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EE Coverage and Network Review

9th February 2022

EE Coverage and Network

EE is the biggest and fastest network in the UK. Now owned by BT, tests suggest 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 free roaming beyond Europe 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 coverage

Pricey

Fast speeds

No data rollover other than on PAYG

Roaming beyond Europe on some plans

 

Our Verdict 

Table of Contents

Coverage

EE Network Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

5G

Now available in 168 locations

4G 

>99%

3G

98%

2G

99%

Check EE Coverage

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 at least 168 towns and cities in total at the time of writing.

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

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 you’ll need a 5G device and plan. Fortunately, EE sells numerous 5G phones. These include the iPhone 13iPhone 13 ProiPhone 13 Pro MaxiPhone 13 MiniiPhone 12iPhone 12 ProiPhone 12 Pro MaxiPhone 12 MiniSamsung Galaxy S21Samsung Galaxy S21 PlusSamsung Galaxy S21 UltraSamsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5GGoogle Pixel 6Google Pixel 6 Pro, and Moto G 5G Plus, among others.

4G coverage

EE has over 99% population coverage with 4G, which likely puts it ahead of most rivals (though every UK network claims to have at least 99% 4G population coverage).

EE’s 4G is also more widespread than its 3G or 5G, so it’s the network type you’ll probably spend the most time on if you’re with EE, unless you’re lucky enough to get a 5G signal in your home or office.

3G coverage

EE claims to have 3G coverage for at least 98% of the UK population, so on the rare occasions when you can’t get 5G or 4G, you will likely at least be able to get 3G.

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 – and the majority also come with 5G.

EE Mobile Plans
  Mobile Phones SIM Only Data only SIM
Plans available
Max Data Unlimited Unlimited 60GB
Contract lengths 24 months 1, 12 or 24 months 1 or 24 months
Deals Compare deals Compare deals  

SIM Only Deals
EE

12 Month Contract

10 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£10.00 a month

View Deal

EE

12 Month Contract

100 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£20.00 a month

View Deal

EE

24 Month Contract

200 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£23.00 a month

View Deal

EE

24 Month Contract

160 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£12.50 a month

View Deal

EE

12 Month Contract

25 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£15.00 a month

View Deal

View All EE Sim Only Deals

EE’s Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans are split into two categories: Essential Plans and Smart Plans. The Essential ones are basic plans where you’re only really paying for your allowances, though you still get 5G data.

Smart Plans additionally let you choose either one or three ‘smart’ benefits. These include Roam Abroad, which allows for free roaming in Europe and also adds free roaming in the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Other options include a Netflix, Apple Music or BT Sport subscription, or a Video Data 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 pick a plan with one benefit. If you pick one with three (or pick a handset plan with an iPhone) then you can instead choose from Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple Arcade, BT Sport Ultimate, Roam Abroad, or a Video Data Pass.

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 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, the selection of locations is limited.

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, and you can get up to unlimited data.

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

EE's Pay As You Go packs stand out by letting you roll over your data from one month to the next.

As well as the packs themselves, every couple of 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 every two monthly packs you buy in a row, giving you an extra 500MB, then 1GB, then 1.5GB etc. These boosts last the duration of your pack, and the boosts can keep growing for up to a year.

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 and add-ons.

EE Mobile Perks
  Mobile Phones SIM Only Data only SIM
5G
Roaming
Tethering
VoLTE
WiFi Calling
Data Rollover
Spending Caps
Unlimited Data
Family Plans
Credit Check
Smarty Benefits ✔* ✔* ✔*

* selected plans only

5G

EE offers 5G as standard on most plans, including SIM Only plans and 5G device plans. Since 5G comes as standard you won’t pay any extra for it, though EE is one of the most expensive UK networks anyway.

Roaming Destinations

Until March 3rd, 2022, 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.

However, from March 3rd, 2022, EE will charge £2 per day to roam in these regions for any customer who joined or upgraded after July 7th, 2021. Those who didn’t will keep free roaming for the duration of their contracts.

You can also get a Roam Abroad pass, which allows you to roam for free in these places as well as the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand, for 53 destinations in total.

This is available as an optional free Smart Benefit on select plans, or you can add it to your plan for £10 per month.

At the time of writing 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.

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. 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.

Data rollover

EE doesn’t offer data rollover on most plans, but you can get it on Pay As You Go. This means that with a Pay As You Go pack, you’ll be able to roll over your unused data from one month to the next, giving you a second chance to use it. Data rollover is also available on EE’s Flex plans.

Spending caps

EE allows you to set spending caps, so you can restrict any additional usage and spending outside your general allowances. You don’t have to set a cap at all, but if you do want to then it can be set at between £0 (so you can’t accidentally spend any extra) and £50.

This will restrict charges for things like out of allowance calls and texts, calling abroad, and premium numbers, among other things.

Unlimited data

EE offers unlimited data on many of its plan types, including SIM Only, Pay Monthly, and Data Only plans, as well as home broadband and mobile broadband ones. The only real plans that don’t offer this as an option are Pay As You Go ones.

Family plans

With EE you can get what it calls a Family Account, which lets you add additional lines to your plan, with a 10% discount on each additional one. These additional ones also get a 1GB data boost, which can be shared around as you like. Indeed, one of the core advantages of a Family Account is that you can gift data from your allowance to other people on the account.

Credit checks

EE will carry out a credit check when you sign up for any plan, other than Pay As You Go. This is standard practice across mobile networks, with contracts on any network typically requiring a credit check, but it’s something to bear in mind.

Unique perks

The main unique perk to EE is its Smart Benefits, which we’ve detailed above as they’re a core part of many of the network’s plans.

In short though they let you choose between one and three benefits that you can access at no extra cost for the duration of your contract, with the selection including the following:

Netflix, BT Sport Ultimate, Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple Arcade, a Video Data Pass, Microsoft 365 Personal, and Roam Abroad (which lets you use your allowances in numerous countries in Europe and beyond at no extra cost). Note however that different plans have access to a different selection, with none having all of these to choose from.

EE also offers ‘Stay Connected’, a service which means that if you run out of data you can still keep using it, just at a much lower speed of 0.5Mbps. Your speed will return to normal when your allowances reset, or if you buy a data add-on. This is a perk of most plans on the network.

Awards

EE has won numerous awards, with RootMetrics for example awarding it the UK’s best overall network, fastest network, most reliable network, best network for data, and best network for texts, as well as highlighting it as London’s best network.

It was also rated the fastest mobile network in the Uswitch 2021 mobile awards, so EE is clearly a well-regarded network.

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

EE delivered the highest download speeds in Opensignal's September 2021 mobile network tests, recording average speeds of 44Mbps. Its upload speeds are the best too at an average of 9.7Mbps. These speeds use a combination of all available network types – so 5G, 4G and 3G.

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.

When operating purely on 5G, EE’s speeds are higher than in the chart of course, with a median of 151Mbps according to 2021 data from Ookla, while 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 also 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.

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.

Data speeds may also be slower when roaming.

Network Frequencies

EE Network Frequencies

Frequency

Frequency Band

Network

700MHz

n29 5G

800MHz

Band 20

4G

1800MHz

Band 3

2G & 4G

2100MHz

Band 1

3G & 4G

2600MHz

Band 7

4G

3400MHz

n78 5G

3600MHz

n77 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 and 5G 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 high frequency (and therefore short range) 3.4GHz and 3.6GHz bands, which comes into play for 5G. Plus, it has some low frequency 700MHz spectrum, which it’s also using for 5G.

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 2021 service quality report from Ofcom, it was found that 92% of EE mobile customers were satisfied with their service, but that 9% had a reason to complain and only 56% of those who made a complaint were satisfied with the way it was handled. Additionally, Ofcom received 6 complaints about EE per 100,000 subscribers, which is lower than many but not all rival networks.

We can also look to Trustpilot, where EE has an overall score of 2.4/5 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, and its selection of roaming locations isn’t a match for some networks, but if you mostly plan to use your phone in the UK and aren’t on a tight budget, EE is tough to beat.

Alternatives

If you’re looking for another network with EE’s coverage then the obvious choices are BT Mobile or Plusnet Mobile, as they both use the same infrastructure – though Plusnet doesn’t currently have access to 5G or unlimited data.

Plusnet is however far cheaper than EE, while even BT Mobile is a bit cheaper, especially if you’re already a BT broadband or BT Halo customer. Though both of these alternatives lack many of the perks you get on EE, such as Smart Benefits.

If on the other hand you want another premium network, then consider Three, O2 or Vodafone, which all have their own network infrastructure. That means their coverage differs to EE’s, but it’s generally strong in all cases, and they have their own selections of perks and extras.


References

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