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Sky Mobile vs giffgaff: differences on the O2-based networks

Giffgaff Mobile vs Sky Mobile header

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We look at what's different if you join Sky or giffgaff on a phone contract or SIM only plan, like 5G/4G speeds and coverage, plus benefits like roaming. Last updated: 10th October 2022.

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Sky Mobile vs giffgaff networks

Is coverage different on giffgaff vs Sky Mobile?

Both providers use O2, but are there any differences?

Coverage on Sky and Giffgaff Mobile

4G/3G/2G coverage is identical on both networks

Sky + Telefonica

What this means

at skygroup.sky
(opens in new window)

Both providers use the O2 network to provide call signal (3G/2G) and data (5G/4G) data signal. But since giffgaff is a budget provider, some might assume they provide an inferior network experience.

Simply put, that's not the case. On both networks you get the same brilliant call signal coverage as their hosts O2, being the joint-largest UK network for 3G/2G signal.

And you get the same 4G coverage, which covers 98% of the places where people live. Admittedly, 4G coverage in rural areas can tend to be a weakness on both, but that will depend on where you’re using it.

In any case, it’s worth using both networks’ coverage checkers before joining either of them. Check everywhere you’ll use your phone, not just at home.

Useful link: More about Sky's network

Both networks also offer 5G access

giffgaff 5G is here banner

Read their statement

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

If you’re on a 5G-ready phone then you’ll get access to 5G on any Sky Mobile or giffgaff plan. Both share the same coverage as being on O2 directly.

This currently means you get 5G in 190+ UK towns and cities on both networks. But no network is able to totally cover their locations for 5G, it’s still very much on a street-by-street basis.

Thankfully, both networks are typically very good for covering their declared locations with 5G. In fact they’re on the second best network in terms of 5G coverage within locations, and in terms of the sheer number of locations.

We have had some trouble getting 5G to work on Sky Mobile in the past and you will have to manually say you have a 5G-ready phone in the Sky checkout or your SIM won’t be compatible. We haven’t tested giffgaff yet, but we assume it’s a similar story.

Useful link: How to set up 5G on your giffgaff SIM

Use Sky or giffgaff's coverage checkers in your local area

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

giffgaff's coverage checker

giffgaff coverage checker

Check coverage

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

Sky coverage checker

Screenshot of Sky's coverage checker

Use Sky map

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:


"Both providers offer the same 5G/4G/3G/2G signal coverage, so there’s nothing to compare them on here. The main differences will come down to the other benefits either network offer."

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Data speeds: is one network faster?

Does being on giffgaff mean slower speeds than on Sky Mobile?

Sky and BT Mobile logos with a speedometer

5G/4G data speeds are the same on either network

giffgaff 4G

Read their guide

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

In our giffgaff review we found there was no speed cap on giffgaff, and we found much the same when we compared Sky Mobile to O2. So you should get the same data speeds on both networks as you would on O2 directly.

According to independent network testers Opensignal, this means you’ll typically get 4G speeds around 17.1 Mbps. That puts them in last place out of all networks, but it’s still enough for most users’ streaming and browsing needs.

You will notice heavier activities like streaming HD video and downloading files going a bit slower on either network compared to those not using O2. In fact some users claim speeds on giffgaff are even slower, but we never found any evidence of that.

Well going by results from Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla the answer is a definite yes. You’ll get typical speeds between 110.9 Mbps and 127.97 Mbps. That’s fast enough to game, file share and stream quite comfortably.

But they’re actually on the slowest 5G network. So if you’re looking for the fastest possible speeds, we wouldn’t suggest either as an option. But for most users either network will be good enough.

Useful link: Our Sky Mobile vs O2 guide

Our verdict on speeds:

An even draw

"There’s no speed cap on most of giffgaff’s SIM only plans or on Sky Mobile, so the speeds you get on one provider you’ll most likely get on the other. No advantage to either network here."

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Other network technology on giffgaff and Sky Mobile

What do either network offer to keep you connected?

WiFi calling symbol with Sky and BT logos

Only Sky Mobile offer WiFi/4G calling between them

Sky WiFi calling page screenshot

See supported phones

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

While both networks have excellent call signal coverage, it’s still possible to find blackspots. This is especially the case indoors, as signal can struggle to get through building materials.

That’s why it’s great that Sky Mobile offer WiFi calling and 4G calling. These features let your phone connect to calls via WiFi and 4G signal where conventional call signal is poor. But giffgaff miss out on this feature.

Sky’s scheme isn’t the best in our eyes. You can’t send SMS texts over WiFi or 4G and if you move from WiFi to 4G while on a call we found it will drop. Also not every Android model is supported, so check yours here beforehand.

These drawbacks might be a bit annoying, but at least Sky offer both features. A lot of other budget networks offer WiFi calling these days, so we could see giffgaff bring it out sometime soon. We just have to wait and see.

Useful link: Our rankings for the best WiFi calling networks

Both networks offer free WiFi hotspot schemes

giffgaff's underground WiFi

How to connect

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

These days WiFi hotspot schemes are mostly useful for saving a bit of data on the go, as 4G data is usually a bit faster than what you can get on most WiFi hotspots. But still, we appreciate it when networks offer them.

Despite being a no-frills network, giffgaff actually offer a pretty great hotspot scheme. You get access to 7000 of O2’s hotspots, including some on the London Underground at stations and ticket barriers.

It’s a great benefit to get more value out of your plan. Not only can you help prevent yourself from going over your allowance, you might also be able to switch to a smaller plan. You can also stay connected if you’ve run out of data.

Sky also offer a large network of WiFi hotspots. But unlike giffgaff, anyone can connect to these and not just Sky Mobile customers. That means it’s not really a reason to join them as you get access to it regardless.

Useful link: How to get connected to giffgaff’s WiFi hotspots

Our verdict on network features:

Win for Sky Mobile

"While giffgaff’s WiFi hotspot scheme is great, the lack of WiFi/4G calling is a bit of an issue. If you’ve got poor indoor signal you’re out of luck on giffgaff. A slight win for Sky Mobile here."

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giffgaff vs Sky Mobile benefits

Roaming: giffgaff vs Sky Mobile

Can you use your plan abroad at no added cost on either network?

A globe between Giffgaff and Sky logos

giffgaff still include EU roaming on all plans

Roaming with giffgaff

See all costs

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

More and more networks have pulled inclusive EU roaming from their plans and Sky Mobile are one of them. giffgaff have kept their roaming policy in place, however.

You can roam in these EU destinations on giffgaff. While you’re abroad you will be limited to 20GB if your allowance is over that amount. That should be more than enough for a short trip abroad.

The only major downside with giffgaff’s roaming is that going beyond the EU can get very expensive very quickly. You’ll have to top up with credit and pay at these hefty rates.

In any case, we still appreciate that giffgaff have kept their roaming scheme in place while many other networks have started removing theirs.

Useful link: giffgaff’s guide to using your SIM abroad

Sky no longer offer free inclusive EU roaming

Sky roaming passport banner

See costs & countries

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

As we said above, Sky are one of the more recent networks to remove inclusive EU roaming from their plans. You’ll now have to pay £2 a day while travelling in Sky’s EU destinations.

It’s a pretty huge change considering Sky used to be our number one pick for EU roaming. At least they still don’t impose a fair usage policy, but we don’t think this makes up for the loss of inclusive roaming.

On the bright side, Sky Mobile have brought down the costs of roaming in their worldwide destinations to the same £2 daily rate as in their EU destinations, actually making them one of the cheaper networks for worldwide roaming.

But most users will care more about EU roaming, and paying that much to roam abroad just won’t be worth it for some. Especially when there are still networks that let you do it for free.

Useful link: The best networks for roaming in the EU and beyond

Our verdict on roaming:

Win for giffgaff

"We think most people will be interested in EU roaming and it’s only giffgaff out of two that offer that. While Sky’s worldwide roaming is better, we think giffgaff will be more useful for more people."

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Better benefits on Sky Mobile

What do Sky offer that giffgaff don’t?

Smartphone streaming alongside Sky and BT logos

Stream Sky TV apps without using data

Sky unlimited streaming

See all features

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

One of the best parts of being on Sky Mobile is that you can stream Sky’s TV apps on the go without it coming out of your monthly allowance. This helps you get the most out of your home TV package.

Since streaming is one of the fastest ways to eat through your allowance (one hour can use up 1GB) this lets you watch your favourite shows or keep the kids entertained on the go without thinking about how much data you’re using.

The benefit comes on every Sky Mobile plan, and that includes their very cheapest one:

Overall it’s an incredibly generous benefit that helps you get the most out of both your mobile plan and your home TV package. There are a few downsides to bear in mind (read our guide here) but otherwise it’s a brilliant scheme.

Useful link: Sky Mobile’s full guide to their Watch benefit

Sky have a brilliant data rollover scheme

Sky Mobile data rollover

How it works

from Sky's detailed guide
(opens in new window)

Typically data rollover schemes let you keep the data you didn’t get through in one month for your next one. But Sky go one step further by letting you bank up your unused data for up to 3 years!

With Sky’s piggybank benefit you can save your unused data and withdraw it in 1GB increments whenever you need a top up. And if you have multiple deals on one account you can share rolled over data between them.

Even if you’re on a plan that suits your needs, you might still get through more data in one month. In that case, it’s nice to have a cushion to prevent yourself from needing to buy extra data add-ons.

And if you’ve built up a lot of unused data you can cash it in for money off a new phone or tablet contract. Overall, Sky’s piggybank benefit gives you full control over your unused data and is our favourite data rollover scheme by far.

Useful link: Sky’s full guide to their piggybank benefit

Sky offer over-the-phone customer service

Ofcom complaints data

Read Ofcom's report

at ofcom.org.uk
(opens in new window)

One of the main benefits of being on a somewhat pricier network is that you usually get more avenues through which you can get any issue resolved. Sky Mobile offer a fair few ways to get help with a problem.

You can either call them or visit them in a Sky store. They don’t currently offer an online chat, which does take away one avenue of getting help for some people. They do offer online help articles for the more tech-savvy.

But what sort of experience can you expect from Sky’s customer service? Well government regulators Ofcom receive an average number of complaints from Sky Mobile customers of 2 complaints per 100,000 users.

That’s still very low, meaning Sky typically do a good job of resolving their customers’ issues over the phone. This is something giffgaff simply don’t offer, as you’re stuck using their community forums for help.

Useful link: Read Ofcom's latest telecoms report

Better benefits on giffgaff

What do giffgaff users get that Sky users don’t?

Giffgaff greater than Sky

giffgaff offer all SIM plans on flexible 1-month deals

giffgaff benefits flexibility

Read their guide

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

giffgaff offer some great flexibility with their plans. There are no contracts to join them, no credit checks to pass to get a SIM only deal and you get the freedom to change your plan every month.

How it works is that you’re buying a bundle of minutes, texts and data up front (like adding credit on pay as you go) using a UK debit or credit card. There’s no contract obliging you to stay with them.

If you’ve failed to get onto a pay monthly contract with another network because of poor or no credit history, then giffgaff are a good option. Since you pay for everything up front, giffgaff won’t run a credit check on you.

Overall, giffgaff provide a great deal more flexibility than Sky Mobile. Sky do let you switch plans month to month, but you’re still obliged to stay on your contract or pay early termination fees. On giffgaff you’ve got a lot more freedom.

Useful link: Read our guide to the best 1-month contract networks

Plans and prices

SIM only plans compared on giffgaff and Sky Mobile

Which provider offers the best value SIM only deals?

Giffgaff and Sky logos around a SIM card



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Our verdict on SIM only deals:

Win for giffgaff

"Not only do giffgaff offer more flexible deals, but they also offer better value per GB especially on their golden goodybags. That is the upside to having fewer benefits overall."

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Special offers on Sky Mobile and giffgaff

Here are a few better value deals offered by both networks

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Phone contracts on giffgaff vs Sky

Which network is better for handset deals?

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Sky's phone contracts are based on finance

Sky Credit Agreement

How Swap works

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

Sky Mobile’s phone contracts are based around finance agreements. The cost of your device and your usage (mins, texts, data) plan are separate payments that make up your monthly bill.

This means you can pay lump sums amounts to reduce the monthly cost of your device, pay to upgrade your device early and switch usage plans as you like. You get to choose either a 24 or 36-month contract.

One unique thing about Sky Mobile’s phone contracts is their Swap scheme. This let you upgrade “for free” by handing in your device after 12 months on a 24-month contract or after 24 months on a 36-month contract.

We don’t think this is worth it, however. There’s little point giving back the device you’ve already started paying for just to get on a new contract. You can usually get a better deal just selling it secondhand.

Other than that, there’s a decent amount of flexibility offered on Sky’s phone contracts.

Useful link: Sky’s full guide to their Swap scheme

giffgaff offer a great deal of flexibility on phone contracts

giffgaff Mobile phones

Read more

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

giffgaff’s phone contracts are also based on finance agreements that split the cost of your phone and your usage plan into different payments. You get the same flexibility with your usage plan as you would on SIM only.

That means you can change your usage plan month to month or leave it whenever you like while still paying off your device (unlike Sky where you have to stay on your usage plan until the end).

giffgaff also let you set an upfront cost to lower how much you pay per month for your phone, set a contract length that suits you and let you pay lump sum amounts to reduce the length of your contract.

You will be paying more than taking a phone from the manufacturer directly, but giffgaff tend to be one of the cheaper networks when it comes to phone contracts. In any case, you can check prices using our phone contract comparison tool here.

Useful link: giffgaff’s full range of phone deals

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Win for giffgaff

"giffgaff offer better flexibility in their contracts and typically offer cheaper deals. The only advantage Sky hold is their Swap scheme, which we don’t think is actually worth it. Overall a giffgaff win here."

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More guides about giffgaff

More guides about Sky

Individual network reviews