EE review: The fastest speeds and the best coverage of any UK network

EE review: The fastest speeds and the best coverage of any UK network

EE is the UK’s biggest 4G mobile network and one of the first to move onto 5G, rolling it out across six of the UK’s biggest cities with another 10 to follow before the end of the year. It’s another bold move from the network formed when T-Mobile and Orange joined forces, and in line with owner BT’s branding of EE as a cutting-edge, high-speed option. Of course, that kind of network doesn’t come cheap, but does EE’s performance justify the extra cost?

EE review: What do you get?

EE is not the place to go to if you’re looking for cheap handsets. At the time of writing the cheapest deal on an iPhone XR is £50 per month over two years plus £150 upfront, while a Samsung GalaxyS10 will set you back £45 per month plus £120, and that’s with just 1GB of data. By comparison, iD Mobile will sell you the S10 with 1GB for £34.99 per month or the iPhone XR from £29.99 a month, though with £99.99 to pay upfront on either.

With Three you’re looking at £44 plus £80 upfront for the Galaxy S10 and £45 a month plus £50 upfront for the iPhone, and that’s with 4GB rather than 1GB on the cheapest tariff. In short, EE’s rarely the cheapest option for a given handset with a given data package.

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EE’s SIM-only deals tend to be more generous, particularly in the upper range, giving you 20GB of data for £21 and 50GB for £24. Yet EE is still undercut by Three, where £20 will net you unlimited data and 30GB costs just £18. Tesco Mobile and even O2 can also be cheaper. EE does the odd extraordinary limited-time deal, but the feeling that it’s a pricey, premium network isn’t entirely undeserved.

There are, however, compensations. First, EE has a nice line in swappable benefits on its high-end packages, giving you the choice of a subscription to Amazon Prime Video or BT Sport, unlimited data or music streaming, video streaming or gaming, or a Roam Further Pass, allowing you to use your allowance in more countries, including the US. Second, EE now has family account facilities, allowing you to add sub-accounts to one account with a 10% discount per additional line and a 1GB boost to allocate. What’s more, you can move any spare data allowance between these accounts using theMy EE app.

EE was the first UK network to offer 5G services, though it seems to have reduced its SIM-only 5Gplans to a single 20GB Smart Plan, which also includes two swappable benefits.

Monthly fee Data Texts Minutes
250MB Essential Plan £13 250MB Unlimited Unlimited
1GB Essential Plan £16 1GB Unlimited Unlimited
3GB Essential Plan £19 3GB Unlimited Unlimited
20GB Essential Plan £21 20GB Unlimited Unlimited
20GB Smart SIM £27 20GB Unlimited Unlimited
50GB Essential Plan £24 50GB Unlimited Unlimited
100GB Essential Plan £27 100GB Unlimited Unlimited
20GB 5G Smart Plan £32 20GB Unlimited Unlimited

EE Review: Coverage and connection speeds

If anything can justify EE’s high pricing, it’s the network’s performance. EE caps its standard 4G service at a speed of 60Mbits/sec – already double the speed of services on some rival networks – while the Smart SIM plans sold with some high-end phones offer 4G+ speeds of up to 90Mbits/sec. 5G takes this even higher, with average speeds of between 100 and 300Mbits/sec and some phones reaching speeds approaching 500Mbits/sec.

What you’ll actually get depends on your coverage. You’re unlikely to see the fastest 4G+ (LTE-Advanced) speeds outside of major UK cities, and while London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester now have 5G (with 10 more cities due to follow during 2019), it might be a while before it reaches your neck of the woods.

One thing’s for certain: EE dominates RootMetrics’ UK-wide performance tables for the first half of 2019, topping the results table for speed, reliability, data, calls and texts, not to mention overall. Coverage is consistently impressive, with Fast or Faster ratings in most places and only a few patches of slow connectivity in coastal and rural areas. The aggregate median download speed across the UK is an impressive 37.6Mbits/sec – far ahead of EE’s nearest rival, Vodafone, at 21.7Mbits/sec.

Meanwhile, EE’s Voice over LTE network means you can get voice calls in most locations across the UK. Want the fastest speeds almost wherever you are? EE is very much the way to go.

Browse EE’s mobile plans here

EE review: Roaming

Like all the major UK operators, EE offers inclusive roaming within the EU plus other states within the EEA and EE’s Europe Zone. If you’re on one of EE’s Smart or Smart SIM plans you can also use the Roam Further swappable benefit to access your data allowance in Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and the United States.

In both cases, a fair usage policy applies, where using more than 15GB will see you hit with further charges of 78p per 100MB. You’ll also need to pay for add-ons to continue using data beyond your normal allowance, although with allowances so generous that’s unlikely to be a problem.

If you use the cheaper EE Essential or SIM-only plans, you can also splash out on a Roam Further Pass at an extra £10 per month to cover the countries mentioned above. This works on a 30-day rolling contract, so you don’t have to be tied in for long.

In other places, or if you don’t want the add-on, roaming gets expensive. Calls tend to be between £1.20 and £1.80 to make or receive with texts at 40p to 60p.

Want data? That’s another add-on at £6 per day for 500MB. If you’re a frequent traveller outside EE’s preferred territories, Three andGiffgaffoffer far cheaper roaming options.

EE review: Other services and spending caps

EE has a handy Wi-Fi calling feature, where you can make calls and send texts over a Wi-Fi connection in places where you might not usually get a signal.

This doesn’t actually save you money in the way that using a Voice over IP app like WhatsApp, Facetime or Facebook Messenger would, as both calls and texts come from your monthly allowance.

However, it means you can make and take calls the usual way, which comes in particularly useful if, say, you live in a remote area or work in a basement office. It’s only supported on specific phones, so check your handset’s supported before you sign up.

EE also throws in some nice extras, including six months of free Apple Music plus a 50GB data boost if you’re also an EE Home broadband customer.

If you’re looking to control your spending, EE makes it relatively easy. Data usage is capped at your allowance and to use more you have to actively purchase a data add-on for between £5 and £20. Parents worried about their offspring burning through more data can simply ask to block additional data purchases.

EE Review: Customer satisfaction

EE is one of the best big networks in terms of customer satisfaction, according to Ofcom’s last report. It came joint second on overall customer satisfaction and had far fewer complaints than its stablemate, BT Mobile, not to mention Vodafone orVirgin Mobile. However, EE does slightly worse on customer satisfaction with value for money, falling behind Three, Tesco Mobile and Giffgaff here.

Browse EE’s mobile plans here

EE Review: Verdict

There’s a good reason why customers generally like EE: it provides a great service with excellent coverage and the best speeds of any UK network. It’s not just faster than rivals by a small percentage; in places the available speed will be double or more. However, you pay a premium for this level of performance, and if you’re not using the network to stream 4K or HD video, or download massive games, you might wonder whether you need it.

If you want bandwidth and lashings of it, then EE is the best network around. Want to be an early 5G adopter? Sign up with EE. But if you’re happy enough to live with second-best speeds, you don’t really need to pay the extra.


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