Performance is still mediocre, but Tesco excels when it comes to customer satisfaction and support
- Free EU roaming
- Strong reliability scores
- Award-winning customer service
- Deals and discounts for Clubcard members
- Limited 4G and 5G performance
- Patchy, though improving, 5G coverage
While other major stores have tried their hands at running mobile networks, Tesco has been the most successful by far, with Tesco Mobile now one of the UK’s largest virtual mobile networks in terms of market share. Tesco has managed this not just through a presence in its supermarkets and highly competitive pricing, but also by maintaining high levels of customer service and satisfaction – it won Highly Commended for Customer Service in the 2021 Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards and again in the following year.
This year it’s gone one better, beating last year’s winner, Sky Mobile, to take away the Customer Service award. Throw in high scores for value, reliability and overall customer service, and you have one of the best-performing networks outside of the no-frills options. Tesco Mobile isn’t merely competing with EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three, it’s actually doing better in a range of areas.
Tesco Mobile review: What do you get?
Tesco Mobile isn’t always competitive for the latest, greatest phones. At the time of writing, you’ll pay £1,464 over two years for an iPhone 15 with 100MB of monthly data, or £2,021 for a Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra on the same terms. Three and iD Mobile are substantially less expensive on both counts, and even EE can get you the S23 Ultra, with more data, for less. However, it’s always worth checking Tesco’s prices, especially if you’re a Tesco Clubcard member. For example, you might find yourself tempted by an iPhone 14, a Google Pixel 7A or a Samsung Galaxy A-series phone on a special Clubcard deal.
As for its SIM-only plans, Tesco Mobile isn’t quite as aggressive on its pricing as iD Mobile, Giffgaff, Smarty and iD Mobile, but it’s often cheaper for a given package than Three, EE, O2 or Vodafone. For instance, at the time of writing, you could have 60GB of data for £15 per month on a two-year plan, or £17.50 on a one-year contract. EE or O2 would charge you from £18 to £22 a month for just 25GB. A 6GB plan would be more expensive on Vodafone.
|Package||Monthly charge (12 months)||Monthly charge (24 months)||Data||Texts||Minutes|
|2GB data||£7.50||£7.50||2GB data||Unlimited||Unlimited|
Whether they’re splashing out on SIM-only plans or signing up for a pay-monthly phone, Tesco Mobile’s customers seem unusually satisfied when it comes to value for money. In fact, over half (52%) say they’re very satisfied, with a further 36% fairly satisfied. Only Voxi, Smarty, Giffgaff and iD Mobile scored higher. What’s more, 86% of Tesco customers would recommend the network to a friend, with 41% very likely to do so. Again, only the no-frills networks posted better results, with the big four networks trailing far behind.
Tesco Mobile review: Customer service
Tesco Mobile follows two years of Highly Commended with a win in this category this time: 42% of the customers we surveyed said they were very satisfied with the network’s customer service, with a further 32% describing themselves as fairly satisfied. Only 3% of users were dissatisfied – the lowest percentage in this year’s survey.
That’s reflected in the latest Ofcom research into customer service, where Tesco has the joint highest score for overall customer satisfaction, the highest score for value for money, and one of the lowest percentages of customers with a reason to complain. Only five customers per 100,000 complained to Ofcom about the network, the joint lowest number in Ofcom’s survey. Whatever Tesco Mobile is doing to keep its customers happy seems to be working well.
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Tesco Mobile review: Coverage, reliability and speed
Tesco Mobile is a virtual mobile network, running on Virgin Media O2’s core network. The most recent performance tests from RootMetrics place O2 fourth of the big four networks on performance, with a UK-wide median download speed of 15.5Mbits/sec – a quarter of the speed of the leader, EE, with 65.1Mbits/sec, and only just over half that of the third-placed network, Vodafone. However, RootMetrics notes that O2’s performance is improving slightly and that, as it expands its 5G network, users should expect faster speeds and better coverage in major cities. The operator showed improved 5G availability in 12 cities since the last report, along with increased median 5G download speeds in ten.
In any case, reliance on O2’s network doesn’t seem to be hurting Tesco Mobile: 80% of users told our survey that they were satisfied with their signal strength, and nearly three-quarters of users had no problems with getting fast enough speeds for web browsing – though the same couldn’t be said of audio streaming and video streaming, where Tesco Mobile falls behind leaders Three, Voxi, Talkmobile and Vodafone. Again, this situation could change as more 5G services are rolled out. But, of the Tesco Mobile users who used its 5G services, 62% said they were very or fairly satisfied, which put Tesco behind most other networks in this area, though ahead of Three.
Tesco Mobile review: Roaming
Unlike some other networks, Tesco Mobile still offers free EU roaming through its Home from Home programme. What’s more, if you go over your inclusive allowance, Tesco Mobile only charges UK standard rates. Of course, outside of the EU, costs can escalate: for example, in the US you’ll pay 89p per minute to make or take calls, 40p to send a text, and 5p per MB of data. It’s worth checking before you head abroad, and perhaps consider purchasing a local SIM if the charges look too high.
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Tesco Mobile review: Other services and spending caps
Tesco allows you to limit your monthly spending to your allowance and nothing more, or you can add a safety buffer of between £2.50 and £50 outside your current plan.
Tesco Mobile also offers some compelling benefits to Tesco Clubcard users, including bonus Clubcard points, discounts on phones and plans, additional data and family perks. These allow you to put more than one number on a single account and get things such as extra data, extra minutes or money off the overall bill. You don’t get any data gifting or rollover features, but – as Tesco likes to say – every little helps.
Tesco Mobile review: Verdict
Tesco Mobile isn’t the network to go for If you want the best 5G coverage or cutting-edge 5G speeds, but it makes a lot of sense if you’re more focused on good customer service and value for money. The network has been doing well on both counts for the past few years, not just in our awards survey but in Ofcom’s research as well. While it’s struggling to compete with the no-frills networks on price, it’s still maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. It might not be the cheapest or the fastest mobile network, but it’s definitely doing something right.