EE review: High speeds and superb coverage, but watch the price
EE is the UK’s biggest 4G mobile network, formed when T-Mobile and Orange joined forces to create a pioneering 4G super-brand. It’s now owned by BT, although BT has not absorbed it into its BT Mobile brand.
Instead, BT has kept the two separate, using BT Mobile to target families and low-cost deals while positioning EE as the cutting-edge, high-performance network. We still get the Kevin Bacon ad campaigns, an emphasis on media streaming and the latest handsets, but is EE the network to go for if you’re looking for high speeds and excellent coverage?
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 Galaxy S10will set you back £45 per month plus £100 – and that’s with just 1GB of data.
By comparison, iD Mobile will sell you the S10 with 1GB for £33 per month or the iPhone XR from £33.99 a month, though with £60 and £100 to pay upfront respectively.
With Three you’re looking at £44 plus £80 upfront for the Galaxy S10 and £45 a month plus £50 up front for the iPhone, but you’re getting 4GB instead of 1GB on the cheapest tariff. 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 25GB of data for £23 and 50GB for £27, but EE is still undercut by Three, where 30GB costs just £18.
Tesco Mobile and even O2 can be cheaper. EE does the odd extraordinary limited-time deal, but the feeling that it’s a pricey, premium network isn’t entirely undeserved.
EE is the first UK network to offer 5G services, with 20GB, 40GB and 60GB services costing £32, £37 and £47 a month. These also include swappable bonuses, like the ability to stream music or video services without touching your allowance, or free BT Sport (with HDR) for your phone.
|Monthly fee||Data||Texts||Minutes||BT WiFi|
|20GB 5G Smart Sim||£32||20GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|40GB 5G Smart Sim||£37||40GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|60GB 5G Smart Sim||£47||60GB||Unlimited||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 Plans sold with some high-end phones offer 4G+ speeds of up to 90Mbits/sec. 5G will, of course, take this even higher.
Admittedly, coverage for 4G+ (LTE-Advanced) isn’t anywhere near as widespread as regular 4G, so you’ll only benefit from the extra speed this offers in major UK cities.
5G services are rolling out during 2019, but only in London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester to start with, with 10 more cities to follow later in the year.
To be honest, applications that actually need that much speed are thin on the ground; after all, you can stream 4K video on a 25Mbits/sec home broadband connection.
Browse EE’s mobile plans here
In some areas, EE’s standard 4G coverage might be more important, and having the UK’s largest, strongest network will definitely help.
EE dominates RootMetrics’ UK-wide performance tables for the second half of 2018, coming first on all five metrics: speed, reliability, data, calls and texts. 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.
Rollout of the Voice over LTE network means you can get voice calls in most locations across the UK, while access to 4G connectivity is very widespread. Want the fastest speeds almost wherever you are? EE is very much the way to go.
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 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 and Giffgaff offer 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 or Virgin 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 reason why customers generally like EE: it provides a great service with excellent coverage and impressive speeds.
However, there’s also a reason for that less impressive satisfaction/value for money score: you pay a premium for this level of performance.
EE is still the best option if you need bandwidth and lots of it, every day, all day long, but if you’re happy to live with second-best speeds, other networks offer better value.