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A guide to mobile networks

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Mobile phone networks hero image two people using phones

Find out everything you need to know about mobile phone networks in our networks guide.

The sheer range of carriers competing for consumers' business means that the UK mobile phone market is one of the most developed and competitive in the world.

UK mobile phone providers are split between large carriers who've invested heavily in networks and own a network of their own and smaller carriers who rent a network from their larger rivals, which are known as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs).

Here, we look at some of the differences between the largest carriers and give a brief look at what they offer and what distinguishes them from each other.

If you're interested in finding out about smaller network providers, or MVNOs, you may find our guide to MVNOs more helpful.

Not sure if a carrier is an MVNO? Handily, the guide includes a full list of MVNOs and details of which network its service is based on.

The major UK mobile phone networks are:


UK mobile phone network providers

Three was the first UK mobile phone network to offer 3G coverage and now offers extensive 4G and 5G coverage. Traditionally, it has targeted cost-conscious consumers with well priced data plans.


who uses o2 network?

O2 stands out its Rewards customer incentive scheme that entitles subscribers to discounts on high-street purchases, and Priority, which provides priority ticket booking at O2 venues.

It's also known for good customer service and comprehensive coverage. And now that it's joined with Virgin Media to become VMO2, customers who sign up to both Virgin Media and O2 can double their broadband speed or double their mobile phone data.


compare UK phone neworks

Vodafone is one of the oldest UK mobile phone networks and the second largest mobile network operator in the world in terms of number of global subscribers.

In the UK, it's known for its premium range of handsets and contract sweeteners, such as free use of Spotify and Sky Sports Mobile, and the Freebees pay as you go free-minutes and data scheme.


mobile phone network provider EE

EE, which encompasses the now retired T-Mobile and Orange brands, boasts the UK's widest 4G coverage and fastest connection speeds.

EE customers also get free movie rentals through the EE Film Store.

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