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The best mobile networks in 2024, based on our annual customer survey and full reviews

Here are the UK’s best mobile networks based on our annual survey, Ofcom’s customer service report and RootMetrics’ performance tests

Choosing between the best mobile networks isn’t easy. The country’s four major providers – EE, Three, Vodafone and O2 – have been joined by over 20 mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that specialise in flexible, no-frills deals. Luckily, I’m here to point you in the right direction.

I’ve compared prices, plans and features across all the big names, and factored in performance figures from RootMetrics, whose researchers tested signal strength, connection speeds, reliability and more. We also conduct our own research to bring together your opinions on the customer support, performance, value and reliability of the networks you use. We used our latest survey figures as the basis of the Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards, which gathered responses from over 4,000 customers.

Read on to find the best option for your needs and budget, or scroll further down the page to find a comprehensive buying guide tackling the main questions you’ll need to bear in mind before selecting a provider.

Featured deal

You can bag 35GB (was 30GB) of 5G data for £15/mth from five-star Voxi – plus unlimited use of social media, video and music apps.

View deal at Voxi


Best mobile network: At a glance

Best overallVoxiView deals at Voxi
Best for speedEEView deals at EE
Best for big-data dealsSmartyView deals at Smarty
Best for international callingLebaraView deals at Lebara

How we test mobile networks

We base our in-depth mobile network reviews on research conducted specifically for the annual Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards, and on published customer service, coverage and performance research from Ofcom and RootMetrics. We take all these results into account when picking out the best deals based on price, features, hidden charges, plus any useful perks or extras.

How we test mobile networks: survey results

Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards

Our most recent survey asked nearly 4,400 people about their satisfaction levels with their current provider, and how well their connection holds up while watching video, streaming podcasts and music, and browsing the internet. We also asked for more detail on any 5G services being used, to find out the benefits and problems readers may be experiencing with 5G connectivity on the major UK networks.

Ofcom

Ofcom’s Comparing Customer Service: Mobile, Landline and Home Broadband report provides a detailed indication of customer satisfaction with service, value and support for each network, including data on how many complaints are made and how they’re handled.

RootMetrics

Finally, RootMetrics runs in-depth performance tests across the length and breadth of the UK to capture figures for 4G performance and coverage – and also runs more specific 4G and 5G performance tests in 16 of the UK’s largest towns and cities. The results are updated twice a year.


The best mobile networks you can sign up to in 2024

1. Voxi: The best mobile network overall

Price: From £10/mth (SIM-only) | View deals at Voxi

Black Voxi SIM card on a wooden table

Customer service satisfaction level*62%
Percentage of customers who would recommend Voxi*92%
Host networkVodafone
Free EU roamingNo
Last reviewed by Expert ReviewsNovember 2023

*According to the Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards 2023 survey

Pros

Voxi, an MVNO that uses Vodafone’s network, was the big winner in the latest Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards, taking home the overall Best Mobile Network award. Nearly 59% of users told us they would be very likely to recommend the network to a friend, and another 33% said they were fairly likely – the best overall results for any network. That led to a full five stars out of five and an Expert Reviews Best Buy award in my full Voxi review.

Even the most basic package throws in unlimited data for use on the seven biggest social media apps, while the pricier plans allow you to use Spotify, TikTok, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and more, without touching your data allowance. All of this comes on a 30-day rolling subscription that you can cancel at any time.

Cons

Voxi’s deals aren’t quite as cheap as those of rival Smarty, but Voxi makes up for it with the unlimited streaming and social perks noted above.

Read our full Voxi review

Key specs – Network type: MVNO on Vodafone’s network; Data rollover: No; Additional features: Unlimited data for streaming and/or social media, 4G calling, visual voicemail; Free EU roaming: No

Top Voxi SIM-only deal

As we mentioned at the top of the page, Voxi has boosted its 30GB option for a limited time, making it 35GB for £15/mth on a 30-day plan. You’ll also get unlimited data for social media, video and music apps such as TikTok, YouTube, Twitter/X, Spotify, Netflix, Apple Music and more.

 

View deal at Voxi


2. EE: The best mobile network for speed

Price: From £14.50/mth (SIM-only) | View deals at EE

Blue EE SIM card on a wooden table

Customer service satisfaction level*61%
Percentage of customers who would recommend EE*69%
Host networkN/A
Free EU roamingNo
Last reviewed by Expert ReviewsNovember 2023

*According to the Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards 2023 survey

Pros

EE is still the fastest mobile network overall. RootMetrics’ latest round of testing gives it a UK-wide median download speed of 68.6Mbits/sec, well ahead of Vodafone at 34.5Mbits/sec and Three at 32.2Mbits/sec. It was the fastest network in 13 of the 16 cities where EE runs its metropolitan 4G and 5G speed tests too. That’s why I gave it four stars out of five in my EE review.

With superb 4G coverage and 5G services reaching over 60% of the UK population, EE is a great choice if you’re looking for consistently good performance, everywhere you go. It also had good scores for customer service in our Mobile Network Awards survey, mirroring the strong results in Ofcom’s latest report, where EE had fewer complaints per 100,000 subscribers than its major network rivals.

Cons

I can’t deny that EE is expensive, which explains some of its less impressive scores for value and overall customer satisfaction: only 16% of EE users told us they were very satisfied when it came to value for money in our survey.

Read our full EE review

Key specs – Network type: Primary network operator; Data rollover: No; Additional features: Free streaming services and extras on All Rounder and Full Works plans, family data gifting, spending cap; Free EU roaming: No

Top EE SIM-only deal

This is our pick of the best EE SIM-only deals at the moment: 50% off the price of its unlimited plan for the first six months of a two-year contract. That means you’ll be paying just £17.50/mth before the price rises to £35/mth.

 

View deal at EE


3. Lebara: The best mobile network for international calling

Price: From £4.50/mth (SIM-only) | View deals at Lebara

A blue Lebara SIM card on a wooden table

Customer service satisfaction level*51%
Percentage of customers who would recommend Lebara*87%
Host networkVodafone
Free EU roamingYes (up to 30GB on an unlimited plan)
Last reviewed by Expert ReviewsNovember 2023

*According to the Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards 2023 survey

Pros

Having scooped our Best Value award in the 2022 Mobile Network Awards, Lebara went home empty-handed last year, but it still has some great low-price plans and ways to cut your costs if you make a lot of international calls.

All of Lebara’s plans come with between 100 and 500 minutes for international calls on top of the usual UK minutes, making them a great option if you have friends or family abroad. And, very unusually, you’ll be able to use your entire data allowance while roaming in the EU and India, or up to 30GB if you’re on an unlimited plan.

Cons

Despite poor scores for customer service – just over half of Lebara customers told us they were satisfied with their customer support – the company still ranked highly for value and customer satisfaction. In fact, 70% of the users we spoke to said they were very satisfied with the value of their plan and 87% of Lebara users would recommend the network to a friend.

Read our full Lebara review

Key specs – Network type: MVNO on Vodafone’s network; Data rollover: No; Additional features: 100 minutes to unlimited international calling; Free EU and India roaming: Yes (up to 30GB on an unlimited plan)

Top Lebara SIM-only deal

If you’re quick, you can get a 10% discount on Lebara’s one-year plans, with our pick of the bunch being the 30GB for £13.50/mth, which also gets you 500 international minutes to over 40 countries.

 

View deal at Lebara


4. Smarty: The best mobile network for big-data deals

Price: From £6/mth (SIM-only) | View deals at Smarty

Black Smarty SIM card on a wooden table

Customer service satisfaction level*63%
Percentage of customers who would recommend Smarty*93%
Host networkThree
Free EU roamingYes (up to 12GB)
Last reviewed by Expert ReviewsNovember 2023

*According to the Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards 2023 survey

Pros

Smarty couldn’t repeat its 2022 winning run in 2023’s Mobile Network Awards, but it still scooped the prize for Best 5G services and a Highly Commended in the Value category, not to mention a Highly Commended for the best network overall.

An impressive 93% of Smarty users told us they would recommend the network and over 95% of those surveyed were satisfied with its value for money. What’s more, Smarty benefits from continued 5G network improvements on its host network, Three. All of this led to a very decent four stars out of five and an Expert Reviews Recommended award in my full Smarty review.

Cons

Smarty’s customer service results fell from a whopping 81% to 63% in our latest survey, though it’s hardly alone in that respect, while the huge range of different data plans is slightly confusing.

Read our full Smarty review

Key specs – Network type: MVNO on Three’s network; Data rollover: No; Additional features: No; Free EU roaming: Yes, up to 12GB

Top Smarty SIM-only deal

Not only is this the best Smarty deal at the moment, but it’s one of the finest SIM deals overall: unlimited data for £15/mth (was £20/mth) on a rolling, 30-day plan that can be cancelled at any time.

 

View deal at Smarty


5. Tesco Mobile: The best mobile network for customer support

Price: From £7.50/mth (SIM-only) | View deals at Tesco Mobile

A white Tesco Mobile SIM card on a wooden table

Customer service satisfaction level*78%
Percentage of customers who would recommend Tesco Mobile*86%
Host networkO2
Free EU roamingYes
Last reviewed by Expert ReviewsNovember 2023

*According to the Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards 2023 survey

Pros

If you’re after great customer service and excellent value, Tesco Mobile is the network for you. In last year’s Mobile Network Awards, it beat our 2022 winner, Sky Mobile, to take away the Customer Service award.

Over 42% of the customers we spoke with said they were very satisfied with the network’s customer support, and a further 36% were fairly satisfied – the highest scores in 2023’s survey. That’s backed up by Ofcom’s latest research, which sees Tesco Mobile with the joint-highest score for customer satisfaction and the highest score for value.

Cons

Tesco Mobile is a mobile virtual network running on top of O2. Since O2 has the lowest UK-wide median download speed of any of the four major networks, this means Tesco Mobile’s performance may prove a little disappointing. Its 5G coverage and performance is improving, however, and both 4G and 5G speeds are up from where they were last year.

Read our full Tesco Mobile review

Key specs – Network type: MVNO on Virgin Media O2’s network; Discount options: Clubcard discounts, family perks; Data rollover: No; Additional features: Spending cap; Free EU roaming: Yes

Top Tesco Mobile SIM-only deal

If you’re quick, you can get a £30 Tesco Clubcard voucher when you sign up for the two-year, 100GB for £16/mth plan. You’ll need to be a Clubcard holder to get the voucher and reduced monthly cost (it would usually be £17.50), but getting one is free and easy.

 

View deal at Tesco Mobile


6. Giffgaff: The best mobile network for reliability

Price: From £8/mth (SIM-only) | View deals at Giffgaff

White Giffgaff SIM card on a wooden table

Customer service satisfaction level*63%
Percentage of customers who would recommend Giffgaff*92%
Host networkO2
Free EU roamingYes (cap depends on your plan)
Last reviewed by Expert ReviewsNovember 2023

*According to the Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards 2023 survey

Pros

Giffgaff always has its share of great deals, and it’s one of the best options if you want a cheap package. It also scores well when it comes to value, reliability and overall customer satisfaction, which is why I awarded it four stars out of five in my full Giffgaff review.

Over half of the Giffgaff users we surveyed for last year’s Mobile Network Awards said they would be very likely to recommend it, and a further 41% said they would be fairly likely – only Smarty and Voxi enjoyed better customer feedback. Ofcom’s latest research is even more complimentary, with the best scores for overall satisfaction and value for money outside of Tesco Mobile.

Cons

Giffgaff’s speeds are sometimes limited by its reliance on O2’s core network, this didn’t seem to impact its 5G performance though, where it had more satisfied customers than Sky Mobile or Voxi, and fewer dissatisfied users in our survey.

Read our full Giffgaff review

Key specs – Network type: MVNO on O2’s network; Data rollover: No; Additional features: No; Free EU roaming: Yes, with cap depending on which plan you choose


7. iD Mobile: The best mobile network for cheap plans

Price: From £7/mth (SIM-only) | View deals at iD Mobile

Green iD Mobile SIM card on a wooden table

Customer service satisfaction level*53%
Percentage of customers who would recommend iD Mobile*79%
Host networkThree
Free EU roamingYes, up to 30GB
Last reviewed by Expert ReviewsNovember 2023

*According to the Expert Reviews Mobile Network Awards 2023 survey

Pros

iD Mobile works as a kind of halfway house between the more traditional mobile networks and the budget, no-frills crowd, offering both competitive SIM-only contracts and pay-monthly phone deals. Its customers are definitely impressed: in our Mobile Network Awards survey, 86% of iD Mobile’s customers were satisfied with the network’s value for money.

It’s also one of the few networks still bundling free EU roaming into all of its contracts. Add the rollover feature – with unused data rolling over from one month to the next – and you have a real contender, which I gave four stars out of five in my iD Mobile review.

Cons

iD Mobile didn’t score as highly on customer service, and Ofcom’s latest research notes that it has more complaints per 100,000 users than the industry average. Its results were similarly low in our annual survey, where just 53% of respondents said they were satisfied with the level of customer service they received.

Read our full iD Mobile review

Key specs – Network type: MVNO on O2’s network; Data rollover: Yes; Additional features: No; Free EU roaming: Yes, up to 30GB cap


How to choose the best mobile network for you

What is a mobile network virtual operator (MVNO)?

Many of the networks on the list above are MVNOs, which simply means that they run on one of the four major UK networks: Vodafone, EE, Three and O2. As such, they share the coverage and average download speeds of their host networks, but have the freedom to set lower prices.

How much data do you need?

You can easily find 2GB to 4GB packages for £5 to £6/mth nowadays. We’d suggest looking at 10GB to 20GB contracts as the minimum, though, while some of the best value packages now come with 30GB, 100GB or more. That gives you the freedom to stream music and video or play online games, and if you plan to use your mobile as a Wi-Fi hotspot or use game streaming services, you might want to go even further. Unlimited data deals are no longer the expensive luxury they once were, either.

How long should your contract be?

Most SIM-only contracts generally last a year, but some networks are now offering compelling deals that sign you up for 18 months or two years. If you’re happy to make that commitment, you can save a few pounds per month or bag some extra data. Pay monthly phone contracts tend to last two years, sometimes three.

You’ll also see SIM-only deals that work on a rolling monthly basis, which gives you the flexibility to buy lots of data when you need it, and then switch down to a cheaper plan when you don’t. Smarty, Giffgaff, Voxi, Lebara and iD Mobile all offer great-value options here.

These rolling, 30-day plans also let you avoid mid-contract price hikes, which are increasingly common on longer-term contracts and usually involve the monthly cost rising by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate of inflation plus an additional 3.9% every spring.

Do you need a family plan or a spending cap?

A few virtual networks allow you to take multiple SIMs on a single contract, and even share data between them. This may work out cheaper than taking out separate contracts, or net you useful perks or bonus data as a reward. What’s more, it gives you more control over spending, as you can decide which plan different family members need. Some plans even allow you to share unused allowances or a rollover pot.

Another way to keep costs under control is by setting spending caps. Most providers now support these, and they help ensure that, should you (or your offspring) burn through the allowance, you won’t get a horrific shock when you open the next bill.

Are you planning to roam abroad?

All UK networks used to allow you to use your call, text and data allowances while travelling within the EU, while a few allowed you to use them in other popular destinations, such as the US and Australia.

Sadly, post-Brexit, this is no longer the case. Vodafone, EE and Three now charge customers for inclusive EU roaming, and while most of the virtual network operators have yet to follow, you’ll still find a data cap in place for while you’re travelling abroad.

What’s the coverage like in your area?

There’s one other crucial thing you should check before you sign up: 4G and 5G coverage. If your network is weak in your area, it won’t matter how fast or how good it is elsewhere.

All mobile networks offer an online coverage checker, so you can enter your postcode and find out what services are available where you are. Ofcom also has a coverage checker that can tell you which of the four networks will give you data and enhanced data services.

Read more

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