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...
Before choosing a mobile phone network you should check coverage in the areas you're most likely use your phone - for example home, work and any other places you frequent. A mobile'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 networks 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 - 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:
O2 mobile phone coverage
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.
Vodafone mobile phone coverage
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.
Three mobile phone coverage
The Three (www.three.co.uk) 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.
EE mobile phone coverage
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.
Orange mobile phone coverage
Orange (www.orange,co.uk) is part of EE in the UK, so click the button to go to EE's coverage checker. Put a postcode or place in the search box and you'll see the 2G, 3G, and 4G coverage you can get there. Bear in mind 4G is only available through EE, not Orange or T-Mobile.
T-Mobile mobile phone coverage
Like Orange, T-Mobile (www.ee.co.uk) is part of EE in the UK. Click the button below to go to the EE coverage checker. Enter a postcode or place in the box and you can see the expected quality of 2G, 3G and 4G in that area. 4G is only available through EE though, not Orange or T-Mobile.
Virgin Mobile phone coverage
Virgin Mobile (www.virginmedia.com) shares EE's network, so you get the same coverage with Virgin Mobile as you would with EE, Orange and T-Mobile. Click the button below to check Virgin Mobile coverage in the UK. Enter the postcode or location where you want to check and you can see 2G and 3G coverage and signal strength.
The Carphone Warehouse-owned Talkmobile uses Vodafone's network, which means its 3G covers 90% of the population. The network doesn't offer any 4G plans as yet. Follow the link below to check coverage.
Tesco Mobile is the country's largest mobile virtual network, which means it uses another network - specifically O2. That's good news for customers, because O2 has very good 3G coverage across the UK. 4G coverage is less widespread and focused around major cities, but it's growing rapidly. Tesco offers 4G at no extra cost, so it's definitely worth checking to see if you can get it.
Mobile by Sainsbury's
Mobile by Sainsbury's plans are designed for those who don't want to be tied down by a long contract or call, text and data limits. It uses Vodafone's network, which means it has good 3G, voice and text coverage. Mobile by Sainsbury's doesn't offer 4G as yet. To see what coverage is like in your area,click the button.
The People's Operator
The People's Operator - or TPO, as it's easier to type - is virtual network. That means it uses another network to deliver its services - in this case, EE. As such it has much the same coverage as Orange and T-Mobile, the 3G networks EE runs. Although 4G is EE's raison d'etre, TPO only offers 3G plans at present.
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:
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