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EE review 2021: the biggest and fastest 4G and 5G network?

EE Mobile reviewVisit EE.co.uk

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: 27th January 2021.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates EE as an excellent network to join
 (4.5/5, excellent)

"Joining EE is definitely a case of paying more for higher quality. Their prices never stoop as low as their competition but we think the overall network experience is typically better, so it’s understandable why.

Their 4G network is the biggest and the fastest. Their 5G covers larger amounts of the cities they report to have it in. And their basic network for calls and texts is practically impossible to get away from outdoors.

EE’s added benefits are probably more of a garnish on top of the quality of the mobile network itself, rather than offering a compelling reason to join on their own. Data sharing is arguably the most useful of them.

If you can latch onto a decent deal for a phone contract or SIM only plan with EE directly or via better-value retailers that sell them, we think EE’s overall network experience is unbeatable."

The 3 best bits

1) Biggest and fastest 4G network
2) Excellent WiFi calling / VoLTE
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

Rating EE's mobile network

We think EE have the best overall mix of coverage

Check EE 4G/3G coverage

Better coverage away from residential areasCheck your EE signal

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

EE own and operate their own network (they're owned in-turn by BT). Nationally, we think they have the best combination of coverage for data and good old-fashioned calls and texts.

They've got more of the UK's physical landmass covered with 4G data signal than any of the networks (which can also be used for 4G calling). So they're your best shot at a decent data connection as you move round.

We've tested EE's network in a large variety of places. In cities, outskirts, smaller towns and in rural countryside.

For basic calls and texts, you have to be somewhere geographically odd like in a dip, up a hill to end up with a total blackspot. Although older, thick-walled buildings can be a problem indoors if you're unlucky.

In city centres and even the suburbs, we found 4G+ to be basically universal. Some smaller towns you'd drop down to 3G. But even that's rare - the 4G signal reach is truly impressive.

In the country, you still pick up 4G bars in some surprisingly remote places, although we'd say it's always the most useful for data there.

Their old-fashioned 2G/3G that's used for regular calls and texts is slightly behind Vodafone and O2's but it's still extremely rare to find yourself in a total blackspot for this on EE (indoor call signal can be a weakness).

No network is flawless or universal, so do still use their network map here to check your local signal. But overall, if we had to plump for one network with the best overall coverage, it'd be EE every time.

Useful link: EE's network expansion plans

EE are doing the best job of their 5G network rollout

EE 5G locations map

5G in larger parts of cities5G rollout news

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

There's a space race on with each network to get 5G data live in as many cities as possible. And while EE's total count of locations may not be the largest, they are being the most honest about their rollout.

While some networks put up transmitters that cover a small, busy section of a city, EE are more methodically switching their 5G on across larger areas. And only declaring them here, once they've reached 50%.

So if you find your town or city is on there, it's worth checking their actual coverage checker here, because you might find it's already available in certain parts. And if yours is on the list, it's still worth making sure the parts are covered where you'll want to use your phone.

EE don't sell every plan as 5G ready. So make sure yours is when you sign up to avoid disappointment. Here's their cheapest current 5G SIM only plan:

Useful link: See all 5G-ready EE SIM only plans

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

Rank:
1st

Similar to:
BT Mobile

Data speeds: EE's 4G is still the fastest hands down

EE 5G location map

EE's 5G is being rolled out nowSee EE awards

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

As well as coverage, EE are our best choice for data speed too. Their 4G downloads measure up faster than all providers time and time again with independent network texts Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla.

According to them, EE's 4G downloads average-out at 32.99 - 35.9 Mbps - that's like decent home fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband and would comfortably support even 4K video streaming without buffering.

In our own experience, other networks' average are driven up by much higher city-centre 4G than in the outskirts. Our own testing finds EE coming out in the 30-40 Mbps range in suburbs.

We've managed to do quite a few spot checks of the speeds EE's 4G network is capable of delivering in city centres, suburbs and rurual locations to see if it backs up the independent testers.

City centre 4G on EE can hit some significant highs between 70-110 Mbps downloads in our experience. And even in city suburbs, you can often get 30-40 Mbps (where other networks might be in the 10s and 20s).

Rural areas are where the average gets dragged down. If you're in small towns, villages or the countryside, EE will drop to maybe 8-15 Mbps. That will still support videos in standard definition.

Overall, we'd say EE isn't just faster on paper, it feels faster when you're browsing. You definitely notice the lag when you move back to other providers.

Early 5G testing puts EE's 5G downloads at 142.86 Mbps (4x faster). But realistically, 4G is still the dominant technology nationally and EE are the kings of speed over 4G, so they get our best rating here.

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)

If EE have a weakness on coverage, it's that their 2G and 3G for regular calls and texts is broadcast on frequencies less optimal for good indoor signal. But their extra technology to solve this is top drawer.

All pay monthly phone and SIM only contracts include WiFi calling and 4G calling (their pay as you go and low-cost 1-month Flex plans do not). This lets your phone make/take calls and send/receive texts over WiFi.

The strength of EE's WiFi calling lies in the fact that they've had it so long. So their list of supported devices is massive and makes it easier to join EE on SIM only than other providers, even with older Android devices.

We tested WiFi calling on the EE network with an old Android phone (Galaxy S7) not bought from EE and an iPhone 7. WiFi calling worked fine on both.

It kicks in really easily. You don't have to have almost non-existent signal for the WiFi calling icon to show on your phone and your handset to use the technology for a call.

We successfully dropped the WiFi connection during a call without the call itself dropping. It does this by switching to 4G (VoLTE). If there's no 4G available, it does drop though. It's a limitation of the technology.

Overall, their WiFi calling is a slick as you'd expect from a big network like EE.

We found the audio quality and the time to connect no different from placing regular calls. And SMS support is handy in the age of security verification texts. Overall, a slick experience - typical of EE's whole network.

Useful link: EE's guide to their 4G 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

EE's best benefit is probably data gifting on shared accounts

EE data gifting

Share data with other people on your accountHow data gifting works

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

We'd say generally EE's strength is the quality of their fundamental network. They don't have to carve out a position in the market with unique clever benefits that add value to deal so much.

Their best one comes when you have multiple numbers on a single account. You get a useful 10% discount off the additional lines, which is most valuable on phone or tablet contracts but also applies to pay monthly SIMs.

You get the convenience of having all your contracts in one account, on one bill. And there's a really handy feature called Data Gifting that lets you move around data if people run out and others have spare.

It's a nice way of avoiding paying for people going over their data allowance, when someone else isn't using up the full thing. We'd say it's the most complete Family plan out there (here are similar schemes elsewhere).

Useful link: All benefits of EE's family accounts

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

Rank:
4th

Better than:
All others

Some plans let you choose one or more Smart benefits

EE Smart Benefits promotional banner

Choose what you're intoSee your choices

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

The story with most of EE's other benefits is that they're premium features you pay more for. That's the case with their Smart benefits, a selection of added extras you can choose from when you take certain plans.

On a phone contract or SIM only, EE offer Smart plans that normally cost a few pounds extra a month compared to the same minutes, texts and data on a non-Smart plan. See the latest on SIM only here:

They each let you choose one or more from an Apple Music subscription, BT Sports Ultimate, BritBox, Amazon Prime Video, an extended roaming pass or an unlimited video streaming data pass.

Whether you want any of those is up to you really. There is a premium on these plans, so they're not freebies. So only choose one if you actually want one, else it's just an out-and-out upsell from EE.

Useful link: EE's guide to their Smart 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 Smart 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

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 Smart Benefits on a Smart Plan - either way you're paying extra for it.

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

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 pre-paid Flex plans.

Content

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

What type of deal are you interested in?

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Overview of EE SIM only options

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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 Fonehouse, Metrofone, ChitterChatter or buymobiles.net.

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 Smart 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

Other mobile network reviews

Other EE guides

Rating mobile networks by feature