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: 20th December 2017

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 25GB for £25 SIM only
EE SIM only deals

It's a strong month for SIM only pricing on EE, on plans with huge amounts of data, plus unlimited mins and texts:

25GB for £25 a month

40GB for £35 £30 a month (save £60 a year)

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

O2's new SIM only deals
O2 SIM only deal

It's a good time to take a SIM only from O2 with a big data allowance. The best value are:

25GB for £36 £25 a month

50GB for £50 £30 a month

See all O2's Spring offers > (opens in new tab)

O2 and EE's networks compared

The biggest coverage: EE vs O2

O2 are catching EE up for coverage but still in 2nd place

Looking at the top-level statistics on UK population coverage, you can see EE still has the larger 4G network but are equal with O2 for 3G coverage:

4G coverage: EE wins over O2

EE 4G coverageO2 4G coverage
99%
97%

EE is the UK's largest 4G network with 99% population 4G coverage.

O2 offer 97% 4G coverage, which is just short of their 98% 4G coverage target by end of 2017.

3G coverage: EE and O2 are equal

EE 3G coverageO2 3G coverage
98%
98%

You still need good 3G coverage as it's used for making calls and texts, plus backs up for when there's no 4G data.

O2 and EE have equal 98% coverage for 3G.

Check if EE or O2 have the best coverage in your area using their coverage maps

Coverage as percent is one thing but it's more useful to know signal strength where you actually use your phone. Use EE and O2's coverage checkers before you buy:

O2 coverage checker
O2 coverage checker

Check O2 coverage

(opens in new window)

EE coverage checker
EE coverage checker

Check EE coverage

(opens in new window)

To predict their coverage, EE and O2 use only computer models. There are independent services you can use to double check their coverage using like Ofcom (government telcoms regulator), Rootmetrics (independent network performance testers) and OpenSignal (crowd-sourced network monitoring).

Our verdict on coverage:

Narrow EE win

"The stats put EE minorly ahead of O2 for coverage nationally overall but we'd still recommend checking signal in your own area as there are always regional differences between networks."

Compare pricing and deals

4G speeds: is EE or O2 faster?

Top 4G speeds:

EE have the fastest top 4G speed

EE up to 90 mbps 4G plus

With up to 90mbps 4G+ in parts of London, EE have the fastest headline top speed, even beating some home broadband.

4G speeds on average:

EE consistently faster than O2

EE average 4G speed compared with O2

In independent network tests, EE's average speeds come out between 17.84 - 33.03 mbps compared with O2 at a slower 12.06 - 18.48 mbps.

How these O2 and EE 4G speeds were tested

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

As EE market themselves as "the UK's fastest network", so we looked whether their claims stack up in independent tests.

The key questions are whether EE is definitely faster than O2, and how big the difference in 4G speeds between the two actually is.

The two main independent research companies looking at 4G speeds are Ookla and OpenSignal. Here's what they found:

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's Fastest Mobile Network' awards, 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 33.03 Mbps. This is ahead of O2's average of 18.48 Mbps.

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

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 2016 'State Of The UK Mobile Network' report and the results from Ookla.com recorded for EE and O2.

In this report, O2 are still behind with a 12.06 Mbps average 4G speed compared to EE's 17.84 Mbps.

It's worth noting that both speeds are still perfectly adequate for fast browsing, watching videos and streaming and offer a significant improvement on 3G.

Why the results are different

Ookla relies on users initiating their own speed test whereas OpenSignal runs constantly in background to get a fuller picture of mobile use. It could be that data speed concious EE customers are more likely to initiate tests when they find they are getting faster data.

Conclusion: both independent speed reports show EE to be faster than O2

Both sets of data point to EE being faster than O2 by a consistent margin so if you're after the absolute fastest, EE is the best option for now.

But even the lowest 12.06 Mbps from O2 will let you do plenty on your mobile, so pricing, deals and perks could be the deciding factor if you're less fussed about out-and-out speed.

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 generally be better off on EE."

Compare pricing and deals

Traffic Management policies on EE and O2: will either ever slow you down?

It's actually quite common practice among mobile networks to slow particular users down to prevent them hogging capacity on the network. This is known as Traffic Management.

Types of traffic managed by EE and O2

Traffic typeBlockedSlowed downPrioritised
Peer-to-peer (P2P)-Green tickEE logo-
Newsgroups---
Browsing/Email---
VOIP (voice over IP)---
Gaming---
Audio streaming---
Video streaming---
Music downloads---
Video downloads---
Instant messaging---
Software updates---
Sources: O2's Traffic Management facts document and EE's network management facts document

O2 don't slow any traffic down, EE slow down P2P filesharing

EE and O2 have slightly different policies:.

O2 don't slow down any particular type of traffic so you'll get your data at full speed, no matter what you use your phone for in the UK.

EE only slow down P2P filesharing activity at peak times, which they define as 08:00-02:00. So as long you don't do this on your mobile, you'll get your data at top speed with EE too.

EE and O2's perks and benefits compared

Who has the best discounts and freebies: EE or O2?

Both EE and O2's Pay Monthly deals give you some handy sweeteners to improve on their monthly deals. Here's a comparison of what you get with each provider:

O2 have the best rewards scheme out of any mobile provider

O2 Priority

See everything you get

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

Almost everyone needs a mobile – it’s an everyday essential that you have to buy from somewhere anyway. So it’s handy when you can squeeze extra value out of your monthly deal. O2 do a great job of this:

Take any of their pay monthly or pay as you go plans and you’ll automatically join the 22 million people in the UK already benefitting from their hugely popular Priority Rewards scheme.

It’s the biggest and most popular loyalty scheme in the country because it gives you useful discounts and exclusive offers to use on the high street and online, which you could end up using every day.

Get cheap meals, discounted travel and shopping that people not on O2 can't access. Plus skip to the front of the queue for music and sporting event tickets, where O2 is the sponsor.

If you play it right, you can end up writing off the cost of your mobile by taking advantage of the thousands of deals on Priority. So it's definitely worth taking a look at what's available to see how you could benefit.

Useful link: Discover all the deals on O2 Priority.

EE give you free entertainment subscriptions for your mobile

Free Apple Music on EE

Get free Apple Music

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

While O2 are about saving you money on everyday items, EE's freebies give you the chance to get more from your mobile itself and test the power of their 4G network.

EE are the only network whose pay monthly customers benefit from a free 6-month subscription to Apple Music, the music streaming service that’s bigger than Spotify with 40 million monthly users.

Apple Music works on iPhone and Android phones and has millions of songs, audiobooks and playlists with a regular subscription costing £9.99 a month. We calculate this EE benefit to be worth £29.97 (3 months at £9.99) as you can get 3-month trials free from Apple anyway.

It's important to note that after the free trial, the subscription cost will be added to your bill if you don't cancel and that streaming will use up your monthly mobile data. But overall, it's still a decent deal sweetener.

Useful link: How to get free Apple Music on EE.

You'll also get free access to the BT Sport app on EE

Free BT Sport on EE

See BT Sport app offer

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

On top of Apple Music, everyone on EE's pay monthly plans also qualifies for at least 3 months of free access to the BT Sport app, depending on the plan you choose (Max phone plans give it free for your whole contract).

The app lets you watch domestic and European football covered by BT Sport on your mobile and would normally cost £5.99. That makes this benefit worth a modest £17.97 in total over 3 months.

The only other network offering this as a benefit is BT Mobile themselves (you can read our comparison of BT Mobile and EE here), who use EE's network for signal.

Useful link: How getting free BT Sport app on EE works.

Our verdict on included freebies:

Narrow O2 win

"Because of the variety of daily discounts available via Priority to all customers (regardless of how much they spend), O2's freebies will appeal to a wider variety of people."

Compare pricing and deals

Going abroad: how EE and O2 compare for roaming

Many networks now offer free roaming schemes where you'll pay no extra costs in certain countries. We look at whether EE or O2 are better for going abroad.

You'll get free EU roaming if you join EE on pay monthly

EE plans with free roaming

See free EE roaming

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

EE launched free EU roaming ahead of changes to regulations from 15th June 2017 that meant every mobile network must let you use your regular UK minutes, texts and data while you're abroad in the EU.

Every pay monthly plan for a phone or SIM on EE lets use your allowance in the 48 countries listed on their site here at no extra cost.

What's more, EE's premium 'Max' plans (available only on phone contracts, not SIM only) also offer inclusive roaming in 5 extra worldwide destinations too including the USA. You'll also get 4G abroad where its supported locally.

If you're going somewhere not covered by their free roaming, EE also have a range of roaming passes from £1 a day that give you a daily chunk of data to use while you're abroad.

Useful link: Read full details on EE's new roaming deals.

O2 offer free EU roaming too but no extra worldwide options

O2's free EU roaming

See free O2 roaming

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

O2 waited until June 15th 2017 to launch their free EU roaming deals but now all their pay monthly phones and SIMs come with it as standard.

They list the 48 destinations on their website here, where you can go and using minutes, texts and data will come out of your regular UK allowances.

Unlike EE, on O2 there aren't any extra worldwide destinations where you'll also get inclusive roaming. Instead, you'll need to buy Travel bolt ons whenever you travel outside the EU.

The daily cost of the bolt ons varies per country and starts from £1.99 (see the full costs per country here).

Useful link: Learn how all roaming works on O2

Our verdict on inclusive roaming:

Narrow EE win

"Now that both networks offer free EU roaming as standard on their pay monthly plans, it's EE's additional 5 worldwide destinations that just make the difference between them"

Compare pricing and deals

EE and O2 deals and pricing

Compare O2 vs EE for SIM only deals

EE and O2's SIM only contracts tend to be similarly priced, depending on what tariff you choose. Although, EE have stopped selling 30-day contracts online.

Use the filters to compare O2 and EE deals:

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Current offers running on O2

O2's new batch of attractive SIM only deals

O2 have 8x promotional SIM only plans this spring, including some very attractive prices on their larger data tariffs:

50GB for £30 a month (12-month contract).

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

One thing to note with these discounts is that the monthly cost will go up to the full price after your 12-month contract is up. So it's worth keeping an eye on so you never overpay.

On smartphones, there are a few discounts here and there but no really exciting overal offer applying to all models (take a look here).

Useful link: View all O2's spring offers

Current deals on EE

EE's 25GB for £25 SIM only deal

It's a strong month for SIM only pricing on EE's plans with huge amounts of data, plus unlimited mins and texts:

25GB for £25 a month

40GB for £35 £30 a month (save £60 a year)

Meanwhile, if you're after a phone, there's a useful 60GB for the price of 20GB offer on the brand new Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ models.

Or £120 savings on both iPhone 6 and 7.

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

Is EE or O2 better value for mobile phone contracts?

You can get many of the same phones with EE as O2 like iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models. EE have a decent range of cheap Pay Monthly 4G phones. SIM Sherpa specialises in SIM only comparison, so we recommend visiting the networks' official sites to see EE's phone range and O2's mobile deals to compare phone pricing.

iPhone

iPhoneO2 logo

iPhone from £25.00 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all O2's iPhone deals

(opens in new window)

EE logo

iPhone from £25.49 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all EE's iPhone deals

(opens in new window)

Samsung Galaxy

Samsung GalaxyO2 logo

Samsung Galaxy from £20.00 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all O2's Samsung deals

(opens in new window)

EE logo

Samsung Galaxy from £14.99 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all EE's Samsung deals

(opens in new window)

All phones

All manufacturersO2 logo

All phones from £15.00 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all O2's phone deals

(opens in new window)

EE logo

All phones from £14.99 a month.
No upfront cost.
See all EE's phone deals

(opens in new window)

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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