UK Mobile Operators Compared By OpenSignal

Should consumers change networks more often to get the best deal?

by Aaron Macarthy Beards Oct 12, 2018 at 8:14 AM

  • OpenSignal is an independent tester who analyses the UK's mobile carrier signal quality. In doing so, they collect data and attempt to work out which of the four big networks: EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, offers the best service.
    The latest report has just been released and, overall, EE is still at the top spot. EE is owned by BT.

    EE came top for almost every category. They were only beaten by Three, who are owned by Hutchison Holdings, on 3G download speeds and drew with Vodafone on 3G latency. However, given that all the phone providers are pushing 4G, 3G isn’t seen as that important anymore.

    O2, owned by Telefonica, failed to win in any category and was second in just one, that of 4G availability. Vodafone, however, managed second place in five of the seven categories. Whilst EE's worst category was 3G speeds, where they still came in second.

    The big mover was Three, but not in a good way. Their performance has got worse since the last report. The misery also continued for O2 as they also worsened in a few key areas. Whilst O2 and Three slipped, Vodafone strode ahead. They gained ground on EE in some new categories. This is good for consumers because it suggests the company has been improving its infrastructure.

    Though Three slipped, it's not all doom and gloom. The company recently announced work developing 5G, with a planned 2020 launch. They might be prioritising a quick roll out of 5G over improving their current network. However, EE have continued their domination and are ahead of Three in this area too. They recently started trials of 5G in the UK with puts them well ahead of the other 3 networks.

    Of course, network coverage is very user dependant. Whilst O2 came last in a lot of categories, if you live right next to an O2 mast then you will get much better signal with them. As the graph below shows, some areas get better coverage from different networks. However, most places get the best reception, overall, from EE.

    Price is also a big driver of network choice. Savvy consumers who compare prices every time they upgrade or are prepared to go Sim Free can switch networks. Many consumers don't switch networks because they want to keep their current number.

    However, every network will provide you with a PAC (Port Authorisation Code) that will allow you to move your number to a new network.

    For those of you looking at getting a new phone, make sure to check out the AVForums Phone Comparison tool. We compare phone prices on Three, EE, Vodafone and O2 networks, as well as others like giffgaff, ID, Plusnet, Tesco, Virgin and BT.

    You can read OpenSignal's full report here.

    To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.

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