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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: 12th December 2022.

In our guide

Join O2’s network at lower costs with different benefits

O2 logo, mobile mast and a SIM card

Same signal as O2 on a different 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.

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.

In this guide ,we go over every provider that use 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

Virgin Mobile now use O2’s network for signal

Screenshot of Virgin Mobile's coverage checker

New customers get access to O2’s networkSee network map

at virginmedia.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Identical 5G/4G/3G/2G as O2
Green plus sign Network extras like WiFi calling and hotspots
Green plus sign Good value, flexible deals
Green plus sign Nice extra benefits included

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Some customer service issues

Virgin Mobile have moved to O2’s network after having used Vodafone’s for a while. This means you get the same 5G/4G/3G/2G as being on O2 directly. You can see how the two compare in our Virgin vs O2 guide here.

On top of that, Virgin Mobile users also get access to a huge network of over 4.3 million WiFi hotspots up and down the country. That includes some at Underground ticket barriers and stations.

Virgin include EU roaming, but they have a complicated fair usage limit on data usage abroad (use their calculator here). And their WiFi calling is a step behind O2’s, as fewer Android models are supported.

But for SIM only, Virgin typically trounce O2 on price and in terms of flexibility, as all of their plans are on 1-month deals. This is on top of their social media data and data rollover benefits that come on every plan.

Their phone contracts also beat O2 on price, but that’s a trade-off for less flexibility. But you can still choose between a 24-month and 36-month contract and change your usage plan month to month.

Useful link: Read our full Virgin Mobile network review

Sky Mobile offer a similar experience to being on O2

Screenshot of Sky's coverage checker

The same 5G/4G/3G/2G coverage as O2Use Sky's map

at sky.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Same 5G/4G/3G/2G signal as O2
Green plus sign WiFi/4G calling included on every plan
Green plus sign Great flexibility on their phone deals
Green plus sign Brilliant data saving benefits

What we don't like:
Red minus sign No inclusive EU roaming

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). Like with Virgin, they give you an identical network experience to being on O2.

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.

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):

You also get Sky’s “Piggybank” benefit that lets you hold onto your unused data or trade it for discounts. And their Sky Watch benefit lets you stream Sky’s TV apps on data eating into your allowance.

The main downside of Sky is that they 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 Virgin or the other providers below.

Useful link: Read our full Sky Mobile network review

Tesco Mobile get access O2’s full network

Screenshot of Tesco's coverage map

Identical 5G/4G/3G/2G coverage as O2See for yourself

at tescomobile.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Same signal as being on O2
Green plus sign Extra benefits for Tesco shoppers and families
Green plus sign Good value on SIM only and phone deals

What we don't like:
Red minus sign WiFi/4G calling not included
Red minus sign EU roaming no longer included
Red minus sign No WiFi hotspot scheme

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).

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.

You’re essentially trading WiFi/4G calling for better prices. Tesco Mobile typically beat O2 on value for phone contracts. And Tesco tend to offer better value SIM only deals, especially on mid and low range plans:

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 Tesco no longer include 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 are a low-cost and flexible alternative to O2

Screenshot of giffgaff coverage checker

5G/4G/3G/2G in the same areas as O2Check near you

at giffgaff.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Identical coverage to O2
Green plus sign Switch or leave your SIM plan whenever
Green plus sign No credit checks to join on SIM only
Green plus sign Phone contracts are flexible and good value

What we don't like:
Red minus sign WiFi/4G calling not included
Red minus sign Customer service is online only

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’ll expect get the same speeds on giffgaff and O2.

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.

And unlike some of the providers on this list, giffgaff still offer EU roaming (limited to 5GB abroad). But their customer service is online-only. Worth bearing in mind if you’re not very tech-savvy.

Useful link: Read our full giffgaff review

Lycamobile offer full access to O2’s network

Screenshot of Lycamobile coverage checker

Signal is the same as on O2See their map

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

What we like:
Green plus sign Identical 5G/4G/3G/2G coverage to O2
Green plus sign No need to pass credit checks for SIM plans
Green plus sign Decent EU roaming scheme
Green plus sign Inclusive international mins offered

What we don't like:
Red minus sign No WiFi/4G calling features/p>

Lycamobile are a low-cost provider on O2 that specialise in international calls. Even if you’ll never call abroad, they’re still a good choice as they get you identical 5G/4G/3G/2G signal as O2.

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.

Lycamobile don’t offer WiFi calling or 4G calling. While O2’s call signal is typically good at getting indoors, but you can still struggle if you’re far from the mast. In that case you’re out of luck.

And Lycamobile let you call them if you need help, or you can use their online chat agent if you prefer. If you don’t mind missing out on WiFi/4G calling, then Lycamobile are a great value choice.

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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1p Mobile logo
Three logo
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ID logo
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O2 logo
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Phone contracts with networks on O2

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