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O2 4G Coverage and Network Review

13th August 2018

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, and that figure is growing all the time.

As work continues we’ll continually update this page with the latest information, including how much 4G coverage O2 has, what spectrum it’s using and what kind of plans and extras it offers.

We also address the pros and cons of the network, so you can get a clear picture of whether it’s the right mobile network for you.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Free access to 15,000 WiFi hotspots across UK

Less 4G coverage than EE

O2 Priority

Lower speeds than main rivals

Our Rating

Coverage

O2 Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

4G 

99%

3G

99%

2G

99%

O2 coverage checker

O2 coverage is excellent when it comes to 3G and 2G with widespread coverage. O2's 4G coverage is also now strong, standing at over 99% indoors.

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.

4G Network Coverage Comparison

Network

4G Coverage by population

EE

  > 99%

Vodafone

98%

O2

99%

Three

99.8%

As you can see in the table above, O2’s 4G coverage currently rivals Three’s and EE’s and tops Vodafone’s based on the latest available information at the time of writing. The difference is small though – we’re talking a couple of 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 well over 16,000 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.

Recent locations to get an O2 4G upgrade include Upton-upon-Severn, Coulport and Elterwater.

Network Speeds and Frequencies

OpenSignal – Mobile Networks Update, April 2018

Network

4G download speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

29.02Mbps

40.35ms

Three

22.55Mbps

47.23ms

Vodafone

20.07Mbps

40.6ms

O2

15.16Mbps

42.84ms

O2 uses standard 4G, which is around 5 times faster than a typical 3G network. The network’s average 4G download speed is 15.16Mbit/sec according to OpenSignal, while its average latency (the time in which it takes for the network to respond to a request) is 42.84ms.

Those results aren’t the best – as you can see in the table above O2 comes out slower than any major rival, with EE in particular storming ahead at almost twice the speed, while its latency is worse than all except Three.

However, the differences in latency are minor and O2’s speeds are still fairly high. Not only that, but they're showing improvement, as O2's download speeds and latency were both marginally worse in OpenSignal results from 2017.

Speedtest – Mobile Speedtest Data, Q3-Q4 2017

Network

Download/upload speeds

EE

28.80/9.29Mbps

Vodafone

17.26/8.16Mbps

Three

14.58/7.35Mbps

O2

14.11/7.13Mbps

O2’s download speeds were found to be similarly slow (and similarly lacking compared to EE) by Speedtest, as you can see in the table above – though its average download speed of 14.11Mbps is closer to Three and Vodafone here than in OpenSignal’s tests.

Speedtest also recorded upload speeds, with O2 getting an average of 7.13Mbps, which again, is the slowest, though not by much.

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.

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

O2 Network Frequencies

Frequency

Frequency Band

Network

800MHz

Band 20

4G

900MHz

Band 8

2G & 3G

1800MHz

Band 3

2G & 4G

2100MHz

Band 1

3G & 4G

2300MHz

Band 40 4G

Planned improvements

O2 is always working on network improvements, be that bringing 4G to new places or upgrading site that already have it.

Not all of this is announced in advance, but the network has announced that it will have installed 1,000 new sites by the end of 2018. Many of these will be placed in shopping centres and transportation hubs.

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.

Plans

O2 Pay Monthly Plans

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Data Only

Plans Available

Max Data

50GB

60GB

50GB

Contract lengths

24 months

1 or 12 months

1 or 12 months

Tethering

VoLTE

-

WiFi Calling

-

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

 

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O2 has a range of Pay Monthly, SIM Only and Pay As You Go plans available. Whatever you opt for you’ll get 4G as standard, without paying any extra. 

O2’s Pay Monthly plans are all 24 months long, and they come with up to 50GB of monthly data. They also allow tethering, and you can use as much of your data allowance for that as you want. Certain plans also allow for an early upgrade after 12 months.

O2’s SIM Only plans are shorter and more flexible, coming in at either 12 months or just 1-month long. They also come with a lot of data, topping out at 60GB on 12-month plans and 20GB on 30-day plans. As with Pay Monthly, they also allow tethering, and you can use as much of your data allowance for that as you want.

Both phones and SIM plans also include VoLTE and WiFi Calling, which we’ll dig into further down in this article. Plus, the network will throw in a free 6 or 12-month Netflix subscription with select plans.

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 50GB of data.

Pay Monthly Plan Benefits

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

EU Roaming

Free O2 WiFi

O2 Priority

All Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans also come with access to O2’s public Wi-Fi hotspots, and O2 Priority – so you can grab exclusive offers and early gig tickets. Plus you can roam across the EU at no extra cost – we’ve got more details on roaming below.

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 50GB for Pay Monthly, 60GB for SIM Only and 50GB for Data Only, so you can have a lot of data to play with.

WiFi Calling

WiFi 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:

iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, Samsung Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, S8, S8 Plus, Note 8, S7, S7 Edge, J3 2017, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Xperia XA2, Xperia XZ1 or Xperia XZ1 Compact. Head here for a full, up to date list.

In the case of Android devices your phone also needs to be running O2 firmware for WiFi 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 WiFi Calling, including but not limited to the following:

iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, Samsung Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, S8, S8 Plus, Note 8, S7, S7 Edge, J3 2017, Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Xperia XA2, Xperia XZ1 or Xperia XZ1 Compact. Head here for a full list.

As with WiFi Calling, you also need to be running O2 firmware if using an Android device.

Pay As You Go

O2 Pay As You Go Plans

 

Mobile Phones

Data Only

Plans Available

Add-ons available

Max Data Allowance

20GB

20GB

Add-on expiry 

30 days Up to 12 months

Data Rollover

1 month on selected bundles 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 20GB of data, and in some cases let you roll over up to 1 month of data, giving you extra time to use it. They also come with tethering and EU roaming as standard. They automatically renew and are listed in the table below.

Pay As You Go Bundles

Bundle

Allowances

Cost

2GB Big Bundle

500 mins

5000 texts

2GB data

£10

5GB Big Bundle

1000 mins

5000 texts

5GB data

£15

8GB Big Bundle

2000 mins

5000 texts

10GB data

£20

20GB Big Bundle

5000 mins

5000 texts

20GB data

£30

Shop O2 Pay As You Go

Alternatively, you can top up a minimum of £10 and just pay for the minutes, texts and data you use, at a rate of 3p per minute, 2p per text and 1p per megabyte of data.

Roaming Destinations

You can roam at no extra cost in the following 47 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, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Islands, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Vatican City.

Select new plans also let you roam for free in: 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.

Customer Service

Customer service can be hard to judge, but in the Which? H1 2017 UK Mobile Network Survey, O2 was found to be in 10th place. That actually puts it ahead of EE or Vodafone, but behind Three and various MVNOs.

4,026 members of the public were surveyed in February 2017 and O2 was awarded four stars out of five for customer service (which is the most any network got) but three stars for ease/speed of contacting, value for money and incentives, with an overall customer score of 62%.

Meanwhile, an Ofcom study from 2017 found that O2 received 3 complaints per 100,000 customers, which is below the industry average of 5 and equal to EE and Three.

All of which suggests that O2’s customer service is better than Vodafone’s and at least as good as EE’s, but possibly worse than that of Three and some MVNOs.

Conclusion

O2 combines a sturdy 4G network with high data limits and special offers through O2 Priority. Roaming on O2 is also affordable and there are a range of tariffs to choose from whether you Pay Monthly, go SIM Only or Pay As You Go.

Coverage isn’t quite the best, but they're 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.

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