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January 28, 2016updated 30 Aug 2016 3:09pm

Frequent flyer or culture vulture? How to choose a mobile network that’s right for you

List: 6 personality traits and their ideal mobile operator.

By Alexander Sword

There are many different reasons to choose a mobile provider. However, whatever they might claim, there is no single network operator that is the leader across all the different parameters. An operator might have invested more in technology than, say, staff training, meaning that it now boasts the fastest and most advanced network but is hampered by the worst customer service.

Whatever you want from a network, there is probably an operator out there waiting to sell it to you. CBR rounds up the UK’s big players and what they are offering.


1. Frequent flyers

RootMetrics‘s index for mobile network performance found that EE had the best performing network at Heathrow and Gatwick, the UK’s busiest airports. EE also ranked highest at London City airport.

EE’s main strength was in its median download and upload speeds, with a median download speed of 27.3 Mbps and median upload speed of 14.2 Mbps at London Heathrow. At Gatwick EE offered median download and upload speeds of 21.4 Mbps and 18.2 Mbps respectively, while at City Airport the operator provided 11.0 Mbps and 12.8 Mbps respectively.

While EE’s reliability was stronger at Heathrow and Gatwick, Three had the best reliability at London City airport.

Honourable mention: Three, which came second place overall for two out of three of the airports.

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2. City dwellers

Based on a RootMetrics report assessing operators’ performance in 16 of the largest metropolitan areas for the second half of 2015, EE took the larger share of golds, with 12 outright wins across the UK’s cities. It tied in four of the cities, with Three and Vodafone in two and O2 in one.

Three took its tied places in Leeds and Bradford and Cardiff, Vodafone also tied in Leeds and Bradford as well as Manchester, whereas O2 tied in Leicester.

Honourable mention: Three, which had strong performances for network reliability and for calls, tying or winning outright in 13 cities and 14 cities respectively.


3. If customer service is key…

If good customer service is a high priority in your decision-making process, then O2 is probably the right network for you. According to Ofcom’s Quality of Customer Service report for 2015, O2 achieved 80 percent satisfaction with its customer service compared to the average of 72 percent.

In addition, O2 reported 73 percent satisfaction with its handling of complaints, beating the 59 percent rating across all providers.

Vodafone saw an overall satisfaction rate of 69 percent, EE 66 percent and Three 69 percent.

Honourable mention: Virgin Mobile, whose customers reported 78 percent satisfaction in the Ofcom report.


4. Data gobblers

Three is unique among the big four mobile providers in offering an effectively unlimited 4G data plan.

Although the operator’s website suggests an upper limit of 1000GB, this is based on the maximum you would physically be able to download in a month if using your phone constantly.

The provider’s "all-you-can-eat" data plan starts from £15 per month on a SIM-only deal and £28 per month with a handset.

Honourable mention: Vodafone offers 25 GB of data per month in its biggest deals, ahead of both EE and O2 at 20 GB. The lowest possible price for the 25GB deal with a phone is £47 a month. For SIM-only you can get 20GB for £40 a month.


5. "Here we are now, entertain us"

There are two strong contenders for this category, and the best choice depends what type of entertainment you enjoy.

If you want to go out, then O2 is a strong choice. O2 customers gain access to free concert tickets, food promotions, or tickets to sporting events. They can also receive queue jumps and useful perks at other events.

If you prefer to stay in and get things done, then Vodafone is a good option. You can get free deals for Netflix, Spotify or Spygo through Vodafone, meaning that you will have access to a range of content

Honourable mention: O2 wins out because the experiences it offers can’t be found anywhere else.


6. Combo shoppers

BT is set to acquire EE, bringing together the largest fixed telecoms operator with the largest mobile operator.

Combined with BT’s burgeoning presence in the Pay TV market, customers will soon be able to access the quad-play model which has achieved considerable success across the continent. This means Pay TV, broadband, fixed telephony and mobile.

EE customers will of course be best placed to benefit once the merger takes place.

Honourable mention: Vodafone has established its own strong presence in the broadband market, meaning that is another possibility for those who would prefer to have one bill with one provider.


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