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Tesco Mobile Review and Network Coverage

20th April 2022

Tesco Mobile Network Coverage

Tesco Mobile is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) that looks to stand out primarily through good value plans and a large range of Pay As You Go options. It’s a fairly conventional network in most ways, but that’s no bad thing.

It’s an O2 MVNO, so as it uses O2’s towers it doesn’t need to worry about infrastructure of its own. You can also be sure of widespread 4G coverage, and it was one of the first MVNOs to offer 5G.

But there are various reasons you might want to choose Tesco Mobile over O2 – or any other network – and some reasons you might not want to. So read on for a full review and overview of the network.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Good value

No inclusive roaming beyond Europe

Loads of Pay As You Go options

Not as good 4G coverage as some

Our Rating

Table of Contents

Coverage

Which network does Tesco Mobile use?

Tesco Mobile uses O2’s network, meaning that it offers 5G, 4G and 3G coverage in all the same places as O2. That also means that as O2’s coverage improves, Tesco Mobile’s will as well.

Tesco Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

5G

Now available in 194 locations

4G 

99%

3G

99%

2G

99%

5G coverage

Tesco Mobile switched on its 5G service on March 3rd, 2020, and as it uses O2’s infrastructure it has coverage in all the same places, meaning at least 194 places at the time of writing. They include (but are not limited to):

Aberdeen, Allesley, Altrincham, Ambleside, Ashford, Aughton, Aylesbury, Banbury, Banstead, Basildon, Basingstoke, Beaconsfield, Bedford, Belfast, Bilston, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Birstall, Blackburn, Blackpool, Blaydon, Bolton, Bournemouth, Bradford, Bradley Stoke, Bridge of Don, Brighton, Bristol, Brombourgh, Burton upon Trent, Bury St Edmunds, Byfleet, Calverley, Cambridge, Cardiff, Chadwell St Mary, Chatham, Cheadle, Chelmsford, Cheltenham, Chertsey, Chesterfield, Chilworth, Chipstead, Clacton-on-Sea, Colchester, Coventry, Danderhall, Darlington, Dartford, Derby, Dewsbury, Dinas Powys, Doncaster, Dudley, Dundee, Dunstable, Durham, Dyce, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Egham, Epsom, Esher, Eton and Windsor, Falmer, Gateshead, Gatton Bottom, Gillingham, Glasgow, Gloucester, Gravesend, Grays, Great Yarmouth, Grimsby, Guildford, Halifax, Harlington, Harlow, Hastings, Hebburn, Hemel Hempstead, Hextable, High Wycombe, Horwich, Hove, How Wood, Huddersfield, Hull, Inverness, Ipswich, Iver Heath, Jarrow, Joyden's Wood, Kemprow, Kettering, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Lincoln, Lisburn, Liverpool, Llandudno, London, Longford, Loughborough, Lowestoft, Luton, Maidenhead, Maidstone, Manchester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Molesey, Monifieth, Morley, Musselburgh, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Newcastle Upon Tyne, New Denham, Newbury, Newtownabbey, North Shields, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Nuneaton, Oldham, Orpington, Oxford, Penarth, Peterborough, Plymouth, Plympton, Portsmouth, Potters Bar, Rainham, Reading, Redhill, Richings Park, Rochdale, Rotherham, Royal Leamington Spa, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Rugby, Salford, Sheffield, Shelf, Shepperton Green, Shinfield, Shirehampton, Slough, Solihull, Southampton, South Shields, Southend-On-Sea, Staines, St Albans, Stapleford, Stockton-on-Tees, Stranraer, Stevenage, Stockport, Stockton, Stoke-on-Trent, Strathclyde, Sunbury, Sunderland, Swansea, Swindon, Tatling End, Thornaby-on-Tees, Thorpe, Thundersley, Trumps Green, Tynemouth, Virginia Water, Wakefield, Wallasey, Waltham Abbey, Warrington, Washington, Watford, Wavertree, West Bromwich, Weybridge, Whickham, Whitley Bay, Wickersley, Wolverhampton, Worthing, Wythenshawe and York.

You’ll need a 5G phone and plan to take advantage of 5G, but Tesco Mobile offers both, with phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S22 and iPhone 13 (among many others) available at the time of writing. And it’s worth getting on board, as it’s far faster than 4G.

4G coverage

4G from O2 and by extension Tesco Mobile is now available across 99% of the UK population, in thousands of UK towns, cities and villages.

The major towns and cities include but are 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.

3G coverage

Tesco Mobile also has almost 100% population coverage with 3G and 2G, so you’re almost certain to get a signal. Speeds are variable though.

Use Tesco Mobile’s coverage checker above to find out more about Tesco Mobile's coverage in your area, including signal strengths and details of both indoor and outdoor coverage.

Plans

Tesco Mobile Pay Monthly Plans

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Data Only

Plans Available

x

Max Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

N/A

Contract lengths

12, 18, 24, 30 or 36 months

12 or 24 months

N/A

 

View deals

View deals

 

Tesco Mobile offers Pay Monthly, SIM Only and Pay As You Go plans and all of them come with 4G at no extra cost. Tesco also offers 5G on Pay Monthly and SIM Only. You can see more in-depth details of Pay Monthly and SIM Only above, while Pay As You Go is in a chart below.

Tesco Mobile’s Pay Monthly plans are a rarity in that you can choose a 12, 18, 24, 30 or 36-month plan, rather than only having 24-month plans available, and they come with a wide range of allowances, topping out at unlimited data each month. You can use as much of that data as you want for tethering.

Tesco Mobile also has a wide range of SIM Only plans, with data limits ranging from 2GB to unlimited. As you’re not getting a phone with them, they’re cheaper than Pay Monthly plans. And as with Pay Monthly, any or all of your data can be used for tethering.

Tesco Mobile doesn’t currently offer any Data Only plans.

Overall the highlight of Tesco’s plans, other than competitive prices, is the wide range of durations available on Pay Monthly. Lack of extras such as VoLTE (explained below) is the main weakness.

Tesco Mobile Pay As You Go Plans

Plans Available

Add-ons available

Max Data Allowance

100GB

Add-on expiry 

30 days

Data Rollover

Top Up Expiry

6 months inactivity

Tethering

EU Roaming

Tesco Mobile also has a range of money-saving Pay As You Go Rocket Packs available, all of which last one month and automatically renew. They each come with a bundle of minutes, texts, and data, topping out at 100GB.

Additionally, Tesco Mobile has Triple Credit tariffs which triple your credit when you top up £10, £15 or £20.

That free extra credit is available once a month and lasts one month. It’s used before any paid top up. You can’t both be on a Triple Credit tariff and use Rocket Packs at the same time.

Outside your bundle you’re charged 25p per minute, 10p per text and 10p per megabyte.

Tesco Mobile perks and policies

 

SIM Only

5G

Roaming

Tethering

Wi-Fi Calling

VoLTE

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

Unlimited Data

Family Plans

Credit Check

Tesco Mobile has a number of other things going for it, as you can see in the chart above. We’ve detailed these below.

5G

Tesco Mobile offers 5G and it comes as standard on the network’s Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans, so you don’t have to pay any extra to get it. You will of course need a device that supports 5G in order to make use of it though.

Roaming Destinations

Tesco Mobile's Home From Home service lets you use your allowances at no extra cost in the following 48 destinations:

Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guyana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St. Martin, St. Barts, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.

There aren’t any fair usage limits other than a requirement to use your phone in the UK more than abroad. Tesco Mobile will monitor where you’re using your handset over a rolling four-month period – so more than two months of that should be in the UK.

Tethering

Tethering refers to the ability to use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot, letting other devices share its network connection. This is allowed on Tesco Mobile, and the only limit is your data allowance, which at the time of writing means you could use up to unlimited each month to tether if you’re on a top-end plan.

Wi-Fi Calling

Wi-Fi Calling refers to calling and texting over a Wi-Fi network using your regular number, dialler, and SMS apps. It’s especially handy if you’re somewhere with a Wi-Fi network but no regular signal, however it’s not currently offered by Tesco Mobile.

VoLTE

VoLTE (Voice over LTE) refers to making a call over 4G, rather than 2G or 3G. The ability to do this means you can make and receive calls in places with only a 4G signal, but it’s not currently offered by Tesco Mobile.

Data rollover

Tesco Mobile doesn’t offer data rollover, meaning that after one month your data allowance will reset, and you’ll lose any unused data from the previous month. Data rollover is a fairly common but far from standard feature, so it’s something to consider when choosing a network.

Spending caps

On Tesco Mobile you can apply a spending cap, to stop you accidentally spending more than you want to. This can be set at between zero and £100, with that amount being how much you can spend each month on things that aren’t included in your allowance, such as premium rate numbers. You can also choose not to have a spending cap if you’d prefer.

Unlimited data

Tesco Mobile offers plans with unlimited data, and you can get this whether on SIM Only or a Pay Monthly contract with a phone – but not on Pay As You Go.

Choosing a plan with unlimited data means you can use as much as you want without restrictions (in the UK). There aren’t many restrictions when abroad either, but the network notes that you should use its service more in the UK than in a roaming location.

Still, this is far less restrictive than most networks’ roaming terms, so that’s a selling point for Tesco Mobile.

Family plans

Tesco Mobile offers family plans which provide perks for every user. You can have up to five contracts on your account, and as long as you have at least two then every member can pick between a selection of monthly perks.

There’s up to 1GB of data, up to £2 off your bill, 500 Tesco Mobile minutes, up to 200 Clubcard points, up to £2.25 off Tesco Mobile Protect, and up to 500 minutes to any network.

The amount you get for each will depend on the price of your plan, and each family member can choose a different perk. They can also change their perks whenever they want, with the exception of the Tesco Mobile Protect discount, which must be chosen at the start of a contract.

Credit checks

Tesco Mobile will credit check you for a contract, such as on a SIM Only plan or when purchasing a smartphone on contract. However, you can always choose to Pay As You Go with no credit check. This is a fairly standard approach, so Tesco Mobile doesn’t stand out here in any sense.

Unique perks

Tesco Mobile aims to reward Tesco Clubcard users, and it does this in a number of ways. For one thing, you get double the value of your Clubcard vouchers when you spend them at Tesco Mobile.

You also get lower prices on some deals as a Clubcard member, and you’ll get 1 Clubcard point for every £1 you spend on your plan.

Awards

Tesco Mobile has been rated Which? Utilities Brand of the Year for 2021, and has been a Which? Recommended Provider for 11 years running.

Plus, it has been awarded the Best Network for Customer Service and the Best Value Pay Monthly Network in the Uswitch Telecoms Awards 2022.

Network

Network Speeds

Opensignal – Mobile Network Experience, September 2021, and April 2020

Network

Download/upload speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

44/9.7Mbps

36.0ms

Three

25.2/6.3Mbps

48.3ms

Vodafone

21.6/7.4Mbps

39.0ms

Tesco Mobile (O2)

17.1/5.4Mbps

38.1ms

In an Opensignal report from September 2021, O2 was found to have an average download speed of 17.1Mbps and an average upload speed of 5.4Mbps, which in both cases is slower than any major rival, so you can expect Tesco Mobile to be similarly slow – though notably that’s still fast enough to comfortably do most things you might want to on a phone.

Those speeds were recorded using a combination of 5G, 4G and 3G, like you might expect when moving around in the real world.

O2’s average latency meanwhile (how long it takes for the network to respond to a request), was found in an earlier April 2020 report to be 38.1ms, which has Three and Vodafone beat, but not EE. This earlier report was used as later ones don’t include latency figures.

For 5G, a Point Topic report from September 2020 suggests that O2’s average 5G download speed is 115.7Mbps, while an Ookla report from the first half of 2021 put its median 5G download speed at 155Mbps, so again Tesco’s might be similar, and that’s a big upgrade on 4G speeds.

Traffic management

Tesco Mobile states – like most networks – that emergency voice traffic will always be prioritised on its network.

The network also notes that when it comes to data, “customers whose use is so excessive that other customers are detrimentally affected will be warned to adjust their usage or risk disconnection.”

However, beyond this traffic management isn’t generally used, even at peak hours.

Frequencies

Tesco Mobile Network Frequencies

Frequency

Frequency Band

Network

700MHz

n29 4G & 5G

800MHz

Band 20

4G

900MHz

Band 8

2G & 3G

1800MHz

Band 3

2G & 4G

2100MHz

Band 1

3G & 4G

2300MHz

Band 40

4G

3400MHz

n78 5G

3600MHz

n77 5G

Tesco Mobile 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, but it’s also good at passing through the walls of buildings. Those two abilities combine to make it well suited to both urban and rural locations.

The 2300MHz band is more suited to busy areas but it’s shorter range, while the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands sit in the middle capability-wise.

For 5G, Tesco has access to the 3400MHz and 3600MHz bands, and these are the shortest range of all, but can cope with lots of connections.

Then there’s the 700MHz band, which is low frequency (and therefore long range), and which could be used for 5G, 4G or both.

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

Customer Service

Based on the available data, Tesco Mobile seems well-rated for customer service. For one thing, in an Ofcom report from 2021, Tesco was found to have the fewest complaints to Ofcom of any mobile provider, with just 3 for every 100,000 customers.

The report also found that 91% of customers were happy with the service on Tesco Mobile overall, with 7% having a reason to complain, and 55% being satisfied with the way their complaint was handled.

Plus, Tesco Mobile has been ranked sixth in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (Jan 2021) from the Institute of Customer Service. It’s the only mobile network to make the top 50.

And as noted further up, it was found to be the Best Network for Customer Service in the Uswitch Telecoms Awards 2022.

Conclusion

Tesco Mobile has a wider range of Pay As You Go options than most networks, with bundles and plans to suit almost any type of user, as long as that user wants to pay as they go.

It also has a wide range of Pay Monthly plan durations, and it’s generally competitively priced.

With tethering allowed as well and 5G now available, Tesco Mobile is a strong network, but be aware that none of its plans let you roam beyond Europe for free and it lacks certain extras, such as VoLTE and Wi-Fi Calling. Still, it would make a good choice for most people.

Alternatives

Since Tesco Mobile uses O2’s infrastructure, that major network is a solid alternative, offering a wider range of plans, plus access to O2 Priority – for freebies, discounts, and early gig tickets.

That said, O2 is often more expensive too, so if price is a factor then consider  GiffgaffSky Mobile, or Lyca Mobile, which also share O2’s infrastructure.

If O2’s infrastructure and coverage isn’t a factor though then there’s no shortage of choice. Check out all of our network guides for more information on your options.

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