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Giffgaff 4G Coverage and Network Review

25th May 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 over 98% 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 9GB

Allows tethering

No inclusive roaming beyond Europe

Our Rating

Coverage

Giffgaff’s 4G coverage relies on O2’s, which means it’s currently at over 98% population coverage indoors. That puts it behind EE, but ahead of Three and around the same level as 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: KnightonDryhopeAldingham, Aldeburgh and large parts of the Scottish Highlands.

4G Network Coverage Comparison

Network

4G Coverage by population

EE

> 99%

Vodafone

98%

GiffGaff (O2)

99%

Three

99.8%

Network Speeds and Frequencies

OpenSignal – Mobile Networks Update, April 2018

Network

4G download speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

29.02Mbps

40.35ms

Three

22.55Mbps

47.23ms

Vodafone

20.07Mbps

40.6ms

GiffGaff (O2)

15.16Mbps

42.84ms

In an OpenSignal report from April 2018, O2 was found to have average 4G download speeds of 15.16Mbps and an average latency (the time the network takes to respond to a request) of 42.84ms. 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 it’s 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 only uses the 800MHz band for 4G, but this band is ideal for delivering coverage across the UK. It’s 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 network may also one day by granted access to the 2300MHz spectrum that O2 acquired in a spectrum auction. This can also be used for 4G.

You can find in depth details of this band 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. Sites that are currently being upgraded include Elterwater and Coulport.

Traffic management

Giffgaff’s traffic management policy is more detailed than most. It states that: “In approximately 2.5% of the network, where congestion is most likely to occur, some members who are using more than their fair share of network resource will have an upper speed restriction of 100kbps for a period of 30 minutes. We estimate that this will impact approximately 0.15% of members each day, but will deliver a stronger data experience for tens of thousands of members in these areas.”

Additionally, during times of high congestion in London, services such as streamed videos and web browsing will be prioritised over background app updates and syncing.

Giffgaff also notes that users who consistently use extreme amounts of data as part of the Always On plan may be warned about their usage and ultimately banned from buying further Always On goodybags.

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 9GB of 4G data. There’s also an unlimited data plan (or ‘Always On’ as Giffgaff calls it) which lets you go beyond 9GB but caps your speeds at 384kbps from 8am to midnight once you exceed 9GB.

Tethering is also included on all plans – though with the ‘Always On’ plan you can only tether with the first 9GB.

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 9GB at 4G speeds, and only up to 9GB 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 offers a 500MB Data Only plan, so you can get your tablet or dongle online without paying for unneeded minutes and texts. This is 1 month long and costs £5.

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 9GB 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 9GB 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 9GB, 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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