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EE review 2020: are they still the UK's fastest mobile network?

EE Mobile review

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

We look everything you get with EE like coverage, speeds and benefits to see if it's worth paying a bit more to join them on a SIM only or phone contract. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: May 5th 2020.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates EE as an excellent network to join
★★★★☆ (4/5, excellent)

"The core reason to join EE is the quality of their network. They’ve got the biggest 4G coverage and the fastest 4G speeds, 5G is making great progress and extras like WiFi calling and 4G complete the story.

Many will use the free entertainment subscription trials they give you, Swappable Benefits are worth a look at and EE's Family plans are some of the better ones on the market.

The main thing letting EE down is products and price. They're more expensive than providers that use their network and competitors. But if you can join on a good deal, we think most people will be really happy on EE."

The 3 best bits

1) Best 4G coverage in the UK
2) Fastest 4G speeds
3) Nice shared plans for families

The 3 worst bits

1) More expensive than competitors
2) Not many free added benefits
3) Time-limited perks cost extra later

In our 2020 EE review

Overall rating

Our verdict

Overall rating

Network review

Network

4G/3G/2G coverage
Data speeds & 5G rollout
WiFi calling / 4G calling
Free WiFi hotspots
Tethering

Perks review

Perks & extras

Swappable Benefits
Free subscriptions
Data-free streaming/gaming
Family plans
Spending caps
Data rollover

Deal review

Deals

Special offers
SIM only plans
Phone contracts
Pay As You Go
Mobile broadband

Customer service review

Customer service

Ofcom data

Rating EE's mobile network

Coverage: EE have the biggest 4G network nationally

Check EE 4G/3G coverage

Better coverage away from residential areasCheck your EE signal

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

According to the government regulator Ofcom, EE have the largest amount of the UK's physical landmass covered with 4G data, meaning better availability as you travel around the country, not just in towns and cities.

For basic signal for calls and texts, EE are slightly behind O2 and Vodafone for the UK's overall geography but there's no real difference once you're in residential areas (although indoor calls may be a weak point).

These lower-cost providers use the EE network for coverage:

Virgin Mobile - cheaper phone contracts and SIM only deals (read our review)

BT Mobile - excellent joining offers and prices for their broadband customers (read our review)

For 5G, it's still quite early days but EE already offer the newer technology in these 80 towns and cities, with a fast rollout planned - and their coverage within those places is more extensive than other networks.

The size of their network is one of EE's main selling points. But it's important to get a feel for signal everywhere you'll use your phone before you join any network, so definitely use their network map here to check.

Useful link: EE's network expansion plans

Our coverage rating:
★★★★★ (best choice)

Rank:
1st

Data speeds: EE's 4G has long been the UK's fastest

EE 5G location map

EE's 5G is being rolled out nowSee next 5G cities

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

EE's 4G is noticeably faster than all other networks on average. That's what the reports of independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla say, based on millions of measurements.

They report typical downloads over 4G on EE between 32.99 - 35.9 Mbps, which is around 50% faster than their nearest competitors. Sometimes it'll be less, sometimes way more, depending on location and busyness.

You don't have to join EE directly to benefit from their fast 4G, these often-cheaper providers also use the EE network. Here's what we expect speed-wise:

Virgin Mobile - 70 Mbps speed cap on all plans is way above what you can expect on average anyway (read Virgin vs EE guide).

BT Mobile - some plans capped at 30 Mbps, others at 60 Mbps (read BT Mobile vs EE guide).

There's not much reliable data out yet on the speeds of EE's 5G. We're not expecting a huge jump to home fibre style 1 Gbps - more likely 100 - 200 Mbps. A lot of the benefit of 5G will be extra capacity in busy places.

If you're looking for the fastest possible 4G, joining the EE network is almost always going to be your best bet.

Useful link: EE's network development latest news

Our data speed rating:
★★★★★ (best choice)

Rank:
1st

Slightly better than:
BT Mobile, Virgin Mobile

Call technology: EE's WiFi Calling and 4G calling are good

WiFi calling on EE reviewed

Make sure EE support your phoneSee supported models

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

The 2G and 3G signal that calls and texts on EE are broadcast on use frequencies that can find it harder to get indoors through building materials, causing poor quality calls or even inside blackspots.

But EE have plenty of technology to get round this. We think their WiFi calling is excellent. Calls connect fast, audio quality is good, you can switch to a 4G call without it dropping and send/receive SMS texts.

EE's list of supported devices has grown massively too. And it seems like the requirement to have bought Android phones from EE for WiFi calling to work is less important now too. Our non-EE test phone worked fine.

Our only criticism of EE's WiFi calling is that you don't get it on pay as you go or their 1-month Flex Plans. If you have BT broadband, look at BT Mobile as they use EE's full network and their WiFi calling is excellent too.

Useful link: All networks with WiFi calling

Our WiFi Calling rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd

Not quite as good as:
Three

Better than:
O2, Vodafone, Sky

Free WiFi hotspots: EE have it on London's TFL network

Free WiFi on the Underground with EE

YouTube on The Tube: free WiFi at stationsHow to connect on EE

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

Given that EE are owned by BT, it's surprising their customers don't get access to BT's network of thousands of free WiFi hotspots. It's just one of the differences between EE and BT Mobile you can read about in our guide.

We can't help but wonder whether this is a deliberate move from EE so that their customers use up more of the mobile data each month, because they can't connect to free WiFi outside the house.

At least on EE, pay monthly customers will get free WiFi on London's Underground network, which allows visitors and residents of the capital to keep using their phones in hundreds of stations on the transport network.

Overall, it's fair to say this isn't EE's strong point. In our guide to mobile networks with free WiFi we only give them an average rating for this category.

Useful link: How free WiFi on the Underground works from their official guide.

Our free WiFi rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
Joint 4th

Same as or better than:
Everyone else

Tethering: it's allowed on all EE's plans

EE tethering guide

Tethering may use up data more quickly than usualSee extra data costs

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

Just in case you've never heard of tethering, it's a function on most modern smartphones that lets you turn your mobile into a portable WiFi hotspot.

Your phone takes the regular mobile data signal and turns it into WiFi signal, to which you can connect other devices like laptops or tablets. It's useful for when you want to get these online but there's no regular WiFi.

Some networks don't allow it because it can hog bandwidth but EE commendably let you tether on any of their plans: pay monthly or pay as you go, phone or SIM only.

That makes EE our joint-best choice for tethering.

But remember you're more likely to overshoot your data allowance when you're tethering so make sure you're comfortable with EE's extra out of allowance charges listed here.

Useful link: Read EE's tethering guide for more details

Our tethering rating:
★★★★★ (Joint best choice)

Rank:
Joint 1st

Same as:
TBC

Better than:
TBC

EE benefits reviewed

Swappable Benefits: pick and choose perks with your plan

EE Swappable Benefits promotional banner

Add / remove benefits as you pleaseSee your choices

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

Depending on the EE pay monthly plan you choose, it may or may not include a number of Swappable Benefits - these are additional perks you add and remove from your account month-to-month as you see fit.

There's some decent things to choose from, like a Video Pass for unlimited data when watching select streaming apps, a similar Music Pass, and Gamer's Pass (read more here).

You can also choose a subscription to Amazon Prime Video or the mobile BT Sport app. Or choose an inclusive roaming pass covering five extra worldwide roaming destinations.

For us the key here is to make sure you're not choosing a more expensive plan, if you're not going to get full use of the benefit. But otherwise, it's a nice perk on top of the essentials of a quality mobile network.

Useful link: EE's guide to their Swappable Benefits

Entertainment: EE give you multiple free trials

EE subscription screenshots

Free trials to multiple servicesSee what you get

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

Completely separate from the Swappable Benefits we talk about above, EE also throw in quite a few free trials to different entertainment services on every pay monthly SIM or phone plan.

At any point, you can start a 6 month free trial of BritBox, Apple News+, MTV Play, Apple Music and 3 months of BT Sport app (which can be cast onto big screens too).

And you don't have to choose between them. You're entitled to all of them - each can be started at separate times. And EE won't charge you for the data the apps use during the trials either.

All-in-all it is a generous package with a high value, although you should be careful to cancel at the end of the trial period if you don't want to end up paying for them via your mobile bill. They're trials, not total giveaways.

Useful link: How to claim your free trials

Our free subscriptions rating:
★★★★★ (best choice)

Rank:
1st

Slightly better than:
Vodafone, BT Mobile

Much better than:
All others

Free data schemes: EE have a few options for streaming

EE unlimited data pass icons

Buy separately or choose as Swappable BenefitHow they work

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

As we mention above, during your free trial of the entertainment services EE include, the mobile data that the apps use won't be charged to your account. It's essentially unlimited data for those specific apps.

We're seeing more and more networks offer free streaming data or social media. And EE now have an additional way to get more streaming data beyond those free trials: their Video Data, Music Data and Gamer's Data Passes.

Each gives you unlimited data to use for an impressively long list of selected video or music streaming apps, or games on your mobile. The Video Pass includes loads of useful apps like iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix.

We'd give these our highest rating if they were included as standard but they're a premium option. You either have to add each separately for a fixed monthly cost, or take a more-expensive plan and choose as one of your Swappable Benefits.

Useful link: Our guide to similar schemes

Our free data rating:
★★★★★ (best choice)

Rank:
3rd

Not as good as:
Sky Mobile, Three

Better than:
All others

Inclusive roaming: EE get our fourth best rating

EE's inclusive roaming plans

48 free roaming destinations in the EUWhere you can go

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

We rate EE as one of the better networks for roaming because they can go beyond the minimum requirement that every provider must let you use your UK minutes, texts and data abroad in EU countries for no extra cost.

EU roaming is included as standard across all EE's pay monthly plans (SIM only or phone contracts) and lets you go to these 48 free roaming destinations without paying extra for your regular usage.

EE go one step better than a lot of networks by offering the ability to roam for free to a further 5 worldwide destinations Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the USA with their Roam Further Pass.

It's a premium option so not as generous as Three's Go Roam scheme for example. You either pay a monthly charge for it, or you can pick it as one of your Swappable Benefits on a Smart Plan.

Useful link: Full roaming costs on EE

Our roaming rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
4th

Not as good as:
Three, Vodafone, O2

Better than:
All others

Spending caps: set how much extra you can spend on EE

EE data cap alerts

Notifications when you've nearly used up dataHow it works

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

Since 1st Oct 2018, it's been the law that mobile networks must let you set a cap of how much you're willing to overspend on top of the regular monthly bill (see the government regulator Ofcom's page here).

The kind of things you could spend extra on include extra data for going over your limit, roaming charges or premium number calls (see costs for extras on EE here).

EE let you set the cap as low as £0 and as high as high as £50 (or no cap) and plenty of options in between. You can do it either in the checkout when you buy, or you change your settings at any point in your contract (here's how you do it).

Whether you set a cap or not, EE will also help you out by letting you know when you're getting near your limit for data usage by texting when you're getting near your allowance and when you've hit it.

Now every network has to offer this, it's not really a point of difference, although we'd say EE do a good job of making it nice and easy to set your cap and manage it later on.

Useful link: How EE's spending caps work

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
TBC

Not as good as:
TBC

Better than:
TBC

Shared plans/multibuys: handy discounts and 'data gifting'

EE data gifting

Share data with other people on your accountHow data gifting works

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

In this part, we're looking for how networks encourage you to take out extra deals for family members or friends with discounts or shared plans.

This is something EE are working quite hard on. They now offer 10% off any extra pay monthly deal you add to your account (phones, SIMs, mobile broadband or tablets).

They also let you do something called data gifting. This where you can move chunks of data around each of the plans on your account, if someone runs out and someone else has some spare.

It's a decent effort from EE but we still say the best shared plans are BT Mobile's Family plans (which use EE's network). These give you large savings for every extra SIM you add to your main BT Mobile deal (read our Family SIM review here).

Useful link: All benefits of EE's family accounts

Our group discounts rating:
★★★★☆ (very good)

Rank:
4th

Better than:
All others

Data rollover: EE only have it on Pay As You Go

EE data rollover scheme

A second chance to use up dataSee qualifying plans

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

Data Rollover is when mobile networks give you another chance in future months to use up any data you've not previously got through. We've written a whole guide to it here and the networks that offer it.

Each provider has different rules about how long you get to keep your unused data for, and which of their products let you do it all. And on EE, it's a benefit that's reserved for pay as you go (PAYG) customers only.

Take any of these PAYG SIMs with 100MB data or more on EE and they'll include data rollover that gives you an extra 30 days to use your leftover data. You'll also get it on EE's new pre-paid Flex plans.

Regular pay monthly SIMs and phones on EE don't include the benefit, so we can't rate EE highly for data rollover. See our guide for pay monthly data rollover schemes under the link below.

Useful link: Our guide to the UK networks with data rollover plans

Our data rollover rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
Joint 5th

Similar to:
O2, Vodafone

EE's deals compared

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Current special offers on EE

A quick overview of the latest EE promotions

EE phone contracts: it pays to shop around

Screenshot of phone comparison tool

We compare direct and re-seller dealsCompare EE deals

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

For all the reasons in the network section above, we think EE are a good network to have a phone contract on for coverage and speeds. But it's worth noting there are more ways at getting on it than just directly.

You'll often be able to get a better price by joining EE via re-sellers like Carphone Warehouse and their sub-brand Mobile.co.uk. There's also Fonehouse and Metrofone who sell EE phone contracts too.

These types of re-sellers buy a lot more phones than EE, so get lower prices with manufacturers. They then offer contracts on behalf of EE for the phone. You become an EE customer like normal.

You'll get a different number of Swappable Benefits depending on the phone plan you choose from EE. Their contracts are straight-forward 24-month deals with no finance or loans involved.

Useful link: Use our price comparison tool

Pay As You Go: EE's only works via bundle

Pay As You Go on EE

500MB extra free data every 3 monthsGet a free Flex SIM

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

There's no traditional pay as you go on EE, where you top up and your usage comes out of that at fixed rates (1pMobile are our favourite choice for this type of deal and they use EE's network).

We do rate EE's Flex bundles pretty highly though. They're a lot more competitively priced than EE's pay monthly deals relative to other providers, especially if you can get one during one of EE's triple data offers.

And their benefits are good too: no credit check, keep unused data for next month, 4G speeds up to 60 Mbps and flexibility to stop, change or pause your plan according to your needs at the time.

The main downside is the lack of extra network features on Flex: you don't get 4G calling or WiFi calling. But otherwise they're a really good way to try out EE commitment-free.

Useful link: Get a free EE Flex SIM card

Mobile broadband: EE have the most suitable network

Inclusive EU roaming on EE's data plansRead all benefits

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

In the network section of this review, we point out that EE have the biggest and fastest 4G network, which makes them a naturally good choice for a mobile broadband data SIM or mobile WiFi device.

But the product themselves are again let down by agressive pricing per GB. If your phone deal's up for renewal, you'd be better off just taking an EE phone SIM and tethering if that was suitable than paying for EE's data SIMs.

If you've got a device and just need a SIM for it, there's not actually a huge difference in price between a pay monthly data SIM or a pay as you go one on EE, unless you're willing to commit to 24 months on a contract.

If your usage changes a lot, we rate the 90 day bundle option on pay as you go, which gives you 3 months to use up the data you buy up front, at a slight premium vs the 30-day versons.

If you need a mobile WiFi device, EE have a pretty standard offering of pocket routers, available on 24-month contracts with between 5GB and 50GB data.

Useful link: EE's data plan pricing and benefits

EE customer service reviews

Customer service: EE have a good record with Ofcom

Ofcom complaints data

EE least-complained-about major networkEE's UK call centres

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

The government regulator Ofcom publishes how many complaints they receive about each mobile network per 100,000 customers. People only have to go to Ofcom if the provider hasn't sorted their problem.

EE have the best record with them currently, just 2 complaints per 100,000 customers. Not bad when they're the biggest provider by number of subscribers and haven't always had the best reputation.

A factor in this decent score could be that EE have invested in UK and Ireland call centres, which many people find more satisfactory to deal with rather than operations abroad.

If you've had a bad experience with EE before, the stats show it could be worth giving them another chance.

Useful link: Read about EE's UK & Ireland call centre

More EE articles

Comparing EE and Three

EE vs Three

Read our EE vs Three comparison

Comparing EE and O2

EE vs O2

Read our EE vs O2 guide

Comparing EE and Vodafone

EE vs Vodafone

Read our EE vs Vodafone guide

Comparing EE and BT Mobile

EE vs BT Mobile

Read differences between EE and BT Mobile

Comparing EE and Virgin Mobile

EE vs Virgin

Differences between EE and Virgin Mobile