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Tesco Mobile Review and Network Coverage

22nd June 2020

Tesco Mobile Network Coverage

Tesco Mobile is an MVNO 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’s 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

Coverage

Tesco Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

4G 

99%

3G

99%

2G

99%

Tesco Mobile has almost 100% population coverage with 4G, 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 on both indoor and outdoor coverage.

4G from O2 and by extension Tesco Mobile is now available 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.

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 60 at the time of writing. They are as follows:

Aberdeen, Ashford, Banstead, Basildon, Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Chatham, Chesterfield, Coventry, Dartford, Derby, Dundee, Eastbourne, Edinburgh, Esher, Gateshead, Gillingham, Glasgow, Grays, Hemel Hempstead, Huddersfield, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Lisburn, Liverpool, London, Lowestoft, Luton, Manchester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Newtownabbey, North Shields, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Plymouth, Rainham, Redhill, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, South Shields, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunbury, Sunderland, Thundersley, Warrington, Weybridge, Windsor, Worthing, and York.

You can also see major locations that have 5G now and those that have been announced to be getting it below.

Tesco Mobile 5G Coverage Rollout

Major locations with 5G

5G from later in 2020

Aberdeen

Birkenhead

Belfast

Blackpool

Birmingham

Bournemouth

Bradford

Cambridge

Brighton

Eton

Bristol

Guildford

Cardiff

Hove

Coventry

Milton Keynes

Derby

Newbury

Edinburgh

Portsmouth

Glasgow

Reading

Hull

Southampton

Leeds

Wolverhampton

Leicester

 

Lisburn

 

Liverpool

 

London

 

Manchester

 

Newcastle

 

Norwich

 

Nottingham

 

Sheffield

 

Slough

 

Stoke

 

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 S20 5G, Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G and Samsung Galaxy A90 5G available at the time of writing. And it’s worth getting on board, as with the UK’s 5G speeds averaging around 150-250Mbps, it’s far faster than 4G, speeds for which can be seen below.

Network Speeds and Frequencies

OpenSignal – Mobile Network Experience, April 2020

Network

4G download/upload speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

35.9/10.2Mbps

36.0ms

Three

22.4/8.2Mbps

48.3ms

Vodafone

25.4/9.1Mbps

39.0ms

Tesco Mobile (O2)

18.0/6.4Mbps

38.1ms

As an O2 MVNO, Tesco Mobile uses standard 4G, which is roughly 5 times faster than a standard 3G network.

In an Opensignal report from April 2020, O2 was found to have average 4G download speeds of 18.0Mbps and average 4G upload speeds of 6.4Mbps, 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. It’s also a slight improvement on earlier reports.

Its average latency meanwhile (how long it takes for the network to respond to a request), was 38.1ms, which has Three and Vodafone beat, but not EE.

5G isn’t tested here, but will of course be far faster (likely in the range of 150-250Mbps on average for downloads), while latency on 5G is also likely to be better.

Tesco Mobile 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

3400MHz

Band 42 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 band, which is the shortest range of all, but can cope with lots of connections.

You can find in depth details of this band and others in our 4G frequencies guide.

Planned improvements

Tesco Mobile’s improvements are tied to O2’s, but there’s always stuff in the works there. Right now O2’s focus is on expanding its 5G coverage, which will also expand Tesco’s.

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.

Plans

Tesco Mobile Pay Monthly Plans

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Plans Available

Max Data

100GB

100GB

Contract lengths

12, 18, 24, 30 or 36 months

12 or 24 months

Tethering

VoLTE

WiFi Calling

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

 

View deals

View deals

SIM Only Deals
Tesco Mobile

12 Month Contract

2 GB data

500 mins

5000 texts

£7.50 a month

View Deal

Tesco Mobile

12 Month Contract

8 GB data

5000 mins

5000 texts

£10.00 a month

View Deal

Tesco Mobile

18 Month Contract

12 GB data

5000 mins

5000 texts

£10.00 a month

View Deal

Tesco Mobile

18 Month Contract

20 GB data

5000 mins

5000 texts

£12.50 a month

View Deal

Tesco Mobile

12 Month Contract

15 GB data

5000 mins

5000 texts

£12.50 a month

View Deal

View All Tesco Mobile Sim Only 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, but only on select plans. 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 100GB of 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 100GB. 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.

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 100GB each month to tether if you’re on a top-end plan and don’t need any data for your phone.

WiFi 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.

Pay As You Go

Tesco Mobile Pay As You Go Plans

Plans Available

Add-ons available

Max Data Allowance

16GB

Add-on expiry 

30 days

Data Rollover

Top Up Expiry

6 months inactivity

Tethering

EU Roaming

Tesco Mobile has a range of money-saving 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 16GB.

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.

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.

Customer Service

Based on the available data, Tesco Mobile seems well-rated for customer service. For one thing, in an Ofcom report from Q3 2019, Tesco was found to have the fewest complaints to Ofcom of any mobile provider, with just 1 for every 100,000 customers.

In another slightly older Ofcom report, Tesco Mobile was found to have an overall satisfaction rating of 90% with just 3% of customers finding reason to complain - though only 59% of customers with a reason to complain were satisfied with the way their complaints were handled.

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.

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