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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: 17th July 2023

Offer notifications on EE and O2

O2 and EE's networks compared

Coverage on EE vs O2

Which network has better 5G/4G/3G/2G coverage?

EE and O2's mobile networks

O2 are better for calls, EE are better for 4G data

Best network for coverage

Read their claim

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

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:

Coverage for 4G data is better on EE, so you’ll stay on 4G more often while travelling around or if you live in the countryside. But in urban areas you won’t notice much of a difference in 4G signal between the two.

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 smaller providers offer lower cost deals while offering identical coverage to their host network:

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

EE: 1pMobile (read our review), Talk Home Mobile (read our review)

It’s best to use both networks’ coverage checkers here to see what signal looks like in your area on either network. Check at home, at work, along your commute or anywhere else you’ll use your phone.

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

5G coverage is very close between the two networks

EE branded map with 5G pointers

Latest 5G news

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

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

EE currently have 317+ 5G live locations while O2 have 750+ UK towns and cities with 5G. While that sounds like a big win for O2, EE only claim a location once they have 50% of its area covered for 5G.

That means on a street by street basis you’ll usually get more widespread 5G coverage on EE than on O2. But again, that depends per location as we’ve found O2 are good at covering their locations too.

In the end, your choice between the two networks will depend on how 5G coverage is in your area and if they even have it live in your area. Use their coverage checkers below to see what signal looks like near you.

Useful link: O2's 5G rollout latest news

How to check O2 and EE's signal

Check coverage anywhere you’ll 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:


“While EE’s 4G coverage is much stronger, O2 provide a better overall blend of coverage with more widespread call signal and 5G in more locations. But since you’ll use 4G most of the time, EE still hold an advantage. Overall we can’t call a clear winner here.”

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Speeds: Do O2 or EE provide faster 4G/5G?

What kinds of data speeds do you get on EE and O2?

O2 and EE logos with a speedometer

EE typically provide much faster 4G than O2

EE branded awards image

See all awards

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

Using independent network testers, Opensignal’s, latest report, we can see that typical 4G speeds on EE far exceed what you typically get on O2. EE are the fastest 4G network according to them and O2 are the slowest.

Their results show typical 4G speeds of 16.8 Mbps on O2 while EE raced ahead with typical speeds of 44.7 Mbps. But those results don’t tell the whole story.

In 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 on both, but you’ll still usually get better speeds on EE.

While EE might typically be the faster network, you should bear in mind that some of EE’s plans are now speed capped. That means you won’t be able to get the fastest possible speeds on these.

Some plans are capped at 100 Mbps while others are capped at 25 Mbps. EE market themselves around speeds then go and limit them, so they can charge you more to get the best ones.

Remember that this is an upper speed limit and it won’t affect you if you only get speeds below the cap anyway. So if you’re out in the sticks then you’re less likely to be affected, for example.

If you want to be sure you’ll get the best speeds you can join 1pMobile (read our review) or Talk Home Mobile (read our review). They offer lower prices than EE with no speed limits on their plans.

For basic social media and internet browsing you won’t notice a massive difference between the two. But if you’re a gamer, streamer or file sharer then EE are better. Just make sure to join on a full speed plan.

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

5G is also generally faster on EE than on O2

EE 5G banner

See their guide

at EE.co.uk
(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.

Between them we can see that typical 5G speeds are between 122.32 Mbps - 130.5 Mbps on EE with peak speeds of 350.41 Mbps with speeds between 80.57 Mbps - 92.3&nbnsp;Mbps on O2 that peak at 214.2 Mbps.

Both for typical and peak speeds there’s a big difference between them. But this will only really be noticeable when downloading huge things like HD movies. O2’s speeds should be good enough for most users.

Above we talked about how certain plans on EE are speed capped. This is even more of an issue on 5G as you’re more likely to hit this cap on 5G than on 4G.

If you’re set on joining EE directly then make sure you take out a plan without speed caps. However these tend to be sold at a higher price than their speed limited plans, which is annoying.

Otherwise you might be better off joining 1pMobile (read our review) or Talk Home Mobile (read our review) as they both offer full speed 5G as standard and at lower cost than joining EE directly.

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

"It’s night and day when it comes to EE’s speeds vs O2’s speeds. EE are by far the fastest network for 4G and provide much faster typical 5G speeds than O2. EE clearly win here.”

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Do EE or O2 have better WiFi/4G calling?

Both networks offer it, but which one has the better feature?

WiFi calling symbol with O2 and EE logos

EE have a more flexible WiFi calling feature

EE WiFi calling banner

See supported phones

at EE.co.uk
(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.

In our tests, we found EE’s scheme was easier to get working. We struggled a bit to get O2’s WiFi calling to “kick in” (maybe due to their better call signal). But both now let you send SMS texts over WiFi and 4G.

EE also have a longer list of compatible devices than O2. And when we tested phones not bought directly from the networks, we found the features were more likely to work on EE than on O2.

You get both features on every EE and O2 pay monthly deals, but it’s not included on O2’s Pay As You Go plans. And we had to manually turn it on in our account settings on O2, which can be a pain if you didn’t realise.

Useful link: More about how WiFi calling works

O2 provide loads of free WiFi hotspots

O2's WiFi hotspots

Find local hotspots

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

If you often use up your entire data allowance and don’t want to join on a larger, more expensive plan you’ll like networks that offer free WiFi hotspots. These are handy for saving data on the go.

EE provide free WiFi hotspots on the TFL system on all their pay monthly plans. This is handy for keeping yourself connected on the Underground. However, O2’s hotspot scheme does the same 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.

We found speeds on O2’s hotspots were good enough and the automatic log in worked well. 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

"It’s more important for networks to provide a good WiFi calling scheme than a good WiFi hotspot scheme, and as such EE take this one. O2’s extra free WiFi hotspots are handy, but it doesn’t make up for their weaker WiFi calling scheme."

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EE and O2's perks and benefits compared

Roaming: how EE and O2 compare

Which network is better for taking your SIM abroad?

O2 roaming vs EE's

O2 offer inclusive EU roaming on all plans

Free EU roaming on O2

See all roaming costs

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

O2 are the only main UK network to still offer inclusive EU roaming (EE, Three and Vodafone have removed theirs on standard plans) and O2 include it on all of their plans.

You can use your UK mins, texts and data in these EU destinations just like at home. But your data usage is limited to 25GB while abroad. But we think that’s big enough for most users on a regular trip.

And they even include their Travel Inclusive Zone benefit on some of their higher end plans. This lets you roam in 27 non-EU worldwide destinations including Australia and the United States.

These all include O2 Travel Inclusive Zone:

You essentially get an allowance of 120 minutes, 120 texts and 150 MB of full-speed data to use in those worldwide countries. And you actually get unlimited data once you use it up, but at severely limited speeds.

Overall, O2 are a good choice for going beyond the EU and 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 no longer include EU roaming on their plans

EE plans with free roaming

See their scheme

at EE.co.uk
(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.

It’s currently £2 a day to use your UK plan in their EU destinations. That will add up fast over a week or fortnight and there’s a monthly limit on your data usage up to 50GB abroad, which massive users won’t like.

You can get their Roam Abroad pass as an “Inclusive Extra” on EE’s premium All Rounder and Full Works plans. This is an extra that lets you roam in 5 extra worldwide countries (see them all here).

Get EE’s Roam Abroad pass on any Full Works or All Rounder plan here:

For going beyond the EU, EE offer Travel Data Passes that are bundles of data that cost you a different daily rate with different allowances 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

“EU roaming gets expensive fast on EE, whereas you pay nothing extra to use your plan abroad on O2 if you don’t go over the 25GB limit. And O2 are the better choice for worldwide roaming too. Overall, a key win for O2 here.”

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Free extras and rewards on O2 vs EE

What either network offers to give customers better value for money

Perks and free on EE vs O2

O2’s premium plans include extra benefits

O2 Extras

See all O2 Extras

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

O2’s SIM only plans are some of the highest end in terms of price, so it’s good that they offer some nice benefits to give customers better value on their 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.

All their 12-month and 24-month contracts come with free trials to different entertainment services (see them here). Typically the higher the cost of your plan, the longer the trial and the more choices you get.

But once these trials are up (from 3 to 6 months, depending on 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 free trials to Apple services on any EE plan

EE entertainment subscriptions banner

Read full benefits

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

EE don’t have a rewards app like O2’s Priority, but they do include a handful of free trials to different Apple services on any pay monthly contract.

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 only benefit from the Apple Music trial, as the others aren’t available to them.

On top of that, the data you use on these apps won’t come out of your allowance. That means you can stream as much as you want on these until the end of your trial.

Overall it’s a nice 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

Get extra benefits included on EE’s premium plans

Screenshot of new plan names

See qualifying plans

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

If you take out a higher end All Rounder or Full Works plan on EE you’ll get a different number of Inclusive Extras with it. These benefits can make the higher cost of their plans worth it if you’ll use them.

On an All Rounder plan you can choose one Inclusive Extra from a subscription to Apple TV+, Apple News, Apple Arcade or BT Sport. Or you can take an Entertainment Data Pass or a Roam Abroad Pass.

But on a higher end Full Works plan you get all of those Apple subscriptions and their Roam Abroad Pass included. That does mean you can’t choose any of the other benefits outside of that.

It’s worth checking that you’re not spending more than you would taking a plan and one of these benefits separately. Take a look at all the benefits here and see if the extra cost of these plans is worth it for you.

Useful link: EE’s guide to their Inclusive Extras

Our verdict on included freebies and extras:

Win for O2

“You’ll get free trials on both networks, which we like. But ultimately we prefer O2’s Priority scheme to EE’s Inclusive Extras as not only do you get it on cheaper plans, but it can even give you value back on your plan. So O2 take this one.”

Compare pricing and deals

Family plans and data sharing on EE and O2

We look at which network is better for joining on a shared plan

Shared plans on EE and O2

EE offer discounts on extra plans and let you gift data

EE's data gifting family plans

How it works

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

EE give you a percentage discount on any extra plans added to your account. By setting up a family plan this way you can save a lot of money while getting your family onto their own plans.

It’s a 30% discount on any SIM only contract or the usage plan (mins, texts, data) on a finance-based phone contract. Or you can get 10% off any conventional phone contract you add to your account.

And you get EE’s data gifting benefit letting 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 offer a simple discount on fewer products

O2 Family Plan

See O2 Family Plans

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

O2’s family plan scheme works similarly to EE’s, giving you 20% off any extra SIM only contract on your account or 20% off the usage plan on their phone contracts.

If you take a phone contract only the usage plan will be discounted. So your savings will be lower than EE’s 10% off their conventional phone contracts or 30% off the usage plan on finance-based ones.

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 you’ll have to pass a strict credit check to do so.

You can no longer get a new Sharer plan on O2, which used to let you share data between users. If you’re still on one of these then you can keep doing this, but new customers have no way to gift data.

Useful link: How data sharing works on O2

Our verdict on this topic:

Win for EE

“EE offer a bigger overall discount on added plans, give you money off entire phone contracts (not finance-based ones) and let you share data between users freely. You can potentially add more plans to your account on O2, but EE will be the better choice for most people.”

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:

No clear winner

“Both networks are very similar when it comes to price. The best thing to do is to find the plan that suits your usage needs and comparing directly for that.”

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Latest special offers on O2 and EE

We compare the current promotions running on EE and O2

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Phone contracts on O2 vs EE

We compare phone contracts on the two networks based on price and flexibility

EE and O2 phone contracts

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O2 offer very flexible phone contracts

O2 Refresh phone contracts

See custom plans

at O2.co.uk
(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.

They do this by splitting your contract into one finance agreement (loan) for the price of your phone and a second for your usage plan (minutes, texts, data) that come together to make your monthly bill.

And you pay off the cost of your device early to upgrade to a new one if you wish. Or you can pay off the cost and then switch to another network 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 offer conventional phone contracts

EE early upgrades on smartphones

How they work

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

EE offer conventional 24-month contracts where the cost of your usage plan and phone are made as one payment. There are no flexible financing options whatsoever.

On other networks you’d be able to join via a third party retailer who would offer inflexible 24-month contracts at a lower cost. But EE don’t sell their phone deals via third party resellers any more.

You can’t set upfront costs or contract lengths like you can on O2, meaning EE aren’t as flexible when it comes to phone contracts. But you can get 10% off any traditional phone contract you add on top of your existing plan.

In terms of price, we’d recommend using our phone comparison tool here. They’re pretty close on cost, but this will depend per device and usage plan so it’s worth shopping around to find the best deal.

Useful link: See EE's range of phones

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Close win for O2

"O2 offer greater flexibility in terms of letting you set up your contract how you like it. While you can get more money off extra contracts on EE, for just taking out one phone contract we think most users will prefer O2."

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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