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Best 5G networks in the UK: we rank the fastest and biggest

5G mobile signal bars and lightning bolt

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We look at the latest 5G speed testing data and coverage information to find the overall best mobile network for 5G data. Last updated: 20th February 2023.

5G mobile networks in the UK

Each main network is rapidly expanding their 5G

Map of UK with 5G dots

5G live in lots of UK towns and cities

The four major UK networks (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) have had their 5G networks live for a while now and have expanded them to cover more and more of the country.

As 5G is being rolled out to more towns and cities, coverage within those locations has also improved (but it’s still often on a street by street basis). Independent speed testers now have more data than ever for results.

We’ve compared the main networks to see which is the best for 5G. For us, coverage is as important as sheer speeds (what’s the point of fast speeds if no one can get them), but speed is also important to consider.

Here’s how we rank the main UK networks (and providers that use them) based on their 5G.

How each network compares for 5G

Joint 1st: Three’s 5G is by far the fastest and is widespread too

Three's fast 5G banner

Blistering fast typical 5G speedsRead why

at three.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign More 5G live locations than other networks
Green plus sign Fastest 5G speeds by far
Green plus sign Typically good coverage in 5G locations
Green plus sign Included on every plan at no extra cost

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Coverage in some locations quite limited

Three are by far the fastest UK network for 5G, which makes sense as they use more neighbouring frequency spectrum than the other networks. Speedtest have named Three as the fastest UK network for 5G speeds.

According to results from Opensignal and Speedtest, typical 5G speeds on Three are around 228.4 Mbps - 285.2 Mbps. And Speedtest also found that 5G can peak at a frankly-daft 687.13 Mbps.

Three currently have 5G live in these 480+ UK towns and cities. And while they can’t cover these locations entirely with 5G, our analysis has found coverage in these locations to be typically fairly widespread.

Three offer 5G on every one of their plans. Here are their best current deals

Of course, the speeds and coverage you get on Three will vary depending on where you live (check coverage here). But you’ve got the best chance of being covered for superfast 5G signal on Three.

Useful link: Latest 5G news on Three

Our ranking:
Joint 1st

5G towns/cities in UK:
480+ (see full list)

Extra locations coming:

5G plans available:
SIM only
Phone contracts

Joint 1st: The providers that use Three’s network

iD Mobile canvasHonest Mobile canvasSMARTY Mobile canvas

There are a handful of smaller providers that use Three’s network, all of which offer access to Three’s fantastic 5G network.

SMARTY - They’re owned directly by Three and use their network. They now get you full access to Three’s 5G on all of their great value plans.

iD Mobile - They offer the same network experience as being on Three, but often at cheaper prices (check coverage here).

Honest Mobile - They sell themselves on being a “carbon-negative” network that have full access to Three’s 5G (check coverage here).

Useful link: iD Mobile’s guide to their 5G

Joint 2nd: EE offer a good mix of speeds and coverage

EE 5G map

Lots of towns and cities with 5GSee latest list

at EE.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Great coverage in declared 5G locations
Green plus sign Lots of UK towns and cities with 5G
Green plus sign Typically fast speeds

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Typically half speed of Three
Red minus sign 5G not included on Pay As You Go

EE sit comfortably in second place in our rankings. They have an excellent mix of very fast typical speeds and coverage, but are still behind Three in our eyes.

You currently get 5G in these 310+ UK towns and cities. But you’ll also get it in more locations than that, as EE only declare a location as live, once 5G is available in 50% of that location’s geographic area.

According to Opensignal and Speedtest you get typical 5G download speeds between 122.32 Mbps - 130.50 Mbps and peak speeds on EE can reach around 350.41 Mbps. But they had the third slowest upload speeds at 15.63 Mbps.

Finally, some of EE’s lower end plans are speed capped, meaning full speed 5G is restricted to their pricier plans. Compare that to Three who give you faster 5G at no extra cost and you’ll see why EE come second.

Useful link: EE's full guide to their 5G rollout

Our ranking:
Joint 2nd

5G towns/cities in UK:
310+ (see latest list here)

Extra locations this year:

5G plans available:
Phone contracts
SIM only plan

Joint 2nd: The providers on EE’s network

1pMobile canvasCo-op Mobile logo

There are a couple of smaller providers on EE’s network, but only one of them gets you full access to their rapidly growing 5G network:

1pMobile - While they’re a low-cost, no-frills provider, 1pMobile 5G via EE’s network. They’re the cheapest way onto EE’s full network (check coverage here):

And they offer the cheapest Pay As You Go rates of all networks if you’d prefer to pay that way:

Co-op Mobile - They’re a smaller provider on EE with full access to their 5G network. As yet, we’ve not managed to test them for real.

Plusnet Mobile - They’re a very cheap alternative to EE, but they don’t offer 5G access on any of their plans. We don’t think they’ll include this any time soon either.

Useful link: Check EE’s network coverage

Joint 3rd: Vodafone offer good 5G coverage and speeds

Vodafone 5G coverage map

Typically good coverage in 5G locationsSee latest cities

at vodafone.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign The only network with 5G abroad
Green plus sign Healthy typical 5G speeds
Green plus sign Coverage in 5G locations is good
Green plus sign Second fastest upload speeds

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Fewest 5G-live locations of all networks
Red minus sign Third place for typical download speeds

Vodafone used to be in last place in our rankings, but as the 5G scene has developed, Vodafone have improved a lot. While they have the lowest amount of covered locations (just 141+) their 5G network is still strong.

Coverage in their declared locations has improved massively over time, with lots of these places having 5G in most areas. However, this does depend per location so check your area here before you buy.

Opensignal and Speedtest measured typical 5G speeds between 105.2 Mbps - 146.01 Mbps, with peak speeds up to 322.91 Mbps. They also have the second fastest upload speeds 15.86 Mbps.

Vodafone offer 5G access on their regular pay monthly SIM only and phone plans, but not on their no-frills Basics plans or on their smaller PAYG monthly bundles. So 5G-access does come at a higher cost on Vodafone.

Overall, Vodafone’s speeds and coverage are great, but it’s a bit harder to get 5G than it is on the networks above. If Vodafone covered more locations then we could see them rising higher up the list.

Useful link: Vodafone's latest 5G news

Our ranking:
Joint 3rd

5G towns/cities in UK:
141+ (see list here)

Extra locations this year:
21 (see list here)

5G plans available:
SIM only
Phone contracts

Joint 3rd: The smaller providers on Vodafone’s network

VOXI logoTalkMobile logoLebara logoASDA logo

Vodafone have more small providers on their network that offer 5G than the other major networks. These all offer full access to Vodafone’s 5G at generally lower prices:

VOXI - They’re a sub-brand of Vodafone and get full access to their network, including full access to Vodafone’s 5G with no speed caps or signal differences (check coverage here).

Talkmobile - Another smaller, low-cost provider. We didn’t expect them to introduce 5G, however they have surprised us by offering full access to Vodafone’s 5G on all their great value plans (check signal map here).

Lebara - They’re a super cheap network, but just because they have low prices doesn’t mean you get an inferior network experience to being on Vodafone directly (check coverage here).

ASDA Mobile - They offer 5G on most plans, but their unlimited data plans have different speed caps depending on the price. Their highest end plan is capped at 150 Mbps, so you won’t get peak 5G speeds with them.

With that in mind, you’ll get 5G in the same areas you would get it being on Vodafone directly (check coverage here).

Only VOXI and ASDA explicitly say you can get 5G abroad. We think Lebara also offer this, but we can’t say for certain.

Useful link: Vodafone’s coverage checker

Joint 4th: O2 offer good coverage but below-average speeds

Screenshot of O2 coverage map

Loads of locations with 5GUse O2's 5G map

at O2.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Good coverage in 5G locations
Green plus sign More locations covered than any network

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Slowest speeds of all networks
Red minus sign Not included on PAYG

O2 come last place in our rankings due to their lower than average speeds. Opensignal and Speedtest measure 5G speeds on O2 between 80.57 Mbps - 92.30 Mbps, with peak speeds up to 214.2 Mbps.

That’s still fast, and a lot faster than O2’s 4G. But their speed results have got worse over time as more users have joined their network. They also have the lowest 5G upload speeds of 10.97 Mbps.

They have 5G in a massive 750+ locations and coverage in those places is typically good. But you have to weigh up whether you’d rather be on slower 5G more often with O2 or faster 5G less often on another network.

If you’re set on joining O2, you’ll get 5G included on all of their pay monthly contracts, just make sure to say you have a 5G phone in the checkout. You can see their 5G-phone range here.

Useful link: Latest O2 5G rollout news

Our ranking:
Joint 4th

5G towns/cities in UK:
750+ (see list here)

Extra locations this year:

5G plans available:
SIM only
Phone contracts

Joint 4th: Other providers on O2’s network

Virgin mobile logoSky logoTesco Mobile logogiffgaff logoLycamobile logo

There’s a fair few providers that operate on the O2 network and get you access to their 5G:

Virgin Mobile - They’ve switched over to O2’s network, having been on Vodafone’s network before that. They offer full 5G access on all of their good value, 1-month plans (see their signal map here):

Sky Mobile - They’re the largest network to piggyback off O2’s network and get you full access to their 5G on all of their plans (see their coverage here).

Tesco Mobile - They’re a cheaper network that get you access to O2’s 5G where you’d usually get it on O2 directly and without any difference in speeds (check coverage here).

giffgaff - They’re a low-cost, low-frills provider on O2’s network. However, they still offer you full access to O2’s 5G network, with no difference in speed or signal (check coverage here).

Lycamobile - Another smaller, cheaper provider on O2’s network. You get access to O2’s 5G on every Lycamobile plan at no extra cost (check coverage here).

Useful link: O2’s coverage checker

Networks that we don’t expect to introduce 5G any time soon

Plusnet logo

Here we’ll show which networks haven’t promised to bring out 5G. We don’t expect any of these to do so any time soon.

Plusnet Mobile are a no-frills, low-cost provider who are partly owned by BT and use EE’s network to provide signal. Yet they’re the only provider on EE to not offer 5G or any other major network features.

In fact they’re now the only network to offer neither 5G access nor WiFi/4G calling. They haven’t shown any intention to add these features in the future either.

Useful link: Reviews of each UK mobile network

5G SIM only plans

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1p Mobile logo
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ASDA logo
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Coop Mobile logo
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giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
Lycamobile logo
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