Best 5G networks in April 2021

5G networks

Whichever network you choose, a 5G plan promises quicker downloads, smoother streaming and better online gaming. But not all networks are created equal when it comes to 5G coverage and speeds, which means you’ve got a big decision to make.

Which 5G network is best for coverage?

As of October 2020, the network infrastructure shared by EE and BT Mobile offers a 5G service in 112 towns and cities across the UK. That means both networks share the title of the network with the UK's most widely available and widest ranging 5G service.

As you’d expect, you can get EE and BT Mobile 5G in major cities such as London, Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester. It's also in more than 60 towns, ranging from Ashton-under-Lyme to Weybridge.

Provider Data Amount Contract Length Monthly Costs
EE sim only 10GB data 12 months £10.00
EE sim only 25GB data 12 months £15.00
EE sim only 160GB data 24 months £20.00
  • EE sim only
    4G
    • 10GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £10.00 per month
    12 month contract From EE Mobile
  • EE sim only
    4G
    • 25GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £15.00 per month
    12 month contract From EE Mobile
  • EE sim only
    5G
    • 160GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £20.00 per month
    24 month contract From EE Mobile

Which 5G network is fastest?

person using phone

An October 2020 study from Ookla found that Three was the fastest UK 5G operator during the third quarter of the year, with an average speed of 201.12 Mbps.

That's some distance ahead of second-placed O2 and third-placed Vodafone, which recorded average speeds of 176.90 Mbps
and 152.17 Mbps respectively.

Perhaps surprisingly given its strong showings in previous Ookla 5G speed-test studies, EE was in last place with an average speed of 134.76 Mbps.

Which 5G network is cheapest?

That largely depends on the plan and the allowance you choose. However, in general we’ve often found that some the most attractively priced, cost-effective 5G plans are on Three and O2.

Both of whom, it's worth noting, are offering 5G for the same price as 4G.

Looking to save money? Take a look at our pick of the standout cheap SIM only deals.

Which networks offer 5G?

You can get a 5G mobile plan from:

At the time of writing, a 5G service is also known to be on the way from:

UK’s best 5G networks compared

Still not sure which network to choose? Here we’ll take a look at what each of the UK’s 5G networks has got to offer to help you make your mind up.

O2 5G

At the time of writing (October 2020), O2’s 5G service is live in 108 towns and cities.

You can check O2’s 5G coverage, with its postcode checker.

O2’s other main sells include Rewards customer loyalty scheme and customisable plans with early-upgrade options.

Provider Data Amount Contract Length Monthly Costs
O2 sim only 10GB data 12 months £8.00
O2 sim only 12GB data 12 months £9.00
O2 sim only 20GB data 12 months £18.00
  • O2 sim only
    5G
    • 10GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • Special offers with O2 Priority
    • £8.00 per month
    12 month contract From O2
  • O2 sim only
    5G
    • 12GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • 3 months free Disney+
    • £9.00 per month
    12 month contract From O2
  • O2 sim only
    5G
    • 20GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • 6 months free Disney+
    • £18.00 per month
    12 month contract From O2

Three 5G

Three launched later than major rivals, but it has made good progress and at the time of writing Three's 5G network extends to 68 towns and cities.

And critically, it claims its 5G service is the UK’s fastest, as as Ookla's study confirms.

Three also offers an extensive inclusive roaming scheme, as well as its zero-data-streaming Go Binge sweetener.

Check if Three is available where you live with its postcode checker.

Provider Data Amount Contract Length Monthly Costs
Three sim only Unlimited data 1 month £24.00
Three sim only Unlimited data 1 month £24.00
Three sim only Unlimited data 1 month £24.00
  • Three sim only
    5G
    • Unlimited 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £24.00 per month
    1 month contract From Three Mobile
  • Three sim only
    5G
    • Unlimited 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £24.00 per month
    1 month contract From Three Mobile
  • Three sim only
    5G
    • Unlimited 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £24.00 per month
    1 month contract From Three Mobile

Vodafone 5G

vodafone

Vodafone offers 5G in 57 UK locations (correct as of October 2020).

You can check whether it’s available where you live, with Vodafone’s postcode checker.

Vodafone’s other major selling points are its Very Me customer rewards scheme and 5G roaming in Spain, Germany and Italy.

Provider Data Amount Contract Length Monthly Costs
Vodafone sim only 4GB data 12 months £6.00
Vodafone sim only 12GB data 12 months £8.00
Vodafone sim only 15GB data 12 months £10.00
  • Vodafone sim only
    4G
    • 4GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £6.00 per month
    12 month contract From Vodafone
  • Vodafone sim only
    4G
    • 12GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £8.00 per month
    12 month contract From Vodafone
  • Vodafone sim only
    4G
    • 15GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £10.00 per month
    12 month contract From Vodafone

EE 5G

ee logo

As indicated above, EE’s network encompasses 112 towns and cities across the UK.

Check whether it’s reached your area with EE’s postcode checker.

Select EE 5G plans also include Swappable Benefits and free, time-limited subscriptions to Apple Music, BritBox and BT Sport.

BT Mobile 5G

bt logo

In line with EE, BT Mobile's coverage extends to 112 locations across the UK and offers comparable speeds too.

BT 5G plans also include BT Sport and a bill reduction of £5 per month for existing BT broadband customers.

Check if BT 5G is available in your area with its postcode checker.

Provider Data Amount Contract Length Monthly Costs
BT Mobile sim only 12GB data 12 months £17.00
BT Mobile sim only 16GB data 12 months £19.00
BT Mobile sim only 50GB data 12 months £20.00
  • BT Mobile sim only
    5G
    • 12GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £17.00 per month
    12 month contract From BT Mobile
  • BT Mobile sim only
    5G
    • 16GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £19.00 per month
    12 month contract From BT Mobile
  • BT Mobile sim only
    5G
    • 50GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £20.00 per month
    12 month contract From BT Mobile

Sky Mobile 5G

sky logo

Sky’s 5G service is based on O2’s network, with the result that it covers the same 108 towns and cities and gets you the same speeds.

Sky Mobile 5G contracts are up for grabs at no extra cost if you sign up for its free-to-join Sky VIP customer rewards scheme.

Check Sky Mobile's 5G coverage in your area with its availability checker.

Tesco Mobile 5G

tesco mobile

Like Sky Mobile Tesco Mobile uses O2’s network. And like Sky Mobile and O2, that means you can get Tesco Mobile 5G in 108 towns and cities.

As a value network, Tesco Mobile’s 5G contracts don’t offer the same perks as the likes of Sky and EE. But customers do get free ClubCard points every time they pay their bill.

Check if Tesco Mobile's 5G service is live in your area with its postcode checker.

Provider Data Amount Contract Length Monthly Costs
Tesco Mobile sim only 2GB data 12 months £7.50
Tesco Mobile sim only 8GB data 12 months £10.00
Tesco Mobile sim only 15GB data 12 months £12.50
  • Tesco Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 2GB of 4G data
    • 500 minutes
    • 5000 texts
    • download speed limit
    • £7.50 per month
    12 month contract From Tesco Mobile
  • Tesco Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 8GB of 4G data
    • 5000 minutes
    • 5000 texts
    • download speed limit
    • £10.00 per month
    12 month contract From Tesco Mobile
  • Tesco Mobile sim only
    4G
    • 15GB of 4G data
    • 5000 minutes
    • 5000 texts
    • download speed limit
    • £12.50 per month
    12 month contract From Tesco Mobile

VOXI 5G

voxi logo

Vodafone subsidiary VOXI uses its parent company’s network to offer 5G in 57 locations in the UK.

As well as the same coverage as Vodafone, VOXI offers the same speeds too.

Other noteworthy selling points of VOXI include unlimited use of social media services without eating into your data, as well as flexible plans and inclusive roaming in 48 European countries.

See if VOXI 5G is available in your locality with its availability checker.

Provider Data Amount Contract Length Monthly Costs
VOXI sim only 6GB data 1 month £10.00
VOXI sim only 6GB data 1 month £10.00
VOXI sim only Unlimited data 1 month £35.00
  • VOXI sim only
    4G
    • 6GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • Unlimited social data
    • £10.00 per month
    1 month contract From VOXI
  • VOXI sim only
    4G
    • 6GB of 4G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • Unlimited social data
    • £10.00 per month
    1 month contract From VOXI
  • VOXI sim only
    5G
    • Unlimited 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • £35.00 per month
    1 month contract From VOXI

Virgin Media 5G

virgin media logo

Virgin Media offers 5G for no extra cost. Its service is based on Vodafone's network infrastructure and is available in 100 towns and cites at the time of writing (January 2020).

Find out if it's available where you live, with Virgin Media's availability checker.

Provider Data Amount Contract Length Monthly Costs
Virgin sim only 4GB data 12 months £6.00
Virgin sim only 50GB data 12 months £16.00
Virgin sim only 50GB data 12 months £16.00
  • Virgin sim only
    5G
    • 4GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • Includes capping + data rollover
    • £6.00 per month
    12 month contract From Virgin Mobile
  • Virgin sim only
    5G
    • 50GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • Includes capping + data rollover
    • £16.00 per month
    12 month contract From Virgin Mobile
  • Virgin sim only
    5G
    • 50GB of 5G data
    • Unlimited minutes
    • Unlimited texts
    • download speed limit
    • Includes capping + data rollover
    • £16.00 per month
    12 month contract From Virgin Mobile

Find out more about 5G with our one-stop guide.

Frequently asked questions

Which phones are 5G compatible?

  • Huawei Mate X 5G
  • Huawei Mate 20 X 5G
  • iPhone 12 Mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • OnePlus 8
  • OnePlus 8 Pro
  • OnePlus 7T Pro 5G
  • OnePlus 7 Pro 5G
  • Oppo Find X2 Lite 5G
  • Oppo Find X2 Neo 5G
  • Oppo Find X2 Pro 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 5G
  • Samsung Galaxy A90 5G
  • Sony Xperia 1 II
  • Xiaomi Mi 10
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix Alpha
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G

Is 5G more expensive than 4G?

In the majority of cases, you will pay more for a 5G contract than a 4G one. But given that 5G is a much faster service, that’s probably to be expected.

However, that’s not always the case. Three 5G plans, for instance, are priced in line with its 4G contracts. So it’ll cost you nothing extra to upgrade to a faster service (provided you already own at 5G-enabled phone, that is).

O2 is also offering 5G plans at the same prices as its 4G contracts. And with the same allowances and benefits too.

Find out more about 5G with our one-stop guide.