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Best and worst mobile networks 2023

Best and worst mobile networks 2023

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Last updated: 26 January 2023

Ofcom's annual customer-service report looks at how the major mobile network providers performed last year on factors such as customer satisfaction and value for money. Read our useful guide to find out who are the best and worst mobile network providers in the UK. 

How are mobile networks ranked?

Every quarter, industry regulator Ofcom collects a survey of overall customer satisfaction, including factors such as satisfaction with customer service, satisfaction with the service itself and value for money. It also provides a breakdown of complaints per 100,000 customers for each major provider. 

Remember that the ranking only provides a snapshot into the happiness of customers for each provider. It does not necessarily relate directly to how good their mobile network service is, but can indicate when a provider is having more issues than normal. You must also remember that the complaints per 100,000 customers only shows you the number of customers who were so unhappy they escalated their complaint to the regulator. There may actually be far more unhappy customers per 100,000.

These rankings do not mean you should necessarily switch provider either. You may find that you have had no problems with your mobile network, but your provider is ranked badly by Ofcom.

Mobile network customer satisfaction - At a glance

Network Satisfaction with overall service Satisfaction with value for money Customers with a reason to complain Overall satisfaction with complaint handling Average call waiting time Ofcom complaints per 100,000 subscribers
Tesco Mobile 96% 96% 5% 49% 2:15 4
giffgaff 95% 96% 8% 53% N/A N/A
O2 92% 86% 9% 53% 3:59 9
Vodafone 92% 83% 12% 52% 2:30 14
EE Mobile 92% 82% 7% 55% 2:25 5
Three Mobile 86% 81% 16% 52% 0:16 14
Virgin Mobile 83% 85% 11% 57% 1:59 16
Average 91% 85% 9% 53% 2:15 10

To compare mobile phone tariffs from these providers, click the button below.

Compare mobile phone tariffs

Who are the best mobile network providers in 2023?

Based on Ofcom's latest customer service survey, the best mobile network in the UK is currently Tesco Mobile, with an overall customer satisfaction score of 96%. This was closely followed by giffgaff on 95%, while joint third was taken by O2, Vodafone, and EE, with 92% each.

Let’s take a look at the best mobile networks in the UK, according to Ofcom’s 2022 customer service report:

1. Tesco Mobile

With an impressive overall customer satisfaction score of 96%, the best mobile network provider according to Ofcom in 2022 is MVNO Tesco Mobile. Another 96% of Tesco Mobile customers were satisfied with its value for money, while just 5% had a reason to complain, the lowest out of all providers in the survey. 

Tesco Mobile isn’t one of the Big Four, piggybacking off of O2’s network, but it’s already one of the UK’s most recognised brands thanks to its supermarket branches. As well as high customer satisfaction reports, Tesco Mobile has also fared above average when it comes to rating its customer service.

You won’t get the fastest 4G or 5G speeds with Tesco Mobile, but tariffs with the firm also won’t cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, Tesco Mobile is one of the most affordable mobile network providers out there, reflected in the fact that the vast majority of customers deem it good value for money. 

To compare SIM-only deals and tariffs from Tesco Mobile, click on the button below:

Tesco mobile phone deals

2. giffgaff

Another MVNO punching above its weight, giffgaff scored a highly-respectable 95% in overall customer satisfaction. It scored even better in the value for money category, with 96% of customers happy with giffgaff’s prices. 8% of customers had a reason to complain, which is more than Tesco Mobile, but still below the UK average of 9%.

Like Tesco Mobile, giffgaff piggybacks off of O2’s network, which means customers can benefit from the same speeds and coverage that you’d get from that provider. But as well as its widespread coverage, giffgaff is mostly known for offering low-cost tariffs. Some of its best tariffs include a 500MB data package for just £6 a month, or an unlimited tariff for £35 per month. 

Another reason why giffgaff may appeal to those in a budget is the fact that all of its contracts are available on a rolling, monthly basis. This means you’re free to switch to a different network whenever you wish without paying any hefty exit fees, and you won’t be tied into a lengthy and ultimately expensive contract.

To compare SIM-only deals and mobile plans with giffgaff, click on the button below:

Compare giffgaff mobile phone deals

3. O2

The best performing network of the Big Four in 2022, according to Ofcom’s annual report, is O2. Its overall satisfaction score of 93% is just slightly above the industry average, as is its value for money score of 86%. Meanwhile, the number of customers with a reason to complain, at 9%, is in line with the UK average.

O2 runs its own network in the UK, which both Tesco Mobile and giffgaff use to deliver their own services. This makes it one of the so-called ‘Big Four’, along with EE, Three, and Vodafone. So, if you want to go for one of these respected and reliable companies, O2 might be your best bet, according to Ofcom.

O2 has widespread 4G coverage in the UK with customers able to connect to it 84% of the time. However, if its speed you’re after then you may be left disappointed, as O2’s 4G speeds are slower than any of the other Big Four, with average download speeds of just 15.8Mbps. You will get a number of perks, however, including access to O2 Priority which gives you discounts and queue jumps to certain events such as concerts. 

To compare the best mobile phone deals that O2 has to offer, click on the button below:

Compare mobile phone tariffs from O2

4. Vodafone

Vodafone received an overall customer satisfaction score of 92% in 2022, which which was the joint third best score along with O2 and EE. However, it received slightly more disappointing scores in relation to its value for money and number of customers with reasons to complain, at 83% and 12% respectively.

With prices ranging from £11 a month up to £37 a month, you’ll probably find better value tariffs with some smaller MVNOs, but Vodafone is one of the Big Four networks and is therefore a reliable bet. The Vodafone network provides the second fastest speeds after O2, according to RootMetric, with UK average download speeds of 25.2Mbps. 

Vodafone also provides impressive 5G speeds, should you have a 5G-capable handset of course. RootMetric recorded its highest ever 5G speeds with Vodafone, at 491.1Mbps in Central London. Vodafone offers a wide range of both pay monthly and SIM-only contracts, and it also has widespread coverage, offering 4G access to 99% of the UK.

To compare the best mobile plans from Vodafone, click the button below:

Compare mobile phone tariffs from Vodafone

5. EE

The next best Big Four network in 2022, according to Ofcom, is EE. It also received an overall customer satisfaction score of 92%, but scored slightly below average for satisfaction with value for money at 82%. However, the number of customers with a reason to complain was slightly below the nationwide average, at just 7%.

One of the best things about EE is the fast 4G and 5G speeds it offers. According to RootMetrics, EE offers average download speeds of 58.8Mbps, more than double that of its closest rival, Vodafone, which had average speeds of just 25.2Mbps. 

EE offers a wide range of monthly contracts and SIM-only deals, with data packages ranging from just 1GB up to 100GB of data a month. You also get access to a wide range of perks with EE, including unlimited data on streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, BT Sport, Apple Music, and more. 

To compare mobile tariffs from EE, click on the button below:

Compare EE mobile phone tariffs

6. Three

With an overall customer satisfaction score of just 86%, Three was the lowest rated of the Big Four mobile networks in 2022, according to that metric. Having said that, there’s only an 10% difference between Three and the highest rated network, Tesco Mobile, and its just 7% lower than the best of the Big Four, O2. So, the difference between the best and worst mobile networks is somewhat marginal. Also, what may be the best network for one customer may prove to be the worst for another, depending on their specific needs and preferences.

It did, however, receive the worst score for the number of customer with a reason to complain, at 16% – almost double the UK average. It fared better for value for money, with 82% of customers satisfied, while it had by far the lowest average call waiting time in the survey at just 16 seconds. 

Three is one of the Big Four mobile networks, although its coverage doesn’t match up to its rivals with just 76% of customers being able to connect to 4G. Its average download speeds aren’t the best either, lagging behind both EE and Vodafone. However, what makes Three is the fact it offers a wide range of tariffs with truly unlimited data – something which is harder to come by with other networks, especially MVNOs.

Start comparing Three's mobile phone deals and tariffs by clicking the button below:

Compare mobile phone deals from Three

7. Virgin Mobile

The mobile branch of telecoms giant Virgin Media, Virgin Mobile was ranked the worst mobile network in 2022 by Ofcom, with an overall customer satisfaction score of just 82%. Meanwhile, 85% of Virgin Mobile customers were satisfied with its value for money - in line with the UK average. It scored slight worse when it comes to customers with a reason to complain, however, at 11%. However, just 7 mobile networks were included in the 2022 survey, so the idea that Virgin Mobile is the ‘worst’ network should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Despite being a well-known, respected company, Virgin Mobile isn’t one of the Big Four mobile networks, but was in fact the first MVNO in the UK having been launched back in 1999. It piggybacks off of EE’s network, meaning Virgin Mobile customers can benefit from the above-average download speeds that EE provides. 

Virgin Mobile also offers a wide range of handsets on its tariffs to suit all budgets, something which sets it apart from many other MVNO’s who have a more limited range of models for sale. It’s SIM-only deals are capped at just 50GB, however, but you can get around this by connecting to one of the 2 million or so Virgin Mobile WiFi hotspots dotted around the country.

Compare the best mobile deals and SIM-only tariffs from Virgin Media by clicking the button below:

Compare Virgin Mobile phone tariffs

Who are the worst mobile networks in 2023?

While Virgin Mobile had the lowest overall customer satisfaction score according to Ofcom, it's hard to say exactly who is the worst network overall. As we mentioned previously, the differences between the best rated and lowest rated network providers are fairly minimal. Ofcom's report also doesn't take into account every network out there, just the well-known ones with the highest market share.

Also, what may make a great deal for one customer may not work quite as well for another. Therefore, it's important to compare mobile phone tariffs from a number of networks before choosing the best plan for you.

Make sure your new provider has you covered

The most important thing to consider when looking for a network provider is whether you will have mobile phone signal in the main area that you are using your mobile device. A good standard of customer service is important, but if you have no service to call them then it won’t matter!

Make sure you have checked the coverage of your chosen mobile network before committing to them. Most of the larger providers will have a tool for checking coverage on their website.

Should I switch mobile network provider?

Even if you’re happy with your current mobile network provider, there may still be reasons to switch. If you’ve been with your current provider for a while then you may be paying far more than new customers are being asked to pay. By switching providers you will gain access to deals offered to new customers, so be sure to shop around regularly for cheap mobile deals.


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Danny Lord

Author: Danny Lord

Danny is our Editor-in-Chief, and has been writing news and guides for comparison sites for the last five years.

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