Mobile coverage: No more 'no signal'

ByDuncan Heaney
Mobile coverage

The big mobile networks cover 99% of the UK, but how can you be sure you’ll get good reception where you are? broadbandchoices explains how to check mobile coverage and what you should watch out for before you switch...

Checking coverage

Before choosing a mobile phone network, you should check coverage in the areas you're most likely use your phone - for example your home, work and any other places you frequent. A mobile or SIM-only plan's only as good as the signal it gets and if coverage is poor, call quality and internet can be awful - or even non-existent.

Signal strength is determined by your distance from a network's nearest mast. As a rule, heavily populated zones like city centres are better for coverage than the countryside. Even so, you can have dead zones - where coverage is unavailable - in both.

In short, checking coverage before switching is crucial, as each network may have better or worse coverage than others where you live and work. Every network has an online coverage checker - they're not 100% accurate as signal strength can be affected by many things, like tall buildings or thick walls, but they will give you a good idea of the coverage you can expect in different areas. See below for links to each one.

And if you found your way here looking for our mobile phone comparison, here's where you need to go:

Click here to compare mobile phone deals

Smarty mobile coverage

Smarty logo

Smarty runs on Three's network, so coverage is the same for both. Pretty much anyone can will get enough signal to call or text, while about 97% of the population can connect to 3G internet. 4G coverage is a little lower, however, reaching just 90% of us. Again, bear in mind that's population coverage rather than geographical.  

Check Smarty coverage

 

 4GB data 

Unlimited minutes 

Unlimited texts 

Discount on unused data!

£10.00 a month

30 day contract 

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Vodafone mobile phone coverage

Vodafone

Vodafone (www.vodafone.co.uk) covers more than 90% of the population. 4G coverage is less extensive, but growing rapidly - use the coverage checker to see whether you can get it or not. How do you do that? Click the button, enter your postcode or the name of the place you live and you'll see the expected coverage in that area for 2G, 3G and 4G.

Check Vodafone coverage

 

Vodafone

3GB data

5GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

2GB data bonus!

£10.00 a month

12 month plan 

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Three mobile phone coverage

Three mobile network

The Three network gives mobile coverage to 97% of the population. Click the button below to go to Three's coverage checker and enter your postcode. You'll then be able to see how strong expected coverage is in that area for 3G, advanced 3G and 4G using the tabs at the side.

Check Three mobile coverage

 

three

12GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

£16.00 a month

12 month contract

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VOXI mobile coverage 

VOXI logo

VOXI comes from Vodafone, and thus uses its network to connect you. A good 98% of us can get signal to call and text, with 3G coverage approaching that figure as well.

4G is a bit lower, however - around 80% of us can connect to it.

One good thing about Vodafone's network, however, is that it's known for being reliable. You can safely use your apps without worrying about suddenly getting disconnected.

Check Voxi coverage

 

Voxi

2GB data

4GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

Double data!

Unlimited social data

£10 a month

30 day contract

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BT Mobile phone coverage

BT logo

BT owns EE, so naturally it makes use of the same network. That means it has the widest 4G coverage of any operator, with 75% of the population able to get superfast mobile internet. Its 3G coverage is even wider, encompassing 98% of the population. To see what coverage is like in your area, use the link below.

Check BT Mobile coverage

 

bt

6GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

 £13.00  per month

£18.00 per month for non BT customers

12 month contract

£65 BT reward card! 

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O2 mobile phone coverage

O2 (www.O2.co.uk) covers 99% of the population, with 3G reaching more than 85%. Its 4G coverage is more limited - it's mainly centred in and around cities - but it's expanding rapidly.

Click the button below and you'll be taken to a map of the UK. Search for your town or postcode and you can see what types of coverage are available where you live, and the quality of signal you're likely to receive.

Check O2 mobile coverage

 

18GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

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£20.00 a month

12 month contract

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Sky Mobile phone coverage

Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile uses O2's network, so coverage isn't bad. 99% of the population can get signal, more than 85% can connect to 3G, and over 70% can connect to 4G.

OpenSignal reckons you'll be able to get 4G about 56% of the time - if you're in a large town or city, you'll be fine.

To see what it's like in your area, use O2's coverage checker. 

Check Sky and O2 coverage  

 

sky mobile

500MB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts

Unlimited calls and texts for 6 months

£5.00per month

12 month contract

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EE mobile phone coverage

EE

 

EE (www.ee.co.uk) 2G and 3G covers 98% of the population. It also has the widest 4G coverage of all providers.

To check coverage, click the button below to go to EE's checker, then enter a postcode or place to see the 3G and 4G availability in that area, and the expected signal quality. EE also runs Orange and T-Mobile in the UK, so you'll also see coverage for those network.

Check EE mobile coverage

 

Tesco Mobile coverage

Tesco Mobile logo

Tesco Mobile piggybacks on O2's network, so it has the same coverage. A good 99% of the population can get signal to call or text, while around 75% of us can connect to 4G. 3G coverage is quite a bit higher though, reaching well over 95% of the population.

A Tesco Mobile plan is a great way to get that coverage at a lower price, and it's not short on benefits and extras either.

12GB data

5000 minutes

5000 texts 

£15 a month

12 month contract

 Get deal

Check Tesco Mobile coverage 

 

iD Mobile coverage

iD Mobile

The Carhone Warehouse-owned iD Mobile uses Three's network, which means it covers 97% of the population for 3G internet. All iD Mobile plans include 4G as standard. Follow the link below to check coverage.

Check ID coverage

 

Virgin Mobile coverage

Virgin Media

 

Virgin Mobile shares EE's network, so you get the same coverage with Virgin Mobile as you would with EE - 80% 4G coverage. Click the link below to check Virgin Mobile coverage in the UK. Enter the postcode or location where you want to check and you can see 4G and 3G coverage and signal strength.

Check Virgin Mobile coverage

 

2GB data

2500 minutes

Unlimited texts 

£6.00 per month

12 month contract 

Get deal 

 

Plusnet Mobile coverage

Plusnet Mobile

Plusnet Mobile uses EE to deliver its services, meaning coverage is very good. Over 99% of the UK population is covered, including 3G mobile internet. A huge 97% can access 4G - equating to about two-thirds of the country geographically.

Like the sound of Plusnet Mobile? Pick up a SIM-only plan today - there's lots of data, and they're all on a 30-day basis so there's no commitment.

Check Plusnet mobile coverage

 

Lebara Mobile coverage

Lebara Mobile logo

Since it also piggybacks on Vodafone's network, coverage on Lebara Mobile is pretty good. More than 99% of the population can get signal, so you can call and text from anywhere.

There's no 4G internet on Lebara, however - only 3G. It's quite a bit slower, but has far, far better coverage.

Lebara

 4GB data

Unlimited UK minutes + 100 international minutes

100 texts

£13.00

£8.00 a month

30 day contract 

Get deal

 

FreedomPop mobile coverage

FreedomPop

FreedomPop uses Three's network, which means very good coverage of around 97%... but FreedomPop only works through the network's app. Everything - including calls and texts - operates through mobile data, so if you don't have a sufficiently fast connection you might struggle a bit.

Still, 3G will be more than good enough most of the time, especially as it reaches 97% of the population on Three. And 4G is included, which has pretty decent coverage too. Plus you can always call and text when you're connected to Wi-Fi, even if you don't have signal.

Check FreedomPop coverage

 

FreedomPop SIM only deal

2.25GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited text 

£5.99 a month

30 day plan

Get deal

 

Asda Mobile coverage

Asda mobile logo

Asda Mobile uses EE's network. EE is best known for its wide-reaching 4G, which extend to Asda Mobile, offering speedy 4G at all the same locations as the EE network.

Check Asda Mobile coverage

 

Giffgaff

giffgaff

Giffgaff piggybacks on O2's network, meaning coverage is pretty good. 99% of the population can get signal for calls and texts; around 85% can connect to 3G mobile internet; and about 70% can get 4G.

So if you're in a large town or city, using 4G should be a breeze - and you'll almost always be able to make a call.

To get an accurate idea of what it's like in your area, use O2's coverage checker.

Check giffgaff and O2 coverage

 

6GB data

Unlimited minutes

Unlimited texts 

£15.00 per month 

30 day contract 

Get deal

 

Different types of mobile coverage

Mobile networks list up to three types of service on their coverage checkers. Here's a quick explanation of what they are:

  • 2G - Lets you make calls, send texts and potentially access email.
  • 3G - Lets you surf the web, watch videos, download apps and more. Most phone plans in the UK are 3G, and overall coverage is pretty good, though some areas - particularly rural areas - are still 3G 'not-spots'.
  • 4G - The fastest mobile internet available. Let's you surf the web, stream videos in HD, download apps and music at similar speeds to a home broadband. Coverage is less widespread than 3G, though it's expanding. If you have a 4G plan and you're in an area that isn't covered by it, you'll switch to 3G.

Compare mobile phone deals

If you're looking for a new handset or mobile plan, remember to check coverage. But also compare deals to make sure you're paying the best possible price. You can do that with our mobile phone comparison service:

Click here to compare mobile phone deals