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BT Mobile vs EE: the differences between the two networks in 2021

BT Mobile vs EE

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We look at what's the same and what's different between joining EE directly or going with BT Mobile for 4G/5G coverage, speeds and benefits. Last updated: 18th May 2021.

Special offer news

How their mobile networks compare

Same: coverage on BT and EE is identical

They use the same 5G, 4G, 3G and 2G networks

Identical coverage on EE and BT Mobile

EE's the biggest 4G network and it's still growing

BT Mobile EE network banner

See expansion plans

(opens in new window)

BT Mobile customers have the same full access to the signal on the EE network, as EE's own customers do directly (something that isn't the case on low-cost providers that use EE like Plusnet and To The Moon).

Whether you join EE or BT Mobile, you'll be able to access the UK's biggest 4G network - with more of the country's physical landmass covered with the fast data technology than any other network.

For calls and texts, the EE network isn't quite as large as O2 and Vodafone geographically. But in the places people actually live, there's no massive difference. It's only in the sticks there's a slight disadvantage.

Despite newer 5G technology coming out, EE aren't resting on their laurels for 4G. They're still expanding coverage more rapidly than the competition, so signal on EE and BT is only getting better.

Useful link: EE's network investment plans

5G coverage is the same on BT Mobile and EE

Map of United Kingdon with 5G pointers

5G rollout news

(opens in new window)

We're willing to stick our necks out and say that EE are doing the best job of any network with their 5G coverage. Their reported 160 locations might be lower than other providers report but that hides a story:

EE are only reporting towns or cities where they've installed 5G in 50% of the area. Other networks are reporting ones where they literally got a few streets covered.

So even if yours isn't on their official list, do give their coverage checker a look as you might be surprised. As with 2G/3G/4G, we're confident 5G coverage is identical on BT and EE.

BT now offer 5G at no extra cost on all SIM only plans and phone contracts for models that have the feature. EE are still offering a mix of 4G plans and 5G ones:

Here are the only options to get a 5G SIM only plan on BT or EE:

Useful link: BT's guide to 5G with them

Use a coverage checker before you join

Check signal at home and other places you'll use your mobile

BT coverage checker

BT Mobile coverage checker

Check BT coverage

using their official map
(opens in new window)

EE coverage checker

Screenshot of EE's coverage checker

Check EE coverage

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

No difference

"Both EE and BT Mobile use the exact same mobile network for signal, so coverage differences needn't be something to inform your choice between the two."

Compare pricing and deals

Different: 4G speeds on EE and BT Mobile

The top speeds vary depending on the plan you choose

EE and BT Mobile logos with a speedometer

EE have different max speeds to BT

EE's top speeds vs BT Mobile's

See fastest EE plans

(opens in new window)

Independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla say they expect typical downloads over the EE network to be around the 32.99 - 35.9 Mbps mark, based on millions of real-life measurements.

Realistically, speeds will often be lower than that (in more rural places where 4G's broadcast over long distances). But also, they'll often be way higher too, particularly in towns and cities with 4G+.

That top speed depends on your plan though on EE. The standard top rate is 60 Mbps but more-premium Smart plans on phones and SIMs remove this cap and give you the top possible speeds when available.

If you're a big downloader over mobile data or want to stream in UHD, we think EE are the best choice overall (including over BT). More basic use is a smoother experience on EE than other networks but BT shouldn't be ruled out.

Useful link: Learn about EE's faster 4G+ speeds in their guide.

BT's plans do have a speed cap

BT Mobile's top speeds compared to EE

About the add-on

(opens in new window)

It's not overly clear from BT's website but their plans are sold with a default top speed cap of 30 Mbps. It means you won't get downloads above that. It means the average on BT will work out lower than EE.

It's worth saying that 30 Mbps is already an incredibly healthy speed - that's like a mid-range home fibre connection and better than most networks' typical downloads. Plus BT do have options to go faster:

They offer an upsell to Extra Speed 4G (read more and see latest costs here. It doubles the top speed cap to 60 Mbps, where available. And some plans include it at no extra cost (ask a chat agent).

So the only differences between BT and EE for speed are ones that have been put in on purpose by both companies into their products. There's no actual speed difference caused by the physical network itself.

Useful link: Read about Extra Speed add-ons on the official BT Mobile website.

Our verdict on 4G speeds:

A win for EE

"We'd say the vast majority of customers wouldn't even notice the speed difference between EE and BT Mobile or care. But if you're a super user on a phone contract, EE have faster plans available."

Compare pricing and deals

Similar: WiFi calling

Sometimes you don't have a signal but do have WiFi. That's where WiFi calling steps in.
What differences are there on EE and BT Mobile?

WiFi calling symbol with EE and BT logos

EE's WiFi calling helps with indoor signal

EE WiFi calling

Make calls and send texts over WiFiSee supported devices

(opens in new window)

Indoor signal for calls and texts is arguably a weaker point in EE's mobile network, because of the frequencies they're broadcast on. But EE do have WiFi calling and 4G calling to overcome this.

EE's WiFi calling now supports a record amount of phones (there used to be support issues, even if the phone itself had the feature) and lets you call and text over WiFi instead of conventional mobile signal.

4G calling (sometimes known as VoLTE) is useful for expanding the number of frequencies you can make calls on, so impproves your chance of having a signal indoors or out.

Both function well on EE. Our main criticism would be that you only get them on pay monthly. Things like their 1-month Flex Plans or pay as you go deals don't include either, which seems unneccessary.

Useful link: Full information on supported devices in EE's help guide.

BT Mobile have WiFi calling / 4G calling too

BT Mobile WiFi calling

Make sure your phone's supported thoughSee supported phones

(opens in new window)

We strongly suspect that the WiFi calling technology that use BT Mobile use is the same as EE's. They're owned by the same company and use all the rest of the same network infrastructure.

Despite this, BT themselves are less committal about theirs working on all Android devices, particularly if you didn't buy from them directly. Our own testing on a Galaxy S7 bought elsewhere did work though.

BT's official list of supported devices is smaller than EE's, so if you're joining on SIM only, you might want to test it as soon as possible and return within BT's generous 30-day period if it doesn't work.

We found both WiFi calling and 4G calling kick in really easily on BT. The call quality is good and they connect just as quick too. Like EE, BT's scheme also supports conventional SMS text messaging too.

Useful link: See BT Mobile's new WiFi calling feature

Our verdict on WiFi Calling:

Honours even

"Officially speaking, BT's WiFi calling supports fewer phones than EE's does but our own testing suggests there might not actually be a difference (we can't guarantee this though)."

Compare pricing and deals

Different: free access to WiFi hotspots

Do EE or BT Mobile have a better scheme?

Coffee cup with WiFi symbol between BT and EE logos

BT Mobile give you access to their WiFi network

Free WiFi app on BT Mobile

Get free BT WiFi

(opens in new window)

When you join BT Mobile on a smartphone contract or a SIM only plan, you're automatically entitled to free access to BT WiFi, their network of 5 million free WiFi hotspots in UK (and 13 million abroad).

The kind of locations you can get free WiFi include shopping centres, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, public transport hubs and other places on the high street.

The WiFi is free, unlimited and fast (when you're on the "premium" hotspots at least, which are still free for you). Connecting to it lets you save on your monthly mobile data allowance too.

Download BT's WiFi app and your phone will automatically connect when it's in range of a free hotspot, without you having to manually login yourself each time.

Useful link: Read BT's guide to free BT WiFi

EE only have free WiFi on London Underground

Free WiFi on EE

Free WiFi on Tube

(opens in new window)

Compared to what you get on BT Mobile for free WiFi, EE's offering is actually quite restricted.

Instead of free access to 5 million hotspots, you'll get free WiFi on the Underground in London. That's something you don't actually get on BT Mobile.

This is obviously still very handy particularly when you combine it with their WiFi calling feature but not as comprehensive as BT's WiFi offering for everywhere else in the country.

It could also mean you burn through your monthly data more quickly on EE if it's not so easy to offload it onto WiFi when you're out and about (so worth thinking about when choosing the size of your data plan).

Useful link: EE's guide to free London Underground WiFi

Our verdict on free WiFi hotspots:

BT Mobile win

"BT Mobile offer way more free WiFi than EE. If you're cautious about your data usage, this is genuine clear-cut advantage to joining BT over EE."

Compare pricing and deals

Perks and benefits

Different: freebie subscriptions

We look at whether EE or BT Mobile have better free pay monthly extras

Smartphone streaming alongside EE and BT logos

EE get you loads of free trials

EE streaming services

See included apps

(opens in new window)

Join EE on any pay monthly plan (SIM only or phone contract) and they'll include a free trial to multiple entertainment services. You can take up as many as you like and start them at any point in your contract too.

The list of services changes every now and then but the current list includes 6 months of free Britbox, Apple Music, Apple News+ or 3 months free BT Sport app, which even works streamed to big screens.

These are all nice little benefits, especially as EE won't charge you for the data they use during the trial. But it's important to know they're trials: not total freebies. If you don't cancel, they'll be charged to your mobile account.

Useful link: How much each costs after your trial ends

BT Mobile include the BT Sport app with some plans

BT Sport banner

How to get it

(opens in new window)

If you pick a phone contract or SIM only plan from BT Mobile that costs £15 or more (£20 if you don't have their broadband), you qualify for free BT Sport app access on your mobile.

All these come with BT Sport app access included:

As well as news and on-demand highlights, the app lets you stream anything covered live on their BT Sport TV channels on your mobile. It doesn't work on larger screens and it doesn't let you cast onto TVs either.

So it's not like you're getting a proper BT Sport TV subscription for nothing. But we can see people settling for only being able to watch on small screens, as it is basically free.

It's worth remembering, any data you use watching BT Sport away from WiFi will come out of your data allowance. There's no free streaming data schemes on BT.

Useful link: How to claim BT Sport with your mobile deal

EE's Smart plans are worth a look

EE Smart Benefits banner

How they work

(opens in new window)

On top of all the free entertainment trials, EE also offer a premium tier of plan on phone contracts and SIM only known as Smart plans. These let you choose one or more extra benefit to come with your deal.

The current extras include: BT Sport Ultimate (big screen 4k streaming of the BT Sport app), a Video Data Pass (unlimited streaming data for all these services), a Roam Further Pass (extended worldwide roaming in these countries).

All these come with at least one Smart benefit:

You can also choose an Apple Music subscription, Apple TV+ or Apple Arcade, worth between £4.99 and £9.99 a month. With any of these premium-type plans, we always recommend doing your homework:

Compare the cost of the Smart plan vs one without the benefits, and make sure you're paying less to get your choice included that you would just buying it separately direct.

Useful link: EE's Smart Benefits guide

Our verdict on free subscriptions:

A win for EE

"Even though EE's freebies are time-limited and are probably aimed at selling you the services in the future, while training you to use more data, their overall value is still higher than anything BT offer."

Compare pricing and deals

Similar: shared family plans on EE and BT

We compare what they offer for taking multiple deals

A family between BT and EE logos

BT's Family SIMs give you discounts on additional plans

BT Mobile Family SIMs banner

Calculate savings

(opens in new window)

More networks are starting to offer group or family mobile plans, where you'll get discount for adding extra members to your main account. And BT have long had one of the best schemes:

Join them on a phone contract or SIM only for your main deal and you can add up to four extra SIM only plans - each with a discount of at least 20% vs paying full price for a standalone SIM (calculate savings per plan here).

You can add extra SIMs whenever you like, you don't have to sign up to them all today. And each additional SIM is only on a 30-day contract too, so you can easily offload them too if someone wants to switch providers.

There is a downside: everyone has to join on the same plan. So they only really work if you've all got similar usage patterns. If you're drastically different, you could still be better off joining on separate deals.

Useful link: Calculate BT Family SIM savings

EE offer 10% discount and data sharing facility

EE data gifting banner

Read how it works

(opens in new window)

Add another pay monthly phone contract, SIM only plan or mobile broadband product to your main account with EE and you'll automatically qualify for a flat 10% discount against the new customer price.

That's much easier to understand than BT's Family SIMs, which don't necessarily offer a predictable discount on each plan you add to your main one.

You can also all choose different data plans each on EE and even share chunks of data between other people, if one person's run out and someone else has some spare.

Where we'd say EE's Family plans lack compared to BT is that the starting prices on EE tend to be higher anyway. So even getting a 10% discount could still mean you're overpaying vs BT Mobile.

Useful link: All benefits to EE's family plans

Our verdict on shared plans:

Basically a draw

"If you happen to all have the same data requirements your overall Family deal on BT Mobile will likely come out cheaper than EE. But EE's scheme is a lot more flexible and realistic for a group of people with different usage."

Compare pricing and deals

Similar: roaming abroad

Is roaming better on EE or BT Mobile?

A globe between BT and EE logos

Some EE plans let you choose inclusive roaming in a few non-EU countries

EE inclusive roaming banner

EE's roaming guide

(opens in new window)

Like all other pay monthly mobile networks in the UK, EE offer inclusive roaming within the EU as standard with all their SIM only plans and phone contracts (see EE's list of covered countries here).

EE will always give you 4G data speeds where they are available in the country you're visiting. This isn't the case with providers like Three's Go Roam.

The only way you can get any extra worldwide destinations included like the USA is by taking an EE Smart plan and choosing the Roam Further Pass as your Smart Benefit.

If you do go anywhere outside of the EU, you're looking at paying per minute, text or MB data at these rates. Or they also operate a system of travel passes in some destinations with a chunk of data for a fixed price.

Useful link: All roaming costs on EE

BT Mobile only really offer inclusive EU roaming

BT Mobile roaming banner

See included countries

(opens in new window)

Unlike EE, there are no options on BT Mobile to take a plan that comes with more comprehensive roaming. But you can still go to any of these EU countries without paying extra to use your UK allowances.

If you're visiting Andorra, Australia, Canada, China, India, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, UAE or USA, BT do offer the option to buy a chunk of 500MB data a day for £6 a day.

That seems pretty steep, especially compared with free roaming schemes like Three's Go Roam. But paying per MB in those countries is even steeper on BT.

Of course, if you rarely go to those places anyway, it's not something to get in your way of joining BT.

Useful link: BT's full guide to all extra costs

Our verdict on inclusive roaming:

Minor win for EE

"For the bulk of customers, there's no real difference between the inclusive roaming destinations on BT Mobile and EE. Only EE Smart Plan customers can get extra any non-EU destinations included."

Compare pricing and deals

Comparing pricing, offers and deals

SIM only on EE and BT

How do EE and BT Mobile stack up in terms of monthly costs of their SIM only deals?

BT and EE logos around a SIM card



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Added features

Special offers

One of the biggest differences between BT Mobile and EE is the extent of their special offers:

Special offer ribbon with BT and EE logos

Smartphone contracts on EE and BT Mobile

We look at what phones you can get and their pricing to see what's similar and different:

Smartphone between BT and EE logos

Phone contracts on EE and BT are pretty similar

Phone comparison screenshot

Compare phone deals

(opens in new window)

Other than all the perks and benefits we've talked about above, the phone contracts themselves on EE and BT Mobile are pretty similar. They're regular 24-month deals, with no financing or other modern complications.

If you compare joining both directly, there's not a huge difference between them price-wise. But EE do offer phone contracts via re-sellers like Fonehouse, and others, who can offer better pricing than direct.

These type of retailers buy and supply the phones themselves in bigger quantities than EE directly, so can get better prices. They then sell you a phone contract and you become an EE customer just like normal.

Our phone comparison tool includes this type of deal, as well as both networks directly, so if you're looking for a pay monthly phone contract, use it to compare and find the best price for what you're looking for.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts with us

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Very minor EE win

"Price-wise, we think you can get a better deal on EE via a re-seller for a phone contract. And the overall package with a Smarty plan is better than what you'd get on BT."

Compare pricing and deals

More guides about BT Mobile

More guides about EE