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Various logos of UK mobile networks

EE mobile review 2019: why pay more to join the network directly?

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

EE have long had the biggest and fastest 4G network. But loads of cheaper providers also use EE. We look if it's worth joining direct. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: September 11th 2019.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates EE as excellent but expensive
★★★★☆ (4/5, excellent)

"All the independent testing still points to EE being the biggest and fastest 4G network in the UK, so there's no doubting their quality. We're just not sure EE's other benefits justify their noticeably higher prices than the virtual providers that use their network."

Our guide takes you in detail through the pros and cons of joining 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 2019 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: you still get the UK's best 4G coverage on EE

Check EE 4G/3G coverage

EE's map shows 5G/4G/3G/2G around countryCheck yours now

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

EE are one of the four main providers in the UK who own and operate their own mobile network of masts up and down the country (the other three are Vodafone, O2 and Three). Many providers use EE's network too.

Coverage stats show that EE's 4G and 3G signal reaches 99% of the UK population in the places where they live. And they're now investing millions into covering more of the UK's physical landmass too.

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

Virgin Mobile - no 4G+ but cheaper phone contracts and SIM only deals (read our review)

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

Plusnet Mobile - no 4G+ but a good choice for cheap 1-month SIM only plans (read our review)

That will mean better, more reliable signal in places away from where people live, like on motorways, railway lines and countryside in the middle of nowhere (check signal everywhere you use your phone on EE here).

For us, the quality of EE's network is excellent - and it's our main reason to join them. It really can be astonishing having a 4G signal in surprisingly remote places.

Useful link: EE's network expansion plans

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

Rank:
1st

Data speeds: EE's 4G measures up as 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)

Independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla's latest reports into mobile network speeds found EE to be the fastest UK mobile network for 4G, based on millions of speed tests on people's phones.

They found typical 4G download speeds to average out at31.5 Mbps(Opensignal) and 32.99 Mbps (Ookla Speedtest) - that's around a third faster than any of Three, O2 or Vodafone.

Those EE speeds match a mid-range home fibre broadband connection and you'll often get way faster.31.5 Mbpslets you stream in UHD or download an hour-long BBC iPlayer programme in 2 mins, 42 secs.

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).

Plusnet Mobile "no speed cap in place" (read our review)

EE are also in the process of rolling out their 5G network, which we don't have any speed data on yet. If you're got a 5G-ready and are in one of the cities where EE have launched it, you can look forward to home fibre optic broadband style speeds on 5G.

Useful link: EE's network development latest news

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

Rank:
1st

Slightly better than:
BT Mobile, Plusnet Mobile, Virgin Mobile

Call technology: EE have WiFi Calling and 4G calling

WiFi calling on EE reviewed

Make sure EE support your phoneSee supported models

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

People want to know they're going to be able to make and take calls in as many places as possible. Sometimes mobile signal can struggle to get indoors, so we look for providers with technology to solve this.

EE have both WiFi calling and 4G calling enabled if you join them on a pay monthly phone contract or SIM only plan. Neither work on pay as you go or EE's Flex Plans. So how do these help?

WiFi calling lets your phone tap into EE's mobile network app via WiFi instead of conventional mobile signal, without any separate app. You can then make/take calls and send/receive texts just like normal. Check EE support your phone here up front though.

4G calling also extends coverage for calls and brings HD audio quality too. Normal calls use 2G/3G only signal only. Having calls work on more frequencies gives you a better of chance of having a successful connection (EE will need to support your phone).

If you've struggled with signal for calls before, we think EE are an excellent choice for sorting those problems.

Useful link: All networks with WiFi calling

Our WiFi Calling rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
3rd of 6

Not as good as:
Three, Vodafone

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)

On pay monthly phone contracts and SIM only, EE operate a three-tier system of plans, which come with different benefits. There's Essential Plans, Smart Plans and 5G Smart plans (see EE's guide here).

Essential Plans just come with mins, texts, data and regular network features like WiFi Calling and 4G Calling. Smart Plans give you all that - plus your choice of a set number of extra Swappable Benefits on top.

The benefits themselves include subscriptions to Amazon Prime Video or BT Sport, unlimited data passes for either video streaming, music streaming or gaming via certain apps and games, or extra worldwide roaming destinations. You can chop and change between any of them as you please.

The number of Swappable Benefits you get to add changes per plan (from one to three). And there is a monthly price difference between plans with and without them, so they're not actually freebies.

Useful link: EE's guide to their Swappable Benefits

Entertainment subscriptions: 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)

Whether or not you choose a pay monthly EE plan that comes with the Swappable Benefits we talk about above, you still qualify for a whole batch of time-limited free subscriptions (not on pay as you go though).

Get a 6-month free trial to each of Amazon Prime Video, MTV Play and Apple Music. And a 3-month trial of the BT Sport App, which you can cast to big screens too. And the data they use during the trial is free too.

It's a pretty generous package. We think it's the best of any mobile network. It's a genuine freebie - EE haven't raised the cost of their plans to include the subscriptions. There is a downside though:

The trials are only temporary and don't just last for the whole of your contract. And once your trial is up, EE will charge for the subscription via your mobile bill. So be careful to cancel if you don't want to pay.

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: only some of EE's Pay As You Go deals have it

EE data rollover scheme

Keep unused data for next month on PAYGSee 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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Overview of EE SIM only options

Number of plans available:
Price range: £ - £ a month
Contract lengths:
SIM card sizes: Standard, Micro, Nano

Minutes allowances:
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Data allowances:
Data speed: 4G on all plans

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Current special offers on EE

A quick overview of the latest EE promotions

EE's free Xmas gifts and Flex SIM data boosts

EE Nintendo Switch offers

See EE phone offers

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

Order and activate an EE Flex SIM by 30th January 2020 to get triple data for six months:

For a bigger data allowance, you can get a Flex plan with 10GB 30GB for £25 a month and 20GB 60GB for £30 a month. And you'll have a simple 30-day rolling contract you can leave at any time.

Meanwhile, if you're after a smartphone contract, you can get a free Nintendo Switch or Toshiba TV when you take a Samsung Galaxy A40 or Huawei P Smart 2019. A nice Christmas present for yourself or someone else.

Useful link: See all EE's latest offers > (opens in new tab)

Phone contracts on EE summary:

Pay monthly phones on EE

EE's range is one of the biggestCompare phone deals

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

iPhone: Yes, full range of latest models
Samsung Galaxy: Yes, latest flagship plus mid-range
Other makes/models: Google, Huawei, HTC, LG, Nokia, Sony
Upfront costs: Depends on model

Contract lengths: 24 month only
Contract types: Regular. No handset financing.
Expected ease of passing credit check: Typical

EE have one of the largest ranges of any of the mobile networks, including all the popular top-range handsets from Samsung and Apple, plus mid-range and more basic Android phones at lower costs.

They're offered on what we'd call "standard" 24-month mobile contracts (not based on finance loans). This does mean they work out more expensive than some competitors (see Virgin Mobile who use EE's masts).

They also mostly lack some of the flexibility to upgrade early you get with financed deals. We do expect the credit checking requirements to be less stringent though (note: we have no insider info on EE's policy).

See popular phones at EE.co.uk: iPhone | Samsung Galaxy | All makes

Compare EE's phone contract pricing

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Pay As You Go: EE only offer pre-paid monthly bundles

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)

If you're looking for the traditional type of pay as you go deal, where you top up with credit and then spend on minutes, texts and data out of that, you can't get that with EE.

If you want that type of deal and a provider that use EE, take a look at 1pMobile who offer rates of 1p per min, text or MB data Those are the cheapest rates on the market (read our full review here).

Otherwise, EE's pay as you go is built around pre-paid bundles. The best value are on their new-ish Flex Plans, which let you pre-buy minutes, texts and data that last a month.

These are not the very-cheapest on the market but do have some excellent benefits, like 4G speeds up to 60 Mbps, data rollover (keep unused data for next month), and data boosts every 3 months that you stick with EE.

Another big advantage is you don't need to pass a credit check to get a Flex SIM. You just need a credit / debit card to register and buy the bundles with.

Useful link: Get a free EE Flex SIM card

Mobile broadband: EE's speed and coverage make them a decent choice

Inclusive EU roaming on EE's data plansRead all benefits

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

As the point of mobile broadband is to be able to use your WiFi-enabled devices when you're on the go, EE having the UK's biggest network and the fastest 4G speeds gives them a big advantage to start.

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 perform well in Ofcom rankings

Ofcom complaints data

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

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

When you're running a mobile network across the country with millions of customers, people are bound to experience problems, whoever they're with. The key is how well mobile providers resolve their customers' issues.

When companies don't deal with consumers' problems, that's when they go to the government ombudsman Ofcom. So we look at how many complaints they receive about EE for our measure of customer service.

Happily, Ofcom receive fewer complaints per 100,000 customers about EE than the average across all providers (2 per 100k compared to 3 per 100k on average). That's an improvement on previous results.

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

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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