EE review - great coverage and download speeds, but at a cost

By Adrian Vincent - 16 Jan 2024, 21:23 EE review - great coverage and download speeds, but at a cost
3.5 / 5
  • Best coverage throughout the UK
  • Fastest average download speeds
  • Excellent customer support with UK and Ireland only call centres
  • Ridiculously expensive
  • Speed caps with over 50% of plans
  • No free EU roaming

EE has built a reputation for being the most expensive network in the UK. However, at the same time, they are also known as the network which has the best coverage and fastest download speeds.

And in our review, we’ve found these 2 statements to be mainly true. While the amount of data and extras you get for your money doesn’t offer the best value, EE has consistently proven in independent tests to be the fastest network with the best coverage availability.

However, we do feel that EE are slightly abusing their dominant position as the most subscribed network in the UK, by offering very uncompetitive deals, many of which include restrictive features.

For example, over 50% of their SIM only deals include speed restrictions, including 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps caps. The only other major network which has speed restrictions is Vodafone, but even then it’s limited to a few unlimited data plans.

On top of that, you don’t even get free EU roaming for your money. You’ll have to pay £2.29 per day just for the privilege.

On the other hand, EE have excellent customer support, with UK and Ireland call centres only. They also have the joint fewest complaints with Sky Mobile, in Ofcom’s latest complaints data.

So all in all, recommending EE to everyone is probably not what we’re going to conclude with - if you value best-in-class customer service with great coverage and download speeds, and you can afford to spend a pretty penny, then EE is probably the ideal network for you.

However, during the ongoing cost of living crisis, is it really smart to be spending so much, when there are far cheaper alternatives that sacrifice a few benefits? Probably not, in our opinion. While EE are the fastest network with the best coverage, that doesn’t mean other networks are bad in this regard - Vodafone and Three are only slightly behind, which frankly negligible difference.

Expensive phone contracts, but you get what you pay for

Similar to the 3 other major networks, EE offers flexibility with their phone plans, splitting the airtime plan and device plan into 2 separate agreements.

You can choose your upfront cost, starting for £30 for more premium devices (like the iPhone 15 and Samsung Galaxy S23) or from £0 for low to mid range devices.

However, unlike with O2 and Vodafone, you can only choose 24 or 36 months for the device contract. Furthermore, the airtime plan is for 24 months only, with no other options.

Airtime plans include 5GB, 25GB, 125GB and unlimited data, with unlimited minutes and texts for all plans. Unfortunately, you can’t specify the exact amount of data you want, which is something you can do with many other networks.

For each data option, you can choose an Essentials plan or the All Rounder plan. There are a few more to choose from with unlimited data plans.

Essentials plans are restricted with a 100 Mbps speed limit, whereas the All Rounder plan has no speed limit and also includes 1 Inclusive Extra (choose from Apple Music, Roam Abroad Pass and more - we’ll talk about this in detail further down).

With unlimited data plans, you can choose an Essentials plan (100 Mbps speed limit), Essentials Max plan (no speed limit), All Rounder plan (no speed limit and 1 Inclusive Extra) or Full Works plan (no speed limit and 3 Inclusive Extras).

Data Plan Speed limit Inclusive Extra Price
5GB Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £25
5GB All Rounder No limit 1 £31
25GB Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £27
25GB All Rounder No limit 1 £33
125GB Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £30
125GB All Rounder No limit 1 £36
Unlimited Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £35
Unlimited Essentials Max No limit 0 £38
Unlimited All Rounder No limit 1 £41
Unlimited Full Works No limit 3 * £48

/* Interestingly, if you choose an iPhone, the Full Works plan does not include 3 Inclusive Extras - instead, you’ll get Apple One and Roam Abroad Pass, without the option to choose.

If you have EE broadband at home, EE will give you unlimited data for all phone contracts under your account. Your phone plan will stay the same - for example, if you’re on an Essentials plan, you’ll still have the 100 Mbps speed limit.

You should be aware that EE increases the airtime cost every March, using the CPI rate (Consumer Price Index) plus 3.9%. The cost of the device plan will remain fixed, and will not increase during your contract.

If you have an existing phone, tablet or smartwatch, you can take advantage of EE’s generous trade in offer, when taking out a new phone contract. EE will buy your existing device and pay you directly into your bank account. You’ll get an immediate quote after answering a few questions online. If you accept the offer, EE will deliver you a prepaid envelope to send your device in. This is very similar to Vodafone’s trade-in scheme, except you don’t have the option for the money to be applied to your account or used towards a monthly discount for your contract. Instead, the money can only be sent to your bank account.

EE phone plans do not include free EU roaming. However, with All Rounder and Full Works plans, you can choose the Roam Abroad Pass as one of your Inclusive Extras, which allows you to roam in the EU and 5 international countries (USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand) at no additional charge.

Device Care Extras, included with all plans, gives you a £10 discount on cases and screen protectors from the EE store.

You’ll also get Annual Device Check-up, which is an in-store health review of your phone, including checks for battery, storage, apps and OS updates. As the name suggests, you can use this service once per year. You can book an appointment via the EE website.

For extra peace of mind, all EE phone contracts include Extended Warranty. As long as you have an airtime plan for your device, EE will extend the manufacturer’s warranty for your phone, and will repair any manufacturer defects. This doesn’t cover any other damage, such as accidental damage or misuse.

Overall, while EE do give you plenty of additional extras and freebies thrown on top, they are still one of the most expensive networks for phone contracts. However, as we’ll discuss later on, EE have some of the best coverage throughout the UK and excellent customer service - so you get what you pay for, as the saying goes.

EE’s SIM only deals offer poor value for money

EE SIM only deals include 1 month, 12 month and 24 month contracts, with 2GB, 5GB, 25GB, 125GB and unlimited data options. All include unlimited data and texts.

Although EE SIM only deals and phone contracts have similar plans with shared features, there are some differences, including in cost.

Essentials plans include Essentials, Essentials Unlimited and Essentials Unlimited Max. All come with 100 Mbps speed limits, except the Essentials Unlimited Max plan, which has no speed restrictions.

All Rounder and All Rounder Unlimited plans come with 1 Inclusive Extra, with no speed restrictions.

No Frills and No Frills Unlimited are the most basic of plans offered by EE. They include a rather slow 10 Mbps speed limit, which basically negates the benefit of 5G. Furthermore, you don’t get any extras or benefits.

Full Works plans include 3 Inclusive Extras and no speed cap.

Contract length Data Plan Speed limit Inclusive Extra Price
1 month 2GB No Frills 10 Mbps 0 £18
1 month 5GB No Frills 10 Mbps 0 £20
1 month 25GB No Frills 10 Mbps 0 £23
1 month 125GB Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £28
1 month Unlimited Essentials Unlimited 100 Mbps 0 £33
1 month Unlimited Essentials Unlimited Max No limit 0 £36
12 months 2GB No Frills 10 Mbps 0 £16
12 months 25GB No Frills 10 Mbps 0 £22
12 months 25GB Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £25
12 months 125GB Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £27
12 months 125GB All Rounder No Limit 1 £33
12 months Unlimited Essentials Unlimited 100 Mbps 0 £32
12 months Unlimited Essentials Unlimited Max No limit 0 £35
12 months Unlimited All Rounder Unlimited No limit 1 £38
12 months Unlimited Full Works No limit 3 £45
24 months 2GB No Frills 10 Mbps 0 £14
24 months 5GB Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £20
24 months 25GB Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £16
24 months 25GB All Rounder No limit 1 £29
24 months 125GB No Frills 10 Mbps 0 £22
24 months Unlimited No Frills Unlimited 10 Mbps 0 £27
24 months Unlimited Essentials 100 Mbps 0 £30
24 months Unlimited All Rounder Unlimited No limit 1 £36
24 months Unlimited Full Works No limit 3 £43

For every additional SIM added to your EE account, you can get 30% off for the duration of the contract.

You should be aware that EE increases the cost of SIM only contracts every March, using the CPI rate (Consumer Price Index) plus 3.9%.

To be blunt, EE’s SIM only offerings are ridiculously expensive. For example, a 1 month contract with unlimited data and no speed cap costs £36 per month. Bear in mind you don’t even get additional benefits for this price.

You can get the same deal for £16 per month with Talkmobile, SMARTY and iD Mobile. That means you’re paying a whopping 125% more with EE.

Furthermore, we don’t like that more than half of EE SIM only plans come with speed limits. It seems like a tactic to upsell higher cost plans, rather than give consumers choice.

Still number one for network coverage

EE is often regarded as the best UK network for coverage and download speeds. And according to recent independent tests and statistics, this still appears to be true.

In Ofcom’s Connected Nations report, the UK regulator found EE to have 85% 4G geographic coverage, which is more than O2, Three and Vodafone. This figure equates to 4G coverage for more than 99% of the UK population.

In addition, RootMetrics has awarded EE best network for 10 years in a row.

EE claims to have built more than 500 new 4G sites in rural areas during the last 12 months, and plans to build many more by the end of 2024.

In late October 2021, Ofcom cleared EE to use the low frequency 800MHz spectrum, which has been activated across 1,000 EE sites within the UK. The low spectrum allows for improved 4G coverage and download speeds. EE claims the activation has resulted in an extra 5,000 square kilometres of 4G access across the UK, delivering 4G to 500,000 homes that were previously unattainable.

As for 5G, EE says they cover all major towns and cities, and have recently added an extra 19 locations for superfast connectivity.

Perhaps surprisingly, a recent Opensignal report states Three has the best 4G network for availability. However, EE wins the award for most consistent connectivity.

As for general availability, EE comes in second place at 98.5%, just beaten by Three at 99.1%. For reference, Vodafone came in 3rd place at 97.5%, with O2 in last at 97.3%.

Best 5G availability throughout the UK

For 5G availability, Opensignal’s September 2023 report for Mobile Network Experience positions EE in first place at 10.6%. Three comes in second place at 10.3%, with O2 in 3rd at 10.1%, followed by Vodafone in last place with 10%.

While these numbers might seem low, it’s important to note that 5G is still a new technology that is being gradually rolled out throughout the UK. Similar numbers to 4G availability will likely take at least a decade of progress.

As of writing, EE’s 5G network is available within 1,000 towns, cities and villages across the UK. You're likely to see 5G in areas with high population density, compared to more rural and remote areas, which even struggle to get 4G connectivity.

Fastest average download speeds, but not the fastest 5G network

EE has consistently been shown to have the fastest average download speeds across the UK.

In RootMetrics’ latest report, EE had by far the fastest median download speeds, clocking in at an impressive 65.1 Mbps. At nearly half the speed, Three came in second place with 34.7 Mbps, followed by Vodafone at 29.4 Mbps, and O2 in last place with 15.5 Mbps.

This means EE is roughly 320% faster when compared to O2, using median download speeds.

The result takes into account speeds across 4G and 5G. However, when looking at 5G specifically, the report tells a slightly different story.

Three takes pole position for fastest median 5G download speeds, coming in at 202.2 Mbps. However, EE comes in second place, taking the silver crown with a still impressive 144.6 Mbps. Vodafone ranks 3rd at 131.5 Mbps, followed by O2 with 75.1 Mbps.

In conclusion, while EE do not have the fastest 5G speeds, they have the fastest average download speeds across the UK, when taking 4G and 5G into account.

WiFi Coverage Boost automatically improves connectivity

Similar to O2 Wifi Extra, WiFi Coverage Boost from EE introduces over 150,000 WiFi hotspots across the UK, including the London Underground, providing improved connectivity and faster speeds for all EE plans.

When in reach of an EE hotspot, your phone will automatically and seamlessly connect to the hotspot, as long as the connectivity is stronger compared to the current 4G or 5G signal you have.

The process is entirely automatic and doesn’t require you to intervene. You won’t even get a notification when it happens, so you won’t be disturbed.

When connected, all calls and data will use the hotspot, which should improve call quality (WiFi calling) and download speeds, respectively.

Most modern smartphones sold within the past 5 years should work with WiFi Coverage Boost. You don’t need to download a separate app, however for best availability, make sure you have the latest OS update installed on your phone.

Apple devices will connect automatically. If you have an Android phone, you will need to manually connect to an EE hotspot initially (named “EE WiFi-Auto) - consecutive connections will then be automatic.

WiFi Coverage Boost works will all pay monthly plans. It also works with pay as you go plans, as long as you’ve topped up with £5 within the last 30 days, or have an active Subscription Pack.

Stay Connected Data provides free unlimited data for all plans, with a catch

Stay Connected Data allows you to continue using mobile data when you run out of your regular allowance, free of charge. However, you’ll be limited to a 0.5 Mbps speed cap.

For Essentials and All Rounder plans taken out after 17 August 2022, you’ll get Stay Connected Data included at no additional cost.

Although there are no limits on how much you can use, the 0.5 Mbps speed limit is quite restrictive. For example, you won’t have a great time streaming Netlifx or YouTube - you’ll end up buffering and loading for the majority of the time. However, it’s ideal for apps like WhatsApp, Google Maps and Facebook Messenger, which don’t require fast internet speeds.

Regular download speeds will resume once your allowances renew during the next month. Alternatively, you buy a data add-on, or receive data as a gift (which we’ll talk about in the next section).

Add additional plans with Family Account for a 30% discount

Family Account allows you to add additional plans for family members to your account, for a 30% discount with SIM only deals and a 10% discount for phones or tablets. Added plans must be Essential, All Rounder or Full Works plans.

Additional plans are also referred to as Multi-Line Discounts.

As well as a discount, you’ll also be able to gift data to any of the additional plans added to your account, with Data Gifting. Only the primary account holder can gift data to other plans. Multi-line discount plans cannot gift data to other plans, including to the account holder.

You can gift data in increments of 500MB. If you have an unlimited data plan, the maximum amount of data you can gift per month is 100GB.

You can also set up parental controls with additional plans added. You can choose to block premium rate calls and texts, as well as in-app purchases.

Inclusive Extras can get you free Netflix and Apple Music

Inclusive Extras are similar to Vodafone’s Xtra benefits. You can add services to your plan, like Apple Music and TNT Sports, with free Inclusive Extras included with your plan, or at a monthly cost.

All Rounded plans include 1 Inclusive Extra, and Full Works plans include 3 Inclusive Extras. They last for the length of your airtime plan.

Full Works plans for iPhones do not come with 3 Inclusive Extras - instead, you get Apple One (includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and iCloud 50GB) and Roam Abroad Pass.

If you have an All Rounder plan with an iPhone, you can add Apple One for an extra £5 per month.

EE claims 1 Inclusive Extra is worth £20 per month on average.

If your contract includes Inclusive Extras, you may be limited to which ones you can choose, depending on your plan:

All Rounded Plans (not including iPhones)

  • TNT Sports
  • Netflix
  • Roam Abroad Pass
  • Apple Music
  • Microsoft 365 Personal
  • XBOX Game Pass Ultimate
  • Entertainment Data Pass

All Rounded Plans (iPhone only)

*TNT Sports

  • Roam Abroad Pass
  • Apple Music
  • Apple Arcade
  • Apple TV+
  • Apple One (£5 extra)
  • Microsoft 365 Personal
  • Entertainment Data Pass

Full Works Plans

  • TNT Sports
  • Netflix
  • Roam Abroad Pass
  • Apple Music
  • Microsoft 365 Personal
  • XBOX Game Pass Ultimate
  • Entertainment Data Pass

If you don’t have any Inclusive Extras with your plan (like with Essentials and No Frills plans) or you want more, you can buy additional Inclusive Extras. You can buy them via the EE app under Add-ons, or by texting PICK to 150.

Inclusive Extras included with your account can be changed every 30 days, and paid Inclusive Extras can be cancelled at any time.

No free EU roaming, but there is a work around for some plans

Since mid July 2021, EE charges for EU roaming.

If you have a plan that includes an Inclusive Extra, you can pick the Roam Abroad Pass to continue free EU roaming, which also includes 5 international countries: USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.

If you don’t have a Roam Abroad Pass, you can pay for one for £25 per month.

If you choose not to select or buy a Roam Abroad Pass, you will be automatically charged £2.29 per pay when roaming within the EU.

There’s a 50GB limit per month when roaming in the EU, regardless if you have a Roam Abroad Pass or with the £2.29 automatic charge.

For other countries, you can buy a Travel Data Pass, which varies in price and the amount of data you get, depending on the country you are visiting.

For more information, see our detailed guide on EE roaming.

Pay as you go is quite limited

EE still offer pay as you go SIMs, but not in the traditional sense from many years ago. You’ll need to purchase a Subscription Pack for data, minutes and texts.

If you don’t purchase a Subscription Pack, you won’t be able to use data. However, you can text for 20p per message, and call for 40p per minute, which will automatically be deducted from your top up credit.

Price Data Minutes Texts
£30 125GB Unlimited Unlimited
£20 100GB Unlimited Unlimited
£15 50GB Unlimited Unlimited
£10 20GB 500 Unlimited

All Subscription Packs last for 30 days. They also include a 25 Mbps data speed limit.

Subscription Packs automatically renew using available top up credit. Alternatively, you can set up monthly payments with Subscribe and Save to get a 10% discount every month.

For every 2 packs you purchase, you’ll also get a free Data Boost, which gives you an additional 500MB. In all honesty, this is a very stingy amount, and doesn’t seem worth the incentive.

While not the cheapest, EE’s Subscription Packs are far from the most expensive. For example, the £10 pack with 20GB data is available as a similar offer with Talkmobile, for £6.95 per month. There are no speed limits with Talkmobile, but they do run on Three’s network, which generally doesn’t have the same level of coverage as EE.

Excellent customer service with UK call centres

Unlike with some cheaper networks, all EE call centres are based in the UK and Ireland, open 7 days a week, from 8am to 9pm on weekdays, and 8am to 8pm on weekends.

In Ofcom’s recent complaints data, EE joined Sky Mobile as the network with the fewest complaints, with just 2 complaints on average per 100,000 customers.

However, according to Trustpilot, EE has a 2 star rating (1.8/5 score) with over 15,000 reviews. This is officially rated as “poor”. Despite this, we’ve found many of the negative reviews related to EE’s broadband service, rather than their mobile network.

As well as phone support, EE also has a helpful community forum, where you will find many answers and solutions from EE representatives and other customers.