Best Mobile Networks in the UK: Which to Choose for Your Office
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For a long time, there were four main mobile networks in the UK, namely EE, Three, Vodafone, and O2. Some offered better plans, while others provided better coverage in certain areas. Nevertheless, your choice was limited to these ‘big four’ because of the high communications infrastructure costs. If none of the options suited you, there was no way out.
But things have changed in recent years. Users and businesses now have access to dozens of different virtual providers that offer high-quality connectivity and coverage, even in the most remote parts of the country. This is particularly good for businesses, as the potential harm from poor connectivity cannot be underestimated.
According to a study by Three UK in partnership with YouGov, UK businesses lose £7.7bn every year to connectivity problems. Whatever is causing communication issues, terrain, building materials, or distance to the base station, one thing remains clear — these problems need to be addressed as quickly as possible to prevent losses. That's why it's so important to find the best communication provider. Read on to find out what is the best mobile network provider in the UK and which one to choose for your business.
Business Needs to Consider While Choosing the Best Mobile Network
Before selecting the best network provider in the UK, you first need to decide on the criteria you will use for comparison. In general, you need to be guided by your business needs as well as a number of other factors that depend on the service provider. Let's take a closer look at them.
The amount of data in the tariff plan
Some time ago, tariff plans were differentiated by the number of minutes and messages. Now, for most mobile phone networks, these services are unlimited as long as you call or text a person with the same mobile service provider. What really makes the difference now is the amount of data on your plan. The more gigabytes, the better, and since, in the case of businesses, having a stable online connection anywhere is vital, this is one of the most important factors to look at.
Another thing to pay attention to with all-round mobile networks is the contract duration. Usually, they are signed for one, two, or three years. The length of your contract will determine how quickly you can change your terms and conditions if your communications need an increase.
Roaming and rollover features
If you run a business in the UK and deal with other countries, it is crucial that you have a low-cost rate when calling abroad or travelling somewhere on business. This wasn’t much of an issue before Brexit, as most service providers allowed you to enjoy free EU roaming, and some also provided it in the USA and Australia as well. Now you need to pay close attention not to be left without a connection on the eve of vital negotiations with foreign partners.
The price is yet another important factor when choosing the best mobile network in the UK. Look for the best price-quality ratio to avoid overpaying for the same coverage and features.
Top 10 Best Network Providers in the UK
Now let's move on to an overview of the UK’s best mobile networks. For this top, we have selected both well-known companies and new but promising firms.
It is perhaps the most obvious contender for the title of the best UK mobile provider. EE originally saw the light of day through the merger of T-Mobile and Orange. It was subsequently bought by BT Group, which has not diminished its growth, and EE is now the most popular operator in the whole country.
EE offers SIM-only deals with fairly good terms and conditions, and there are multiple options for data-rich tariff plans. Also, EE covers 99% of the country, and you can get even more speed and quality in London and other big cities due to the 5G infrastructure. Nevertheless, even in remote parts of the country, EE shows impressive results at 66.2 Mbits/sec average speed, making it the fastest mobile network in the UK. In comparison, the nearest competitor, Vodafone network, delivers an average speed of around 25 Mbits/sec.
It is a telecommunications operator within the BT Group, which owns several other providers. In particular, BT Group bought EE in 2015, allowing it to use the network for its own brand. The network has stable coverage of 99% of the UK’s area and a high download speed.
BT Mobile has a market share of about 4% and is one of the top ten most popular networks in the UK. You may choose this provider for your office if you are unhappy with the EE tariffs or have other reasons not to use this brand. Overall, this is quite a good provider, capable of delivering a stable connection and high download speeds.
Three is another noteworthy member of the 'big four'. Still, of all the key all-round mobile networks, Three is the smallest. The company itself claims to cover 99% of the UK, but the actual figures hover somewhere around 92%. What sets Three apart is its 5G coverage in major cities. The company has invested significantly in 5G infrastructure, and the 5G connection speeds are really impressive. However, if your office is not in London or another major city, this advantage is likely to have no use for you.
Another nice addition is that there are no roaming charges in over 70 countries, including popular destinations such as the US, Australia, and most of Europe. In addition, Three's prices are quite low compared to its competitors. Also, recently Three announced its merger with Vodafone, so the conditions, coverage, and connection quality of this operator may soon change.
iD Mobile uses Three's infrastructure, meaning that all the pros and cons of Three are also inherited by this operator. The distinguishing features of iD Mobile include free roaming in 50 countries. In addition, like most providers, iD Mobile has unlimited minutes and SMS, and the balance of unused data is carried over to the next month.
Users praise iD Mobile for some of the lowest prices on the market, so it's not a bad option if you don't plan to spend a significant amount on mobile phone running costs. This provider is great for developing institutions and offices with a small number of employees and a constant need for communication.
This is the biggest member of the whole 'big four' group. O2 has impressive infrastructure across Britain. By choosing O2, you get strong 4G performance across the country, and in Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London, and several other major cities you get high-speed 5G connectivity as well.
However, as for the connection speeds, among all the 'big four', O2 performs the worst. The average download speeds of O2 are just 15.8 Mbps. Of course, it all depends on the locality and network load, but it is what it is. Otherwise, O2 is an acceptable option, capable of providing businesses with a stable connection. The provider offers SIM-only, pay-as-you-go, and contract deals.
Sky emerged relatively recently as a mobile phone provider and quite quickly gained popularity with 4% of the audience in the UK. Users and experts note a fairly good level of service, earning Sky the uSwitch Network of the Year 2020 award and several others.
Sky uses O2 infrastructure, which allows its users to enjoy coverage of 99% of the country. Sky's internet speeds, however, are the same as those of O2, which are pretty low. A major feature of Sky is the ability to change your plan whenever you want, which can be extremely helpful if your business needs have suddenly changed.
Tesco is a fairly popular mobile operator in the UK. Although it isn’t part of the 'big four', it follows right behind them, owning 7% of users. Tesco does not have its own infrastructure but uses O2 towers. Due to this fact, Tesco cannot boast a high 5G download speed, and its 5G infrastructure in major cities is quite limited.
However, sometimes subscribers speak louder than facts, and, in this case, most users report a high level of satisfaction with the provider. Although Tesco's speeds and coverage are fairly mediocre, their tariffs are also moderately priced. It's a great low-cost option for firms that don't want to spend a significant chunk of their budget on communications.
This is a rather curious example of a virtual provider that could suit many businesses. Utility Warehouse describes itself as 'the biggest telecoms' provider you've never heard of'. This is partly true because the company uses the EE infrastructure, which indeed offers the best mobile network coverage.
What sets this particular provider apart is the large number of value-added services it offers. For example, in addition to mobile phone service, you can also get broadband, energy, insurance, and cashback cards. Services can be combined, which is very useful for businesses that don’t want to work with many different providers, but get everything at once.
Another worthy contender for the title of best UK network provider is Virgin Mobile. Virgin Mobile accounts for 4% of subscribers in the country, falling short behind the 'big four' and Tesco but ahead of most other virtual mobile network companies. Speaking of which, Virgin Mobile is actually the first virtual operator in the UK. The company began operations in 1999 and has held its place in the market ever since.
Overall, Virgin Mobile boasts pretty high internet speeds, great coverage, and quality of service. The provider uses the O2 network, so all advantages and disadvantages of this provider remain with it. Generally speaking, if you need a reliable and stable mobile phone provider, you may want to consider Virgin Mobile as an alternative to O2 if the latter isn't suitable for you for one reason or another.
Let’s finish our list of the best phone networks with the latest member of the 'big four' — Vodafone. It is quite a large provider, covering over 97% of the UK with its 4G services, and as we've said earlier, it merges with Three soon, which will improve the coverage even further. In addition, you can also access 5G services in 46 cities across the country.
Like several other major operators, Vodafone offers favourable roaming terms in over 70 countries, but the cost of services without roaming charges will be higher. Customers also note a rather low level of the network’s customer service. Internet speeds from Vodafone are quite high, but not the highest in the market. On average, Vodafone users get download speeds of 25.2 Mbps.
So What is the Best UK Mobile Network for Business?
So you've read the list of the top mobile operators in the UK. They are all pretty good, but what is the best UK mobile network for your business? Based on a combination of factors, we can say that the best mobile phone provider in the UK is EE.
This operator is the most popular in the country for a reason. EE covers 99% of the UK, allowing you to enjoy a stable connection and fast internet access even in the most remote corners of the country. The internet speed tests show the median download speed of EE as 66.2 Mbits/sec, which is more than enough to cover most business needs, even if many devices are connected at once. Moreover, according to RootMetrics, the majority of subscribers in the UK named EE the best internet provider in 2022 for its high quality and availability.
On the other hand, a number of users note the high cost of tariff plans. Of course, when it comes to providing businesses with a stable connection, this argument doesn’t play a big role, as the seamless operation of the company is at stake. Nevertheless, if EE is not suitable for you for some reason, Vodafone or O2 are reasonable alternatives. The coverage of these operators is comparable to EE, but there may be trade-offs in such aspects as the internet speed and call quality.
UCtel Can Help in Solving and Preventing Problems with Network Performance
You can find the best mobile phone provider, sign a contract with it, and be completely confident that your company’s smartphones are provided with quality communications. However, even with the most reliable mobile network, you may still encounter problems with dropped calls, unstable internet connection, stuttering conversations during streaming and video conferences, as well as other unexpected issues. Switching to another operator doesn’t always make sense, as issues with connectivity might not be caused by low coverage or internet speed. What should you do in this situation?
The answer is simple — you can improve the quality of your connection by using a signal booster. UCtel will help you do this, as we are a reliable provider of turnkey connectivity solutions. We have seen dozens of businesses reach new levels of communication with our signal-boosting systems.
Our Ofcom-compliant CEL-FI signal-boosting services include everything from design, supply, and installation to ongoing support and maintenance. If you are experiencing signal problems with any mobile service provider, simply contact us, and our experts will be on-site in no time to design a solution and select the best equipment for you.
For years, we've been helping countless businesses across a wide range of industries to enjoy uninterrupted connections. But don't take our word for it, take a look at our case studies. A great example of how we can assist your business is our partnership with an NHS trust in the UK that was in dire need of a strong, reliable mobile network signal at two of its hospitals. By working with us, both institutions have been provided with technologically advanced systems that have improved the quality of service delivery and patient comfort. If you have similar difficulties and are experiencing issues with a stable signal, contact us now, and we will find a solution that suits your needs.