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Lyca Mobile vs O2: the differences between the networks

Lyca Mobile vs O2

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Do you get better coverage on O2 or Lyca Mobile? How about 5G/4G data speeds? We look at how the two providers compare. Last updated: 25th August 2023.

In our Lyca Mobile vs O2 guide

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O2 and Lyca Mobile's networks compared

Coverage on O2 vs Lyca Mobile

Which network has the more widespread 2G/3G/4G/5G signal?

Lyca Mobile and O2 logos with mobile signal bars icon

O2 have wider call signal, Lyca have better 4G data

Best network for coverage O2 banner

Read their claim

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

Lyca Mobile are a virtual provider that now use EE’s network to provide signal, while O2 own and run their own network. Lyca used to use O2, but they switched over to EE recently, so what has changed for them?

O2 hold the advantage for call signal (3G/2G). They have the joint-largest network for calls and texts in the UK and broadcast their call signal on frequencies that are better than Lyca’s for getting into buildings.

But for 4G data signal (see 5G below), Lyca Mobile hold a clear advantage. Their 4G isn’t strictly identical to EE’s but you’ll still get more widespread 4G on Lyca than on O2. Though the advantage is smaller in big cities.

Lyca’s move to EE’s network means they’ve got themselves a big upgrade in 4G data signal but a dip i  signal. In any case, use both networks coverage checkers below to see which has better signal in your area.

Useful link: O2’s guide to their 4G network expansion

5G coverage is fairly close between them

Banner that reads '5G at Lyca Mobile!'

Read their guide

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

Lyca Mobile offer full access to their host’s 5G network on all plans, while O2 offer 5G on all but their PAYG plans. So let’s see which network provides the better overall 5G coverage.

O2 have 5G live in 750+ locations, while you’ll get 5G in 317+ locations on Lyca. While it sounds like a clean sweep for O2, Lyca’s hosts only declare a location as covered once 5G is available in 50% of its area.

That means you’ll get 5G in more places on Lyca than they claim, it just won't be in the whole area. And it means Lyca typically provide better coverage in their 5G locations than O2, but this does depend per location.

It’s a close run thing, so we'd absolutely recommend  checking both networks’ coverage maps in your area here, as it could be the clincher between them.

Useful link: O2’s latest 5G rollout update

How to check O2 and Lyca Mobile's signal

Check signal at home, at work and anywhere else you’ll use your phone

Lyca Mobile coverage checker

Lyca Mobile coverage map

Check Lyca’s signal

using their network map
(opens in new window)

O2 coverage checker

O2 coverage map

Check O2's signal

using their network map
(opens in new window)

Alternative coverage checkers

Independent coverage checkers

Use Ofcom checker

Our verdict on coverage:


“Lyca Mobile do hold the advantage for rural 4G and are better at covering their 5G locations. But O2 technically have the higher number of 5G-live locations and much better call signal. Ultimately we can’t call a clear winner for coverage between them.”

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Speeds: Do O2 or Lyca Mobile have faster 4G/5G?

What kinds of 5G/4G data speeds can you expect on either network?

Speedometer icon with Lyca Mobile and O2 logos

Lyca provide much faster 4G data speeds than O2

Mobile web settings page

Read their FAQs

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

We use results from independent network testers Opensignal to see what sorts of 4G speeds you’ll typically get on each network. They get results from millions of volunteer phones up and down the country.

They showed typical 4G speeds of 47.7 Mbps on Lyca Mobile’s hosts compared to a relatively sluggish 19.3 Mbps on O2. But these only show typical speeds on either network, so what can you expect in real life?

Well, we did some 4G tests using a Lyca and O2 SIM in different areas. On Lyca, we went as low as 12 Mbps in rural areas and as high as 130+ Mbps. On O2, we went as low as 5 Mbps in the sticks and as high as 95 Mbps.

So, Lyca will usually turn out to be the faster network either way. If you like to stream HD video on the go, then Lyca Mobile will be the better choice for you.

Useful link: Best mobile networks for gaming

5G is also typically faster on Lyca than O2

O2 map

See O2's 5G map

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

To get an idea of what 5G speeds look like on each network we use speed results from network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla. So, which one gives you the faster typical 5G speeds?

The results show you’ll get typical 5G speeds between 75.0 Mbps - 78.88 Mbps and peak speeds of 208.14 Mbps on O2 vs speeds of 108.91 Mbps - 122.3 Mbps and peak speeds of 272.77 Mbps on Lyca Mobile’s host network.

For data heavy activities like file-sharing and mobile gaming, Lyca will be the better choice of the two. There are no built-in speed caps with them, so you’ll get the same speeds as you would on their hosts.

But both networks’ speed results have gone down recently and neither have the fastest 5G speeds. If speeds are an absolute priority you can read our 5G guide here to find out which network’s winning.

Useful link: O2’s guide to how 5G improves your network experience

Our verdict on speed:

Lyca Mobile win

"There’s basically no competition between the two when it comes to 4G speeds, Lyca are much faster. It’s a lot closer for 5G speeds, but Lyca still come out on top. An easy win for Lyca here.”

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Do O2 or Lyca Mobile provide better WiFi/4G calling?

Which network has the better WiFi calling scheme?

WiFi calling icon between O2 and Lyca Mobile logos

Only O2 have WiFi calling out of the two

O2 WiFi and 4G calling banner

Check supported devices

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

As O2 are one of the main UK networks it’s no surprise that they offer WiFi calling and 4G calling. Lyca don’t offer either. These features let you connect to calls via WiFi and 4G if conventional call signal (3G/2G) is weak.

O2 also let you send and receive texts over WiFi and 4G, which can be handy for bank confirmation texts for example. And if you move from WiFi to 4G while on a call it will transfer without dropping.

The main downside is that O2 are defensive about which devices they support. They only claim to support phones bought directly from them, but we’ve found their WiFi calling works with phones bought elsewhere.

We think basically any iPhone that supports WiFi calling will be supported by O2, but it can be harder to get it working on older Androids.

Useful link: O2’s WiFi calling and 4G calling guide

O2 also have lots of free WiFi hotspots

Lycamobile eSIM banner

How it works

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

On top of their WiFi calling, O2 also offer a network of WiFi hotspots up and down the country. These are handy for saving a bit of data on the go and staying connected in places you might not otherwise get signal.

You can access 15,000+ WiFi hotspots on any O2 plan, with 7000 of these letting you log in automatically whenever you’re in range. And these will only automatically connect if it's faster than your data speeds.

They even have some WiFi hotspots on the Underground which pairs well with their WiFi calling as it lets you stay connected to calls and texts where you’d otherwise be unable to.

Overall, it’s a handy feature that you don’t get at all on Lyca Mobile. It means you can join on a smaller data plan on O2 and potentially save money. A great feature overall.

Useful link: Our guide to the best WiFi hotspot schemes

Our verdict on extra network features:

O2 win by default

"O2 offer two brilliant network features that you just don’t get on Lyca Mobile. These are serious holes in Lyca’s proposition and might be a decisive factor in your choice between the two. O2 win by default here."

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Lyca Mobile and O2's perks and benefits compared

Roaming: how Lyca Mobile and O2 compare

Are Lyca or O2 better for taking your SIM abroad?

Lyca Mobile and O2 logos with a globe

Lyca Mobile include EU roaming on all plans

Banner with a bemused man pointing at 'Roaming within EU Countries'

Read full guide

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

You can roam in these 30 EU/EEA destinations on any Lyca Mobile plan at no extra cost. But there are some restrictions on your data usage, depending on the size of your plan.

Lyca don’t have one fair usage policy for all plans. Instead, each plan has its own data limit abroad. You can use your entire allowance on most of their small plans, but on larger plans it’s a little more restrictive.

This can be an issue as it’s easier to hit your limit and have to pay for extra data. They also don’t have any inclusive roaming beyond the EU, so you’ll have to top up and pay these rates to go further afield.

We appreciate that Lyca still include EU roaming while so many other networks have removed theirs, especially when you consider how cheap the plan is in the first place.

Useful link: Lyca Mobile’s full guide to their EU roaming

O2 include EU roaming on all plans

O2's roam like home banner

See all roaming costs

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

Of all the main UK networks, only O2 offer inclusive EU roaming as standard. That means you can use your O2 plan in these 49 EU/EEA destinations at no extra cost.

While abroad, O2 let you use up to 25GB of your allowance. While that is a restriction, we think most people would struggle to use up that much data on a short trip. But if you do you’ll have to buy extra data at these rates.

If you want to go beyond the EU, O2 let you take their Travel Inclusive Zone benefit on their higher end plans. This gives you a daily allowance of 120 mins and texts and 150MB of full-speed data.

These all include O2 Travel Inclusive Zone:

If you get through all that data you actually get unlimited data to use abroad but at much lower speeds. Either way, O2 are a good choice for going beyond the EU and a fantastic choice for trips to the continent.

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

Our verdict on roaming:

Minor win for O2

"It’s great that both networks have EU roaming still. O2’s is technically better but you are paying a lot for the plan. In the EU, Lyca are just as useful and a lot cheaper."

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Better benefits on Lyca Mobile

What do Lyca Mobile offer that O2 don’t?

A greater than symbol between Lyca Mobile and O2 logos

Lyca Mobile include international minutes on most plans

Sky Mobile roaming banner

See their plans

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

When you take out a Lyca Mobile plan you’ll see a different number of inclusive international minutes that come with your plan. These let you call these worldwide countries without having to pay extra.

The general rule is that the higher your plan’s price, the more international mins you get with it. You can get between 100 - unlimited inclusive international mins (but their lower end “Saver” plan includes none).

You get inclusive international minutes on most Lyca Mobile plans. Here are their best current deals:

If you do use up all your inclusive minutes then you’ll have to top up with credit and pay at Lyca Mobile’s rates until your next month to keep calling abroad. But these can be as cheap as 1p per minute.

It’s great to get international mins on such cheap plans as they tend to be expensive on other networks. O2 only offer cheap international calls as a premium benefit, so Lyca are much better for calling abroad.

Useful link: Lyca Mobile’s rates for calling abroad

No credit checks or contracts on Lyca’s plans

Banner titled 'Why choose Lyca Mobile?'

Read more

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

Lyca Mobile sell most of their SIMs on 1-month plans with no contracts. So you’re basically buying a monthly bundle of minutes, texts and data rather than tying yourself down to a contract.

This is great if you find you’re paying for a bigger plan than you need or often find yourself going over your allowance. You can just switch your plan at the end of each month to one that better suits your needs.

And since you’re paying for everything up front you don’t have to pass a credit check to join one. O2 offer something similar with their “Big Bundles” but these are much more expensive than Lyca’s plans.

This all makes Lyca a great option if you failed a credit check with another network or just want to stay flexible. It’s good that you get both low costs and great flexibility, rather than trading one for the other.

Useful link: Our 1-month rolling plan guide

Better benefits on O2

What do you get on O2 than you don’t on Lyca Mobile?

A less than symbol between Lyca Mobile and O2 logos

O2 include extra benefits on premium plans

O2 extras banner

See all O2 Extras

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

O2 tend to offer some of the most expensive plans of all networks, especially when compared to Lyca Mobile. So it’s important for them to offer their customers something extra to make their higher prices worth it.

They do this by offering added “Extras” on their plans. Usually you can choose one Extra on their mid-range and high-end plans, with their longer lasting or higher value Extras only coming on higher-end plans.

The kinds of benefits you can get include free trials to certain entertainment services such as Amazon Prime and Disney+. The more you pay for your plan the longer your trials will be (between 3 and 6 months).

And on their higher end plans you can get their Travel Inclusive Zone benefit we mentioned above. If these sorts of things interest you, then these Extras are a great way of getting more out of your plan.

Useful link: O2’s full list of Extras

O2 offer access to their Priority app on all plans

O2 priority benefits

What you get

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

Whether you join O2 on a pay monthly SIM only or phone contract or on a Pay As You Go monthly bundle, you’ll get access to their popular rewards scheme called O2 Priority.

This gives you various discounts on high street shopping, food and drink and entertainment as well as some genuine freebies. The offers change every month and there’s usually something for everyone.

On top of that you get access to presale tickets for concerts or gigs hosted at O2 sponsored venues just for being an O2 customer. And you can get VIP treatment once you’re there.

O2’s Priority is one of the most popular rewards schemes for a reason. Not only does it get you better value out of your plan, but it can be a life-saver if you regularly go to concerts. A great benefit overall.

Useful link: O2’s FAQs page about Priority

Our verdict on added benefits

Depends on what you want

“We can’t call a winner here as both networks offer very different benefits. If you want a flexible plan with inclusive international calls, Lyca are better. If you want some more premium benefits, O2 might suit you better. We call this a draw.”

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Prices and plans compared

SIM only on Lyca Mobile vs O2

Do Lyca Mobile or O2 have better SIM only deals?

SIM card between Lyca Mobile and O2 logos



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Special offers on Lyca Mobile vs O2

Which has the best promotions this month?

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Phone contracts on O2 vs Lyca Mobile

We compared both networks’ phone contracts based on cost and flexibility

Smartphone between O2 and Lyca Mobile logos

O2 offer great flexibility on their phone contracts

Screenshot of O2's custom plan builder

See custom plans

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

O2 let you suit your phone contract to your needs with their Custom plans. You can set a contract length anywhere between 3 and 36 months and set an upfront cost to suit your budget.

Your contract is split into one finance agreement (loan) for the cost of your device and another contract for your usage plan (mins, texts, data) that combine to make up your monthly bill.

And you get the flexibility to pay off your loan early to upgrade to a new device or switch networks if you want. Or if you’re waiting out your contract, you also get the freedom to switch usage plans up or down each month.

They’re quite competitive in terms of the price of their phone deals, but their usage plans tend to be on the higher end in terms of cost. You can find the best deal for you using our phone comparison tool here.

Useful link: O2’s full guide to their Custom plans

Lyca Mobile offer flexible phone contracts via Klarna

Screenshot of Lycamobile phone tool

Read more

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

Lyca Mobile offer contracts on a range of new and refurbished phones via Klarna. This is a service that helps you manage your payment for your phone. Your usage plan (mins, texts, data) is made with Lyca separately.

You’ll be signing up to a finance agreement, meaning you’re essentially getting a loan for your phone that you pay back month by month. Klarna let you pay it back over 6, 12, 24 or 36 months to suit your budget.

And you can pay lump sum amounts to reduce your monthly payment or pay off your loan to upgrade early whenever you want. And your usage plan is also on a 1-month deal, so you can switch or leave whenever.

It is harder to manage your phone and usage plan bills as they are separate and it can be harder to pass a credit check for these. But, Lyca offer a mix of decent prices and flexible contracts that most will like.

Useful link: See Lyca Mobile’s range of phone contracts

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Close win for O2

"It’s a close call, but we think O2 offer a bit more flexibility with their phone contracts and it’s easier to manage it all in one place. Lyca have cheaper and more flexible usage plans, but overall we think most people will prefer O2."

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More Lyca Mobile guides

More guides about O2