Tesco Mobile review - valuable for some

By Adrian Vincent - 24 Jan 2024, 19:20 Tesco Mobile review
3.5 / 5
  • Excellent customer support
  • 1 month airtime plans for phone contracts
  • Plenty of options to customise your contract
  • Free EU roaming until 2025
  • SIM only deals are nothing to shout about
  • Powered by O2, who generally have the slowest download speeds
  • Coverage isn’t the best
  • Other MVNOs offer better value

Recent data has revealed Tesco Mobile to be the fifth most subscribed network in the UK, and the 1st most subscribed MVNO. So what exactly makes them so attractive to UK consumers?

For starters, their phone contracts are very flexible. You can customise the upfront cost and device contract length to your liking. Furthermore, airtime plans are 1 month rolling contracts, meaning you can switch up your plan at any time.

However, their SIM only offerings are really nothing special. While you do get free EU roaming, you’ll also get this with many other MVNOs, who are cheaper and offer more data. Although you can’t go exactly wrong with a Tesco Mobile SIM only deal, you can get far better value for your money elsewhere.

As an MVNO, Tesco Mobile has an agreement with O2 to use their network. Unfortunately, as we pointed out in our [O2 review](/networks/o2/review), they do have the slowest download speeds of the 4 major networks. But they happen to make up for it with good coverage, particularly in less densely populated areas. Therefore, expect more or less the same performance with Tesco Mobile.

Tesco Mobile have some attractive family plan offers, particularly for larger families. While the bigger networks seem to be cutting down on incentives for additional plans, Tesco Mobile still seem to be going strong in this regard.

We’re most impressed by Tesco Mobile with their customer support. They consistently rank at the top in Ofcom’s data for fewest complaints. Furthermore, they have some of the highest rated customer reviews on Trustpilot.

In conclusion, while Tesco Mobile isn’t a bad network, we’d say they don’t offer anything particularly standworthy, especially when compared to other MVNO networks. Perhaps you’ll find some value with their Clubcard Price plans, and maybe you prioritise good customer support - but for most people, we think they’ll be more satisfied with the likes of SMARTY and VOXI, who give you more for your money, at the slight sacrifice of slightly less renowned customer support.

Phone contracts are flexible, but average airtime plans

Tesco Mobile phone contracts are incredibly flexible. As well as being able to customise your contract, from upfront cost to data, all airtime plans (branded as “usage contracts”) are 1 month rolling contracts, meaning you can switch or cancel your usage contract at any time you like.

Pay monthly phones are split into two contracts - one for the device, and the other for usage contract. The usage contract is a 1 month rolling contract for data, all of which include unlimited minutes and texts.

Since the usage plan is only a rolling 1 month contract, you are free to cancel it at any time and switch to a different network. Of course, you’ll still need to pay the device contract in such a scenario - if you cancel your usage contract before 24 months, you’ll need to pay the remaining amount of the device contract in full. If you cancel your usage contract after 24 months, you have the option to continue paying the monthly payments for the device contract, or pay it in full.

You won’t have to pay an early termination fee when you cancel your usage contract early. However, you will most likely need to pay an early termination fee if you cancel your device contract early. How the fee is calculated is a bit complex, so make sure you read Tesco Mobile’s dedicated guide.

Tesco Mobile phone contracts include Anytime Upgrade Flex. This allows you to upgrade your device whenever you like. By upgrading, you’ll be taking out another device contract, meaning you’ll still have to pay the monthly payments for your previous device contract, assuming it hasn’t been fulfilled.

You can set the upfront cost when taking out a new phone contract, from as low as £0. You can even set the upfront cost for the full price of the device, meaning you’ll only need to pay monthly payments for the usage contract.

You can set the device contract length, including 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36 months. Since all device contracts are 0% interest agreements, the total amount you pay for the device will remain the same, regardless of the upfront cost or contract length. For example, an iPhone 15 Pro Max device contract with a £0 upfront cost for 36 months will cost £36 per month, for a total of £1296 (£36 x 36 months, + £0 upfront). Similarly, if you chose an upfront cost of £120 for 12 months, the monthly cost will be £98, for the same total of £1296 (£98 x 12, + £120 upfront).

Usage plans range from 3GB to unlimited data, and include unlimited minutes and texts. While not the cheapest, we think the usage plans are reasonably priced and fairly average when compared to other major networks.

Some phones include Clubcard Prices. These are exclusive discounts for Clubcard holders. As well as a discount, your usage plan will be fixed for the entire duration of your device contract, which is typically subject to the December CPI + 3.9% price increase every 1st April. This is currently 7.9%, using the previous December’s CPI of 4% (4% + 3.9% = 7.9%). Note that not all plans are Clubcard Price plans, meaning even if you do have a Clubcard, you won’t get the discount and price freeze for non-Clubcard Price plans. If you don’t have a Clubcard, you can get one instantly, by signing up for free via the Tesco website.

Overall, we are a fan of Tesco Mobile’s phone contracts. They offer great flexibility by including 1 month usage contracts with all plans, in addition to splitting the usage and device into two separate contracts. Plus with 0% interest for the device, you can customise the upfront cost and contract length, while still paying the same amount for the duration of the contract. Furthermore, Tesco Mobile don’t charge a premium for the device - the total cost is relatively the same to what you would find for SIM free on Amazon. However, the usage plans are quite average, and aren’t very competitive - unless you get a Clubcard Price plan, which are quite limited and not included with all phones.

SIM deals aren’t all that special

Tesco Mobile sell SIM only plans for 1, 12 and 24 month contracts, with data ranging from 2GB to unlimited.

All SIMs are powered by O2, and include 5G connectivity at no additional cost.

In addition, Tesco Mobile have promised free EU roaming until 2025. Tesco Mobile previously stated they were going to introduce roaming charges from 2023, but this has been extended several times since.

Plans are subject to price increases every 1st April, using the previous December CPI rate (currently 4%), plus a 3.9% premium. As a result, the total increase this 1st April will be 7.9%. However, select SIM only deals are labelled as Clubcard Prices. If you have a Clubcard, not only will you be able to get a discount with Clubcard Price plans, but there will also be no price increases for the duration of your contract. Note that it’s instant and free to get a Clubcard from Tesco’s website, so make sure you don’t miss out on a potential deal.

The cheapest deal includes 2GB data, and starts from £7.50 per month on a 24 month contract. In all honesty, you can get far better offers elsewhere, for cheaper and with more data. While we couldn’t class Tesco Mobile as expensive, they are not the cheapest - we rank them somewhere in the middle.

One interesting deal we’ve found with Tesco Mobile’s SIM only offerings is the unlimited data Family Pack. It costs £30 per month for you, and an additional £10 per month for up to 4 members. This means if you add 4 family members, your total bill will be £70 per month for 5 unlimited data SIMs, at an average of £14 per month. This is certainly a competitive and attractive offer for larger families. Furthermore, you’re not locked in - it’s only a 1 month contract. The cheapest alternative on another network for a 1 month unlimited data SIM is £16 from SMARTY.

Overall, Tesco Mobile’s SIM only deals aren’t that competitive, but they aren’t overtly offensive either. While you can get a better deal elsewhere, you might find a gem with their Clubcard Price plans, which are switched up every month. In addition, the unlimited data family pack is also a good deal, for those who are able to take advantage of it. While you won’t necessarily go wrong with Tesco Mobile’s SIMs, you’ll probably be able to get a better deal from a smaller network, such as iD Mobile, Lebara and SMARTY.

Network coverage powered by O2

Since all Tesco Mobile plans are powered by O2, you can expect identical coverage, utilising O2’s vast 4G and 5G network.

As we pointed out in our O2 review, although they don’t have the best coverage, they do have a particular focus within smaller towns and villages, including more rural areas.

O2 claim to cover over 99% of the UK population with their 4G network, which is more or less the same compared to the other 3 major networks (Three, Vodafone and EE).

Unfortunately, as a Tesco Mobile customer, you won’t have access to O2 Wifi or O2 Wifi Extra, the latter of which automatically strengthens your signal when within range of an O2 hotspot. However, you will get WiFi calling, which automatically uses 4G or WiFi to improve call quality and reliability (excluding pay as you go).

Tesco Mobile plans also work on select parts of the London Underground, including within tunnels. 4G and 5G is available on parts of the Central and Northern line, and is expected to expand in 2024.

Decent 5G coverage

Tesco Mobile utilises O2 for their 5G network, for more or less similar speeds and coverage.

As mentioned in our O2 review, O2 says they deliver 5G to well over 3,000 UK towns and cities, and added 5G to many additional smaller locations in 2022.

O2 also claim to reach over 50% of the UK population with their 5G network.

5G coverage is available with all Tesco Mobile phone and SIM plans, including pay as you go.

Download speeds aren’t the fastest, but still sufficient for most

As mentioned in our O2 review, multiple independent tests have shown that O2 have the slowest download speeds on average, which is the same performance you can expect with Tesco Mobile.

A recent RootMetrics study scored O2 in last place for overall speed, with 41.9/100 points.

Average download speeds clocked in at 15.5 Mbps. EE was the fastest network at 65.1 Mbps, followed by Three at 34.7 Mbps, and Vodafone at 29.4 Mbps. The report also shows O2 have the slowest median 5G speeds at 75.1 Mbps. Three is the fastest with 202.2 Mbps, followed by EE with 144.6 Mbps, and Vodafone at 131.5 Mbps.

However, while these speeds are the slowest of the 4 major networks, we wouldn’t necessarily class the speed as slow by itself. We doubt you’ll notice slower speeds with Tesco Mobile compared to any other network, particularly with everyday usage. However, if you’re looking for the fastest 5G speeds, then perhaps Tesco Mobile isn’t the network for you - maybe Three or SMARTY (MVNO powered by Three) will be a better match.

Free EU roaming until 2025

Tesco Mobile has promised free EU roaming until 2025. You can use your allowance and roam for free within 48 European destinations at no additional cost.

There is no fair usage policy when it comes to the amount of data you can use from your allowance. However, you must be considered a permanent UK resident.

Tesco Mobile previously announced they were going to introduce roaming charges in 2023, however this date has been pushed back 3 times. We assume this is because O2, who power Tesco Mobile, have not introduced roaming charges themselves, despite the 3 other major networks introducing charges. O2 don’t seem likely to introduce EU roaming charges any time soon, so we expect Tesco Mobile to extend the free date again.

For more information, see our dedicated article on Tesco Mobile roaming.

Extra benefits and discounts with a Clubcard

If you’re a Tesco Clubcard owner, you’ll also get several benefits when taking out a Tesco Mobile contract.

You’ll get 1 Clubcard point for every £1 you spend on your Tesco Mobile plan. These points can be used in the same way as any points collected for grocery shopping, including exchanges for Clubcard vouchers.

In addition, you can use existing Clubcard points to get a discount with select phones and plans.

If you’re a Clubcard Plus subscriber (currently costs £7.99 per month), you’ll also get double data with all plans, at no additional cost.

Select plans and devices are also eligible for Clubcard Prices. As well as a discount, you’ll get a price freeze for the duration of your contract, with no mid-contract price increases.

You can link your Clubcard when signing up for a contract, or by texting CLUBCARD to 28578 from your Tesco Mobile number.

Decent family plans for larger families

Tesco Mobile have 2 different types of incentives for families: Family Perks, and Family Packs (the latter of which we explained earlier under SIM only plans).

Family Perks are available for pay monthly customers who have at least 1 additional plan added to their account.

Every additional plan, including your own, can choose a free Family Perk. Each person can have a different Family Perk, and they can be changed at any time via the Tesco Mobile app or online.

Family Perks are available as long as there is at least 1 additional plan on your account. They will be automatically removed the moment you have no additional plans.

The following list shows the current available Family Perks. Note that the amount you get for each perk depends on the cost of your pay monthly contract (the primary account holder).

  • 250MB - 1GB data
  • 50p - £20 off your bill
  • 500 Tesco Mobile minutes
  • 100 - 500 any time minutes
  • 50 - 200 Clubcard points
  • 75p - £2.25 off Tesco Mobile Insurance (can only be chosen at the start of a contract)

There are 2 useless perks here: The 500 Tesco Mobile minutes perk, and the 100 - 500 any time minutes perk. Since all Tesco Mobile pay monthly plans include unlimited minutes and texts, these perks are redundant. We assume these 2 Family Perks were from a time when unlimited minutes and texts were not included with all plans by default, and simply haven’t been updated since.

Family Packs, as we explained earlier, is a 1 month rolling £30 SIM only plan with unlimited data. Additional unlimited data plans can be added for just £10 per month, with a maximum of 4 additional family members. This means if you add 4 family members, your total bill will be £70 per month for 5 unlimited data SIMs, at an average of £14 per month. (£30 for you, plus £10 x 4 for your family). It’s quite an attractive offer for those who are able to utilise it.

Pay as you go is basic and uncompetitive

Tesco Mobile still offer pay as you SIMs and phones, which include 5G at no additional cost. You can use a PAYG with Rocket Packs for allowances, or be charged at an out of plan rate for the services you use, which will be deducted from any available top up credit.

Rocket Packs can be purchased using your top up credit, and last for 1 month. They include set allowances for data, minutes and texts. If you prefer, you can have a Rocket Pack automatically renew every month with auto top up. This essentially behaves like a 1 month rolling contract.

Price Data Minutes Texts
£7.50 Rocket Pack 2GB 5000 5000
£10 Rocket Pack 10GB 5000 5000
£12.50 Rocket Pack 15GB 5000 5000
£15 Rocket Pack 25GB 5000 5000
£20 Rocket Pack 50GB 5000 5000
£30 Rocket Pack 100GB 5000 5000

You can order a free Tesco Mobile SIM or purchase a pay as you go phone, and add a Rocket Pack at a later date. You are not required to have an active Rocket Pack - you can cancel or change them at any time, without a long term commitment necessary.

If you run out of allowances for the month, you can purchase a new Rocket Pack, however you will lose all existing allowances from the previous Rocket Pack.

If you don’t have a Rocket Pack, you will be charged at an out of plan rate for the services you use.

Overall, Tesco Mobile’s pay as you go offering is very basic with no thrills or extras. Furthermore, you are only limited to 5000 minutes and texts with Rocket Packs - quite a stingy amount, considering most competitors offer unlimited minutes and texts for cheaper. You’re probably better off with a 1 month SIM only plan from a cheaper network, such as SMARTY or Lebara, which generally give you more allowances but at a cheaper price. Unless there’s a specific reason as to why you want to be a Tesco Mobile customer, we suggest you look elsewhere when it comes to pay as you go.

One of the best networks for customer service

While Tesco Mobile are not the cheapest network, you definitely get some of the best customer service for your money, particularly when compared to other networks.

In Ofcom’s latest complaints data, Tesco Mobile had the 3rd fewest complaints, with only 3 complaints per 100,000 customers. Sky Mobile and EE were ranked in 1st and 2nd place, respectively, with 2 complaints per 100,000 customers.

In addition, Tesco Mobile have one of the highest scores for a network on Trustpolit, with 4.6 stars from over 35,000 reviews. Interestingly, O2, who power Tesco Mobile, have one of the lowest, with 1.2 stars from over 12,000 reviews.

To contact customer support you have 3 options: Phone, web chat and social media.

Call centres are open on weekdays from 8am to 9pm, 8am to 8pm on Saturday and 10am to 6pm on Sunday.

Help via social media is available 8am to 8pm on weekdays, and 10am to 6pm on weekends.

Web chat is available everyday, from 7am to 11pm.

Overall, with an abundance of options to contact support, with excellent reviews and few complaints, Tesco Mobile is one of the best networks when it comes to customer service. So while they aren’t the cheapest network, you can almost guarantee peace of mind if something goes wrong.