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Networks on O2: virtual operators using their signal ranked

O2 logo with a mobile mast

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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: 11th June 2024.

In our guide

Access O2’s network with lower prices and other benefits

O2 logo, mobile mast and a SIM card

Use O2’s network on another providerSkip to the networks

In our review of O2 we tend to give them a good rating due to their massively widespread network, especially for call signal but also for data. However, that quality usually comes with higher prices.

That doesn’t mean you should write O2 off right away if you’re looking for a phone. There are some retailers who offer O2 phone deals at lower costs than joining directly. And O2’s bigger data SIM plans are competitive:

But other than that, it’s worth looking at the virtual providers that use O2’s network, as they generally offer better deals than being on O2 directly. And some offer unique benefits that O2 don’t.

In this guide, we go over every provider that uses O2’s network and compare them against their hosts in terms of the extra network features they offer as well as how their prices and other benefits compare to O2.

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

Providers using O2

Sky Mobile offer identical signal to O2 with more benefits

Screenshot of Sky's coverage checker

Identical coverage to being on O2Use Sky's map

at sky.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign 5G/4G/3G/2G coverage the same as being on O2
Green plus sign WiFi/4G calling comes on every deal
Green plus sign Very flexible phone contracts
Green plus sign Data rollover for 3 years

What we don't like:
Red minus sign EU roaming isn’t included

With Sky you get 5G-access on every plan and WiFi calling and 4G calling as standard (read our Sky vs O2 guide for more details). You get an identical network experience to being on O2.

When we tested Sky Mobile for our review, we found no differences in signal between them and O2. And speeds were also the same on both networks, despite what some users have said in Sky’s customer forum.

That’s great considering that Sky’s phone deals are typically better value than O2’s, while their small to mid-range SIM only contracts are also lower cost than O2’s (for larger plans it’s worth comparing them):

Every user gets Sky’s “Piggybank” benefit, letting you keep your unused data or use it for discounts on new devices. And you can stream their TV apps without using up your data allowance with their Watch benefit.

The main downside is that Sky don’t offer inclusive EU roaming, while O2 do. If you’re not planning on going abroad, Sky are a great choice. Otherwise, you might want to look at the other providers below.

Useful link: Read our full Sky Mobile network review

Tesco Mobile offer an identical network experience to O2

Screenshot of Tesco's coverage map

5G/4G/3G/2G is the same as being on O2See for yourself

at tescomobile.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Identical coverage to being on O2
Green plus sign Handy benefits for Tesco shoppers and families
Green plus sign Well priced phone and SIM only deals

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Their WiFi/4G calling rollout is slow
Red minus sign EU roaming will be removed in 2025

Tesco Mobile are another good alternative to O2. They were part-owned by O2 back in the day and still use their network. Coverage is identical to O2 and you get 5G access on every plan (read our review here).

They’ve also introduced WiFi calling and 4G calling as features on their plans. This lets your phone connect to calls over WiFi and 4G signal where call signal is weak, which can be particularly handy indoors.

But device support for their WiFi calling isn’t great or as well established as O2’s. But Tesco do tend to offer better value both on phone contracts and SIM only deals, so the trade off might just be worth it.

Clubcard holders get exclusive discounts and can use their Clubcard points to get money off their mobile bill. And Tesco offer Family Perks if you’ve got multiple plans. But they will be removing inclusive EU roaming in 2025.

Tesco also have one of the best customer service records of all pay monthly networks, with the added convenience of being able to get help in person at their stores while doing your shopping.

Useful link: Our full network review of Tesco Mobile

giffgaff are a great value and flexible alternative to O2

Screenshot of giffgaff coverage checker

Coverage in the same places as on O2Check near you

at giffgaff.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign 5G/4G/3G/2G coverage the same as on O2
Green plus sign Good value and flexible 1-month plans
Green plus sign No need to pass a credit check on SIM only
Green plus sign Good value and flexibility on their phone contracts

What we don't like:
Red minus sign No WiFi calling or 4G calling
Red minus sign No over-the-phone customer service

giffgaff now include 5G-access on every plan, meaning you get the same coverage as being on O2 directly. And they even let you access O2’s network of WiFi hotspots. However they’re still missing WiFi/4G calling.

Some giffgaff users have complained of slower speeds on giffgaff vs O2. But we weren’t able to replicate that in our tests. In our giffgaff review we said you can expect the same speeds on giffgaff and O2.

We like that they offer very flexible 1-month plans at low costs, letting you switch plans or leave whenever. But these can be beaten by their longer 18-month contracts if you’re looking for the best value possible.

It’s worth looking at how their phone contracts compare as well. They can beat O2 or the retailers selling phones on O2 on the price of their phones, plus they offer flexible contracts based on finance.

Finally, giffgaff still let you use your plan in the EU at no added cost (data usage is limited to 5GB while there). But you might not like their online-only customer service if you’re not particularly tech-savvy.

Useful link: Read our full giffgaff review

These providers no longer use O2’s network

Lyca Mobile logoVirgin Mobile logo

No access to O2’s network on these

There are two providers that used to use O2’s network - these being Virgin Mobile and Lyca Mobile. Each has a different reason for not offering access to O2’s signal any more.

Virgin Mobile stopped selling to new customers a while ago. They’re now actually owned by the same company as O2 and the two brands have rapidly merged together, so there’s no way to join Virgin Mobile any more.

Lyca Mobile have moved over to EE’s network. This has given them access to much faster typical 4G and 5G data speeds, but they don’t get full access to EE’s 4G signal, which somewhat defeats the purpose.

It’s fairly common for virtual providers to switch from using one network to another: So we’ll update this page if any of the providers above move to another network or if any new networks move onto O2.

Useful link: Read about the benefits of being on O2 and Virgin Media broadband

SIM only plans on O2-based networks

SIM only plans

Compare SIMs from providers on the O2 network

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1p Mobile logo
Three logo
ASDA logo
Boshhh Mobile logo
Coop Mobile logo
EE logo
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ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
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O2 logo
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Talkhome logo
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Tesco logo
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