EE remains the top network for coverage and performance, but it still trails this year’s winners
- Consistently high 4G and 5G speeds
- Excellent coverage
- Good customer service
- Some enticing extras
- Expensive phone and SIM-only deals
- Scores below rivals for value and customer satisfaction
EE’s claims to be the UK’s fastest and most reliable mobile network are far from baseless: The most recent reports from RootMetrics place EE as the top UK network for overall performance for the tenth year running, with awards for reliability, network speed and data, call and text performance. That said, the competition is getting tougher: Three is already pushing hard on 5G coverage and data speeds, and the proposed merger between it and Vodafone may accelerate that further. What’s more, some of the new, budget, no-frills networks are snapping at its heels, especially given that EE’s premium performance has always come with an equally premium monthly charge.
These high costs, middling satisfaction and high expectations might explain why EE is still trailing this year’s winners and why it hasn’t come away with any prizes in this year’s Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards. Only 55% of the users we surveyed were satisfied with the network’s value for money, and while nearly 70% would recommend it to a friend, we saw figures above 90% from some cheaper rivals. EE did better on reliability and satisfaction with its 5G services, but not well enough to scoop the relevant awards. It’s still arguably the best network if you prioritise performance above all else, but there are areas where it appears to be falling short.
EE review: What do you get?
EE has some decent deals on mid-range and high-end smartphones, particularly if you’re after plenty of data. However, it’s not often the cheapest option. If you’re looking to buy an iPhone 15 with 100 to 150GB of data, EE’s best current deal will net you 125GB for £63/mth over 24 months, plus £30 upfront. At a total cost of £1,538, that’s more than Three (£1,170 for two years with 150GB of data) or iD Mobile (£1,081 for the same period, albeit with just 100GB).
The same holds true for its SIM-only deals, which start at £14 for a very basic 2GB plan, and only really become good value once you hit the £22/mth 125GB No Frills plan. EE’s Unlimited data plans begin at a reasonable £27/mth on a two-year contract, but this No-Frills plan comes with a miserable 10MB/sec data speed cap. To get full, unrestricted Unlimited service, you’ll need to splash out £35/mth on the Essentials Unlimited Max plan, only available on 12-month and 30-day contracts. This seems a bit pricey when other networks will give you Unlimited data for under £20/mth.
|Monthly cost (24 months)||Monthly cost (12 months)||Monthly cost (30 days)||Data|
|2GB No Frills plan||£14||£16||£18||2GB|
|5GB No Frills plan||£17||£19||£20||5GB|
|2GB Essentials plan||£17||£19||£21||2GB|
|5GB Essentials plan||£20||£22||£23||5GB|
|25GB No Frills plan||N/A||£22||£23||25GB|
|125GB No Frills plan||£22||£24||£25||125GB|
|25GB Essentials plan||£23||£25||£26||25GB|
|5GB All Rounder plan||£26||£28||N/A||5GB|
|150GB Essentials plan||£26||£28||N/A||150GB|
|No Frills Unlimited plan||£27||£29||£30||Unlimited|
|25GB All Rounder plan||£29||£31||N/A||25GB|
|Essentials Unlimited plan||£30||£32||£33||Unlimited|
|125GB All Rounder plan||N/A||£33||N/A||125GB|
|Essentials Unlimited Max Plan||N/A||£35||£36||Unlimited|
|150GB All Rounder plan||£32||£34||N/A||5GB|
|Unlimited Full Works plan||£43||£45||N/A||Unlimited|
EE offers what it now calls “Inclusive Extras” on its more expensive All Rounder and Full Works plans, including Apple One on iPhone plans; or Netflix, Xbox Games Pass Ultimate, Microsoft 365 Personal, Apple Music, TNT Sports or an Entertainment Data Pass on Android plans. The latter gives you free data for streaming selected services outside of your normal data allowance. You could also opt for EE’s Roam Abroad Pass, which gives you inclusive calls, texts and data in the EU, the US, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. As some of these freebies would be expensive on their own, it’s worth factoring them in when looking at your monthly costs if you’d normally end up paying for them separately.
All the same, EE’s high pricing might explain why some customers feel they’re not getting bang for their buck: Only 17% of those we surveyed were actively dissatisfied on this front, but while nearly 68% of Smarty customers and 71% of Lebara users told us they were very satisfied on value for money, just 16% said the same of EE.
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EE review: Customer service
EE is on surer footing when it comes to customer service: Over 61% of those we surveyed said they were fairly or very satisfied, while under 7% were dissatisfied – the best results of any of the four major UK networks. Virtual network operators like Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile did even better, but it’s still a good result for EE.
What’s more, it’s backed up by the latest research from Ofcom: EE has fewer complaints to Ofcom per 100,000 subscribers than Three, O2 or Vodafone, and fewer customers with a reason to complain than Vodafone or Three. Overall satisfaction with their handling of complaints is 2% above the industry average too.
EE review: Coverage, reliability and speed
The best reason to use EE remains its excellent coverage and performance. Its 4G coverage extends to over 99% of the UK population, and its 5G services are now in reach of over 60% of the UK population in over 1,000 UK locations, including 500 rural and semi-rural areas. In the latest round of RootMetrics testing, EE registered median 5G download speeds of over 100Mbits/sec in 15 out of 16 UK cities, with median UK-wide 5G download speeds of 144.6Mbits/sec. That puts it just behind Three on 5G performance, but when you look at the median download speeds across both 4G and 5G connections, EE is still on top. Its 65.1Mbits/sec median download speed is far ahead of Three’s 34.7Mbits/sec.
Despite this, EE didn’t do as well as we expected in the reliability section of this year’s Mobile Network Awards survey. While it has some fine results across web browsing, audio streaming and video streaming, it fell just behind Voxi and Talkmobile, this year’s winners. Similarly, Smarty and Sky Mobile had slightly higher scores for satisfaction with their 5G services. And while EE scored high on signal strength – nearly 75% of users were satisfied here – it was still beaten by a range of networks, including Voxi, Talkmobile, Giffgaff and Tesco Mobile.
EE review: Roaming
EE’s handling of roaming charges probably hasn’t done it any favours. While some other services have retained free EU roaming, EE charges £2.29 a day unless you have the Roam Abroad pass. And the cost of making calls or using data elsewhere is steep: calls are at £1.54 per minute in the US or Australia, and the 500MB Data Pass needed for internet use is £6.26 to £7.84 per day. If you use EE and spend a lot of time travelling, the Roam Abroad pass is a must.
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EE review: Other features, services and spending caps
EE has a useful Data Gifting feature, where you can take several contracts out on the same account, and then gift data from those who don’t use it to those who keep running out. This is controlled by the main contract holder, to hopefully ensure that it doesn’t result in family squabbles.
EE’s pay-monthly customers can also use its Underground Wi-Fi, complete with Wi-Fi calling on the London Underground. That’s a definite bonus if you live or work in the capital.
EE also supports data caps, and you can configure them online or by sending a text message. However, these caps don’t include add-on purchases or payments to certain premium numbers or subscriptions, so you’ll still want to keep an eye on how everyone on a family contract uses, or abuses, their phone.
EE review: Verdict
EE’s still the fastest network out there when it comes to country-wide 4G and 5G connections and even in urban areas where Three pulls ahead on 5G speeds, EE still wins on coverage and isn’t far behind on speeds. Customer service also puts it ahead of the other three main UK networks. However, it is unquestionably an expensive premium option, and many users might find that the cheaper, virtual networks go fast enough while costing a whole lot less. EE is definitely fast, but there could be better deals elsewhere.