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EE vs O2: which has the best network coverage and speeds?

EE and O2 logos

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We compare joining O2 and EE on a SIM only plan or phone contract, to see which has better 5G/4G coverage and speeds, plus extra benefits. Last updated: 3rd November 2022

Offer notifications on EE and O2

O2 and EE's networks compared

Coverage on O2 vs EE

Which provider has the more widespread 2G/3G/4G/5G networks?

EE and O2's mobile networks

EE win for 4G coverage, O2 win for calls and texts

Best network for coverage

Read their claim

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EE and O2 own the networks they use to provide signal. Both networks have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to coverage for calls and data:

4G data coverage is better on EE, meaning you’re more likely to stay connected to 4G while you travel, or if you’re living in a rural area. In more populated areas you won’t notice much of a difference between them.

When it comes to call signal (3G/2G) O2 cover more of the UK’s landmass than any other network. And their signal is broadcast on frequencies that are much better at getting through building materials.

These providers offer cheaper deals while giving you the same coverage as their hosts.

O2: Sky Mobile (read our review), Tesco Mobile (read our review) or giffgaff (read our review)

EE: BT Mobile (read our review) or Plusnet Mobile (not identical coverage, read our review).

In any case you should use both their network maps here to see which network has better coverage in your area. Check both at home and anywhere you’ll need to use your phone.

Useful link: EE's targets for geographical 4G coverage

5G coverage is much closer between them

EE branded map with 5G pointers

Latest 5G news

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Each main UK network now provides 5G signal. But we still can’t exactly say how much of the population is covered on either network. Instead we can look at where 5G is live on either network and how well each cover their locations.

EE claim to have 5G live in 160+ UK towns and cities while O2 claim to cover 190+ locations. We noticed that each network seems to be covering different locations too, but there is some overlap.

But no network can cover their locations entirely. 5G is still on a street by street basis. EE only declare a location as live once they cover at least 50% of its area for 5G. Even if your location isn’t listed you might still get 5G on EE (check here).

O2 are also good at covering their locations, but their speeds can really suffer on the edges of their signal. In any case, use both networks’ coverage checkers to see how 5G coverage is in your area.

Useful link: O2's 5G rollout latest news

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)

Alternative coverage checkers

Independent coverage checkers

Use Ofcom checker
Use RootMetrics checker

Our verdict on coverage:

Minor win for EE

“EE provide a better overall blend of signal and even their less impressive call signal can be made up for with WiFi calling and 4G calling. Total signal blackspots are typically less common on O2, but it’s still a minor win for EE here.”

Compare pricing and deals

Speeds: Is data faster on O2 or EE?

What sort of 5G/4G data speeds you’ll get on EE and O2

O2 and EE logos with a speedometer

EE’s 4G speeds are typically faster than O2’s

EE branded awards image

See all awards

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Looking at the results from independent network testers Opensignal, EE race ahead of the other networks for 4G data speeds while O2 falls to the bottom of the pile.

They measured typical 4G data speeds of 17.1 Mbps while 4G speeds on EE were more than twice as fast at 44.0 Mbps. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

In real life testing we got speeds as low as 12 Mbps and as high as 130+ Mbps on EE and speeds between 5 Mbps and 95 Mbps on O2. You’ll slow down in rural areas with both networks, but you’ll still usually get better speeds on EE.

If you use your phone for basic social media and internet browsing then you won’t notice a massive difference between the two. But if you’re a gamer, streamer or file sharer then EE are the obvious choice.

Useful link: EE's guide to 5G vs 4G

EE have faster 5G speeds than O2 too

EE 5G banner

See their guide

(opens in new window)

Now that both networks have offered 5G for a long time, we can compare them both in terms of typical 5G speeds using results from network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla.

Typical 5G speeds on EE sit between 126.10 Mbps - 131.9 Mbps, while speeds on O2 were between 90.61 Mbps - 110.9 Mbps. It’s worth noting both networks have got slower in Speedtest’s latest findings as more speed data gets collected.

While that’s a pretty significant difference between the two, we think you’d only really notice that if you’re downloading something huge like a HD movie or installing a game. We wouldn’t let it put us off O2.

There’s now more data available as more people are able to access 5G, meaning the picture is changing for which networks are the strongest for 5G. For now EE offer better 5G speeds than O2, but that could also change in time.

Useful link: Read O2's guide to what 5G means on their network

Our verdict on speed:

EE win

"EE’s data speeds are faster than O2’s both when it comes to typical and peak 4G speeds.There isn’t a massive gulf between them for 5G speeds, but for now EE are the clear winner."

Compare pricing and deals

Is WiFi calling better on O2 or EE?

Both providers have it, so which one has the better feature?

WiFi calling symbol with O2 and EE logos

EE offer more flexibility with their WiFi calling

EE WiFi calling banner

See supported phones

(opens in new window)

Both O2 and EE offer WiFi calling and 4G calling features to connect calls using WiFi signal or 4G signal. This helps if you’re somewhere with poor call signal, such as if you’re indoors and far from the nearest mast.

We tested both in real life and found EE’s scheme was easier to get working. We struggled a bit to get O2’s WiFi calling to “kick in” (which might be down to their typically better call signal). And O2 don’t let you send SMS texts over WiFi while EE do.

There’s also a longer list of supported devices on EE than there is on O2. When we tested devices not bought from the networks directly, WiFi calling tended to work more often on EE than on O2.

Both features are included as standard on EE and O2’s pay monthly plans, but you won’t get it on O2’s pay as you go. You also have to turn it on in your account settings with O2, which can be annoying if you don’t realise.

Useful link: More about how WiFi calling works

O2 have lots of free automatic WiFi hotspots

O2's WiFi hotspots

Find local hotspots

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If you find yourself getting through your whole data allowance often, then you’ll find it useful to go with a network that offer free WiFi hotspots as a way of saving your data while you’re on the go.

On any of EE’s pay monthly plans you’ll get access to a network of WiFi hotspots on the TFL system. This is great for staying connected on the Underground, but O2’s hotspot scheme includes this and much more:

O2 give you access to their huge network of WiFi hotspots across the whole country (and on the Underground) on all plans. Their app will automatically log you in to 7000+ of their 15,000+ hotspots.

From experience we found speeds on O2’s hotspots were decent and the automatic log in worked as it should. You’ll only be automatically logged in if the WiFi speeds are faster than being on data, we just wish more hotspots had this feature.

Useful link: O2's full guide to WiFi calling

Our verdict on extra network features:

Minor win for EE

"Having a good WiFi calling scheme is more important than having a good WiFi hotspot scheme. For this EE’s WiFi calling is a lot more functional. O2’s WiFi hotspot scheme is better, but EE’s is also good. Overall EE win this one."

Compare pricing and deals

EE and O2's perks and benefits compared

Roaming: how EE and O2 compare for roaming

Which is the best network for using your plan abroad?

O2 roaming vs EE's

O2 still include EU roaming on every plan

Free EU roaming on O2

See all roaming costs

(opens in new window)

While the other three major UK networks (EE, Three and Vodafone) have pulled their free inclusive EU roaming, O2 have kept their roaming scheme in place.

You can use your UK allowance of minutes, texts and data in these EU countries like you would at home. However you are capped at 25GB of your data while you’re there. We think most users won’t hit that cap on a typical trip, however.

On some of their premium plans they even let you take their Travel Inclusive Zone benefit, letting you roam beyond the EU in 27 worldwide destinations such as the United States and Australia.

These all include O2 Travel Inclusive Zone:

With this extra you get 120 minutes, 120 texts and 150MB of full-speed data to use in their worldwide destinations. Once you’ve used that data up you actually get unlimited data, but severely speed capped.

Overall, O2 are a good choice for going beyond the EU and a great choice for going to the EU. But if you want to go beyond the EU for a longer time, Vodafone’s Global Roaming with their Xtras plans might make them a better choice.

Useful link: O2's full guide to roaming and costs

EE don’t offer inclusive EU roaming

EE plans with free roaming

See their scheme

(opens in new window)

EE no longer include EU roaming on their plans. These days you have to pay per day to use your UK allowance of minutes, texts and data in their EU destinations.

While you’re in their EU destinations you’ll have to pay a fixed daily charge of £2 a day. Even though you’re paying to access your allowance, you’ll also be limited to 50GB while abroad.

Alternatively, you can take one of EE's Smart plans and choose to add roaming as a “Smart Benefit” (essentially just an extra) which will even give you roaming in 5 additional worldwide destinations (see full list here).

Choose extra roaming as your Smart benefit with any of these SIMs:

For going beyond the EU, EE do offer Travel Data Passes that are bundles of data that cost you a different daily rate and give you a different data allowance depending on where you’re roaming. In all, roaming on EE comes at a price.

Useful link: EE's full guide to roaming and costs

Our verdict on roaming:

Big win for O2

“You’ll pay a lot to roam in the EU on EE, whereas if you join O2 you’ll be able to go abroad without worrying about paying extra if you don’t go over the 25GB limit. O2 are the better network for worldwide roaming as well.”

Compare pricing and deals

Free extras and rewards on EE vs O2

What both networks offer to give customers more for their money

Perks and free on EE vs O2

O2 offer added extras on premium plans

O2 Extras

See all O2 Extras

(opens in new window)

As an O2 customer you’ll miss out on a few extra benefits that you’d get with other networks. You don’t get unlimited streaming data or data rollover like you do on Sky Mobile. But there are a few benefits to help you get better value out of your plan.

You’ll get access to O2’s popular Priority benefit on every O2 plan. This is an app that gets you access to unique special offers on high street restaurants, shopping and other experiences.

And you can add Extras on any 24-month or 12-month contract which include free trials to certain entertainment services (see the full list here). Usually the more expensive the plan the longer the trial and more choices you get.

But these are only trials and once they’re up (from 3 to 6 months depending on the size of your plan) you’ll either have to cancel or start paying for them. But if you remember to do that, these Extras can get you more value out of your plan.

Useful link: See everything that Priority gets you

Get three free trial subscriptions on any EE plan

EE entertainment subscriptions banner

Read full benefits

(opens in new window)

EE don’t offer a rewards scheme like O2’s Priority. But they do offer some free trials to entertainment services on all of their pay monthly plans.

If you’re an Apple user you’ll benefit from a 6 months free trial to Apple News+, Apple Arcade and Apple Music. However, Android users will only benefit from the Apple Music trial, as the other trials aren’t available to them.

To add to the value you’re getting, EE make it so the data you use on these apps won’t come out of your regular allowance. You can stream as much as you like until your trial is up.

Overall it’s a generous benefit for joining them. But Android users don’t get as much out of it and if you don’t cancel the subscriptions once your trials are up then you could start paying for them without meaning to.

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

Our verdict on included freebies and extras:

Win for O2

“Both networks give you free trials to get you better value out of your plan for the short term. But O2’s Priority keeps giving you benefits and special offers throughout the length of your plan. However, EE’s free trials might be better for Apple users.”

Compare pricing and deals

Family plans and data sharing on O2 and EE

We go over EE’s and O2’s family plans and see which is better

Shared plans on EE and O2

EE’s Family Plans give you extra benefits and discounts

EE's data gifting family plans

How it works

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EE’s Family Plans are very easy to understand, as you get a percentage discount off any plans you add onto your main account. It’s a great way of saving money while getting your family on their own plans.

You get 20% off all pay monthly products you add to your existing EE account. This includes phone contracts, tablets and 12-month SIM only plans. You just need to be signed in when you order.

Add to that EE’s data gifting benefit and you’ll see why this scheme is so strong. This lets you gift data from one user to another to prevent extra charges if one user has got through all their data. And you get 1GB extra for each user on your account.

The only real downside is that EE are a very pricey network and you could just save money by going with a cheaper provider. 1pMobile piggyback off EE but offer typically cheaper plans.

Useful link: All Family Account benefits on EE

O2 give bigger discounts but on fewer plans

O2 Family Plan

See O2 Family Plans

(opens in new window)

Whether you’d get a bigger discount on O2 or EE depends what sort of plan you’re taking. If you’re taking a 12-month SIM only plan you get 20% off and you also get 20% off the usage (mins, texts and data) plan for phone contracts.

So if you take a phone contract the actual cost of the device itself isn’t discounted, only the usage plan. That means the discount will ultimately be lower than EE’s 20% off the entire phone deal.

But that’s still some decent savings. And you can add up to 20 extra plans on your account and get all of them discounted! But we don’t imagine most people will be able to do this as you’ll have to pass a strict credit check to do so.

If you take an O2 Refresh contract (what they call a phone contract) you can also share data with users on your account. You can only transfer data from the lead device to the others, however there can be more than one lead device.

Useful link: How data sharing works on O2

Our verdict on this topic:

A slight win for EE

“We like the fact that EE’s discount applies to devices and is a bit simpler to understand. It’s possible to get bigger savings by adding more SIM only deals on O2, but you miss out on EE’s fantastic data gifting.”

Compare pricing and deals

EE and O2 deals and pricing

SIM only deals: comparing EE and O2

Here’s how SIM only prices compare on EE vs O2

EE and O2 SIM only plans



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Our verdict on SIM only prices:

A draw

“The two networks are very close when it comes to pricing. The best thing to do is compare them directly for the amount of mins, texts and data you need.”

Compare pricing and deals

Latest special offers on O2 and EE

We compare the current promotions running on EE and O2

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Phone contracts on EE vs O2

We go over the prices and benefits of each networks’ phone contracts

EE and O2 phone contracts

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O2 phone contracts offer greater flexibility

O2 Refresh phone contracts

See custom plans

(opens in new window)

O2 offer a great deal of flexibility with their Custom plans that let you choose the length of your contract anywhere between 3 and 36 months and set an upfront cost to suit your plan to your budget.

This is done by having two separate agreements, one finance agreement (loan) for the cost of your phone and another plan for the monthly cost of your usage (mins, texts and data) plan.

You also get the freedom to pay off the rest of your loan early if you want to upgrade to a new model. Or you can pay it off and then leave O2 after 30 days.

In terms of cost O2’s phone contracts tend to be middle of the road, but these are still more competitive than their SIM only contracts. You used to be able to take a cheaper O2 contract via a third party reseller, but not anymore.

Useful link: Full details on O2's custom plans

EE’s contracts are less flexible

EE early upgrades on smartphones

How they work

(opens in new window)

EE’s phone contracts aren’t based around finance agreements like O2’s. Instead their phone deals are all on simpler 24-month contracts with the cost of your device and usage plan made as one payment.

This means you can’t pay off your phone early, you can’t set upfront costs or contract lengths as you like and you could be charged a heavy fee for trying to leave your contract early.

They no longer let you buy their phone contracts via resellers. In terms of price they’re pretty close to O2. But if you need to add another phone contract to your account, you can take advantage of EE’s family plans with 10% off every additional line.

In any case we’d suggest using our phone contract comparison tool here as you can check the cost of going with EE directly against going with a reseller to see which one is better value.

Useful link: See EE's range of phones

Our verdict on phone contracts:

O2 win

"You may be able to get a cheaper phone contract using EE’s family plans, but the extra flexibility that O2 offer lets you suit your plan to your budget and upgrade when you need to. Overall, O2 have the better contracts."

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 5G/4G/3G signal is better near you (check here)

You want access to the fastest 4G speeds in the UK

You want free trials included with your plan

You want to add multiple device contracts on one account

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

More EE guides

More O2 guides

Individual network reviews