EE Coverage & Network: Everything You Need To Know
May 28th, 2015
EE currently brands itself as “the UK’s biggest mobile network”. Find out how their mobile phone coverage compares to rival networks.
Over the past few years, EE has made a name for itself by pioneering 4G technology in the UK. Having been the UK’s first network to launch a 4G service, EE has continued to stay ahead of the curve. For even faster downloads, EE has double-speed 4G coverage in two-thirds of the country (it’s the only UK network to offer such a service). EE has also started rolling out 4G+ (LTE-Advanced) coverage to customers in London. Recently, EE launched Wi-Fi Calling for greater reliability when making a phone call indoors.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at the coverage on EE. We’ll look at EE’s network: where it came from, the types of coverage offered and how speeds on EE compare to rival networks. We’ll also look at the list of MVNOs using coverage from EE, at the traffic management policy on EE’s mobile network and at the level of coverage you can expect when going abroad.
- 1 EE Coverage Checker
- 2 Types of Coverage
- 3 Typical Speeds & Comparison To Rival Networks
- 4 Other Networks Using Coverage From EE
- 5 Throttling & Traffic Management Policy
- 6 Coverage Abroad
- 7 Keeping Your Phone Number
- 8 More Information
EE Coverage Checker
Before you choose a new tariff from EE, we strongly recommend you check the coverage in your area. The easiest way to do this is with EE’s online coverage map. You can enter a postcode to get a prediction of the service in that area. It’s worth testing all of the places where you regularly spend time (e.g. your home, your workplace, your school and university).
Different types of coverage will be colour-coded on the EE coverage map. There’s turquoise for 4G coverage, purple for 3G coverage and pink for 2G coverage. For calling and texting, any type of coverage will be suitable. However, for browsing the internet and for using applications, we strongly recommend having at least 3G or 4G coverage.
Remember: the level of coverage shown on EE’s maps is only a guide based on computer predictions. Various other factors are able to affect real-world coverage. For instance, customers living in a basement may get poorer coverage than indicated on the map. For this reason, it can sometimes be worth trialling the service out with a free Pay As You Go SIM card. The Pay As You Go SIM card from EE can be placed in any unlocked smartphone to get an indication of real-world coverage.
For more information on comparing coverage between networks, see our in-depth guide to mobile network coverage checkers.
Types of Coverage
EE currently has three types of mobile coverage:
- 2G coverage (99%). 2G is the oldest type of mobile network in use today. 2G technology is mainly used for calling and texting but it also allows you to perform some basic browsing (2G is roughly the speed of dial-up internet). Having a strong 2G network is still vitally important: it gives your phone a reliable fall-back for when the 3G and 4G networks aren’t available.
- 3G coverage (98%). 3G will allow you to make phone calls, to send text messages and to browse the internet. Generally, 3G coverage will give you fairly decent download speeds (roughly comparable to a basic broadband connection). For anyone with a smartphone, we strongly recommend having at least 3G coverage in your area.
- 4G coverage (93%). 4G is the newest type of mobile network technology. It gives much faster download speeds compared to 2G and 3G. This means you’ll get a much smoother experience when browsing the internet and using applications.
In addition to the normal mobile coverage, EE also has wi-fi calling support on compatible smartphones and tariffs. For customers living in London, there’s also wi-fi connectivity when travelling on the Tube.
The current-day EE 2G network was formed from the merger of Orange and T-Mobile. EE claims 99% population coverage for their 2G service. Nowadays, the 2G network is mainly used as a fall-back for when 3G and 4G coverage aren’t available in an area.
The 2G service on EE uses GSM technology at 1800MHz.
Check 2G Coverage on EE »
(You’ll need to enter your postcode and click the ‘2G’ option on the left)
EE has a 3G network with approximately 98% population coverage across the UK. The 3G network allows customers to call, text and browse. As with EE’s 2G network, the 3G network was also formed from the merger of Orange and T-Mobile. EE currently has an agreement with Three to share their 3G masts.
In common with other UK networks, the 3G service on EE uses HSPA technology at 2100MHz.
Check 3G Coverage on EE »
(You’ll need to enter your postcode and click the ‘3G’ option on the left)
EE currently has the widest 4G coverage of any network in the UK. As of October 2015, EE claims 93% population coverage for their 4G service. This compares to approximately 60% on EE’s nearest rival.
EE’s 4G service mainly makes use of 1800MHz spectrum (band 3 LTE). However, 800MHz (band 20 LTE) is also used for coverage in rural areas (the lower frequency spectrum gives extended range). In London, high-frequency spectrum at 2600MHz (band 20 LTE) is used to augment 1800MHz. The higher-frequency spectrum is used for 4G+ to increase data capacity and maximum download speeds.
Double Speed 4G and 4G+
In addition to having the widest 4G coverage, EE also has faster forms of 4G coverage compared to rival networks.
EE’s double-speed 4G service currently has 75% population coverage across the UK. With normal 4G, you’re able to download at typical speeds of 12-15Mbit/s. With double-speed 4G, typical download speeds are boosted up to 24-30Mbit/s. Double-speed 4G is only available on compatible smartphones. You’ll also need to have a 4GEE Extra tariff.
For customers living in London, even higher speeds are available on the 4G+ or LTE-Advanced service (sometimes known as 4.5G). With 4GEE Extra and a compatible smartphone, you’re able to obtain maximum download speeds of 90Mbit/s. By the end of June 2015, EE plans to have 4G+ coverage in most of London. Going forward, the aim is to roll out 4G+ in “twenty of the UK’s busiest cities”.
4G Voice (VoLTE)
At present, EE is yet to launch their 4G Voice service in the UK (VoLTE). In common with other UK networks, your phone needs to fall back to either 2G or 3G coverage when you’re making a phone call. This can add a short delay of one or two seconds before the phone call is connected. EE plans to launch their 4G Voice service later this year.
At present, EE is the only UK network to offer wi-fi calling. With wi-fi calling, you’re able to make and receive phone calls using your normal EE number on a wi-fi internet connection. It’s highly beneficial for people who suffer from poor coverage (e.g. for people living in rural areas or in a basement flat with poor coverage). Wi-fi calling will also allow you to make and receive phone calls on the London Underground.
For customers with an iPhone on EE, your handset will need to run version 8.3 or later of the iOS operating system. With Android and Windows Phone, the Wi-Fi Calling service will only work on handsets provided by EE.
Rival networks don’t currently offer a wi-fi calling service. Alternatives do exist but they require separate applications: there’s Tu Go on O2 and inTouch on Three. While Tu Go and inTouch work on more devices, the applications are slightly less reliable. They’ll also cause your call and message histories to be siloed. As wi-fi calling uses your smartphone’s native interface, the problem won’t exist when using wi-fi calling. Vodafone plans to launch a wi-fi calling service of their own in summer 2015.
For more information on EE’s wi-fi calling service, please read our full in-depth review.
Wi-Fi On The London Underground
Customers on EE are also able to access wi-fi when travelling on the Underground. The wi-fi service is currently available in 150 stations. They make up over a half of all stations on the Underground (most Central London stations are covered by the service). Wi-fi is available in station ticket halls, corridors and platforms (it isn’t available when passing through the tunnels).
Customers on EE Pay Monthly qualify automatically for wi-fi on the Underground. Meanwhile, customers on EE Pay As You Go will need to have topped up their phone by at least £5 in the past 30 days. Each customer is able to connect a maximum of three devices to the wi-fi service. To gain access, you’ll need to text EEWIFI to 9527. EE will then send you a text message with a password for the service. It’s only necessary to log in once on each device (it should automatically remember you in the future).
A full list of stations with underground wi-fi coverage can be found on the Virgin Media website.
Typical Speeds & Comparison To Rival Networks
In the UK, several organisations have carried out an independent analysis of the coverage on each network. In general, EE tends to do fairly well in these head-to-head comparisons. In three out of the four of the latest studies, EE emerges as the UK’s fastest network.
Ookla’s NetIndex measures average connection speed for thousands of ISPs all across the world. In the UK, average download and upload speeds are tracked for the major networks. Based on 600,000 speed tests between April 26th 2015 and May 25th 2015, EE currently has the fastest speeds of any UK network.
|Mobile Network||Average Download Speed||Average Upload Speed|
Comparison of average download and upload speeds as reported by users of the SpeedTest.net mobile application. Source: Ookla NetIndex [1, 2]. Based on 605,516 speed test results from the 26th April to the 25th May 2015.
The data in NetIndex is collected from users of the SpeedTest application (available on iPhone, Android and Windows Phone). Crucially, all speed tests are manually initiated by users of the application. Furthermore, the app is mainly used by enthusiasts and a speed test is often more likely on a 4G connection. Because of this, the average speeds stated by NetIndex may not be totally representative of the speeds you’ll get. Speeds may also differ depending on the handset used to take a speed test.
Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator, recently carried out an analysis of 4G download speeds in five major cities (Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Newcastle and the Poole/Bournemouth area). Speed tests were systematically carried out at the same location on all four networks. The same device was used for all measurements: a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.
Based on the data from Ofcom, EE currently has the fastest 4G network available in the UK. They’re followed by Vodafone in second-place and O2 in third-place. Three has the slowest 4G network according to the Ofcom analysis. Data was collected from October 2014 to December 2014.
|Mobile Network||Average Download Speed||Average Upload Speed|
A full copy of the report can be found on Ofcom’s website. The Galaxy Note 3 is a Category 4 LTE device. It supports double-speed 4G but doesn’t support 4G+. For this reason, it may under-represent the possible speeds with a 4G+ smartphone in London.
OpenSignal is an app for iPhone and Android that measures coverage and average download speeds. The app will automatically perform measurements in the background. It then sends this data to OpenSignal who are able to combine it to build a nationwide picture of coverage.
According to the OpenSignal UK Networks Report, EE has the widest 4G coverage of any UK network. Customers typically spend more than half their time using 4G coverage. This compares to approximately one-third of the time on O2 and Vodafone and approximately one-fifth on the Three network. According to OpenSignal, Vodafone is the fastest network for 4G. Three is the fastest for 3G.
|Mobile Network||% Time Spent on 4G||Average 4G Download Speed||Average 3G Download Speed|
Comparison of the % time spent on 4G, the average 4G download speed and the average 3G download speed. Source: Opensignal UK Network Report. Data was collected from 39,294 users from July 2014 to September 2014.
The data in the OpenSignal networks report was collected from July 2014 to September 2014. Data was collected from nearly 40,000 users of the application. Crucially, as all measurements are conducted by the application automatically in the background, average speeds should be more representative than those in Ookla’s NetIndex.
RootMetrics is a private company that collects data on mobile coverage and download speeds. In the second-half of 2014, they conducted a field test in 16 UK cities. The data has gone towards producing the Rootmetrics report on 4G in the UK.
According to Rootmetrics, EE has the widest 4G coverage of all networks in the UK (nearly 80% of all time was spent on 4G). EE also has the fastest download speeds in 14 out of 16 cities. The typical download speed for EE in London is 23.1Mbit/s.
|Mobile Network||% Time Spent on 4G||Average Download Speed|
Comparison of the % time spent using 4G and the average download speed in three major cities. Source: Rootmetrics report. Data was collected in the second-half of 2014.
For more information, it’s worth taking a look at the Rootmetrics report. In particular, there’s an interactive chart at the bottom of the page where you’re able to compare the speeds in each city.
Other Networks Using Coverage From EE
EE doesn’t just provide the coverage for their own service. Numerous other networks, including BT Mobile and Virgin Mobile, piggyback on EE to provide the coverage for their service. At the time of writing, 12 other mobile networks use coverage from EE. Collectively, they’re known as EE MVNOs (they’re ‘mobile virtual network operators’ that use EE as a coverage provider).
Most EE MVNOs only provide 2G and 3G coverage. BT Mobile is the one exception: they have 4G SIM cards from £5/month for customers who have BT Broadband installed at their home. Customers on BT Mobile are only able to access EE’s basic 4G network. Double-speed 4G and 4G+ (LTE-Advanced) are currently reserved for EE Pay Monthly customers on a 4GEE Extra tariff.
Wi-Fi Calling is also restricted to EE Pay Monthly customers with a Wi-Fi Calling compatible smartphone. Wi-Fi on the London Underground is available to customers on EE, Orange, T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile.
|EE: 4GEE Extra PAYM||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔||Check EE Coverage|
|EE: Other Pay Monthly||✔||✔||✔||✘||✘||✔|
|EE: Pay As You Go||✔||✔||✔||✔*||✘||✘**|
|ASDA Mobile||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘||Check ASDA Coverage|
|BT Mobile||✔||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||Check BT Coverage|
|Co-Operative Mobile||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘||Check Co-op Mobile Coverage|
|Delight Mobile||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘||Check Delight Coverage|
|LIFE Mobile||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘||Check LIFE Mobile Coverage|
|Orange||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘***||Check Orange Coverage|
|Post Office Mobile||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘||Check Post Office Mobile Coverage|
|The People’s Operator||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘||Check People’s Operator Coverage|
|T-Mobile||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘***||Check T-Mobile Coverage|
|Vectone Mobile||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘||Check Vectone Mobile Coverage|
|Virgin Mobile||✔||✔||✘||✘||✘||✘***||Check Virgin Mobile Coverage|
The table above shows which type of coverage you’re able to access on EE and EE MVNOs. In order to receive a certain type of coverage, your area will also need to be covered by the service. You’ll also need a compatible smartphone (see a list of double speed 4G handsets, 4G+ handsets and a list of smartphones with Wi-Fi Calling support).
* Double speed 4G is available on EE Pay As You Go to customers who buy an Everything Pack of £15/month or more.
** Wi-Fi Calling isn’t available on EE Pay As You Go. However, wi-fi internet on the Underground is available to Pay As You Go customers who top up their phone by at least £5/month.
*** Customers on Orange, T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile won’t have access to Wi-Fi Calling. They will however, still have access to wi-fi on the Underground.
Throttling & Traffic Management Policy
EE has a traffic management policy for their mobile network. The traffic management policy is generally fairly light: there are no real restrictions relating to heavy users and you’re able to use up all of the data on your plan.
The main restriction is a speed limit on P2P services (this is for file-sharing services such as BitTorrent). From 8am to 2am daily, P2P traffic is throttled to 50kbit/s. Outside these hours, P2P traffic is limited to 1.8Mbit/s. The other restriction is a block on unauthenticated SMTP e-mail servers. This reduces the likelihood of the EE service being used for spam e-mail. The block is highly unlikely to affect normal users (most mobile networks now block unauthenticated SMTP).
Tethering or portable hotspot is permitted on all tariffs from EE. This includes both Pay Monthly contracts and Pay As You Go tariffs.
Traffic Management on EE MVNOs
If you’re choosing to take a service from an EE MVNO (e.g. BT Mobile or Virgin Mobile), a different traffic management policy will apply to your service. The majority of EE MVNOs won’t allow you to tether on their service. Two key exceptions are ASDA Mobile and the Co-operative Mobile: both networks will allow you to tether on their service.
At the time of writing, EE has mobile roaming agreements with networks in 206 other countries and territories. This means if you’re travelling abroad, it should normally be possible to roam on your EE SIM card. The costs of roaming can be seen on the EE website.
In most countries, you’re able to roam with 2G and 3G coverage. 4G roaming is currently available in 16 selected countries: Belgium (on Mobistar), Canada (on Rogers), France (on Orange), Germany (on T-Mobile), Italy (on TIM), Luxembourg (on Orange), Moldova (on Orange), Netherlands (on KPN), Norway (on Telenor), Poland (on Orange), Portugal (on Optimus), Russia (on MTS), Saudi Arabia (on Mobily), Spain (on Orange), Switzerland (on Swisscom) and the United Arab Emirates (on Etisalat).
Coverage Abroad on EE MVNOs
For MVNOs such as BT Mobile and Virgin Mobile, coverage may differ when travelling to other countries. MVNOs will typically have a choice of three options: they can piggyback on EE for roaming, they can set up their own individual roaming agreements or they can join a roaming hub to save the hassle of making bilateral agreements. You should check directly with your MVNO if you’d like to find out the coverage they offer in other countries.
Keeping Your Phone Number
If you’re switching to EE to take advantage of better coverage, it’s a straightforward process to bring your existing phone number.
Start by ordering your new phone or SIM card from EE’s website. For maximum download speeds, you’ll need to choose either a double-speed 4G or 4G+ handset. For Wi-Fi Calling, you’ll also need one of the compatible smartphones listed here.
Once you’ve ordered the new smartphone from EE, contact your old network and ask them for a PAC Code. A PAC Code is nine-digits long and authorises the transfer of your phone number to EE.
After receiving the new phone or SIM card from EE, you can head over to this online form. Here, you’ll be able to submit your PAC Code to EE. Once you’ve given them the PAC Code, the phone number transfer normally takes place on the next working day.
For a step-by-step guide on moving your phone number to EE, please select your current mobile network from the dropdown menu below:
|PAC Code Finder: Transfer Your Phone Number to EE|
If you’re moving to an EE MVNO (e.g. BT or Virgin Mobile), our PAC Code Finder can give you step-by-step instructions on how to take your phone number.
My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.
Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.