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Giffgaff Review and Network Coverage

19th November 2020

GiffGaff Network Coverage

Giffgaff is one of a large number of MVNO’s, 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

Allows tethering

No inclusive roaming beyond Europe

Our Rating

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. Giffgaff also has strong 3G and 2G coverage, so you should be able to get mobile data of some kind almost everywhere. 5G coverage is more limited, but it’s growing rapidly – we’ve got more details on that below.

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

Giffgaff Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

4G 

99%

3G

99%

2G

99%

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.

4G Network Coverage Comparison

Network

4G coverage by population

EE

>99%

Vodafone

99%

Giffgaff (O2)

99%

Three

99.8%

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 108 towns and cities across the UK, and that number is rapidly growing.

Specifically, you can find 5G in: Aberdeen, Ashford, Aughton, Aylesbury, Banstead, Basildon, Beaconsfield, Bedford, Belfast, Birmingham, Blaydon, Bradford, Bridge of Don, Brighton, Bristol, Bury St Edmunds, Byfleet, Cambridge, Cardiff, Chadwell St Mary, Chatham, Chelmsford, Chesterfield, Chipstead, Colchester, Coventry, Dartford, Derby, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Dundee, Durham, Dyce, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Epsom, Esher, Eton and Windsor, Gateshead, Gatton Bottom, Gillingham, Glasgow, Gravesend, Grays, Great Yarmouth, Halifax, Harlington, Harlow, Hemel Hempstead, Hextable, High Wycombe, Hove, How Wood, Huddersfield, Hull, Ipswich, Jarrow, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Lisburn, Liverpool, London, Longford, Loughborough, Lowestoft, Luton, Manchester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Morley, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Newtownabbey, North Shields, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Orpington, Oxford, Peterborough, Plymouth, Rainham, Redhill, Rotherham, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Rugby, Sheffield, Shepperton Green, Slough, South Shields, Southend-On-Sea, Staines, Stevenage, Stockton, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunbury, Sunderland, Thundersley, Tynemouth, Warrington, Washington, Weybridge, Whickham, Whitley Bay, Worthing, and York.

Below you can see a list of key places that have Giffgaff 5G now, along with those that are likely to get it next:

Giffgaff 5G Coverage Rollout

Major locations with 5G

5G expected soon

Aberdeen

Birkenhead

Belfast

Blackpool

Birmingham

Bournemouth

Bradford

Guildford

Brighton

Newbury

Bristol

Portsmouth

Cardiff

Reading

Coventry

Southampton

Derby

Wolverhampton

Edinburgh

 

Glasgow

 

Hull

 

Leeds

 

Leicester

 

Lisburn

 

Liverpool

 

London

 

Manchester

 

Newcastle

 

Norwich

 

Nottingham

 

Sheffield

 

Slough

 

Stoke

 

 

 

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

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

Giffgaff (O2)

18.2/6.2Mbps

38.1ms

In an OpenSignal report from October 2020, O2 was found to have average 4G download speeds of 18.2Mbps, and average 4G upload speeds of 6.2Mbps. 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. 

Giffgaff 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

3400MHz

Band 42 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 spectrum, which is ideally suited to 5G.

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

Planned improvements

Giffgaff is reliant on O2 for most improvements, and that’s no bad thing, as O2 is regularly improving its network.

Currently O2 seems primarily to be focused on expanding its 5G coverage, and the more 5G infrastructure O2 has, the better Giffgaff’s 5G service can be.

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.

Plans

SIM Only Deals
GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

500 MB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£6.00 a month

View Deal

GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

2 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£8.00 a month

View Deal

GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

9 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£10.00 a month

View Deal

GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

10 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£12.00 a month

View Deal

GiffGaff

0 Month Contract

15 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£15.00 a month

View Deal

View All GiffGaff Sim Only Deals

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 data at no extra cost, with some also offering 5G. Plans are available from as little as £6 per month.

 

 

Pay Monthly Phone Plans

SIM Only Plans

EU Roaming

Roaming beyond Europe

Tethering

Max Data Allowance

Unlimited Unlimited

WiFi Calling

VoLTE

Data Rollover

Contract Length

24 Months 1 Month

Giffgaff’s Pay Monthly plans last 24 months and come with up to 80GB of 4G data. There’s also an unlimited data plan (or ‘Always On’ as Giffgaff calls it) which lets you go beyond 80GB but caps your speeds at 384kbps from 8am to midnight once you exceed 80GB. If you opt for a 5G plan though then you can get truly unlimited data. Tethering is also included on all plans.

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 5G Golden Goodybag, while on 4G plans 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.

Giffgaff’s advantages then include low prices, 5G, and unlimited data plans – not bad for a small network. Note however that its 5G plans (which are called Golden Goodybags) need to be set to automatically recur every month, so while you’re still not tied into a contract, you do have to manually cancel them if you don’t want them anymore – which isn’t true of its standard 4G Goodybags.

Data Only Plans – For Tablets and Dongles

Giffgaff doesn’t currently offer any Data Only plans.

Pay As You Go

Giffgaff 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 5p per megabyte of data. Calls and texts to other Giffgaff numbers are free.

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.

WiFi 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.

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 unlimited data, 'Always On' data or the £20 goodybag (which comes with 80GB of data) you can only use up to 20GB of it for roaming.

Customer service

One of the few remotely recent reports on Giffgaff’s customer service is an Ofcom report from late 2018, in which Giffgaff was found to have a 96% satisfaction rating with overall service, with 3% of customers finding reason to complain and 60% happy with the way complaints were handled.

The network also has a 4.4/5 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.

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