Tesco Mobile review: just why are their customers so happy in 2018?
We probe Tesco Mobile's network coverage, 4G speeds, deals and benefits to see why they score highly for customer service and satisfaction. Last updated: March 6th 2018.
SIM Sherpa rates Tesco Mobile as a good mobile network to join ★★★☆☆ (3/5, good)
"Tesco Mobile aren't just good as a provider of low-cost SIM only deals and phone contracts, they also boast a quality mobile network and some handy extras you don't get elsewhere."
Our guide below shows Tesco Mobile fall in somewhere in the middle between cut-price no-frills and being an all singing, all dancing mobile provider stuffed with loads of gimmicks or leading network speeds
The 3 best bits
1) The best record for customer service
2) Exceptional 4G and 3G coverage across the UK
3) Extras for families signing up on one account
The 3 worst bits
1) Slower 4G speeds than leading providers
2) More difficult to be accepted for phone contracts
3) Average pay as you go deals
In our Tesco Mobile review 2018
✔ Overall rating
✔ 4G/3G coverage
✔ Data speeds
✔ Call quality
✔ Free WiFi hotspots
✔ WiFi calling
✔ Inclusive roaming
✔ Spending caps
✔ Multibuy discounts
✖ Free subscriptions
✖ Data-saving schemes
✖ Data rollover
✔ Special offers
✔ SIM only plans
✔ Phone contracts
✔ Pay As You Go
✖ Mobile broadband
✔ Ofcom data
What's Tesco Mobile's network like?
Coverage: Tesco Mobile customers benefit from O2's large network improvements
✔ We recommend viewing Tesco's reception near youCheck coverage now
You’re probably aware that Tesco Mobile runs on the O2 network in the UK.
That means wherever there’s O2 signal, there’s also Tesco Mobile. So if you’ve been on O2 before, there’s no good reason you won’t get identical reception - very useful given Tesco Mobile are generally cheaper.
The current statistics show that 97% of the population will now get 4G on Tesco Mobile and 98% can get 3G, which puts it narrowly in 3rd place (after EE, Vodafone and providers who use them.
Those are impressive stats and you’re unlikely to struggle for signal but we’d still always recommend double-checking what signal strength any mobile provider says they have in the places you’ll use your phone.
Useful link: Check your Tesco Mobile coverage with their 4G/3G network map.
Not as good as:
EE and Vodafone
(and providers that use them)
(and providers that use them)
Speeds: Tesco's host network results are slower than others
(O2 4G downloads)
(O2 3G downloads)
While coverage is likely to be no problem on Tesco Mobile, we expect the 4G download speeds you’ll get on their network not to be as quick as some of their rivals.
Customers on O2 directly are estimated to get typically around a 16 Mbps download speed over a 4G connection, which is lower than the other three major networks (EE, Vodafone and Three).
At that kind of speed, you’d still be able to browse the internet fast and watch videos in standard quality on Tesco Mobile without buffering, you just won’t be able to download massive files as quick.
For that reason, we can only give Tesco Mobile an average rating in this category.
Useful link: What Tesco Mobile say about their 4G
Joint last (with other networks who use O2)
Not as good as:
EE, Three, Vodafone
Call quality: Tesco Mobile's host network rated 'satisfactory'
✔ Good audio quality and fast call setup timesSee Tesco Mobile app
We still think it’s important how your phone performs on each network for calls, even though most people use their mobiles mainly for internet and other data-using activities.
This is something that Tesco Mobile’s host network (O2) usually does well on in independent tests. But has slipped behind their own high standards recently:
Every year P3 Network Analytics test how quickly calls connect on each network and how good the audio quality is too. Again, they only publish results for O2 itself so we can only assume how Tesco would perform.
The results give Tesco's hosts a 'satisfactory' rating, compared to EE (very good), Vodafone (good) and Three (good). So not the strongest performance but not a disaster either.
Useful link: Read latest Tesco Mobile developments
4th out of 4
Not as good as:
WiFi calling: Tesco Mobile sort of have it but not really...
✔ Tesco's have a separate international calling appSee the app
You might have heard of WiFi calling because it’s offered by the four main networks O2, EE, Vodafone and Three (and now iD too!). It essentially lets you make calls over WiFi instead of conventional mobile signal.
This is very useful for when you find yourself somewhere that normal signal can’t get like underground or in a building with thick walls. Unfortunately Tesco Mobile don’t offer any WiFi calling similar to the main networks.
The closest they get is an international calling app, which works over WiFi but isn’t meant for domestic calls.
If you were interested in Tesco Mobile because they use O2, you might want to take a look at O2 themselves directly. We rate O2's WiFi calling scheme as on of the UK's better ones.
Useful link: Read about WiFi calling on O2 directly
Not as good as:
Three, EE, Vodafone, O2, iD Mobile
Free WiFi hotspots: you don't get any on Tesco Mobile
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.
Not as good as:
BT Mobile, Virgin Mobile, O2, Three, EE, Vodafone, Sky
Tethering: Tesco Mobile allow it but be sure to get a plan with enough data
✔ Tethering could quickly push you over data limitsSee extra data costs
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
★★★★★ (Joint best choice)
As good as:
EE, Vodafone, O2, BT, Plusnet, Tesco
iD Mobile, Virgin Mobile
Tesco Mobile benefits
Inclusive roaming: only the minimum EU countries on Tesco
✔ 48 free roaming destinations in the EURead full details
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 regular minutes, texts and data (up to 12GB) without paying extra in the EU (full terms and conditions here).
For going anywhere else in the world, you’ll still have to pay for roaming per minute, text and MB data (see Tesco’s full guide to their costs abroad here).
In our guide to the best networks for roaming, Tesco come behind our winners Three, whose Feel At Home offers free roaming in 60 destinations worldwide and could be worth a look if you’re a big traveller.
Useful links: Full information on roaming with Tesco Mobile on their official website
Not as good as:
Three, EE, Vodafone, O2, BT Mobile
Slightly better than:
Spending caps: Tesco have the original and best scheme
✔ You can set a voluntary cap on extra spendingHow it works
Most mobile networks have something that they lead all others on and with Tesco Mobile it’s spending caps.
Tesco were the first provider to let you voluntarily limit how much extra you’re willing to spend on top of the normal monthly cost of your deal. They’re called Capped Contracts, and they’re available with phones or SIMs.
Extra costs include things like going over your allowances, calling premium numbers or roaming (see what costs extra on Tesco Mobile here) and the limit you set can be between £2.50 and £40 a month.
If you hit the limit, services that'd cost you extra are automatically blocked, while anything free is still allowed.
We’ve all racked up extra bills before and it can be unnerving if you’re taking out a mobile contract someone else like a child or spouse. Tesco’s Capped Contracts take away that worry and we commend them for it.
Useful link: How Capped Contracts work from Tesco’s own guide
★★★★★ (Best choice)
iD Mobile, Plusnet Mobile, BT Mobile
Way better than:
Not as good as::
Better than :
Shared plans/multibuys: Tesco's Family Perks do a decent job
✔ Choose monthly bonus data mins or money offSee latest Perks
We’re also always on the lookout for how networks look after groups of people who want to share mobile plans and get a discount or extra perks. Tesco Mobile currently occupy our second slot (after BT’s Family SIMs).
It’s all thanks to their flexible Family Perks scheme. This lets you have more than one monthly mobile plan on a single account, which makes it more manageable. But you’ll also get a choice of extra benefit on top.
For the main plan on your account and extras you add, you get to choose from bonus minutes or data, monthly money-off discounts or even more Clubcard points for every person (see every available Perk here).
What we like about this 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 it up.
Useful link: How Family Perks work on Tesco Mobile
Not as good as:
BT Mobile Family SIMs
Vodafone, EE, Three, O2 and all others
Entertainment subscriptions: nothing on Tesco Mobile
✔ Networks like EE offer free subscriptionsFree Apple Music on EE
Above, we’ve listed some of the excellent benefits you get on Tesco Mobile despite their deals being relatively low-priced compared to the larger providers. But some perks you just don’t get on a low-cost deal:
More of the bigger (and admittedly often more expensive) networks are now a free subscription to selected streaming services as part of your mobile package.
The best examples are Vodafone, whose top-tier deals come with your choice of a subscription to Sky Sports Mobile TV, NOW TV or Spotify Premium. Or EE offer 6 months free Apple Music and 3 months BT Sport App.
You won’t get either of these on Tesco Mobile but we wouldn’t say this is a huge problem. Use our deal comparison tool below and you’ll see Tesco almost always work out cheaper than EE and Vodafone.
Not as good as:
Vodafone, EE, BT Mobile
Data rollover: Tesco Mobile don’t have it - so use it or lose it!
✔ Get a result in seconds for how much data you needUse data calculator
Data usage is probably the part of your plan that people are most concerned about as it can change each month.
Some networks offer some clever plans with what’s known as data rollover. This basically means if you have leftover data at the end of the month, you get to keep it for the future rather than losing it.
Tesco Mobile don’t offer this so we’ve given them a poor rating. We rate Sky Mobile’s data rollover as the 2nd best in the UK, plus they also use O2, so are an alternative to Tesco if you’re interested in this type of plan.
We also really like new network SMARTY's discounts off your next bill for unused data, which means you can never be on too big a plan. Other networks with data rollover are iD Mobile and Virgin Mobile.
Useful link: Calculate how much data you need before you join Tesco Mobile
Not as good as:
Sky Mobile, iD Mobile, Virgin Mobile
Free data schemes: Tesco Mobile have nothing to offer yet
✔ Three's Go Binge lets you stream the most servicesSee what you get
Another trend with higher-cost main providers in the UK is giving away free social media or streaming data.
EE are also giving away 6 months free data for listening to Apple Music, Virgin Mobile let you use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter without using data and Vodafone’s new VOXI offers endless social media.
It’s a pity Tesco don’t offer anything like this as these are regularly data-hungry activities. The more free data you get, the more you have spare for everything else or you can take a smaller, cheaper plan in the first place.
Useful link: See the best free streaming scheme from Three
Not as good as:
Three, EE, VOXI, Virgin Mobile
Deals on Tesco Mobile
SIM only plans overview
Number of plans available:
Price range: £ - £ a month
SIM card sizes: Standard, Micro, Nano
Data speed: 4G on all plans
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Phone contracts on Tesco Mobile:
✔ Upgrade phones early with most Tesco Mobile's contractsHow they work
iPhone: Yes, full range of latest models
Samsung Galaxy: Yes, flagships, mid-range & budget
Other makes/models: Alcatel, Doro, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Sony
Upfront costs: Depends on model
Locked to Tesco Mobile?: No
Contract lengths: 24 month only
Contract types: Handset financing (consumer credit agreement)
Expected ease of passing credit check: Harder than average
Practically every phone in Tesco Mobile’s pay monthly range is available exclusive on their Anytime Upgrade contracts. Only the very cheapest budget phones are on traditional 24-month contracts.
Anytime Upgrade is similar to O2’s Refresh. It splits your overall mobile deal into two parts: one payment covering the cost of your phone over 24 months, and another for your monthly minutes, texts and data.
Added together these make up the total cost of your deal. The reason you can upgrade early is that the phone is paid for on a credit agreement (basically a loan for the cost of the device).
Each month you pay off 1/24th of the loan until it’s all gone. But if you want, you’re free to pay off the whole remaining balance, at which point you’re free to upgrade to a new phone or leave Tesco altogether.
While we think it’s great that you can upgrade early, it’s worth saying that you might find it harder to be accepted for a deal on Tesco Mobile than other providers. That’s because you’re effectively applying for a loan and Tesco have to prove to regulators that they are lending to people responsibly, who can afford it.
In terms of price, we rate Tesco Mobile as cheaper than average for their phone contracts.
Pay As You Go: Tesco Mobile have two alright options
✔ Monthly bundles of minutes, texts and dataOrder a free SIM
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 or The People’s Operator.
If you’re the type of person who just wants to add a bit of credit and only use your phone every now and then, Tesco Mobile are as good a choice as anyone else.
Not as cheap as:
Three, giffgaff, iD Mobile
Tesco Mobile customer service
Customer service: Tesco Mobile have long had the best record
✔ The fewest complaints of any major networkSee Tesco's awards
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.
Happily, Tesco Mobile have the lowest number of complaints per customer in Ofcom’s latest report.
For us, that’s indicator that Tesco are good at resolving issues that customers with any provider will come across now and then. That’s because people only go to Ofcom, if a telecoms company has not resolved their problem.
Tesco Mobile have also received numerous other awards throughout the past years (see link below).
Useful link: See all Tesco Mobile awards