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EE Coverage and Network Review

25th June 2019

EE Coverage and Network

EE is the biggest and fastest 4G network in the UK. Now owned by BT, it has the best download speeds of any UK network and possibly also the best coverage (though the competition is close).

EE’s 4G network currently reaches over 99% of the UK population and more than 85% of the UK geography. On top of that, EE has also become the first UK network to offer a 5G service, which takes speeds to a whole other level.

So speeds are high, coverage is good and on top of that EE offers tethering, Wi-Fi Calling, VoLTE and roaming beyond the EU on some plans (all detailed below). But this comes at a cost, as EE can be a little more pricey than other networks and it doesn’t have all the extras found on some rivals, such as data rollover and unlimited data allowances.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Great 4G coverage

Pricey

Fast speeds

No data rollover other than on PAYG

Roaming beyond the EU on some plans

 

Our Verdict 

Coverage

EE Network Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

4G 

>99%

3G

98%

2G

99%

EE's network offers excellent coverage for 4G, 3G and 2G, providing coverage to 99, 98 and 99 per cent of the UK population respectively. That makes EE's coverage even better than rival networks.

At this point the differences in 4G coverage aren’t as drastic as they once were, since all networks are now at close to 100% population coverage, but EE – or an EE MVNO - is still the best choice if widespread coverage is your priority. And if you’re looking to 5G, EE looks set to lead the pack there too, since at the time of writing it’s the only network with any 5G coverage – check out our 5G coverage section below for more on that.

Use EE’s coverage checker above to find out more about EE 4G and 5G 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

99%

O2

99%

Three

99.8%

4G from EE is now available in hundreds of towns and cities, including the following cities:

Aberdeen, Armagh, Bangor, Bath, Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Chester, Chichester, Coventry, Derby, Derry, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, Ely, Exeter,  Glasgow, Gloucester, Hereford, Inverness, Kingston upon Hull, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Lincoln, Lisburn, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Newport, Newry, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Peterlee, Perth, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Ripon, Sheffield, Southampton, St Albans, St Asaph, St David’s, Salford, Salisbury, Stirling, Stoke, Sunderland, Swansea, Truro, Wakefield, Wells,City of Westminster, Winchester, Wolverhampton Worcester and York.

5G coverage

As well as 4G, EE now offers 5G coverage. The network switched on its 5G service in six cities on May 30th, making it the UK’s first 5G network. As for where 5G is available now and where it’s coming to soon, the chart below has those details.

EE 5G Coverage Rollout

5G available now

5G from later in 2019

5G from 2020

Belfast

Bristol

Aberdeen

Birmingham

Coventry

Cambridge

Cardiff

Glasgow

Derby

Edinburgh

Hull

Gloucester

London

Leeds

Peterborough

Manchester

Leicester

Plymouth

 

Liverpool

Portsmouth

 

Newcastle

Southampton

 

Nottingham

Wolverhampton

 

Sheffield

Worcester

 

 

More TBC

So by the end of 2019 EE will have 5G coverage in at least 16 cities, with more coming in 2020. Note however that it will initially only offer partial coverage in these locations. But many of the busiest parts are likely to have coverage – use EE’s coverage checker above for full coverage details.

And coverage should expand rapidly, as across the country EE plans to put more than 100 5G sites live every month.

To take advantage of 5G – which initially should offer typical speeds of 100-150Mbps more than 4G with peak speeds of over 1Gbps – you’ll need a 5G device and plan. Fortunately, EE already has 5G phones available. These include Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, LG V50 ThinQ 5G and the Oppo Reno 5G.

Network Speeds and Frequencies

OpenSignal – Mobile Network Experience, April 2019

Network

4G download/upload speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

32.5/10.4Mbps

37.9ms

Three

21.6/8.3Mbps

48.7ms

Vodafone

24.3/8.5Mbps

41.2ms

O2

15.8/7.2Mbps

39.2ms

EE delivered the highest 4G download speeds in OpenSignal's April 2019 mobile network tests, delivering average speeds of 32.5Mbps. Its upload speeds are the best too at an average of 10.4Mbps.

The network also fared well when it came to network latency, leading the pack with a latency of 37.9ms. Latency is the delay experienced when sending and receiving data on the network and is an important consideration to those who play online games.

It's worth noting that both its download speed and latency results are slightly better than OpenSignal reported in October 2018, so the network is showing improvements, as well as being top of the pack.

EE Network Frequencies

Frequency

Frequency Band

Network

800MHz

Band 20

4G

1800MHz

Band 3

2G & 4G

2100MHz

Band 1

3G & 4G

2600MHz

Band 7

4G

3400MHz

  5G

EE uses the 800MHz frequency, 1800MHz frequency, 2100MHz and 2600MHz frequency for 4G. The 800MHz frequency is long range, making it good for rural locations, but it can also penetrate walls, for strong indoor coverage. The 2600MHz frequency meanwhile is shorter range but deals well with congested areas like inner cities, and the 1800MHz and 2100MHz frequency is a middle ground. You can find in-depth details of those frequency bands in our 4G frequencies guide.

For 3G, EE uses 2100MHz, and for 2G is uses 1800MHz, though the network is becoming ever less dependent on these now that its 4G coverage is widespread.

EE also holds some spectrum in the 3.4GHz band, which comes into play for 5G.

Double Speed and 4G LTE Advanced

EE offers two different services which impact on the maximum 4G speeds. Double speed 4G is offered on all plans and delivers speeds up 20 times faster than 3G (up to 60Mbps). While, 4G+ (or LTE-Advanced) is only available on select plans and offers speeds up to 25 times faster than 3G (up to 90Mbps). 

Double speed 4G is now available to most of the UK population, with covered locations including Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Southampton, Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton.

EE's 4G+ technology uses the network's 2.6GHz high capacity spectrum, and is available in large parts of Greater London, including Camden, Chelsea, Islington, Kensington, Kilburn, Notting Hill, Old Street, Shoreditch, Soho, Southbank, Southwark, The West End and Westminster. Its footprint in London is growing all the time and EE has also begun spreading 4G+ across the UK’s other busiest cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.

Planned Improvements

Most of EE’s planned improvements currently look to involve 5G, with the network set to expand its 5G coverage to many more cities, as you can see in the chart above.

Traffic Management

EE’s current traffic management policy doesn’t appear to limit the amount or speed of your data beyond the standard terms of your contract – so for 5G speeds you’ll need a 5G plan, for example.

However, EE adds that it reserves the right to manage your use of the network in order to protect it for the use of all customers, and may therefore apply traffic management controls from time to time.

Beyond that, if you hit your data allowance you won’t be able to use additional data without purchasing it first or waiting for your next bill cycle. Data speeds may also be slower when roaming.

Plans

SIM Only Deals
EE

12 Month Contract

250 MB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£13.00 a month

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EE

12 Month Contract

1 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£16.00 a month

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EE

12 Month Contract

3 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£19.00 a month

View Deal

View All EE Sim Only Deals

Pay Monthly Plans

EE has a range of Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans available, as well as Pay As You Go bundles, and all of them come with 4G at no extra cost – though 5G is only available on select plans.

EE Pay Monthly Plans

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Data Only

Plans Available

Max Data

120GB

60GB

50GB

Contract lengths

24 months

1, 12 or 24 months

1 or 24 months

Tethering

VoLTE

-

WiFi Calling

-

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

 

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EE’s Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans are split into two categories: Essential Plans and Smart Plans. Data speeds on Essential plans top out at 60Mbps, and these plans also let you roam for free in the EU and give you 3 months of BT Sport. You can also currently get six months free Apple Music, Amazon Prime Video, and MTV Play with them.

Smart Plans come with the same freebies and give you the maximum possible 4G data speeds, but additionally let you choose one or more swappable benefits. These include Roam Further, which adds free roaming in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Other options include EE Music Pass and EE Video Pass, which lets you use select streaming services without it coming out of your data allowance, and access to BT Sport beyond those first 3 months.

Typically these plans come with either one or two benefits and you can choose which ones you want from that list, and change them monthly if you want.

There are also 5G Smart Plans, which are the same but with added 5G.

Pay Monthly Plan Benefits

 

Essential Plan

Smart Plan

EU Roaming

Global Roaming

✔ (optionally)

Max 4G Speed

60Mbps

90Mbps

Swappable Benefits

All Pay Monthly plans last 24 months, but some give you the option to upgrade after 12 months with no early upgrade fees, however this is only available on the priciest of tariffs, so it can be an expensive option.

Taking all of the above into account, EE’s Pay Monthly plans stand out due to higher data speeds than rival networks along with numerous freebies. But often high prices hold them back slightly, and while data limits can be high and free roaming can be had beyond the EU, it’s not as good for either of those things as Three.

You’ll find similar pros and cons on its SIM Only plans, though the contracts here are typically shorter.

EE also offers Data Only plans for tablets, MiFi devices and dongles. These, as the name suggests, come with data but no minutes or texts.

Tethering

EE offers tethering as standard on all of its plans and you can use as much data as you want for it, up to your overall data allowance – though bear in mind you’ll then be left with no data to use on your phone until the next month.

At the moment that means if you’re taking out a new plan you can use up to 100GB of data each month on a Pay Monthly plan, up to 60GB on SIM Only and up to 50GB on Data Only plans.

WiFi Calling

EE offers Wi-Fi Calling as standard on its Pay Monthly plans, meaning you can call or text (as well as receiving calls and texts) over Wi-Fi. It does this seamlessly without an app and is handy if you’re ever somewhere without a signal but with a Wi-Fi connection.

However, it’s not available on all handsets, though it does work on all 'compatible' handsets when bought directly from EE.

Many handsets not bought from EE should also work with Wi-Fi Calling, including the iPhone 8, iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9, Sony Xperia XZ1, HTC U11 and many more, but the network can’t guarantee their compatibility. Wi-Fi Calling also isn’t available on Pay As You Go.

VoLTE

VoLTE stands for Voice Over LTE, and on EE the service is called 4G Calling. That name tells you most of what you need to know – it lets you make calls over 4G. The big advantage of this is improved voice quality, but it also means you can make calls when you’re somewhere that has 4G coverage but not 3G or 2G.

It works across EE’s entire 4G network but only on select handsets, including the Samsung Galaxy S9, Sony Xperia XZ1, LG G6, iPhone X and many more. To guarantee it will work you should buy your handset direct from EE, but VoLTE should also work on some phones when not bought from EE. 

EE Pay As You Go Plans

 

Mobile Phones

Plans Available

Add-ons available

Max Data Allowance

20GB

Add-on expiry 

30 days

Top Up Expiry

180 days inactivity

Tethering

EU Roaming

Global Roaming

EE offers a range of Pay As You Go bundles, each of which lasts 30 days and automatically recurs.

Roaming beyond the EU is not included with any Pay As You Go packs, which is a major downside if you ever plan to use your phone abroad, but on the other hand many networks don’t offer free roaming beyond the EU on any of their plans, and you can at least tether your data. Many of EE's Pay As You Go packs also let you roll over your data from one month to the next.

As well as the packs themselves, every three months you'll get a free boost of data, minutes or texts. The longer you stay, the more data you get. You'll unlock a new level of data every three months to get an extra 500MB, then 1GB, then 1.5GB etc. These boosts last the duration of your pack. These boosts are only available on phone bundles that come with a mix of minutes, texts and data, but similar boosts are available for tablet SIMs.

Boosts reward commitment and if you stick with EE’s Pay As You Go service it can become very good value, but its standard rates aren’t the most competitive, as once your pack runs out you’ll pay 35p per minute and 15p per text. Data use is limited to packs.

Roaming Destinations

All EE customers can roam for free in 48 destinations, namely Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar (UK), Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Islands, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin (French), San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, Vatican City, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Monaco, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

That's essentially the standard selection of EU locations that all networks have to offer free roaming in, but if you're on an older 4GEE Max plan or opt for ‘Roam Further’ on a new Smart Plan you can also roam in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, for 53 destinations in total.

Unlike some networks, EE also lets you use 4G speeds in select countries, including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Jersey, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates and the US.

Customer Service

As well as speeds, allowances and coverage, customer service is a key and often overlooked aspect of a mobile network, and it’s one which right now EE doesn’t seem to excel at.

Although it can be hard to get a firm grasp of how good customer service is, Which? has taken a stab at it, surveying 4,026 members of the public in early 2017, and finding that EE was 13th among mobile networks, tied with Vodafone and below Three or O2, with an overall ‘customer score’ of just 50%.

The network was rated 2/5 for customer service, 2/5 for ease/speed of contacting, 2/5 for value for money and 1/5 for incentives.

It’s worth noting of course that this survey is rather old, so things could have changed, and it may not be entirely representative in any case, especially as EE was separately found to receive well under the average number of complaints in an Ofcom study from Q3 2018.

Conclusion

EE is a top-class mobile network, especially if you care about 4G. It offers higher speeds and lower latency than any rival network, as well as competitive coverage and extras, such as inclusive roaming outside the EU.

It can be pricey, especially if you want to access the top speeds, and its selection of roaming locations isn’t a match for the likes of Three, but if you mostly plan to use your phone in the UK and aren’t on a tight budget, EE is tough to beat.


References

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