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Various logos of UK mobile networks

Tesco Mobile review 2019: why are their customers so happy?

Tesco Mobile review

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

There are quite a few features you don't get on Tesco Mobile that you can get with other networks. But there's a lot they're getting right. Here's what. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: October 14th 2019.

Overall rating

rates Tesco Mobile as a good provider to join ★★★☆☆ (3/5, good)

"We'd say Tesco Mobile are a safe choice for people who'd admit they're not an expert mobile user but wantreliable coverage out of the house on a fairly-priced deal.

Tesco grocery shoppers will like the Clubcard benefits, their phone contracts are particularly good value and flexible, plus they've got the best customer service record in the UK.

But the lack of network features like WiFi calling and 4G calling is a bit of an achilles heel and there's an overall lack of any quality extra benefits to get too excited about. Tesco are a firmly mid-range network for us.

The 3 best bits

1) Customer service
2) Excellent coverage
3) Joint family accounts

The 3 worst bits

1) Slower 4G speeds than average
2) No 4G calling / WiFi calling
3) No other unique benefits

In our Tesco Mobile review 2019

Overall rating

Our verdict

Overall rating

Network review

Network

4G/3G/2G coverage
Data speeds
WiFi calling / 4G calling
Free WiFi hotspots
Tethering

Perks review

Perks & extras

Inclusive roaming
Spending caps
Rewards/incentives
Multibuy discounts
Free subscriptions
Data-saving schemes
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

Is Tesco Mobile's network any good?

Coverage: Tesco Mobile are a very solid choice

Tesco Mobile 4G/3G reception map

Test signal everywhere you use your phone Check coverage now

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

Tesco Mobile use O2's mobile network to bring their customers signal. That means you'll get 4G, 3G and 2G in all the places you get them on O2. That's good because we place O2 as the UK's joint-second biggest network.

Coverage stats show O2 as reaching 99% of the population for 4G/3G/2G where they live. This doesn't mean literally 99% of the geography of the UK is covered (so check coverage everywhere you'll use your phone).

O2 are also a good network for Tesco to use because their 2G/3G signal is broadcast on better frequencies for getting into houses and other buildings than other providers. That means fewer indoor blackspots for calls.

So if you're thinking about switching from one of the smaller networks, then it makes sense to consider Tesco Mobile. But we can't stress enough how important checking signal up front is to avoid disappointment!

Useful link: Check your Tesco Mobile coverage with their 4G/3G network map.

Our coverage rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd

Not as good as:
EE
(and providers that use them)

Better than:
Three
(and providers that use them)

4G speeds: Tesco's host network's downloads are slower

Tesco Mobile average 4G speeds

Every network has 4G nowadays About Tesco's 4G

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

If you're a demanding data user that needs to be able to download big files fast or stream videos in ultra high definition, Tesco Mobile aren't going to be for you (your best shot is probably a network using EE).

According to independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla, the average download speed via 4G on O2 was between 15.8 Mbps and 16.95 Mbps. That's bottom of the pile in the UK.

It's not that these are chronically slow (and they're an average so you can get faster), you'd barely notice a difference on basic browsing, social media and messaging. You might find videos buffer longer though.

Tesco's host O2 have will have begun rolling out in November 2019 but so far Tesco Mobile have remained quiet about launching it at the same time.

If it's anything like when 4G first came out, the main networks may hold onto 5G as an exclusive benefit to make it worth joining them directly, rather than joining small, cheaper providers.

We'll monitor Tesco and update as and when they launch the faster, higher-capacity data service.

We think basic users will be perfectly happy with speeds on Tesco Mobile. But if we're comparing Tesco against all other networks, we can only give them an average rating for this particular category.

Useful link: What Tesco Mobile say about their 4G

Our speed rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
Joint last (with other networks who use O2)

Not as good as:
EE, Three, Vodafone

Better than:
N/A

Call technology: Tesco Mobile are behind the curve

O2 WiFi calling

Their hosts have WiFi calling / 4G callingHow it works

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

We've already said in the coverage section that it's a good thing Tesco's host O2 uses better frequencies for getting call signal into buildings. But Tesco Mobile have no backup technology if no signal does get through.

There is no WiFi calling or 4G calling on Tesco Mobile, despite their host network O2 offering it and all these other providers too. So what are you missing out on if you join Tesco?

WiFi calling lets your phone use WiFi to connect to a mobile network and make / take calls in the usual way. For some people, this is an absolutely essential feature if mobile signal doesn't get into where you live/work.

4G calling lets your phone use 4G signal for calls, which is normally reserved for data. That means there's more chance of getting a signal and audio quality is better too.

To improve their overall rating, Tesco need to add both features. People are starting to expect both as standard, so it's a bit of a poor show having neither.

Useful link: Read latest Tesco Mobile developments

Our call technology rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
Three, Vodafone, EE, O2, iD, Sky

Same as:
Virgin, giffgaff, VOXI, Plusnet

Free WiFi hotspots: you don't get any on Tesco Mobile

Free WiFi on other networks

Alternative free WiFi providers on the high street

Read our guide

here at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

One benefit we see with some of the larger providers is giving their customers access to free WiFi hotspots in the UK and abroad. This isn’t something Tesco Mobile offer their customers so we’ve rated them poor for it.

That’s a shame because using WiFi instead of mobile signal is an excellent way of saving your monthly mobile data allowance and helps avoid charges for going over your limits (see costs for this on Tesco Mobile here).

On the other hand, we wouldn’t recommend getting too hung up about not having free WiFi from your mobile network. There’s more and more free WiFi becoming available on the high street anyway.

Useful link: See charges for going over your data limit on Tesco Mobile

Our free WiFi rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Same as:
Everyone else

Tethering: Tesco Mobile allow it

Tethering on Tesco Mobile

Tethering could quickly push you over data limitsSee extra data costs

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

Like every mobile network now, Tesco Mobile let you use your plan's data for tethering.

It means you’re free to set your phone up as a mini WiFi hotspot that you connect other devices to. To do this, your phone uses Tesco’s 4G/3G mobile signal and converts it into a WiFi signal.

Remember though that tablets and laptops connected to your phone via a personal hotspot will likely use up data more quickly than you would just using your mobile itself.

This is another activity that could tip you over your data limits (see extra charges here). If you’re into tethering, you might want to use Tesco’s handy data calculator to make sure you get a plan with enough data for it.

Useful link: Use Tesco Mobile’s data calculator to get the right allowance for you

Our tethering rating:
★★★★★ (Joint best choice)

Rank:
Joint 1st

As good as:
EE, Vodafone, O2, BT, Plusnet, Tesco

Better than:
iD Mobile

Tesco Mobile benefits

Save money on your bill if you have a Tesco Clubcard

Tesco Mobile discount calculator

Swap vouchers for money off phones or SIMsHow it works

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

If you shop at Tesco, it's already handy if your local store has a Tesco Mobile section, because it's a regular chance to manage your mobile account while you're there anyway. But Clubcard holders benefit further:

For every £100 you spend per month on shopping at Tesco with your Clubcard, you can get £2 off your Tesco Mobile bill (£200 = £4, £400 = £8 etc). A family could quite easily get a free SIM only plan out of it.

Getting your discount does involve a few steps to manage and swap your Clubcard vouchers (read Tesco's full guide here). It'd be better if this was automatic and you didn't need to manage it manually.

But if you manage it right, it's a genuine discount you can use off phone contracts and SIM only. And you'll also earn 1 Clubcard Point for every £1 you spend on Tesco Mobile too. Regular Tesco shoppers will love it.

Useful link: How to join your Clubcard and Tesco Mobile accounts

Shared plans: Tesco's Family Perks are a nice touch

Tesco Mobile Family Perks

Choose monthly bonus data mins or money offSee latest Perks

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

Tesco Mobile are one of the few mobile networks that let you have multiple deals on one account, so they're already a decent choice if you're looking for a family or shared plan. And we like their Family Perks too.

For each additional phone contract or SIM only plan you add to your main account, Tesco will reward you with your choice of extra data, money off, discounted insurance, extra Clubcard or extra minutes.

The value of each of these starts off quite small but grows with each extra contract you add. They're not worth as much as some of the discounts other networks offer for taking additional plans but it's a nice thank you.

What we also like is the fact that you’re free to change the perk you get each month and per each user. So if you need more data one month but fancy money-off the next, it’s fine to switch around.

Useful link: How Family Perks work on Tesco Mobile

Our family plan rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
2nd

Not as good as:
BT Mobile Family SIMs

Inclusive roaming: only the minimum EU countries on Tesco

Tesco Mobile Home From Home roaming

48 free roaming destinations in the EUCheck free countries

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

For an already lower-cost network, it’s good to see Tesco Mobile offering free roaming in these 48 countries in the EU (but remember this is now mandatory for every pay monthly UK network). It’s called Home From Home.

Home From Home means you can take even Tesco’s cheapest pay monthly deals and be able to use your all your regular minutes, texts and data without paying extra in the EU (full fair usage policy here). And the rates can be expensive.

For going anywhere else in the world, you’ll still have to pay for roaming per minute, text and MB data (see all Tesco’s costs abroad here).

In our guide to the best networks for roaming, Tesco come behind our winners Three, whose Go Roam scheme offers free roaming in 71 destinations worldwide and could be worth a look if you’re a big traveller.

Useful link: Full information on roaming with Tesco Mobile on their official website

Our roaming rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
11th

Slightly better than:
All others

Spending caps: Tesco have the original and best scheme

Tesco Mobile capped contracts

Avoid unexpected billsRead all the benefits

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

All mobile networks now have to let you set a spending cap on your pay monthly deal, so that you can avoid racking up higher bills than you were expecting. Tesco have offered this for years anyway.

When you first sign up, you'll get the choice to add a cap of £0, £2.50, £5, £7.50, £10, £20, £30, £40 or no cap. This is the amount you can spend on extra usage before Tesco will prevent you spending more.

Extras are things like roaming, premium messaging services, international calls (see full list here). And you can change your cap month-to-month. It means you've got a good idea of what you're spending.

Overall, Tesco Mobile's spending caps aren't really any better or worse than anyone else's, now every network offers them. The increments could be a little more precise (iD let you tweak in £1 steps).

Useful link: How Capped Contracts work from Tesco’s own guide

Our caps rating:
★★★★★ (Best choice)

Rank:
TBC

Better than:
TBC

Better than:
TBC

Data rollover: Tesco Mobile don't let you keep unused data

Data rollover pie charts

Some networks let you keep unused dataRead our guide

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

We think most people that are considering joining Tesco Mobile will only be looking for moderate amount of data, maybe 1GB to 8GB or so. And they probably don't know precisely how much they'll need each month.

So it's a bit of a shame that Tesco Mobile don't offer data rollover like all these networks. Data rollover is when a mobile network lets you keep data you've not got through, for future months.

There are some great schemes out there, like Sky Mobile who let you keep data for three years and also use the O2 network. We also like SMARTY who pay you back the cost of data in the first place as discount next month.

If you're comfortable with how much data you'll need and are pretty consistent in your usage, it won't be something you miss on Tesco. But we point out what you do and don't get, so you can make up your mind with all the facts.

Useful link: Our guide to all networks with data rollover

Free data schemes: Tesco Mobile have nothing to offer yet

Three's Go Binge

Sky also use O2 and include streaming dataSee what you get

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

Tesco Mobile are quite light when it comes to standout extra features. And another you don't get is free social media or streaming data - where you can use certain apps, without using up your data.

If you've got a Sky TV subscription, it's definitely worth taking a look at Sky Mobile, because every plan includes unlimited streaming data for their Sky TV apps. Sky use O2 like Tesco do and are similarly priced.

We also rate Three’s Go Binge, which gives you an unlimited data allowance for watching Netflix and streaming selected other entertainment services (read our Go Binge review here).

It’s a pity Tesco don’t offer anything like this, as these are data-hungry activities when they're not included. It'd give us something to excited about.

Useful link: All networks with free data schemes

Our free streaming rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Equal to:
Everyone else

Deals on Tesco Mobile

SIM only plans overview

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

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

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Phone contracts: decent prices and ultra-flexible

Tesco Mobile Anytime Upgrade phone contracts

Upgrade phones early with most Tesco Mobile's contractsHow they work

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

We'd say phone contracts are actually Tesco Mobile's strong points. Not only is their pricing normally some of the cheapest in the UK but their contracts are among the most flexible too.

The cheapest models come on regular 24-month contracts with no really extra features. But the majority of Tesco's phone deals are offered on their Anytime Upgrade Flex contracts.

These split your deal into a credit agreement (loan) for the cost of your phone, and a usage agreement for your minutes, texts and data. You can choose how many months to spread the cost of the phone over, and how much to pay up front.

That lets you shape a deal around your monthly budget. It also means you can upgrade early (or leave entirely) by paying off whatever's left on your phone agreement only in full. You can also change your usage tariff once a month too.

All that makes Tesco Mobile one of our favourite choices for phone contracts, although it's worth saying you'll need a good credit score to be accepted for a credit agreement with Tesco, as it's like taking out a loan.

See popular phones at Tesco Mobile: iPhone | Samsung Galaxy | Other makes

Compare Tesco Mobile phone contracts

See how Tesco stack up against other networks per model below

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Rank:
4th cheapest

Cheaper than:
Vodafone, BT Mobile, O2, EE, Three

Pay As You Go: Tesco Mobile have two alright options

Tesco Mobile Rocket Packs

Monthly bundles of minutes, texts and dataOrder a free SIM

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

If we’re honest, Pay As You Go isn’t the main strength of Tesco Mobile. For a good PAYG deal with a cheap provider using O2’s network, we’d recommend reading our giffgaff review and our £5 free credit offer.

On Tesco, there are two ways to do PAYG:

1) Triple credit tariff: top up with e.g. £10 and Tesco will make it £30. Calls, texts and data are paid for as you use them at these pretty expensive rates and your bonus credit only lasts a month.

Rocket packs: monthly bundles of minutes, texts and data that you buy out of your credit. These work out a little more expensive than the dominant PAYG networks like giffgaff.

We find it hard to get excited about either option. Neither is particularly good value. And there are no real standout benefits to joining Tesco on pay as you go either.

Order a free Tesco Mobile SIM card

Our rating:
£££££ (average)

Rank:
4th

Not as cheap as:
Three, giffgaff, iD Mobile

Similar to:
EE, Vodafone

Tesco Mobile customer service

Customer service: Tesco Mobile have long had the best record for dealing with complaints

Latest Ofcom complaints data

The fewest complaints of any major networkSee Tesco's awards

at tescomobile.com
(opens in new window)

As the biggest of the virtual mobile networks (ones that use another provider’s masts for signal), Tesco Mobile are big enough to appear in Ofcom’s data on how many complaints they receive per 100,000 customers.

Ofcom are the government's regulator of the telecoms industry. And it's where you can go to resolve disputes with mobile networks, if they've not satisfactorily dealt with your complaint.

For us, their information is more reliable than websites that have been set up for people to go and whinge about their mobile provider. After all, who bothers to go those sites if they're happy?

Out of all the major mobile networks (ones with over 500,000 customers), Ofcom receive the fewest complaints about Tesco Mobile per 100,000 customers.

That means Tesco Mobile customers are happy. Either they've not got anything to complain about. Or when they do complain, Tesco Mobile are good at dealing with the issue.

If you've had a rough experience with one of the other mobile networks, Tesco Mobile should be a much better choice. They have also received numerous other awards throughout the past years (see link below).

Useful link: See all Tesco Mobile awards

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