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EE Coverage and Network Review

11th January 2021

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 86% of the UK’s landmass. On top of that, EE was also the first UK network to offer a 5G service, which takes speeds to a whole other level, and as with 4G it’s got extremely competitive levels of 5G coverage – though no network yet has close to UK-wide 5G coverage.

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 on Pay Monthly.

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 currently leads the pack there too, unsurprisingly since it was the first UK network to launch a 5G service – 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 but not limited to 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, 2019, making it the UK’s first 5G network. Since then it has brought 5G to numerous additional locations for 125 towns and cities in total at the time of writing.

Specifically, 5G on EE is available in parts of the following places: Aberdeen, Aldershot, Altrincham, Ashford, Ashton Under Lyme, Barrhead, Bath, Belfast, Belshill, Blackpool, Brentford, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Borehamwood, Bransholm, Bristol,  Burton-upon-Trent, Bury, Cannock, Cardiff, Castleford, Castlereagh, Chatham, Chelmsford, Cheshunt, Chesterfield, Chester le Street, Chorley, Clevedon, Clifton, Clydebank, Coventry, Crawley, Cumbernauld, Dartford, Dinnington, Doncaster, Dudley, Edinburgh, Epsom, Gillingham, Glasgow, Grays ,Grimsby, Guildford, Halifax, Hamilton, Harlow, Hoddesdon, Huddersfield, Hull, Ilkeston, Inchinnan, Ipswich, Jarrow, Kimberley, Kingston, Leamington Spa, Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Lisburn, Liverpool, Loughborough, Loughton, London, Maidstone, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Milnrow, Minster, Mirfield, Motherwell, Neath, Newcastle, Newton-le-Willows, Northampton, North Shields, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Oldham, Oxford, Paisley, Plymouth, Pontefract, Porthcawl, Portishead, Potters Bar, Rochdale, Rochester, Romford, Rotherham, Rugeley, Salford, Sheffield, Shipley, Solihull, Southend On Sea, South Shields, Stafford, Staines, St Albans, Stevenage, Stirling, Stockport, Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Swadlincote, Swinton, Sydenham, Tamworth, Wakefield, Waltham Abbey, Walsall, Waltham Cross, Walton-On-Thames, Warwick, Washington, Watford, West Bromwich, Weston-Super-Mare, Westhoughton, Weybridge, Wickford, and Wolverhampton.

As for where it’s coming to soon, the chart below has those details. Note that only major towns and cities are included.

EE 5G Coverage Rollout

Major locations with 5G

5G from later in 2021

Aberdeen

Cambridge

Belfast

Derby

Birmingham

Gloucester

Bristol

Peterborough

Cardiff

Portsmouth

Coventry

Southampton

Edinburgh

Worcester

Glasgow

More TBC

Hull

 

Leeds

 

Leicester

 

Liverpool

 

London

 

Manchester

 

Newcastle

 

Nottingham

 

Oxford

 

Plymouth

 

Sheffield

 

Sunderland

 

Wakefield

 

Wolverhampton

 

So seven more locations are confirmed to be getting 5G in 2021, but we’d expect many more this year in total. Note however that EE 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 around 150Mbps based on 2020 reports from Opensignal and Point Topic – you’ll need a 5G device and plan. Fortunately, EE sells numerous 5G phones. These include the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 Mini, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5GSamsung Galaxy S20 5GGoogle Pixel 5, and Moto G 5G Plus, among others.

Network Speeds and Frequencies

OpenSignal – Mobile Network Experience, October 2020 and April 2020

Network

4G download/upload speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

36.4/9.1Mbps

36.0ms

Three

22.2/8.0Mbps

48.3ms

Vodafone

22.4/8.5Mbps

39.0ms

O2

18.2/6.2Mbps

38.1ms

EE delivered the highest 4G download speeds in OpenSignal's October 2020 mobile network tests, delivering average speeds of 36.4Mbps. Its upload speeds are the best too at an average of 9.1Mbps.

Latency results weren’t included, but they can be found in an earlier April 2020 report, in which the network also fared well, leading the pack with a latency of 36.0ms. Latency is the delay experienced when sending and receiving data on the network and is an important consideration to those who play online games.

There’s less data on 5G, but according to September 2020 tests from Point Topic, EE has average 5G download speeds of 149.9Mbps. That’s faster than any network except Three, which recorded average speeds of 158.7Mbps. For reference, Vodafone managed an average of 143.6Mbps, and O2 trailed with 115.7Mbps.

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

Band 42 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 available on most but not all 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

24 Month Contract

120 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£20.00 a month

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EE

24 Month Contract

200 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£25.00 a month

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EE

12 Month Contract

250 MB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£13.00 a month

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EE

12 Month Contract

10 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£15.00 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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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

Unlimited

Unlimited

50GB

Contract lengths

24 months

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 three categories: Essential Plans, Smart Plans, and Full Works for iPhone plans. The Essential ones are basic plans where you’re only really paying for your allowances, and they come in both 4G and 5G varieties.

Smart Plans always come with 5G, and additionally let you choose one ‘smart’ benefit. These include Roam Further, which adds free roaming in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Other options include an Amazon Prime Video, Apple Music, BritBox or BT Sport subscription, or an EE Video Pass, which lets you use BritBox, Netflix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, BT Sport, Amazon Prime Video, and more without it coming out of your data allowance.

At least, they’re the options if you’re pairing the plan with an Android phone. With an iPhone you can instead choose from Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple Arcade, BT Sport Ultimate, Roam Further, or a Video Data Pass. Or if you get a Full Works for iPhone Plan then you can choose three of those benefits.

Smart Plans also give you ‘Reserve Data’, meaning you can keep using data at a reduced speed even when your allowance runs out.

Note that EE used to offer 30-day SIM Only plans but it doesn't anymore, however, in addition to 30-day Pay As You Go packs (explained below) it also offers Flex plans, which last 30 days and are virtually 30-day SIM plans in all but name and the fact that there's no contract.

Pay Monthly Plan Benefits

 

Essential Plan

Smart Plan

EU Roaming

Global Roaming

✔ (optionally)

Smart 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 4G speeds than rival networks along with numerous freebies and unlimited data plans. But often high prices hold them back slightly, and while free roaming can be had beyond the EU, it’s not as good for that as Three.

You’ll find similar pros and cons on its SIM Only plans, though the contracts here are potentially 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. For mobile data they come with up to 50GB.

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.

That’s unless you have unlimited data of course. In that case you can use as much data as you want up to a fair use limit of 600GB per month. EE also reserves the right to move you to a “more suitable plan” if you regularly tether 12 or more devices.

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, but the network can’t guarantee their compatibility. Wi-Fi Calling also isn’t available on Pay As You Go or when abroad.

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 S10, Sony Xperia XZ1, OnePlus 7 Pro, iPhone XS 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

100GB

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. 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 data boost. The longer you stay, the more data you get. You'll unlock a new level of data for example every three months to get an extra 500MB, then 1GB, then 1.5GB etc. These boosts last the duration of your pack.

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 opt for ‘Roam Further’ on a Smart Plan you can also roam in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, for 53 destinations in total. You can also add this to any EE plan for £10 per month.

EE also lets you use 4G speeds in numerous countries, including the likes of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, 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, the US, and many more.

At the time of writing though you can’t use 5G abroad on EE. For a full and up to date list of the roaming speeds offered in each location, head to EE’s official page.

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.

Or at least, results are a mixed bag. In a 2019 service quality report from Ofcom, it was found that 93% of EE mobile customers were satisfied with their service and only 2% had a reason to complain, but only 59% of those who made a complaint were satisfied with the way it was handled. Additionally, Ofcom received 7 complaints about EE per 100,000 subscribers, which is lower than many but not all rival networks.

In terms of more up to date data, we can look to Trustpilot, where EE has an overall score of 2.0/5 at the time of writing. That’s considered ‘poor’.

Conclusion

EE is a top-class mobile network, especially if you care about having the fastest data possible. It offers higher speeds and lower latency (at least on 4G) 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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