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Giffgaff Review and Network Coverage

7th March 2022

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Giffgaff is one of a large number of MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators), but it has certain advantages including a trusted name, unlimited data plans, a solid history, and low prices.

These are all good things, and there’s plenty more to like about Giffgaff, so is this the network for you? Not necessarily, as there are also some downsides to Giffgaff, as you’ll see below in our full Giffgaff review.

We’ve covered every key aspect of the network, including coverage, available plans, roaming, tethering and more, so you can see exactly what Giffgaff offers and why you should (or shouldn’t) choose it.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Includes 5G

Not quite the best 4G coverage

Unlimited data on some plans

No Wi-Fi calling

Reasonable prices

No inclusive roaming beyond Europe

Our Rating

Table of Contents

Coverage

Which network does Giffgaff use?

Giffgaff uses O2’s network and infrastructure. That means it also has access to the same spectrum as O2, and offers coverage in all the same places, whether you’re connecting to 5G, 4G, 3G or 2G. Below you’ll find more detailed information on Giffgaff (and O2’s) coverage.

Giffgaff Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

5G

Now available in 194 locations

4G 

99%

3G

99%

2G

99%

Check Giffgaff Coverage

5G coverage

Giffgaff now offers 5G and it’s reliant on O2 for that, just as it is for 4G. That means that at the time of writing it has 5G coverage in parts of 194 towns and cities across the UK, and that number is rapidly growing. The places with 5G include (but are not limited to) the following:

Aberdeen, Allesley, Altrincham, Ambleside, Ashford, Aughton, Aylesbury, Banbury, Banstead, Basildon, Basingstoke, Beaconsfield, Bedford, Belfast, Bilston, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Birstall, Blackburn, Blackpool, Blaydon, Bolton, Bournemouth, Bradford, Bradley Stoke, Bridge of Don, Brighton, Bristol, Brombourgh, Burton upon Trent, Bury St Edmunds, Byfleet, Calverley, Cambridge, Cardiff, Chadwell St Mary, Chatham, Cheadle, Chelmsford, Cheltenham, Chertsey, Chesterfield, Chilworth, Chipstead, Clacton-on-Sea, Colchester, Coventry, Danderhall, Darlington, Dartford, Derby, Dewsbury, Dinas Powys, 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, Grimsby, Guildford, Halifax, Harlington, Harlow, Hastings, Hebburn, Hemel Hempstead, Hextable, High Wycombe, Horwich, Hove, How Wood, Huddersfield, Hull, Inverness, Ipswich, Iver Heath, Jarrow, Joyden's Wood, Kemprow, Kettering, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Lisburn, Liverpool, Llandudno, London, Longford, Loughborough, Lowestoft, Luton, Maidenhead, Maidstone, Manchester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Molesey, Monifieth, Morley, Musselburgh, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Newcastle Upon Tyne, New Denham, Newbury, Newtownabbey, North Shields, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Oldham, Orpington, Oxford, Penarth, Peterborough, Plymouth, Plympton, Portsmouth, Potters Bar, Rainham, Reading, Redhill, Richings Park, Rochdale, Rotherham, Royal Leamington Spa, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Rugby, Salford, Sheffield, Shelf, Shepperton Green, Shinfield, Shirehampton, Slough, Solihull, Southampton, South Shields, Southend-On-Sea, Staines, St Albans, Stapleford, Stockton-on-Tees, Stranraer, Stevenage, Stockport, Stockton, Stoke-on-Trent, Strathclyde, Sunbury, Sunderland, Swansea, Swindon, Tatling End, Thornaby-on-Tees, Thorpe, Thundersley, Trumps Green, Tynemouth, Virginia Water, Wakefield, Wallasey, Waltham Abbey, Warrington, Washington, Watford, Wavertree, West Bromwich, Weybridge, Whickham, Whitley Bay, Wickersley, Wolverhampton, Worthing, Wythenshawe and York.

Note however that most places won’t currently have comprehensive 5G coverage – expect it to be patchy.

4G coverage

Giffgaff’s coverage relies on O2’s, which means it’s currently at around 99% 4G population coverage indoors. That puts it behind Three and EE and in line with Vodafone.

4G from Giffgaff is now available in thousands of locations, including but 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.

3G coverage

Giffgaff also has strong 3G and 2G coverage, so you should be able to get mobile data of some kind almost everywhere.

Use Giffgaff's coverage checker above to find out more about Giffgaff's coverage in your area, including signal strengths and details on both indoor and outdoor coverage.

Plans

Giffgaff has a range of Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans, along with the option to Pay As You Go. All plans come with 4G and 5G data at no extra cost. Plans are available from as little as £6 per month.

 

 

Pay Monthly Phone Plans

SIM Only Plans Data Only Plans

Plans Available

x

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited Unlimited N/A

Contract Length

24 Months 1 Month N/A

SIM Only Deals
GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

1 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£6.00 a month

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GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

3 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£8.00 a month

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GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

15 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£10.00 a month

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GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

20 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£12.00 a month

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GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

30 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£15.00 a month

View Deal

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Giffgaff’s Pay Monthly plans last 24 months and come with up to unlimited data if you opt for a ‘golden goodybag’ (which has to be set to recur each month, but which you can still cancel or change any time, as the 24-month contract only applies to paying for the phone, not your allowances).

On its regular goodybags (which don’t need to recur) meanwhile you can get up to 80GB of data. There’s also an unlimited data plan (or ‘Always On’ as Giffgaff calls it) with a regular goodybag, which lets you go beyond 80GB but caps your speeds at 384kbps from 8am to midnight once you exceed 80GB. Tethering is also included on all plans.

It used to be that you also needed a golden goodybag to get 5G data, but now this comes as standard on all plans. Note that at the time of writing Giffgaff only appears to let you select a golden goodybag when buying a handset, but there’s nothing to stop you switching to a regular goodybag after a month.

Giffgaff’s SIM Only plans give you exactly the same selection of tariffs as Pay Monthly – so you can get up to unlimited data with a golden goodybag, while on standard goodybags you can get up to 80GB at 4G speeds during peak hours.

However, you’re only tied in for 1 month on SIM Only, and of course you’ll pay less, as you’re not paying for a phone as well. As noted above though, while Pay Monthly plans are 24 months long, it’s only the phone component that lasts that duration, so you can still change your allowances from month to month.

Giffgaff’s advantages then include low prices, 5G, and unlimited data plans – not bad for a small network.

Giffgaff also offers Pay As You Go. It doesn’t offer any Pay As You Go bundles (though the SIM Only bundles should do that job, since they only last 30 days), but it does allow you to Pay As You Go at rates of 25p per minute, 10p per text and 10p per megabyte of data. Calls and texts to other Giffgaff numbers are free.

Giffgaff Policies and Perks

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

5G

Roaming

Tethering

Wi-Fi Calling

VoLTE

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

Unlimited Data

Family Plans

Credit Check

As you can see in the chart above, Giffgaff has certain extras and policies that are worth being aware of. We’ve detailed these more fully below.

5G

Giffgaff offers 5G as standard on all of its plans, so you don’t need to spend any extra to get speedy mobile data.

Roaming destinations

Giffgaff lets you use your minutes, texts, and data at no extra cost in the following destinations:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

As with most networks it's limited to European ones however, so if you want to travel more globally Giffgaff may not be the network for you. Also, if you have a data allowance of 20GB or more then you’ll be limited to 20GB for free roaming.

Tethering

Giffgaff allows tethering and you can use as much of your data as you want for this. If you’re on an unlimited plan, that means an unlimited amount can be used for tethering – but if you’re using an Always On plan then speeds are throttled between 8am and midnight if you use more than 80GB in a month.

Giffgaff also has a fair usage policy for tethering which states that you shouldn’t regularly tether 12 or more devices if you have unlimited data, and that you shouldn’t use 650GB or more of data twice within a 6-month period. That latter point applies even outside of tethering, but unless you’re tethering extensively it’s unlikely to be an issue.

Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi Calling means making calls over Wi-Fi, rather than your mobile network. This is ideal if for example you have signal blackspots at your home or office, as you can use your Wi-Fi network to stay in touch. It’s a seamless experience too, with no separate apps or accounts, however, Giffgaff doesn’t currently offer this service.

VoLTE

VoLTE stands for Voice over LTE, though it’s sometimes called 4G Calling. It means making calls over 4G, whereas typically you need a 2G or 3G signal. The main advantage of this is it essentially means you have coverage in more places, as there will be areas with 4G but no other signal type. However, Giffgaff doesn’t currently offer VoLTE.

Data rollover

There’s no data rollover on Giffgaff, so you only get one month to use your data allowance. That’s standard though, as few networks give you a second chance to use it.

Spending caps

Giffgaff doesn’t offer spending caps as such, but if you turn off auto top-up then you won’t find yourself accidentally spending more than you’ve topped up.

Unlimited data

Giffgaff offers unlimited data on both SIM Only and handset plans, so you needn’t be limited by data allowances. Of course, these plans cost more than one with limited data would, but Giffgaff is priced competitively.

Note that there is a fair usage policy though, which states that you shouldn’t use 650GB of data or more twice within a six month period.

Family plans

There are no family plans on Giffgaff, meaning no ability to add extra SIMs to your account at a discount. Giffgaff is a fairly simple network, so it’s light on extras like this.

Credit checks

Giffgaff won’t credit check you for its SIM Only plans as they just last 30 days, but if you choose to pay monthly for a handset on the network then you will be credit checked. This though is standard practice across all mobile networks.

Unique perks

Giffgaff aims to keep things simple and affordable. As such, it doesn’t really offer many unique perks, just competitively priced plans which – on SIM Only at least – don’t tie you into a lengthy contract.

That said, it does have a Payback scheme, which awards you with points for getting people to sign up to Giffgaff or helping the community on its forums. These points can be converted to cash or credit twice a year or donated to charity.

Awards

Giffgaff was awarded Uswitch Network of the Year in 2021. In fact, it’s won that award every year since 2016, making it one of the most awarded networks around.

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

Giffgaff (O2)

17.1/5.4Mbps

38.1ms

In an Opensignal report from September 2021, O2 was found to have average download speeds of 17.1Mbps, and average upload speeds of 5.4Mbps. Those speeds were obtained using a combination of all available connectivity types – so 5G, 4G and 3G. This report didn’t include latency (the time the network takes to respond to a request), but an earlier one from April 2020 put that at an average of 38.1ms.

That’s the slowest download and upload speeds, but the second best latency of the tested networks, and while Giffgaff itself wasn’t tested its reliance on O2 means its results would probably be similar.

We don’t know Giffgaff’s 5G speeds, but they might be similar to O2’s, and according to a September 2020 report from Point Topic, O2 achieved average 5G download speeds of 115.7Mbps. An Ookla test from the first half of 2021 meanwhile put O2’s median 5G download speed at 155Mbps.

Traffic management

Giffgaff’s traffic management policy (or traffic flow as the company calls it) shouldn’t affect most users at all.

Giffgaff simply notes that users who consistently use extreme amounts of data as part of the Always On plan may be contacted about their usage and ultimately banned from buying further Always On goodybags if they’re unable or unwilling to reduce their usage.

However, Giffgaff predicts that it will contact fewer than 1% of customers about this, as it’s only those who use mammoth amounts of data during peak hours that are affecting the network.

Network Frequencies

Giffgaff 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

Giffgaff uses the 800MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2300MHz bands for 4G. The 800MHz band is long range, so it can travel a long way between masts, making it suited to, well, everywhere really, but most notably rural locations, as masts are often spread far part in the countryside. But it’s also good at passing through walls, making it great for towns and cities as well.

The 2300MHz band is better for busy areas where lots of people are trying to connect at once. However, it’s shorter range and can’t pass through obstacles as well. The 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands are a middle ground.

Giffgaff also uses O2’s 3400MHz and 3600MHz spectrum, which is ideally suited to 5G, while 700MHz spectrum could be used for 5G to address the weaknesses of the high frequency spectrum it mostly relies on, though this could also improve 4G networks.

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

Giffgaff uses the 800MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz and 2300MHz bands for 4G. The 800MHz band is long range, so it can travel a long way between masts, making it suited to, well, everywhere really, but most notably rural locations, as masts are often spread far part in the countryside. But it’s also good at passing through walls, making it great for towns and cities as well.

The 2300MHz band is better for busy areas where lots of people are trying to connect at once. However, it’s shorter range and can’t pass through obstacles as well. The 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands are a middle ground.

Giffgaff also uses O2’s 3400MHz and 3600MHz spectrum, which is ideally suited to 5G, while 700MHz spectrum could be used for 5G to address the weaknesses of the high frequency spectrum it mostly relies on, though this could also improve 4G networks.

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

Customer service

Giffgaff is included in a 2021 Ofcom report, where it was found to have a 93% satisfaction rating with overall service, with 5% of customers finding reason to complain and 57% being happy with the way complaints were handled.

The network also has a 4.3/5 rating on Trustpilot at the time of writing, a rating which is considered ‘Excellent’.

Conclusion

Giffgaff stands out through low prices, unlimited data options, and 5G, with a range of SIM Only plans that you’re only tied into for a month.

Tethering is allowed too, but there’s no inclusive roaming beyond Europe, all of which makes Giffgaff a strong network for most types of users – just as long as you don’t regularly travel beyond Europe or need extras like Wi-Fi Calling.

Alternatives

If you’re looking for an alternative to Giffgaff then O2 is an obvious choice, since Giffgaff shares O2’s coverage.

Advantages of O2 include a wider variety of plans, with additional options such as data only, plus access to the O2 Priority app for freebies and discounts from various brands. However, being a major network it’s also typically more expensive.

For a competitively priced option you could consider Sky Mobile or Tesco Mobile, both of which also use O2’s coverage. Sky Mobile stands out through data rollover, while Tesco Mobile offers loads of Pay As You Go options, in addition to Pay Monthly and SIM Only.

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