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Networks on O2: virtual operators using their signal ranked

O2 logo with a mobile mast

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

We walk you through options to get a phone deal on the O2 network with one of the smaller providers that piggyback on O2. Last updated: 17th January 2022.

In our guide

Lower costs than O2 with different benefits

O2 logo, mobile mast and a SIM card

Use O2’s masts with other providersSkip to the networks

We consistently give O2 a very good rating in our full network review, based on the quality of their mobile network coverage, particularly for calls and texts but also data. But O2 are one of the pricier providers.

If you want a phone contract, don’t write off O2 immediately. You can get good deals by signing up via other retailers that sell phones on O2 (compare them here). O2’s SIMs with big data are also pretty competitive:

But short of that, it is a good idea to think about virtual mobile networks that piggyback on O2, as they mostly offer better prices and some unique benefits you won’t get on O2 themselves.

Below, we go through all the networks that use O2 and show you how close they come to being on O2 directly in terms of network features and also how good their pricing and unique benefits are.

Skip to: Networks on O2 | SIM only plans | Phone contracts

Providers using O2

Sky Mobile offer closest network experience to O2

Screenshot of Sky's coverage checker

Identical 5G/4G/3G/2G signal to O2Use Sky's map

at sky.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Identical 5G/4G/3G/2G coverage
Green plus sign WiFi calling and 4G calling
Green plus sign Flexible, well-priced phone contracts
Green plus sign Excellent added benefits

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Customer service hard to get hold of

Out of all providers on O2, only Sky Mobile have the full set of network features to match O2. On Sky, you get 5G data with every plan and WiFi calling and 4G calling features (read our O2 vs Sky guide for the full story).

From testing Sky Mobile for our review, we weren’t able to find any coverage differences. And despite some Sky customer forum discussion, we’ve never been able to find any speed differences between the two either.

And that’s good news, because Sky Mobile’s phone contracts mostly beat O2 on price. And if you want a small or mid-range SIM only, Sky are normally cheaper than O2 (large data is worth comparing still):

Sky also offer loads of unique added benefits you don’t get on O2 too. You’ll keep unused data for three years and can share it or trade it for discounts. And watching Sky TV apps won’t use up your data.

Overall, Sky aren’t just our favourite virtual provider on O2, they’re one of our overall best-rated networks. And you don’t need to be a broadband or TV customer with Sky to benefit.

Useful link: Read our full Sky Mobile network review

Tesco Mobile offer a similar experience to O2

Screenshot of Tesco's coverage map

Same 5G, 4G, 3G and 2G as O2See for yourself

at tescomobile.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Identical coverage to O2
Green plus sign Nice benefits for families and Tesco shoppers
Green plus sign Good phone contracts and SIM prices

What we don't like:
Red minus sign No WiFi calling or 4G calling
Red minus sign No hotspot provision

Another decent choice on O2 is Tesco Mobile. They were long actually part-owned by O2 and use their network. The coverage is the same and you’ll even get 5G data as standard too (read our full Tesco review).

The main thing lacking on Tesco Mobile vs O2 is WiFi calling and 4G calling. These kick in when conventional mobile signal is weak (like indoors) and let your phone use WiFi to make/take calls instead.

As long as you know that, you can often get slightly better prices on Tesco Mobile’s phone contracts like-for-like. And Tesco’s SIM only plans are almost always lower cost, particular mid and low data amounts:

Tesco don’t have as interesting benefits as Sky but there are some nice things like discounts for Clubcard holders, Family Perks when you have multiple deals with them and Tesco have held onto EU roaming.

They’ve also got a great customer service record and there’s the convenience of being able to drop in and see their staff whenever you’re doing your shopping at Tesco too. A decent choice all round we think.

Useful link: Our full network review of Tesco Mobile

giffgaff now have most of the features O2 do

Screenshot of giffgaff coverage checker

Identical coverage to O2Check near you

at giffgaff.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Coverage the same as O2
Green plus sign No commitment on SIM only
Green plus sign Flexible, well-priced phone deals

What we don't like:
Red minus sign No WiFi calling or 4G calling
Red minus sign Online-only customer service

You’ll now get 5G on all giffgaff plans, meaning the basic 5G/4G/3G/2G is the same as on O2. The main thing you’ll miss network-wise on giffgaff is WiFi calling and 4G calling. You can even use O2 Extra WiFi hotspots.

There are suspicions among giffgaff customers that they’re getting slower data speeds than O2 directly. But we’ve never been able to verify that in our testing for our giffgaff network review (we found same speeds).

We like the flexibility you get with giffgaff’s SIM only plans. There’s no contract, you’re free to leave whenever and change plans. Although price-wise, they’re beatable, though cheaper than O2 for 1-month plans:

It pays to compare giffgaff’s phone contracts too. Although these are very flexible and based on finance for the phone, the prices aren’t a slam dunk in terms of beating O2 directly or via retailers selling phones on O2.

There are some nice benefits to being on giffgaff. They’re built on the idea of a community of members, which some will like. But it’s online-only customer service - worth knowing if you’re not a confident user.

Useful link: Read our full giffgaff review

Lycamobile use O2’s network and even have 5G data

Screenshot of Lycamobile coverage checker

The same coverage as O2See their map

at lycamobile.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Same coverage
Green plus sign No credit check SIMs
Green plus sign Great for international calls

What we don't like:
Red minus sign No WiFi calling or VoLTE

If you didn’t know, international calls specialists Lycamobile are also on the O2 network. Whether or not you’re interested in calling abroad, you can still get the same coverage with them as O2, even on 5G.

Lycamobile are generally very low-frills. But you do get a nice flexible plan you can change each month, not renew or leave altogether. And if you have family or friends abroad, they’ve got good international rates.

Like most of the providers that use O2 (apart from Sky), you won’t get WiFi calling or 4G calling on Lycamobile, so if signal does struggle to get indoors where you use your phone, it’s too bad.

But overall, you can get some really good value for money on Lyca, so definitely worth considering if you can do without those extra features

Useful link: Learn more about Lycamobile

SIM only plans on O2-based networks

SIM only plans

Compare SIMs from providers on the O2 network

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Networks

Providers:

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ASDA logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
O2 logo
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SMARTY logo
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Tesco logo
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VOXI logo

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Phone contracts with networks on O2

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We include third parties selling O2 contracts

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Phone options

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