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Tesco Mobile vs O2: network differences and what's the same

Tesco Mobile vs O2

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We look at how 4G/5G network coverage, speeds and other benefits compare between joining O2 directly or Tesco Mobile. Last updated: 21st April 2023

In our Tesco vs O2 guide

Special offer news

Tesco Mobile vs O2 networks

Is coverage the same on Tesco Mobile and O2?

We tested both networks to see if there were any differences

O2 and Tesco Mobile logo with signal bars

Tesco offer identical coverage to O2

Best network for coverage

See the claim

at o2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Tesco Mobile are a completely separate company to O2, but they still use their network to provide signal. That means coverage is identical between the two providers.

You also get the same signal strength. O2 cover the joint-largest percentage of the UK’s landmass for call signal (3G/2G) and 98% of the places where people actually live. You’ll rarely find yourself in a total blackspot.

O2 main weakness is rural 4G, which is a bit behind the other networks. However, 4G in cities and even in small towns is typically strong, so you should stay connected in the areas where people live.

There’s not really much else to go into. The best thing to do is to use their coverage checkers to see how coverage is in your local area. Check at home and anywhere else you’re expecting to have to use your phone.

Useful link: Which network has the best indoor signal?

5G coverage is also identical between them

A banner with a background colour of blue and the text '5G is here'

Latest 5G news

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

Tesco Mobile also provide access to O2’s 5G network on all of their plans. So, if you’re on a 5G-ready device you’ll get identical 5G coverage on Tesco as you would on O2. But what does that mean?

Well, you’ll be able to connect to 5G in 750+ UK towns and cities. That puts O2 and Tesco in first place in terms of the sheer amount of locations with 5G live.

Coverage within these locations is also typically widespread. You don’t just get 5G in the most popular areas, but you’ll get it in lots of different areas (but this does depend per location).

Overall, 5G signal is a strength on O2’s network. However, it’s still worth checking coverage in your location using the coverage maps below before you buy.

Useful link: Our guide to the best 5G networks

Use Tesco or O2's coverage maps to check your local signal

Check signal everywhere you'll use your phone, not just at home

Tesco Mobile network map

Tesco coverage map

Check Tesco Mobile signal

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

O2 coverage checker

O2 coverage map

Check O2 signal

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:


"Both networks offer identical coverage, so there’s nothing to split them on here. Your choice between them should be based on the extra features and benefits they offer instead."

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Data speeds: are they identical?

Do you get the same speeds on Tesco as you would on O2?

O2 and Tesco Mobile logos with speedometer

4G/5G speeds are the same on Tesco and O2

Tesco 5G banner

Latest 5G news

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

We tested speeds on an O2 and Tesco SIM directly against each other in the same phone and found no speed differences between them. As such we can confidently say Opensignal’s speed results apply to both.

They measure average 4G speeds around 16.8 Mbps. That’s unfortunately the slowest of all mobile networks, and if you stream HD video then you’ll notice a bit of stuttering.

However, when we tested speeds in real life we got up to 95 Mbps in the city centre. That’s pretty impressive, but considering 4G in rural areas slowed down to 5 Mbps we can see how it averages out.

While their 5G will let you stream comfortably, speeds can suffer if you’re on the fringes of 5G signal. If sheer speeds are what you need, you might be better off looking elsewhere.

Useful link: More about O2's 4G

Our verdict on speeds:

An even draw

“There are no built-in speed differences between O2 and Tesco, so there’s nothing to split them on here. Neither network are particularly fast, but either will be good enough for most users.”

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Other network technology on Tesco Mobile and O2

What other features do either network offer to keep you connected?

Tesco Mobile and O2 network features

WiFi calling and 4G calling is offered on both networks

WiFi calling 4G calling banner

See supported phones

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

While O2’s call signal (3G/2G) is broadcast on frequencies that are great at getting into buildings, you can still find indoor blackspots if there are obstructions between you and the mast. This is where WiFi/4G calling comes in handy.

Both networks offer WiFi/4G calling now. And both let you send SMS texts over WiFi and 4G as well as switch from a WiFi call to a 4G call without it dropping (switching to 3G will cause your call to drop).

But O2’s scheme isn’t flawless. Lots of Android models aren’t supported for the feature and it won’t work on their Pay As You go bundles. Tesco just introduced it, and it’s not fully rolled out to every customer.

If it works on your phone it’s a good feature. But only on O2 can you pair it with O2’s 15,000+ WiFi hotspots which you can use to connect to calls even on the London Underground.

Useful link: O2's guide to all their network features

O2 have a good free WiFi hotspot scheme

O2's hotpots

Read why

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

Here’s another network feature you’re missing out on with Tesco Mobile. O2 offer a network of 15,000+ hotspots, while Tesco offer none. These are great for helping you save data on the go.

If you download their app your phone will automatically log you in to 7000 of their hotspots when you’re in range. Anyone can connect to their WiFi hotspots, but only O2 customers will get automatic connection.

The automatic login only works if the WiFi is faster than what you’d get over 3G/4G, but you can connect manually to save data. We appreciate it when WiFi hotspot schemes work silently in the background like this.

It’s great that they offer free hotspots on the London Underground too as lots of people will get use out of it. You’ll get automatic log in access on all of their pay monthly plans and pay as you go bundles.

Useful link: How O2's free WiFi works

Our verdict on network features:

Win for O2

“Both networks have pretty similar WiFi calling schemes, but since Tesco have only just introduced theirs it will be a bit harder to get it working than on O2. And only O2 offer WiFi hotspots between them.”

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O2 vs Tesco Mobile benefits

Roaming compared on Tesco Mobile and O2

Do you get inclusive roaming on either network?

O2 and Tesco Mobile logo with globe

O2 include EU roaming with some worldwide roaming options

Roam Like Home banner

Read roaming guide

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

While the other main networks (EE, Three, Vodafone) no longer offer free inclusive EU roaming, O2 do. You can access your UK allowance of minutes, texts and data in these 49 EU destinations.

If you want to go beyond the EU you can take a Travel Inclusive Bolt-on with O2. These let you use your SIM in these 27 worldwide destinations. But you only get it on premium plans or as a paid add-on.

With the add-on you get 120 minutes, 120 texts and a small amount of full-speed data. If you get through that data you’ll actually get unlimited data to use at no extra cost, but only at sub-3G speeds.

O2 aren’t the best mobile network for roaming in our eyes, but their inclusive EU roaming is good and their worldwide roaming options won’t put you out of pocket like some networks will.

Useful link: All other roaming costs on O2

Tesco no longer include EU roaming

Tesco roaming banner

Check free countries

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

Tesco Mobile were our number one network for EU roaming in the past. But they’ve promised to remove inclusive EU roaming from their plans, meaning you’ll have to pay to roam in these 48 EU destinations.

Before they said they would remove EU roaming by Spring 2023. But last time we checked they said they would continue to offer inclusive EU roaming until 2024. Bear that in mind if you join on a long contract.

One good thing about Tesco’s scheme is that they still let you use up to your entire allowance abroad, even on an unlimited data plan. They’re the only network that let you use truly unlimited data abroad.

If you’re going further afield then you’ll have to top up and pay as you go at some pretty steep rates. Once Tesco remove EU roaming, they won’t be a good choice for going abroad at all.

Useful link: Full information on roaming with Tesco Mobile

Our verdict on roaming:

O2 win

“While Tesco haven’t got rid of EU roaming yet, once it’s gone there will be no way to use your SIM abroad at no extra cost. O2 are our favourite network for overall roaming, so they easily take this one.”

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Family plans on Tesco Mobile vs O2

Which provider offers better discounts for adding extra SIMs on your account?

Family plans on Tesco Mobile vs O2

O2 offer nice discounts on extra plans

O2 Family plans

Family Plan discounts

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

If you want to set up a group plan with your friends or family it’s worth knowing which networks offer discounts for adding extra SIMs to your account. O2 are one such network.

You’ll get 20% off any pay monthly SIM only or phone contract added to your account. For phone contracts it’s only the usage (mins, texts, data) part that is discounted, but that’s nothing to scoff at.

O2’s deals are on the higher end of prices in the UK, so this discount can save you a lot of money. And you can add up to 20 users on one account, but only if you have an excellent credit score.

If you’re on a Sharer plan you can share data with users on your account. But these aren’t available to buy anymore.

Useful link: Calculate Family Plan discounts

Tesco have plenty going on for families

Tesco family plans

See latest Perks

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

Tesco give you extra benefits for adding extra plans to your account. They call these “Family Perks” and they’re a good way to get better value overall. You can add up to four users and each gets their own benefit.

These perks include extra data, extra Clubcard points, money off your monthly bill, discounted phone insurance and other benefits, which you can chop and change every month.

Alternatively, you can add up to four users on great value unlimited data plans with a Family Pack. First, take out their special Family Pack plan, then add your extra SIMs onto your account (read our guide here).

But you don’t get any Family Perks if you set up a Family Pack, which is a bit of a shame as that could get you some potentially amazing value. Both offer a good way of getting extra value on Tesco Mobile.

Useful link: How Family Perks work on Tesco Mobile

Our verdict on family plans:

Slight win for O2

"While O2 offer the bigger discounts on extra plans, their plans are pricier in the first place so it’s difficult to say which will save you more money overall. O2 just take this because of the huge amount of extra plans you can potentially take."

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Customer rewards on O2 and Tesco Mobile

What are the other benefits for joining either network?

O2 Tesco Mobile customer rewards

O2’s Priority rewards scheme is excellent

O2 Priority banner

What you get

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

On any of O2’s plans you get access to their highly popular Priority rewards scheme. It’s offered on all SIM only and phone contracts as standard.

This is an app where you can receive discounts, special offers and freebies on high-street restaurants, shopping and other experiences. You get new rewards every week, so there should be something you’ll like.

You also get priority access (hence the name) to events and concerts hosted at O2 sponsored venues, such as the O2 arena (see the sorts of thing here).

In our eyes it’s the best scheme of its kind (both Vodafone and Three offer something similar) and it’s a great way of getting extra value out of your plan.

Useful link: O2 Priority help guide and FAQs

Tesco’s Clubcard gives you better value out of your plan

Tesco Mobile Clubcard

How it works

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

Regular Tesco shoppers will know about Tesco’s Clubcard scheme. But you might not know that it applies to their mobile brand too. You get exclusive deals on SIM only and phone contracts just for having a Clubcard.

You can connect your Clubcard to your Mobile account in order to start earning Clubcard points from your monthly mobile bill. These points can be converted into vouchers for money off your mobile bill.

In order to get money off your bill you’ll have to earn a certain amount of points. And the vouchers you earn from your Clubcard points will be worth double on Tesco Mobile (so a £2 voucher will get you £4 off your bill). Read how it all works here.

We think it’s a great scheme, as you can create a cycle of spending and earning points to get money off your bill and your shopping. But you have to be loyal to Tesco if you want to make the most out of it.

Useful link: How to join your Clubcard and Tesco Mobile accounts

Our verdict on streaming data:

Easy win for Tesco Mobile

“Even non-Tesco shoppers can get great value out of Tesco’s Clubcard scheme and it’s totally free to sign up for one. While O2’s Priority is a great benefit, it won’t always be useful but it will save you money from time to time.”

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Plans and prices

SIM only plans on O2 vs Tesco

Are Tesco Mobile SIMs better than O2?

O2 vs Tesco Mobile SIM only deals



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O2 and Tesco Mobile special offers

Here's what's currently running on the two networks

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Phone contracts on Tesco Mobile vs O2

Do O2 or Tesco Mobile have better smartphone deals?

Phone contracts on Tesco Mobile vs O2

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O2 offer great flexibility on their phone contracts

O2 custom plans

Read why

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

O2 offer lots of phones on what they call “Refresh” contracts which split the payment for your phone and usage plan (mins, texts, data) into separate bills that combine to make your monthly bill.

This lets you pay off your phone’s cost early to upgrade early. You can also switch or leave your usage plan whenever you like if needs be.

Their Custom Plans also give you a great amount of flexibility. With these you can set an upfront cost to your needs (there is a minimum) and set a contract length between 3 and 36 months.

No matter what you choose, the cost of your phone actually stays the same, so there’s no wrong combination that will have you paying more. However, you might be denied if you have any marks on your credit history.

Useful link: Read O2's guide to their Custom Plans

Tesco offer great value and flexible phone contracts

Tesco Mobile flex

How they work

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

Tesco offer fairly cheap phone contracts, while also offering a decent degree of flexibility some of their models are offered on Anytime Upgrade Flex contracts, but most are offered as standard 24-month contracts.

Theirs work similar to O2’s. Your phone and usage are paid as separate payments to make your monthly bill and you can set contract lengths and upfront payments how you want.

They don’t offer quite as much flexibility in terms of contract lengths as O2. But you’ll pay the same amount for your device over the length of your contract. And you can also change usage plans when you like.

So you get a little less flexibility than being on O2, but you generally get cheaper deals which you can make even cheaper by using Clubcard points to get money off your phone contract.

Useful link: iPhone | Samsung Galaxy | Other makes

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Win for Tesco Mobile

"We think most users will prefer to save money on their phone contracts. So Tesco Mobile’s better value contracts will appeal to more customers, even if O2 offer better flexibility. Tesco just take this one.”

Compare pricing and deals

More O2 guides

Other articles about Tesco