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EE vs O2: 4G coverage, speeds and roaming comparison for 2018

EE vs O2

We look at the latest independent network tests to see how EE and O2's 4G speeds and coverage compare, plus review their deals, roaming and extras. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 19th September 2018

In our head-to-head comparison

O2 and EE's networks compared
EE vs O2's mobile network

Which has better 4G and 3G coverage?
Who offers the fastest 4G speeds?
Will EE or O2 ever slow you down?

Compare EE and O2's networks

EE and O2 perks and benefits
EE vs O2 perks and benefits

Roaming plans and add-ons
Loyalty and reward schemes
Free entertainment subscriptions

Compare O2 and EE perks and benefits

EE and O2 deals and pricing
Compare EE and O2 deals

Phone contract prices
SIM only deals compared
Extra costs and price rises

Compare EE and O2's deals

Offer notifications on EE and O2

EE's 20GB for £20 SIM only deal is back
EE SIM only deals

We monitor EE constantly, and you can now get these SIMs at the best prices we ever see:

20GB for £20 a month (12-month contract)

40GB for £25 a month (12-month contract)

See all current EE offers > (opens in new tab)

O2's 20GB for £20 SIM offer
O2 SIM only deal

Get 20GB for £20 a month with O2's 12-month SIM only deal before 3rd October.

Plus there's free worldwide roaming in O2's Inclusive Travel Zone on SIMs over £20 and most smartphone plans over 8GB.

See all O2 offers > (opens in new tab)

O2 and EE's networks compared

Is EE or O2's mobile network bigger?

We look at who has better nationwide 4G and 3G coverage: O2 or EE

EE and O2's mobile networks

4G coverage is a little more comprehensive on EE than O2

EE logo
O2 logo
99%
99%

If you look at the statistics of how much of the UK population each mobile network brings signal to, you'll see EE and O2 have identical 4G coverage stats (both 99%).

But remember this is just 4G in the places people live. The new battle is for how much of the UK's physical geography EE and O2 can cover.

EE have big ambitions to bring 4G to non-residential areas too like roads, rail and countryside. After all, the point of a mobile phone is you can use it when you're travelling between places, not just when you're there.

So use their coverage checkers below to check signal on your route to work and anywhere else you go, not just at home.

3G coverage is basically equal on O2 and EE

EE logo
O2 logo
98%
99%

In the age of 4G, you might wonder whether 3G signal is still important. We think it is, as it's still used for data where there's no 4G and it carries calls and texts too.

In terms of population coverage, EE and O2 shape up practically identical to one another for 3G signal. EE offer  98% , while O2 have 99%.

Remember these stats relate to people's residences, so it's worth using the network maps below to check other locations like your journey to work etc.

How to check O2 and EE's signal

We recommend checking each network's signal in all the places you use your phone. Not just at home

EE coverage checker

EE's coverage checker

Check EE's signal

using their network map
(opens in new window)

O2 coverage checker

O2's coverage checker

Check O2's signal

using their network map
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

Win for EE

"EE still have 4G in more places than any other network, including O2 and their expansion plans are impressive. It's still worth comparing each provider's reception in your local area though, as neither have universal coverage."

Compare pricing and deals

Speeds: Is 4G data faster on O2 or EE?

We look at what independent tests say about EE and O2's 4G download speeds

O2 and EE's 4G

4G speeds measured almost twice as fast on EE than O2

EE logo
O2 logo
29.02 - 32.99 Mbps
  15.16 - 16.95 Mbps

This is an area that O2 needs to improve rapidly because independent tests show their 4G speeds to be the slowest out of the four major networks.

The results show EE customers cruise along nicely at 29.02 - 32.99 Mbps on average, while people on O2 drag their heels between  15.16 - 16.95 Mbps on average.

That's likely to be a noticeable difference. O2's results would suggest data-heavy activities like watching HD video could lead to frustrating buffering, even if basic internet browsing and social media would fast enough.

3G speeds are faster on EE too

EE logo
O2 logo
7.78 Mbps
4.76 Mbps

You might wonder why we're still talking about 3G data speeds, when there's faster 4G on both networks. The answer is because there are still areas where you won't get a 4G connection on both networks.

Independent testing shows O2 to lag behind EE here too, with average 3G downloads speeds of 4.76 Mbps compared to 7.78 Mbps on EE's 3G.

3G's never really great for data-heavy activities but both speeds will let you do basic internet browsing and social media without pulling your hair out waiting.

How these O2 and EE 4G speeds were tested

SIM Sherpa has looked at independent speed tests between EE and O2

Logos of the independent speed testers

To put together our comparisons of EE and O2's download speeds, we've looked at the reports by specialist mobile network testers OpenSignal and Ookla (Speedtest).

Both of these use apps that people download onto their phone voluntarily, which measure the speeds they're getting on a constant basis (you can download Ookla's here yourself and OpenSignal's here).

They then collect this data to put together regular reports into each country's mobile phone networks.

Below is a detailed look at what they say about EE and O2:

EE almost twice as fast as O2 according to Ookla speed tests

Ookla comparison of download speeds on O2 and EE

Ookla is a speed testing app that anyone can download to check what 4G and 3G speeds they're getting. Ookla collect this data to put together annual mobile network comparisons.

Looking at O2 vs EE's performance in Ookla's latest UK mobile networks report, you can EE were runaway leaders for speed against O2 and all other networks.

Their data showed EE's average download speed across the UK on 4G was 32.99 Mbps. This is ahead of O2's average of  16.95 Mbps recorded.

Ookla also offer the functionality to filter speeds per city, which shows similiar results to the UK average with EE beating O2 for speed consistently.

OpenSignal's speed results for O2 and EE show a similar dominace

OpenSignal comparison of EE and O2 4G speeds

OpenSignal also measure average speeds with a free app you can download but in a different way to Ookla. OpenSignal's app runs constantly in the background to get a more general reading, everywhere you go.

This explains the difference in speed results from their 2018 'State Of The UK Mobile Network' report and the results from Ookla.com recorded for EE and O2.

In this report, O2 are still a fair way behind with a 15.16 Mbps average 4G speed compared to EE's 29.02 Mbps.

Our verdict on speed:

EE win

"All independent testing puts EE comfortably ahead of O2 for 4G. With generally similar prices on SIMs and phones, speed fans will most likely be better off on EE."

Compare pricing and deals

Is WiFi calling better on EE or O2?

Both networks have a scheme, we look to see if O2 or EE's is best

EE's WiFi calling is more flexible than O2's

EE WiFi calling banner

See supported phones

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

EE were the first mobile network in the UK to launch WiFi calling, a system that lets you make and take calls over WiFi if there's no conventional mobile signal where you are.

In our guide to the UK networks with WiFi calling, we don't give EE our top rating though (we hand that to Three's inTouch system) but we do put it above O2's.

EE's scheme works on pay monthly phone contracts and SIM only plans (it doesn't work on pay as you go) but you'll need a supported phone. EE publish a list of phones that will work with their WiFi calling here.

For SIM only, they're a little cagey about which Android phones will work on it, if you've bought from another network. But on Apple, they say iPhone 6 and up will work.

If you're joining on a smartphone contract, be sure to take one of the phones here that EE guarantee will work on WiFi calling.

Useful link: More about how WiFi calling works at EE.co.uk

O2's WiFi calling supports fewer phone models

O2's WiFi calling

See supported phones

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

There are a couple of subtle differences between the WiFi calling that O2 offer and the technology on EE:

First is that O2's WiFi calling only lets you switch between a WiFi connection and a 4G mobile signal if you walk out of an area with WiFi (EE works on 2G and 3G too). This is probably a very minor point in reality.

The main weakness on O2 is you'll need to have bought your Android phone from them directly for WiFi calling to work. This could be a problem if you're joining on SIM only and got your phone from somewhere else.

Our advice: check O2's guide to supported phones for WiFi calling before signing up, to avoid disappointment.

Useful link: O2's full guide to WiFi calling at O2.co.uk

Our verdict on this topic:

A narrow win for EE

"Out of the two, EE's WiFi calling is more likely to support your phone, and we like the fact that you can move seamlessly from WiFi onto any mobile signal, which you can't do on O2."

Compare pricing and deals

EE and O2's perks and benefits compared

Going abroad: how EE and O2 compare for roaming

Both O2 and EE offer free EU roaming as standard, we see who's best if you're going further afield

O2 roaming vs EE's

O2 now offer some inclusive worldwide roaming on top of free EU

Free EU roaming on O2

See all roaming costs

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

On every pay monthly O2 tariff, you'll get free roaming in these EU countries included as standard. And on pay as you go, using your phone will cost the same there as it does at home.

In destinations further afield, O2 operate a roaming pass system called O2 Travel. This gives you a block of minutes, texts and data to use for a fixed daily charge (see latest costs and full details here).

As a new feature, O2 are now including roaming at no extra cost in 27 selected non-EU countries with their more-premium phone models and SIM only tariffs (look out for tariffs flagged with "O2 Travel Inclusive Zone").

Altogether, O2 have a pretty standard roaming offering. They make inclusive worldwide roaming more available than EE, and offer a larger amount of extra countries too.

Useful link: O2's full guide to roaming and costs at O2.co.uk

EE have some worldwide roaming and give you 4G everywhere it's available

EE plans with free roaming

See free EE roaming

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

You'll get the same free EU roaming with every pay monthly plan on EE as you do on O2. Here's EE's full list of countries you can visit in Europe without paying extra for normal usage.

And if you take a phone on one of EE's Max plans, you'll get inclusive roaming in 5 extra countries too, like the USA and Canada (see full list here). This isn't something you can get on SIM only though.

All other roaming on EE is either charged on a pay as you go style basis at the rates here, or you can buy international passes, with a block of allowances to use in certain countries.

Where EE do shine, is by offering 4G speeds in every country where they're available. O2 can be a bit non-committal about what speeds you'll get abroad and even actively slow you down while roaming.

Useful link: EE's full guide to roaming and costs at EE.co.uk

Our verdict on roaming:

Too little to split them

"Both O2 and EE offer inclusive roaming outside the EU but you'll need to make sure you're on the right plan, and both come at a premium (for out-and-out value we still think Three's Feel At Home with 71 countries is the best roaming scheme out there)"

Compare pricing and deals

Free extras and rewards on EE vs O2

We compare how O2 and EE cram extra value into their deals with included freebies

Perks and free on EE vs O2

O2's Priority gives you daily deals and freebies

O2 Priority daily deals

See latest Priority deals

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

We still think O2 Priority is the biggest and best loyalty scheme offered by any of the mobile networks (even Three's Wuntu app doesn't match it), and EE have nothing similar.

If you've not heard of it, Priority is essentially an exclusive club for anyone on O2 (pay monthly or pay as you go) that gives you access to special offers, food and drink discounts, and event tickets hosted at O2 venues.

It all works using The O2 Priority app where you'll find the deals, which update daily. It's a decent benefit, as long as you don't pay extra to join O2 in the first place.

Before you let Priority be the reason you join O2 over EE, we'd recommend checking the types of offers you'll get below and making sure they'll actually be things you use.

Useful link: See everything that Priority gets you in O2's official guide

You can get two free subscriptions with EE

How to get them

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

EE don't have anything similar to O2's Priority. Instead they focus on giving you extra things that will get more out of your mobile deal with them:

Every pay monthly customer on EE gets a free 6-month subscription to the music streaming service Apple Music. They'll also not charge you for the data listening to the app uses (here's how it works).

On top of that every pay monthly customer also gets at least a free 3-month subscription to the BT Sport App (or get it free for 24 months if you take a phone on an EE Max Plan)

These are nice extras from EE but a bit of shame that they're time-limited. After the inital 3 or 6 months, you'll start paying for them, so be careful if you don't want to spend more.

Useful link: EE's help article about free apps and their costs

Our verdict on included freebies and extras:

No clear winner

"The freebies offered by O2 and EE are radically different. Deciding which is more useful is more down to personal taste, so we're calling this one a draw for the time being."

Compare pricing and deals

Shared family plans and data sharing on EE and O2

We look at whether O2 or EE offer better benefits for groups

Shared plans on EE and O2

EE's Family Accounts are easier to use and get benefit from than O2's

EE's data gifting family plans

How it works

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

EE have just made some big improvements to how managing multiple plans on one account works, and it's put them ahead of O2 in our family plan rankings here.

You'll get a flat 10% discount against the regular price on most pay monthly products (phone contract, tablet deal or SIM only plan over £12.99) that you add to an existing account you have with EE. Just sign in when you order.

And a really nice feature they've included is called data gifting. This lets you switch chunks of data between the different plans that you manage on your account.

So if one member's running out of data, and another has some spare, you send it over and avoid paying extra for going over your limit. It's a flexible system and it's the best data-sharing scheme we've seen.

Useful link: All Family Account benefits on EE from the EE website

O2's data-sharing and family discounts aren't as straightforward

See O2 Family Plans

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

If you're taking out multiple contracts with O2, there are some similar benefits to what you get on EE. We just think they're slightly less flexible and a little harder to take advantage of.

In terms of discounts, it's only really phones that O2 offer group-savings on. And the money-off is only on the airtime (your mins, texts and data), not the device itself. You can save up to 50% as O2 explain here.

Sharing data on O2 is possible too but you'll need to have a phone contract with them for it to work.

You have one lead device, which can give data to other users on your account. You can't swap data between the other plans like you can on EE.

Useful link: How data sharing works on O2 from their official guide

Our verdict on this topic:

A win for EE

"EE's approach to shared family accounts is a little more transparent and simple to understand. We also think it'd be easier to use EE's data gifting on a regular basis, so we're saying a win for EE over O2 here."

Compare pricing and deals

EE and O2 deals and pricing

SIM only deals: comparing EE and O2

Here's how EE and O2's pricing stacks up if you're joining on pay monthly SIM only

EE and O2's prices are closely matched

EE and O2 SIM only plans

Use our deal finder below to find the right SIM only plan for you, and look out for special offers running on each network.

O2 have both 12-month and 1-month contracts, while EE only sell 12-month deals online:

Choose what you want in your deal:

Deal options >
Choose mins, texts and data >
Choose data speed (3G or 4G) >
Choose max contract length >

Close options

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Showing SIM only deals with at least
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Our verdict on SIM only prices:

Too close to call

"EE and O2 are always very similarly priced for SIM only. Realistically, you're best off comparing deals with mins, texts and data you want and seeing which is best value at the time."

Compare pricing and deals

Latest special offers on O2 and EE

We compare the current promotions running on EE and O2

O2 improve most of their SIM only deals

September is an excellent month to take a SIM only deal from O2, because they've added more data to lots of the plans, and discounted their largest deals such as:

60GB data, unlimited mins and texts: £60 £30 a month

30GB 40GB data, unlimited mins and texts: £25 a month

20GB data, unlimited mins and texts: £20 a month

Each qualifies for free worldwide roaming in O2's Inclusive Travel Zone too, including the USA and 75 countries in total.

Useful link: See all other O2 offers

EE's 20GB for £20 SIM only deal is back

If you're looking for a SIM only plan with a huge data allowance, there's not really a better time to join than now:

Get 20GB for £20 a month here. We monitor EE constantly and you genuinely never see a better price for 20GB than this.

Or for £5 more a month, you can get twice the data with EE's 40GB for £25 a month deal on a 12-month contract too.

Meanwhile, if you're after a phone, take a look at EE's offer page here, which has all their discounted models and extra data offers.

Useful link: See full list of EE offers > (opens in new tab)

Phone contracts on EE vs O2

We compare the benefits and prices when you take a smartphone

EE and O2 phone contracts

O2 let you build your own plans and upgrade early if you want

O2 Refresh phone contracts

See custom plans

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

Compared with EE, O2's new custom plans are much more flexible. You can upgrade early, choose your contract length between 3 - 36 months, and tweak the upfront cost you're willing to pay. How does it all work?

Your deal is split into two parts: a loan that covers the cost of your device, paid off monthly. And a contract covering the cost of your minutes, texts and data (read O2's full explanation here). This has a few benefits:

Firstly, you can pay the loan off in full at any point you like, with no exit fees. You're then free to upgrade to a new phone, leave O2 altogether, or stay and only pay the lower cost for your mins, texts and data.

The other advantage is having the ability to spread the device cost over your choice of months. Pay it off quickly at a higher monthly rate. Or more slowly at a lower monthly cost. The total phone cost is the same whichever you choose.

If you find standard 24-month contracts constraining, O2 could be a better choice than EE. You'll need a good credit history though, as the contracts are based on finance.

Useful link: Full details on O2's custom plans from their own guide

EE offer some early upgrade options on phone contracts

EE early upgrades on smartphones

How they work

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

Most of EE's contracts work like what we'd call "standard mobile contracts": ones that last 24 months and give you a phone, plus your mins, texts and data, for one single monthly payment.

This probably means the credit check on EE isn't as hard to pass as O2's whose contracts are based on loans (although we have no specific information on either's requirements).

On selected top-end phones, and more-premium plans EE offer "Annual Upgrades". This is basically a scheme where EE will buy you out of your contract but you have to give them back your phone.

We're not huge fans of this sort of deal, because you're giving back a phone that you've already half paid for. When you could go sell it yourself via a second-hand phone store, potentially for more.

In short: EE are less flexible than O2 but their deals are a lot simpler to understand and compare.

Useful link: See EE's range of phones

Quick price comparison

Here's how EE and O2 compare on entry-tariff prices for some leading phones

Our verdict on phone contract pricing:

EE and O2 are fairly evenly priced

"The two providers are reasonably closely matched on phone contract prices. Use our phone deal comparison tool to find deals "

Compare phone deals

Choosing between EE and O2

Key differences between O2 and EE

Consider these points when making your mind up between EE and O2:

EE could be the best choice if...

Their 4G/3G signal is better near you (check here)

You want the network with the fastest 4G speeds

You're happy with mainly free roaming in the EU

You want an included BT Sport app and Apple Music subscription

Their WiFi calling supports your phone and O2 don't (check EE here and O2 here)

O2 could be the best choice if...

They have better coverage near you (check here)

You want a plan with loads of inclusive roaming outside the EU too

You want a phone contract that lets you upgrade early

Their WiFi calling supports your phone and EE don't (check O2 here and EE here)

You'd benefit from the daily offers on Priority

Other useful network comparisons

Comparing EE and Three

EE vs Three

Read EE vs Three comparison

Comparing EE and Vodafone

EE vs Vodafone

Read our EE vs Vodafone guide

Comparing EE and BT Mobile

EE vs BT Mobile

Read differences between EE and BT Mobile

Comparing O2 and Three

O2 vs Three

Read O2 vs Three comparison

Comparing O2 and Vodafone

O2 vs Vodafone

Read O2 vs Vodafone comparison

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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