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Lebara Mobile Review and Network Coverage

27th September 2019

Lebara Mobile is a mobile network with international calling at its heart, as many of its plans let you call dozens of destinations at no extra cost.

However, that’s not all it has going for it, as Lebara Mobile also has flexible plans and plenty of coverage, since it uses Vodafone as its infrastructure partner.

But Lebara isn’t the perfect fit for everyone, so read on below for a full review of the network in which we’ll highlight all the good and bad aspects, as well as giving you a rundown of its coverage.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Free international calls

Low data limits

Short-term plans

Few extras

Allows tethering

No pay monthly

Our Rating

Coverage

Lebara Mobile Coverage (Vodafone Network)

Network Type

Coverage by population

4G 

99%

3G

99%

2G

99%

Since Lebara Mobile is a Vodafone MVNO, it has the same coverage as Vodafone (excluding 5G), which means roughly 99% 4G coverage, 99% 3G coverage and 99% 2G coverage across the UK. While those figures are high, that theoretically puts Vodafone and its MVNOs (including Lebara) behind EE and Three for 4G coverage, as you can see in the chart below.

However, not all networks update their figures at the same time, so these may not be totally up to date. Plus, Vodafone is investing heavily in its network, so the gap will likely close.

4G Network Coverage Comparison

Network

4G coverage by population

EE

> 99%

Vodafone (Lebara Mobile)

99%

O2

99%

Three

99.8%

4G from Vodafone (and by extension Lebara Mobile) is now available in a huge number of cities, towns and villages, including but by no means limited to:

Basingstoke, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bradford, Brighton, Coventry, Dudley, Edinburgh, Epsom, Ewell, Folkestone, Gateshead, Glasgow, Hatfield , Hove and Hastings, Hemel Hempstead, Huddersfield, Jarrow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Maidstone, Newbury, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oldham, Pontefract, Portsmouth, Reading, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, Stockport, Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Staines, Stourbridge, Swinton, Southampton, Tunbridge, Wakefield, Walsall, Watford, Wells and West Bromwich.

Vodafone/Lebara Mobile’s 4G service is also available in thousands of smaller villages and other communities across the UK.

5G coverage

Lebara Mobile hasn’t announced any 5G plans yet, but as with other MVNOs it will be reliant on its infrastructure partner (in this case Vodafone) for coverage. That’s no bad thing, as Vodafone already offers 5G in a number of locations, so by the time Lebara launches a 5G service (if it ever does) coverage might be good.

Network Speeds and Frequencies

Lebara Mobile uses standard 4G, which is around 5 times faster than a typical 3G network. Vodafone has started rolling out a faster LTE-A service in some locations, but it’s unlikely that Lebara has access to this.

OpenSignal – Mobile Network Experience, April 2019

Network

4G download/upload speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

32.5/10.4Mbps

37.9ms

Three

21.6/8.3Mbps

48.7ms

Vodafone (Lebara Mobile)

24.3/8.5Mbps

41.2ms

O2

15.8/7.2Mbps

39.2ms

There isn’t much information on Lebara’s speeds, but according to OpenSignal, Vodafone’s average 4G download speed is 24.3Mbps, while its average 4G upload speed is 8.5Mbps. Lebara’s speeds may be similar, since it uses the same infrastructure, and that would put it behind EE but ahead of Three and O2.

Vodafone’s (and potentially therefore Lebara’s) average latency meanwhile is said to be 41.2ms. Latency is how long the network takes to respond to a request, so lower numbers are better here, putting Vodafone (and potentially Lebara Mobile) in an average position.

Vodafone Network Frequencies

Frequency

Frequency Band

Network

800MHz

Band 20

4G

900MHz

Band 8 2G & 3G

1400MHz SDL

Band 32 4G

1800MHz

Band 3

2G

2100MHz

Band 1

3G

2600MHz FDD

Band 7

4G

2600MHz TDD

Band 38

4G

Lebara uses Vodafone’s spectrum bands, which means it presumably uses the 800MHz, 1400MHz and 2600MHz bands for 4G. The 800MHz band is long range and good at passing through walls, so it’s handy in both rural locations (where there aren’t many masts) and more urban locations.

However, it’s not great at handling large numbers of connections, which is a strength of the 2600MHz band. The 1400MHz band is a middle ground. For more in depth information, check out our 4G frequencies guide. The table above provides an overview of all the bands Vodafone/Lebara uses, for 4G, 3G and 2G.

Planned improvements

Lebara Mobile is largely reliant on Vodafone for improvements, and Vodafone is growing and improving its network all the time, so that’s good news.

Recent developments from Vodafone include launching and expanding its 5G service, which will be useful to Lebara if and when the latter offers a 5G service of its own.

Traffic management

On the subject of traffic management, Lebara Mobile says “We reserve the right to manage your use of the Network in order to protect it for the use of all of our customers. We may therefore apply traffic management controls from time to time to protect the Network.”

So it doesn’t get very specific, but we’d imagine traffic management might be applied when there’s serious congestion, network faults or excessive use.

Plans

Lebara Mobile Pay Monthly Plans

 

SIM Only

Data Only

Plans Available

Max Data

25GB

2GB

Contract lengths

1 month

1 month

Tethering

VoLTE

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

As you can see, Lebara’s plans are short term, lasting just 30 days, which makes the network more flexible than some, as you can change or cancel your plan almost whenever you want.

Lebara also allows tethering and many plans let you call abroad at no extra cost, however data limits are low and there’s not much in the way of extra features.

International calling

This is one area where Lebara Mobile stands out, as it has various plans which give you an allowance of minutes to call abroad with, without paying extra. Some of these plans are targeted at specific destinations, such as Nigeria or Ghana, but others let you call dozens of different countries at no extra cost.

Tethering

While Lebara Mobile doesn’t advise tethering it also doesn’t prevent it, so you can use your data allowance to get other devices online if you want.

WiFi Calling

WiFi Calling isn’t offered by Lebara Mobile. If it was, you’d be able to make calls over Wi-Fi, using your normal dialler and SMS apps to stay in touch when there’s no signal.

VoLTE

VoLTE isn’t offered by Lebara Mobile either. VoLTE means being able to make calls over 4G, so you can call even if there’s no 2G or 3G signal.

Pay As You Go

Lebara Mobile also lets you Pay As You Go at a rate of 19p per minute, 19p per text and 9p per megabyte.

Those rates aren’t great, but note that if you’re calling or texting another Lebara number in the UK it will be free, and as its plans all last just 30 days you can make your money go further by opting for one of them, without really losing the freedom and flexibility of Pay As You Go.

Roaming Destinations

Like almost all UK networks, Lebara Mobile lets you roam across the EU at no extra cost. However, it notes that with some bundles the use of data may be subject to a fair usage policy. The exact limit that you can use depends on your plan, but you can find the complete list here.

Customer service

There haven’t been many studies into Lebara Mobile’s customer service, but one way to get an idea of it is to look at the network’s Trustpilot rating, which currently stands at 4.5/5, which is considered an ‘excellent’ score. So based on that it’s probably one of the best for customer service. 

Conclusion

Lebara Mobile is a great choice if you plan to regularly call international numbers. It’s also a solid choice if you just want the flexibility of not being tied in to a contract – though lots of other networks offer similar flexibility.

If you’re after extras such as VoLTE or data rollover this isn’t the network for you though, and its data allowances are dwarfed by many rivals, making it a mediocre choice for most users.

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