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Giffgaff 4G Coverage and Network Review

9th November 2018

GiffGaff Network Coverage

Giffgaff is one of a number of MVNO’s with 4G capabilities, but Giffgaff has certain advantages including a known name, a solid history as a 3G provider and low prices.

The network uses O2 for signal, so where O2 has 4G Giffgaff also has 4G. That means that right now it should have 4G coverage for around 99% of the UK population indoors and it's growing all the time.

These are all good things, and there’s plenty more to like about Giffgaff. Read on for a full overview and review.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Short-term contracts

Not quite the best 4G coverage

Unlimited data on some plans

4G data capped at 20GB

Allows tethering

No inclusive roaming beyond Europe

Our Rating

Coverage

Giffgaff’s 4G coverage relies on O2’s, which means it’s currently at around 99% population coverage indoors. That puts it behind Three but ahead of 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.

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.

Recent locations to get 4G from O2 - and by extension Giffgaff - include: Bream, Whitecroft, Wick, Drybrook, Frampton on Severn, Ruardean Hill, Saul, Great Rissington, Tirley, Doynton, Upper Framilode, Clements End, Oatfield, The Haw and Trow Green in Gloucestershire.

4G Network Coverage Comparison

Network

4G Coverage by population

EE

>99%

Vodafone

99%

GiffGaff (O2)

99%

Three

99.8%

Network Speeds and Frequencies

OpenSignal – Mobile Networks Update, October 2018

Network

4G download speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

28.9Mbps

39.77ms

Three

18.78Mbps

48.15ms

Vodafone

21.92Mbps

40.78ms

GiffGaff (O2)

14.61Mbps

42.38ms

In an OpenSignal report from October 2018, O2 was found to have average 4G download speeds of 14.61Mbps and an average latency (the time the network takes to respond to a request) of 42.38ms. That’s the slowest downloads and the second worst latency of the tested networks, and while Giffgaff itself wasn’t tested its reliance on O2 means its results would probably be similar. 

Speedtest – Mobile Speedtest Data, Q3-Q4 2017

Network

Download/upload speeds

EE

28.80/9.29Mbps

Vodafone

17.26/8.16Mbps

Three

14.58/7.35Mbps

GiffGaff (O2)

14.11/7.13Mbps

A Speedtest report from late 2017 showed similarly poor results, with O2 recording an average download speed (across 4G and 3G) of 14.11Mbps and an average upload speed of 7.13Mbps. Those scores are both slower than any tested rival, which again, doesn’t bode well for Giffgaff.

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

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.

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

Planned improvements

Giffgaff is reliant on O2 for most improvements, and that’s no bad thing, as O2 has announced plans to build 1,000 new 4G sites across the UK, having recently acquired additional spectrum.

O2 is also aiming to improve 4G coverage in 339 rural communities by the end of 2018.

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 less 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

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. Plans are available from as little as £5 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

6, 12, 18 or 24 Months 1 Month

Giffgaff’s Pay Monthly plans come in a choice of 6, 12, 18 or 24 months and come with up to 20GB of 4G data. There’s also an unlimited data plan (or ‘Always On’ as Giffgaff calls it) which lets you go beyond 20GB but caps your speeds at 384kbps from 8am to midnight once you exceed 20GB.

Tethering is also included on all plans – though with the ‘Always On’ plan you can only tether with the first 20GB.

Giffgaff’s SIM Only plans give you exactly the same selection of tariffs as Pay Monthly – so you can get up to unlimited data, but only up to 20GB at 4G speeds during peak hours, and only up to 20GB for tethering.

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 include low prices and flexible contract lengths, but data limits are quite low – other than ‘Always On’, which is still restrictive thanks to its speeds.

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 15p per minute, 5p 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. The only exception is the Always On plan, which limits you to 20GB of monthly tethering data.

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 37 destinations, namely:

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 'always on' data you can only use up to 20GB of it for roaming.

Customer service

The only real recent report on Giffgaff’s customer service is the Which? H1 2017 UK Mobile Network Survey, and it’s very promising, as it ranks Giffgaff top.

The survey asked 4,026 members of the public for their opinions, and Giffgaff was given an overall customer score of 81%, as well as a customer service score of 4/5 (no networks got 5/5), an ease/speed of contacting score of 3/5, a value for money score of 5/5 and an incentives score of 3/5.

Conclusion

Giffgaff stands out through low prices and flexible tariffs, with a range of SIM Only plans that you’re only tied into for a month.

It’s also one of those rare networks that has unlimited data on some tariffs – though speeds are throttled above 20GB, so it’s not as good for this as, say, Three.

Tethering is allowed too, but there’s no inclusive roaming beyond Europe, all of which makes Giffgaff a strong network for light to middle-weight data users who don’t do a lot of travelling.

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