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Tesco Mobile vs Sky: differences between the two networks

Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile logos with vs lettering

The retailers featured on this page may compensate us when our readers follow links to their websites and make a purchase. More

Both Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile use the O2 network. So we look at which is the better choice for a phone contract or SIM only deal. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 8th October 2020.

In our Tesco Mobile vs Sky guide

Latest offer news

Comparing their networks

Same: coverage on Tesco Mobile vs Sky

Are there any differences in signal on the two providers?

Tesco Mobile and Sky logos with Signal bars

Coverage on Tesco and Sky Mobile is identical

Man looking please at phone


Learn more

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Both Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile use the O2 network to bring their customers signal. In fact, Tesco Mobile is part-owned by Telefonica, who own O2. Sky Mobile is a wholly separate company.

Using O2 is an advantage to both for its excellent reach across the country for basic calls and texts signal. They’ve got the joint-biggest geographic coverage for calls (the amount of physical landmass with signal).

In places people live, their 4G data is a strong as every other network. Although they lag slightly behind EE and Vodafone in rural 4G coverage and reception on roads and rail as you travel around.

Our own testing of both Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile’s SIMs against each other and an O2 SIM could not find any built-in coverage differences. We don’t think either gets preferential treatment.

Useful link: How Tesco Mobile work with O2

You can also get 5G on both providers

Sky 5G location map

See latest locations

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If you’re an early adopter, both Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile are options for getting 5G data. They both have access to the faster data technology via the O2 network.

At the moment, 5G is available in parts of the 75 locations listed here on the O2 website. It’s a number growing rapidly, which you’ll benefit from whether you join Tesco or Sky

That said, it’s not like having your town or city on that list means the whole place has 5G. Realistically, it’s still on a street-by-street basis (check here). And they’ve focused on the busier city centre locations

It’s slightly easier to get 5G on Tesco Mobile, you just select a plan that’s marked as 5G. On Sky, you have to add it to your account as an add-on (which is free if you join Sky VIP for free) or otherwise costs £5.

Useful link: How to get 5G data on Sky Mobile

Tesco and Sky coverage checkers

Use these maps to test everywhere you’ll use your phone - not just at home

Sky Mobile network map

Sky Mobile coverage checker

Check Sky Mobile signal

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Tesco Mobile network map

Tesco Mobile coverage checker

Check Tesco Mobile signal

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Our verdict on coverage:

No winner

“Both use O2. Both have 5G too. There’s no difference”

Compare pricing and deals

Same: data speeds on Tesco and Sky

Is Sky Mobile faster or slower than Tesco?

Speedometer icon with Tesco Mobile and Sky logos

There’s no built-in 4G speed differences

Benefits of 5G vs 4G banner

5G vs 4G guide

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We’ve physically tested a Sky Mobile, Tesco (and giffgaff) SIM against an O2 one in quite a few locations and couldn’t find any evidence of built-in speed differences between any of them.

We can’t test the whole country. But independent testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla have measured data speeds over each network millions of times.

They put the typical 4G download over the O2 network at 16.95 - 18.00 Mbps. That’s like a low-level home fibre broadband connection, so would support basic tasks easily but might start to creak for videos.

Remember you will also experience speeds slower and faster than that in the real-world on both Tesco and Sky. But if you’re concerned there’s a difference between the two, you needn’t be.

Useful link: What difference 5G will make on Sky Mobile

Our verdict on data speeds

No winner

“Speed is another where it makes no difference if you join Sky Mobile or Tesco Mobile. It’s more the extra benefits and price that differentiate the two.”

Compare pricing and deals

Different: extra network features

Do both Tesco and Sky Mobile have WiFi calling?

WiFi calling icon between Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile logos

Sky Mobile have WiFi calling, Tesco do not

Screenshot of Sky’s help section on WiFi calling

Check supported phones

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The mobile signal that Sky Mobile and Tesco use is naturally good at getting through buildings indoors, thanks to the low frequency it tends to be broadcast on. But you could still end up somewhere without.

On Sky Mobile, there’s a backup. On Tesco Mobile there’s not. Sky offer WiFi calling as standard on all their plans, meaning as long as your phone is supported (check here), you can make/take calls over WiFi.

It’s the major network difference between Sky and Tesco. It means if you want to join Tesco, it’s worth double checking your home indoor call signal with them up front. On Sky it’s not so important.

The same applies for 4G calling (also known as VoLTE). Sky have it but Tesco do not. 4G calling is also about extending coverage (it means your phone can use more of the available signal) and audio quality.

Useful link: Our guide to the best WiFi calling networks

Neither network offer extra free WiFi hotspots

Sky WiFi app screenshot

Find nearby hotspots

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There’s loads of free WiFi about nowadays but we still think it’s an added bonus when a mobile network includes automatic hotspot access with their deals, because it can save on your regular mobile data.

Neither Tesco Mobile nor Sky offer you anything extra with theirs. Despite their association with O2, it doesn’t mean you can use the WiFi on London’s TFL network like you can on O2.

There is Sky WiFi. That’s a network of thousands of hotspots up and down the country in public places like pubs and restaurants. But it’s free anyway. There’s no exclusive benefit for Sky Mobile customers

If you take a big data plan anyway, it’s not a huge issue neither network having any free WiFi. We’d say it’s more of a nice-to-have than a deal breaker, when choosing a provider.

Useful link: Charges for going over allowance on Tesco

Our verdict on extra network features

Easy win for Sky Mobile

“Sky Mobile having WiFi calling and Tesco Mobile not having it is the main advantage there is to joining Sky over Tesco in terms of their actual mobile networks. If you’ve suffered from poor indoor signal, you could miss it.”

Compare pricing and deals

Comparing their benefits

Unused data on Tesco Mobile vs Sky

What happens if you don’t get through all your data?

A wallet between Tesco Mobile and Sky logos

Keep your unused data on Sky for up to 3 years

Sky Mobile piggybank banner

Read full benefits

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Everyone’s data usage changes month-to-month, so people normally end up taking out a plan with slightly more than they actually need, to not risk going over your limit (which you’d then pay for at these rates).

This means often you’ll end up with data leftover, that on most networks you’d just lose. Sky Mobile are different. They let you hold onto anything you haven’t got through and put it into a Piggybank to use later.

You can keep data for up to 3 years - so if you ever run out, you just withdraw from your Piggybank 1GB at a time and carry on. What’s really good is you can share it with family members too if they’re ever out.

Plus, if you’ve built up quite a lot of unused data, Sky will let you trade it in for money off a new phone or tablet with them, which is a bonus if you’ve been considering a phone contract and won’t ever use the data.

Useful link: Read Sky’s full guide to their data rollover scheme

Any unused data on Tesco Mobile is gone

A phone and recycle icon

Guide to data rollover

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There’s no equivalent to Sky Mobile’s Roll on Tesco Mobile, so it’s worth thinking about when you join. Any data you don’t get through on Tesco is gone, with no further chances to re-use it.

That does mean too that you run the risk having to pay extra for data if you ever run out. Tesco’s prices for this are reasonable. They’re not the cheapest but by no means the most expensive.

If you do like the sound of data rollover, read our full guide to it here. Or we’ve put together our favourite current SIM only deals that let you keep data for at least one month below:

All these deals let you keep unused data for at least one month:

For the time being, the lack of data rollover on Tesco is one of the key differences between Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile.

Useful link: Use Tesco Mobile’s data usage calculator

Our verdict on unused data schemes

Easy win for Sky Mobile

“We think people will really value having leftover data stored on Sky Mobile and we really like that you can share it with family members. Tesco don’t get close in this category. Maybe something for them to add in future?”

Compare pricing and deals

Unlimited streaming on Sky and Tesco

Which network’s best for watching loads on your mobile?

Smartphone with video streaming icon between Tesco Mobile and Sky logos

Unlimited Sky TV app streaming on Sky Mobile

Sky unlimited streaming banner

Read full guide

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If you’ve got Sky TV at home, you can get more out of your TV and mobile packages, because every plan has a separate unlimited data allowance for watching any of these Sky streaming apps on your mobile.

You can stream as many hours as you like from channels and catch-up services included in your TV package and it won’t consume any of your plan’s regular data (only adverts come out of it).

Video streaming is just about the data-heaviest activity most people will do on their phones, so getting as much of it as you like on Sky Mobile is a really useful benefit, especially on the smallest, cheapest plans:

Next time you’re bored on the train or got a long car journey to keep the kids entertained on, you’ll be able to stream away without worrying how much data it’s using. It even works abroad in the EU.

Useful link: Sky’s full guide to their streaming data

Tesco Mobile have an unlimited data plan

Tesco Mobile SIM and an unlimited data roundel

See latest pricing

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There’s no equivalent to Sky’s streaming service on Tesco Mobile that applies to every plan. But you can get close by taking an unlimited data plan (Sky don’t offer a fully unlimited data plan).

Tesco offer unlimited data on SIM only plans and phone contracts. And you get just that; a plan with no limit for data that you can exceed. There’s no fair usage policy, as long as you’re using it for personal use only.

In some ways it’s better than Sky, because it’s unlimited data for everything you do on your phone, not just certain activities. But it’s not a freebie, you have to take Tesco’s most expensive plan to get it.

Useful link: Use Tesco Mobile’s data usage calculator

Our verdict on streaming benefits

Win for Sky Mobile

“Even though you can get unlimited data on Tesco Mobile, it’s something you have to choose and pay more for. Sky’s free streaming benefit comes on every plan as an added bonus, so is way more generous.”

Compare pricing and deals

Family plans on Tesco Mobile vs Sky

Which is best for joining as a family?

Family with Tesco Mobile and Sky logos

Family Perks for taking multiple deals on Tesco

Tesco Mobile Family Perks banner

See full perk list

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You can take out up to five pay monthly contracts on the same account with Tesco Mobile, and manage them all from the same place. But there are more incentives than just convenience to do this:

Tesco Mobile have a system called Family Perks for customers with multiple numbers on one account. Every time you add a new person, you’ll get a choice from a series of added benefits on top of your deal.

That includes things like bonus Clubcard points, extra minutes or data, discounts off phone insurance and discounts off your overall bill (see the full list in Tesco’s help guide here).

The value of each of these isn’t earth shattering. We’re talking a few pounds here and there each month. And they start off low and get more valuable the more people you add. But it’s a nice little thank you at least.

Useful link: Our guide to the best family plans

No family discounts on Sky but one decent benefit

Breakdown of discounts per GB data

How it works

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You can have up to seven SIMs or five phone contracts on the same account with Sky Mobile, which gives you the convenience of having everything in one place. But there’s no specific discount for family plans.

What you do get though is the ability to share unused data around the different mobile numbers on your account. So if someone runs out and there’s spare data in your Piggybank, you can send it over.

We think plenty of families will find this useful as everyone tends to have different data usage habits. And you might find it useful to use a big pool of unused data to get a discount against a device for someone.

Family plans aren’t really Sky’s strong point. It will be interesting to see if they develop any extra perks or discounts for groups like Tesco Mobile have in future.

Useful link: Manage parental controls on Sky Mobile

Our verdict on family plans

Win for Tesco Mobile

“Sharing data on Sky Mobile is good, we just think Tesco Mobile have made more of an effort to reward you with discounts and perks for taking out multiple deals with them.”

Compare pricing and deals

Comparing their prices and deals

SIM only plans Sky Mobile vs Tesco

Are Tesco Mobile SIMs better than Sky Mobile?

SIM card between Tesco Mobile and Sky logos



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Added features

Special offers on Tesco Mobile vs Sky

Which network’s got the best offers this month?

Special offer ribbon with Tesco Mobile and Sky logos

Phone contracts on Tesco vs Sky Mobile

What differences are there between Tesco and Sky’s contracts?

Smartphone between Tesco Mobile and Sky logos

Tesco Mobile’s phone deals are incredibly flexible

Tesco Mobile Anytime Flex and woman on phone

Read full terms

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Sky and Tesco’s phone contracts are very similar. They are both based on taking out finance for the cost of your phone (essentially a loan) and adding a usage agreement on top (your minutes, texts and data).

Doing it this way gives you loads of choices of how long to take paying off your phone. On Tesco, you can choose 12, 18, 24, 30 or 36 months. The longer you choose, the lower the monthly repayment.

And you can voluntarily choose between four amounts to pay up front (from £0 upwards). Whatever combination you choose, the total cost of the phone stays the same, so don’t worry about getting it wrong.

You can move up and down data plans during your contract as much as you like without penalty. And you can upgrade early by paying off the remainder of your loan and starting again - with no extra fees.

Useful link: Read full ins and outs of Tesco’s Anytime Upgrade

Sky’s phone contracts are slightly less flexible

Sky Swap contract screenshot

What is Swap?

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On the face of it, Sky Mobile’s phone contracts are really similar to Tesco’s, although there are a few minor differences when you get into the nitty gritty of the terms and conditions.

You have to commit to at least 12 months on Sky. On Tesco the usage agreement is 30 days only so you could pay your phone off and leave immediately if you were really fed up.

There are also fewer options for contract length on Sky (either 24 or 36 months for phones). And they tend to only offer their phones with no upfront cost, there’s no option to pay a chunk off immediately.

But other than that, you’ve got the same flexibility to upgrade early, change your plan mid-contract up or down if your needs change, and some really great prices too (compare all phone contracts here).

Useful link: Our guide to Sky Mobile Swap contracts

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Minor win for Tesco Mobile

“Both Sky and Tesco are basically offering the same types of phone contracts, so a lot of it will come down to how they compare on price for your particular model and other benefits. But Tesco do have more options for contract lengths and upfront costs.”

Compare pricing and deals

iPhone 12 on Sky Mobile vs Tesco

Which is the best network to get an iPhone 12 from?

iPhone 12 logo betwen Tesco and Sky ones

Only Sky have pre-order out of the two

Sky Mobile double data offer

Get this offer

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If you want to receive the new iPhone 12 or 12 Pro on the day it launches, then Sky Mobile are your current only option. Sky are offering it on pre-order with delivery on 23rd October. Tesco are not.

Both networks have suitable 5G tariffs to get you access to the faster data technology the new iPhone 12 models work on. To get 5G free on Sky Mobile, join their loyalty programme VIP for free, saving £5 a month.

Sky have lauched iPhone 12 with a double data offer that gives you twice as much data as usual on each plan. It makes their entry-level tariff here for the 64GB the lowest monthly cost for a 5G plan:

Useful links: Compare all iPhone 12 deals | Compare all iPhone 12 Pro deals

More Sky Mobile articles

Full Sky Mobile review

Sky logo and a thumbs up

Sky Mobile Watch

Sky logo and smartphone streaming

Sky Mobile for TV customers

Sky logo and a gift box

Sky Mobile for TV customers

Sky vs O2 logos