flame Compare Deals and save hundreds of pounds Sim Only Deals Phone Deals

Best 4G Network – UK Networks Compared

4th June 2019

There’s a lot to consider when picking a 4G mobile network- coverage, speed, value and more besides and none of it really matters if you don’t get a signal where you live or work.

So before jumping in with a network it’s best to weigh up all the pros and cons, and we’ve just made that a whole lot easier, by laying them out for you, highlighting which is the best network across a number of categories.

Network Coverage

Network Coverage

Network

4G/3G Population Coverage

Check Coverage

EE

>99% / 98%

Three

99.8% / 98.3%

O2

99% / 99%

Vodafone

99% / 99%

For a long time EE was well in the lead when it came to 4G coverage, but as you can see in the chart above all of the networks now have almost complete population coverage.

It’s hard to say for sure which networks are doing best here, as they don’t update their figures at the same time, so some will be more dated than others, but the good news is that whatever network you’re on there should be widespread 4G coverage.

However, we suspect that EE still has the greatest coverage overall, since it’s unlikely that it will have totally lost its lead. Its population coverage may be similar to rivals but its geographic coverage is probably greater – and of course it also now offers 5G in a few places.

  • Winner: EE

Network Speeds

Standard 4G is around five times faster than 3G and all the networks offer that, but some go above and beyond with faster services such as LTE-A.

In most tests, including ones by OpenSignal and Speedtest, EE has been found to have the highest average speeds in cities UK-wide. That’s not really surprising, especially when you consider that it offers a double-speed service of up to 60Mbps in many locations and even 90Mbps LTE-Advanced (marketed as 4G+) in London, as well as pockets of it in other major cities. You can even now go beyond 4G on EE, as the network is the first to offer a 5G service, which is even faster.

Speedtest – Mobile speedtest data Q3-Q4 2017

Network

Download/Upload Speeds (Mbps)

EE

28.80/9.29

Vodafone

17.26/8.16

Three

14.58/7.35

O2

14.11/7.13

OpenSignal – Mobile Networks Update, October 2018

Network 4G download Speeds (Mbps) Latency (ms)
EE 28.9 39.77
Three 18.78 48.15
Vodafone 21.92 40.78
O2 14.61 42.38

Vodafone also has an LTE-A service and it’s available in London, Manchester and Birmingham, however in most test results Vodafone doesn't perform as well as EE, so if you don’t live somewhere with LTE-A it’s not the best choice for speed.

Three too has a 4G+ service and it’s available in parts of major cities such as London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow, but as with Vodafone, its speeds overall don’t match EE’s in most tests.

O2 meanwhile only offers standard 4G speeds right now. Ultimately all the networks are fast on 4G, but right now EE is the best network for speed.

  • Winner: EE

Data limits

UK Networks Maximum Data Allowances

Operator

Max data

Roaming

Three

Unlimited 19GB

Vodafone

100GB 100GB

O2

100GB

100GB

EE

100GB

15GB

As the only major UK mobile network to offer unlimited data, Three is clearly the best network for data limits. EE, O2 and Vodafone all tie for second place, with plans offering up to 100GB of data. Things are different when you look at roaming, since Three and EE both limit how much of your data you can use abroad, but for UK use Three is the winner.

  • Winner: Three

Tethering

Network Tethering Allowances

Network

Pay Monthly

SIM Only

Pay As You Go

Three

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Vodafone

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

O2

100GB

60GB

20GB

EE

100GB

60GB

10GB

Three offers the most data and it also offers the most tethering allowance as you can use all or any of your data for tethering. That means you'll enjoy unlimited tethering with unlimited data plans. Though note that you can only tether at all on Three’s Advanced plans.

EE, O2 and Vodafone also allow you to use as much of your data allowance as you want, which means they all top out at 100GB.

  • Winner: Three

VoLTE

VoLTE

EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 all offer a VoLTE service, which lets you make calls over a 4G network, which in turn allows you to use your phone in more places and also offers superior audio quality.

Three was the first to launch a VoLTE service, and dubbed it 4G Super-Voice. It's available across most of the UK and while you can’t yet use it on every handset, its availability is growing.

EE's VoLTE service is called 4G Calling and is available everywhere that you can get an EE 4G signal, though as with Three it's not available on every handset.

Vodafone's service is also called 4G Calling and is available in 4G areas. As with EE and Three, it’s only available on select handsets, but there’s a reasonable selection.

O2 also calls its VoLTE service 4G Calling, though its availability seems more limited than on some networks – this is hard to be sure about, but it doesn’t appear to be available everywhere that 4G is, which VoLTE seemingly is on some networks. And as with rivals it’s not compatible with every phone. Having said that, it arguably has support for more popular handsets than rival networks.

Overall there’s little to choose between the networks when it comes to VoLTE, but we’d give Vodafone the edge, as it seemingly has better VoLTE coverage than O2 and a more up to date selection of compatible handsets than EE or Three.

  • Winner: Vodafone

Business

All of the major UK mobile networks have business tariffs and services and they all come with extra features to help them stand out. For example, Three gives you free subscriptions to WeWork, Wix and FreshBooks, with EE you can get a dedicated account manager, and O2 puts a focus on collaboration tools.

These networks also support businesses of most sizes, so it largely comes down to personal preference as to which is best.

So this category is close. Ultimately though EE edges the win as the best network for business use due to its coverage, which we’ve rated elsewhere but which is even more vital for business users, who rely on 4G to work wherever they are.

  • Winner: EE

Added extras

EE_Film_Club_girl

Each of the networks has its own ways to try and draw in customers and some rely heavily on extras above and beyond your phone contract. Vodafone has some of the most appealing extras, with Spotify Premium, Now TV Entertainment, Amazon Prime Video or Sky Sports Mobile TV subscriptions included on a variety of its plans.

Given that many people have and can make use of music, TV or sports subscriptions at least one of those is bound to be a great extra for almost anyone.

Three takes a different but equally valid approach, by giving you access to freebies and discounts through its Wuntu app and letting you stream content from Netflix, Apple Music, Deezer, TVPlayer, Snapchat and SoundCloud without it coming out of your data allowance on certain plans.

EE meanwhile gives you a free six-month subscription to Amazon Prime Video, Apple Music and MTV Play – that’s not as long as the subscriptions you can get on Vodafone, but you can choose all three. Some plans additionally come with three months of BT Sport access.

On some plans you can also access ‘Swappable Benefits’, which let you choose one or more benefits from a selection including EE’s Roam Further service, EE Video Pass, EE Music Pass, and BT Sport, and swap between the benefits whenever you want.

O2’s extras include various exclusive deals, offers and early ticket sales through O2 Priority, as well as access to over 15,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK.

All of these networks offer some nice extras then, but – due to its extras lasting the life of the contract and being high-value - we’d give Vodafone the edge.

  • Winner: Vodafone

Latest Offers

Sim Deals

SIM Card Triple SIM
8 GB Data UNLIMITED Minutes UNLIMITED Texts £9.00 a month
Epic Deal
View Details
SIM Card Triple SIM
UNLIMITED Data UNLIMITED Minutes UNLIMITED Texts £10.00 a month
Half price for 6 months
View Details
View More

Latest Phones

Compare phone deals and save
Sign up for our newsletter.