance without any restriction in the UK, even during peak hours, and once you’ve run out your data service will cease until you purchase more or reach your next month of allowances.

However, the network adds that it will always prioritize emergency voice traffic (which shouldn’t noticeably affect you and is a good thing if you ever need to call emergency services).

O2 will also warn users whose use is excessive enough that it detrimentally affects other customers, and if these excessive users don’t change their usage they risk being disconnected.

When roaming, data speeds may be slower than at home.

Network frequencies

O2 Network Frequencies

Frequency

Frequency Band

Network

700MHz

n29 4G & 5G

800MHz

Band 20

4G

900MHz

Band 8

2G & 3G

1800MHz

Band 3

2G & 4G

2100MHz

Band 1

3G & 4G

2300MHz

Band 40 4G

3400MHz

n78 5G

3600MHz

n77 5G

O2 uses both the 800MHz band and 2300MHz band for 4G. It’s got a decent amount of spectrum and the 800MHz band is well suited to delivering coverage across the UK. It’s long range, so it can travel a long way between base stations, making it suited to rural environments.

But it’s also good at penetrating walls and other solid objects, making it a good fit for towns and cities too, and ensuring strong coverage both indoors and out. The 2300MHz band on the other hand is more suited to busy areas, but it's shorter range and not as good at passing through obstacles. O2 also uses the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands, which sit in between.

O2 also has some 3400MHz and 3600MHz spectrum, which is higher frequency and shorter range than even the 2300MHz band. This is used for 5G. Right at the other end of the scale the network also has some 700MHz spectrum, which is likely to be deployed for both 4G and 5G.

You can find in depth details of these bands and others in our 4G and 5G frequencies guide.

Customer Service

Customer service can be hard to judge, but in a 2021 Ofcom service quality report, O2 was found to have a 91% satisfaction rate from customers, with 7% finding reason to complain, 62% being happy with the way their complaint was handled, and 8 out of every 100,000 subscribers making a complaint to Ofcom. Those numbers are all middling compared to rivals, except the satisfaction with the complaint handling, which is the best result for that of any network on test.

Then there’s Trustpilot, which based on 6,744 user reviews at the time of writing gives it 1.4 stars out of 5. That’s considered a ‘bad’ rating – though note that many networks are poorly rated there.

Conclusion

O2 combines a sturdy network with high data limits and special offers through O2 Priority. Roaming on O2 is also affordable (or even free in many cases) and there are a range of flexible tariffs to choose from whether you Pay Monthly, go SIM Only or Pay As You Go.

Coverage perhaps isn’t quite the best (though this can be hard to be sure of), but it's not far off and coverage is improving all the time – so you can be confident that there’ll be 4G from O2 almost everywhere before long, with 5G availability rising too.

Alternatives

If you want a network with the same coverage as O2 then there are a number of options, including Giffgaff, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile, and Lyca Mobile. These all use O2’s infrastructure and spectrum, so their coverage is identical.

They’re typically cheaper too, however they don’t have as many plan types and extras as O2, though they do all offer 5G at least.

Alternatively, you might just want another big-name network, in which case your options are EE, Three or Vodafone. These are arguably O2’s main competitors, since like O2 they have their own infrastructure and spectrum, but that means coverage differs, so it’s worth checking what coverage is like near you on each network before choosing one.

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