Mobile network coverage in the UK still isn't quite as comprehensive as it could be, so it’s important to check your area’s coverage before you choose a mobile network. On this page, we reveal coverage from the main suppliers and highlight the key factors that can affect your mobile signal.
Check your coverage
Mobile coverage varies across different supplier networks, so before you choose a provider you should check the coverage in the areas you spend the most time in - places like your home, work, town centre and so on.
If mobile coverage is weak where you live and work, then call quality and internet coverage can be a day-to-day problem.
Every network has its own online coverage checker and we've included handy links to all of them on this page.
Bear in mind: they’re not 100% accurate. Lots of factors from thickness of walls to the height of buildings can affect mobile signal.
But you’ll still get a good idea of coverage across different parts of the country.
EE mobile coverage
EE is, at the time of writing, the biggest and fastest 4G UK network. With the best population coverage and download speeds, this BT-owned operator currently reaches over 99% of the UK population, and more than 86% of the UK geography.
At launch EE's 5G coverage takes in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Manchester.
Before the end of 2019, its reach will extend to Bristol, Coventry, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.
In 2020, EE 5G will be rolling out 5G to Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Wolverhampton and Worcester.
O2 mobile coverage
While it has less extensive coverage than EE, O2 still brings its 4G contract and SIM-only plans to more than 97% of the UK population outdoors - and its coverage of towns and cities is expanding rapidly.
From October 2019 O2 5G will be available in parts of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds.
By the end of 2019, you'll be able to get O2 5G in areas in 20 towns and cities, with plans to extend coverage to a total of 50 locations by summer 2020.
Click on the link to find out more about O2 coverage in your area.
Vodafone mobile coverage
One of the big four networks, Vodafone has a huge 98% 4G UK population coverage.
At the time of writing Vodafone's 5G service is live in Birkenhead, Birmingham, Bolton, Bristol, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow, Lancaster, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newbury, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton.
By the end of 2019, Vodafone plans to extend its 5G coverage to Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton and Warrington.
You can compare phone plans and SIM-only deals on this site, or find out what its network coverage is like in your area with Vodafone's coverage checker.
Three mobile coverage
Three provides mobile coverage to 98% of the UK population. Despite being the last major network to launch a 4G service, this faster coverage already exceeds 91% of population.
Three's 5G service will be available in Bolton, Birmingham,Brighton, Bristol, Bradford, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Reading, Rotherham,
Slough, Sheffield, Sunderland and Wolverhampton.
If you're thinking of getting a SIM or phone plan from the operator, click the link below and enter your postcode to see how strong the network’s 3G and 4G coverage is in your area.
Smarty mobile coverage
As Smarty's SIM plans use Three’s network, 3G coverage reaches about 98% of the UK population, while 4G reaches over 91% of the UK population.
VOXI mobile coverage
Youth-focused network VOXI mobile uses the Vodafone network to deliver its SIM-only plans. which means it has about 98% UK population coverage with 4G.
Vodafone’s network has a good reputation for reliability, which means if Vodafone has a signal, then VOXI will too.
BT Mobile coverage
BT owns and uses EE’s 4G network and has over 99% UK population coverage - the widest UK coverage currently available.
By the end of 2019, BT 5G will be available in areas of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.
Sky Mobile coverage
Sky Mobile uses the O2 network and has widespread coverage. Outdoor 4G coverage sits at more than 97% of the population, so if you go for one of its plans, you’ll still be able to get 4G in most locations.
From October 2019, Sky Mobile 5G will be available in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, London and Slough.
By the end of 2019, Sky Mobile is set to extend its coverage to 20 towns and cities. And by the end of 2020, the service is expected to be in 50 locations.
Tesco Mobile coverage
Tesco Mobile uses O2’s infrastructure and towers and benefits from 4G coverage for over 97% of the UK population outdoors.
What's more, 99% of the population can get signal to call or text, so if you choose a phone or SIM plan from the operator, chances are you'll be able to use it in your area.
iD Mobile coverage
Owned by Carphone Warehouse, iD Mobile uses Three’s 4G network, which means it covers about 91% of the UK population.
Virgin Mobile coverage
Virgin Mobile offers 4G coverage of over 99% of the UK population and piggybacks on EE's network.
Check out Virgin Mobile contract and SIM-only plans here, or click on the link to find out more about Virgin Mobile coverage in your area.
Plusnet Mobile coverage
Plusnet is owned by BT and powered by the dependable EE 4G network, which means over 99% population coverage.
Lebara Mobile uses the Vodafone network, though there is no 4G internet on Lebara - only 3G.
That said, coverage is very good - more than 99% of the UK population can receive a signal.
ASDA Mobile coverage
ASDA Mobile uses the EE network - the largest and most widespread 4G network in the UK, reaching over 99% of the population.
Click on the link to find out more about ASDA Mobile’s coverage in your area.
giffgaff uses O2’s infrastructure and is able to provide 4G, indoor coverage to 99% of the population.
What will affect my coverage?
There are several factors that can affect mobile coverage, including:
- Distance from the mast - The further away you travel from a mast, the weaker a signal will be. Naturally, get too far from the mast and you'll likely switch to a closer one, but those areas in between can slow things down.
- The environment - One of the biggest reasons for inconsistent mobile signal is the environment itself. Tall buildings, trees, hills, thick walls, underground rooms are all examples of things that can reduce or block a mobile signal. Bear that in mind when comparing coverage - if you're not sure how a network will perform in your area, you can always try a pay as you go plan as a test.
- The device you’re using - low battery, out of date software or a small antenna are all examples of things that can stop you getting the best symbol. Make sure you keep your phone charged and up to date if you want the best experience.
- Congestion - The more people sharing the same tower, the slower your connection will be. It's a problem that's most common in highly populated cities, but it may also be noticeable at events that draw crowds, like sports matches or festivals.
Types of mobile coverage
- 3G - Introduced in the UK in 2003, 3G lets you surf the web, watch videos and download apps. In the event that you can't connect to a faster 4G service, your network will try and connect you to the internet over 3G.
- 4G - Much faster than 3G, 4G lets you surf the web, stream videos in HD and download music and apps at similar speeds to home broadband
- 5G - This is new, cutting-edge network technology, which is up to 20 times faster than 4G. 5G clears the way for super fast downloads and smoother online gaming on our phone.
Whichever network you favour, once you've checked which services are available in your area you can compare deals right here on this site.