If you’d like to use your phone or device on a UK mobile network, you’ll need to make sure it supports the relevant frequency bands.

Nowadays, most mobile phones that are sold in the UK are designed to work on all UK networks providing the handset is unlocked. However, if you’re buying a mobile phone from outside the UK or if you’re buying special equipment like a 4G or 5G antenna, it can be useful knowing the frequencies and bands that are in use by each UK mobile network. This will allow you to make sure your device is fully compatible with the network.

In this article, we’ll look at the network frequencies and bands in use on UK mobile networks for 5G, 4G, 3G and 2G coverage. We’ll start with an overview of the market, before looking at each individual mobile network in more detail.

Overview of UK Frequency Bands

In the UK, numerous different frequencies and bands are used to power our mobile networks and to deliver coverage to our devices. To ensure your mobile phone or device will work correctly, you’ll need to make sure it supports the relevant bands and frequencies.

The most important bands and frequencies that your device should support are LTE bands 3, 7 and 20 for 4G coverage, WCDMA 2100 for 3G coverage and GSM 900 & 1800 for 2G coverage. In addition, you’ll need support for 5G NR band n78 if you’d like to access 5G coverage in the UK. Collectively, these are sometimes known as the “core” bands and frequencies in use in the UK.

In addition to the core bands and frequencies, there are numerous other bands and frequencies also in use. If your mobile phone or device has support for these “additional” bands, it may allow you to access coverage in more areas or to obtain faster download speeds on your device.

The following table shows an overview of the bands and frequencies in use across the UK. The most important “core” bands and frequencies are shown in bold: your device will need to support these to get decent nationwide coverage. “Additional” bands and frequencies are shown in italics – it’s optional for your phone or device to support these.

Coverage Provider 5G Bands 4G Bands 3G Frequencies 2G Frequencies
EE 5G NR Band n78 LTE bands 3, 7, 20, 1, 38 2100MHz 1800MHz
O2 5G NR Band n78 LTE bands 20, 1, 3, 8, 40 2100MHz, 900MHz 900MHz
Three 5G NR Band n78 LTE bands 3, 20, 1, 32 2100MHz
Vodafone 5G NR Band n78 LTE bands 7, 20, 1, 3, 8, 32, 38 2100MHz, 900MHz 900MHz

If you’re using a different mobile network besides one of the big four providers, you’ll need to find out which coverage provider they use. For instance, BT Mobile and Virgin Mobile use coverage from EE whereas giffgaff and Sky Mobile use coverage from O2.

You can check the product description or manufacturer’s spec sheet to see which bands and frequencies are supported your device. Note this may sometimes differ depending on where you purchase the device so it’s important you find the details for the exact model of device you’re buying.

Frequency Bands: By Mobile Network

EE Coverage Bands

EEOn EE, your mobile phone or device will need to support band n78 (3500MHz) for 5G coverage and bands 3 & 20 (1800MHz & 800MHz) for 4G coverage. In addition, you’ll need support for 2100MHz to get coverage on 3G and support for 1800MHz to get coverage on 2G.

In lots of urban and suburban areas, EE has additional 4G coverage using band 1 (2100MHz), band 7 (2600MHz) and band 38 (2600MHz) LTE spectrum. Whilst it isn’t strictly necessary that your phone or device supports these extra frequencies, it will give you a more stable connection and higher download speeds in areas where this is switched on.

The following table shows a summary of frequencies and bands that are currently in use on EE:

EE Coverage TypeSupported Bands & Frequencies
5G Coverage
  • 5G NR Band n78 (3500MHz)
4G Coverage
  • LTE Band 3 (1800MHz)
  • LTE Band 7 (2600MHz)
  • LTE Band 20 (800MHz)
  • LTE Band 1 (2100MHz)
  • LTE Band 38 (2600MHz)
3G Coverage
  • 2100MHz
2G Coverage
  • 1800MHz

Check EE Network Coverage (ee.co.uk) →

There are also several other mobile networks that make use of EE coverage. These networks include ASDA Mobile, BT Mobile, Plusnet Mobile and Virgin Mobile. On these networks, you’ll get access to the same 2G, 3G and 4G coverage as customers on EE, with 5G coverage also being available on specific 5G price plans.

The following mobile networks use coverage from EE, and therefore require your phone or device to support EE’s frequency bands:

For more information, please read our full review of the coverage on EE. Alternatively, you can use EE’s coverage checker to see what is available in your area.

O2 Coverage Bands

O2 typically uses band n78 (3500MHz) for 5G coverage, band 20 (800MHz) for 4G coverage, 2100MHz for 3G coverage and 900MHz for 2G coverage.

In addition, there are some extra bands and frequencies also in use on O2 for both 4G and 3G coverage.

On 4G, you’ll find additional coverage in some areas on LTE band 1 (2100MHz), LTE band 3 (1800MHz), LTE band 8 (900MHz) and LTE band 40 (2300MHz). Having a phone or device that’s compatible with these bands should allow you to access more capacity and faster download speeds.

On 3G, additional coverage on 900MHz is available in some areas (mainly in rural locations). O2 uses this lower-frequency spectrum as the 900MHz signal can travel further than the 2100MHz signal.

The following table summarises the frequencies and bands that are currently in use on O2:

O2 Coverage TypeSupported Bands & Frequencies
5G Coverage
  • 5G NR Band n78 (3500MHz)
4G Coverage
  • LTE Band 20 (800MHz)
  • LTE Band 1 (2100MHz)
  • LTE Band 3 (1800MHz)
  • LTE Band 8 (900MHz)
  • LTE Band 40 (2300MHz)
3G Coverage
  • 2100MHz
  • 900MHz
2G Coverage
  • 900MHz

Check O2 Network Coverage (o2.co.uk) →

If you’re using giffgaff, Sky Mobile or Tesco Mobile, you’ll have access to the same coverage as customers on O2. This means your phone or device will need to support O2’s frequency bands to work properly on the service. Other mobile networks using coverage from O2 include the following:

For more information, see our full guide to coverage on O2 or see O2’s online coverage checker to see availability in your area.

Three Coverage Bands

In the UK, Three primarily offers 5G coverage on band n78 (3500MHz), 4G coverage on LTE bands 3 and 20 (1800MHz & 800MHz) and 3G coverage on 2100MHz. The 800MHz band 20 spectrum is only accessible on devices that support 4G Super-Voice on Three.

In addition to the above, Three also has some limited band 1 LTE coverage at 2100MHz. They are also currently in the process of rolling out band 32 supplementary downlink coverage (1500MHz SDL). It isn’t necessary for your phone or device to support both of these bands but it can help you to get better download speeds and performance.

The following table summarises the frequencies and bands in use on Three:

Three Coverage TypeSupported Bands & Frequencies
5G Coverage
  • 5G NR Band n78 (3500MHz)
4G Coverage
  • LTE Band 3 (1800MHz)
  • LTE Band 20 (800MHz)
  • LTE Band 1 (2100MHz)
  • LTE Band 32 (1500MHz)
3G Coverage
  • 2100MHz

Check Three Network Coverage (three.co.uk) →

Customers on iD Mobile, SMARTY and Superdrug Mobile will receive the same coverage as customers on Three. For this reason, your mobile phone or device will need to support Three’s bands and frequencies to work on these mobile networks.

Three doesn’t offer any 2G coverage in the UK.

For more information, see our guide to the network coverage on Three. You can also use Three’s online coverage checker to see what is available in your area.

Vodafone Coverage Bands

On Vodafone, 5G coverage in the UK uses band n78 spectrum (3500MHz). 4G coverage is normally available on band 7 and band 20 LTE (2600MHz & 800MHz), with 3G coverage available at 2100MHz and 2G coverage available at 900MHz.

In addition to the above frequencies, Vodafone has deployed additional 4G coverage in five further bands: band 1 (2100MHz), band 3 (1800MHz), band 8 (900MHz), band 32 supplementary downlink (1500MHz) and band 38 (2600MHz). Having a mobile phone or device that supports these bands will allow you to access further coverage and potentially higher download speeds. There is also some additional 3G coverage available at 900MHz in certain areas.

The following table summarises the frequencies and bands used on Vodafone’s UK network:

Vodafone Coverage TypeSupported Bands & Frequencies
5G Coverage
  • 5G NR Band n78 (3500MHz)
4G Coverage
  • LTE Band 7 (2600MHz)
  • LTE Band 20 (800MHz)
  • LTE Band 1 (2100MHz)
  • LTE Band 3 (1800MHz)
  • LTE Band 8 (900MHz)
  • LTE Band 32 (1500MHz)
  • LTE Band 38 (2600MHz)
3G Coverage
  • 2100MHz
  • 900MHz
2G Coverage
  • 900MHz

Check Vodafone Network Coverage (vodafone.co.uk) →

Customers on VOXI and Lebara Mobile will have access to the same coverage as customers on Vodafone. For this reason, you’ll need a mobile phone that’s compatible with Vodafone’s frequencies and bands.

For more information, see our Vodafone network coverage guide. Alternatively, you can use Vodafone’s online coverage map to see the types of coverage that are available in your area.

More Information

For more information, see our guide to mobile network coverage in UK. You can also read our in-depth guides about mobile coverage on EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

Your Comments 54 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 54 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Hi Ken, this is all really useful thanks. As Three technical couldn’t help me with my question, I wonder if you can? BroadandBuyer appear to warn about the compatibility of their (Poynting brand) external antennae with the frequency/bands used by Three 4G of 1400MHz/Band 32, and if I read yours right, this isn’t likely to be a factor given the frequencies/bands currently in use by Three, as my device should just prefer the 1800MHz/Band 3, 800MHz/Band 20, and 2100MHz/Band 1 – any thoughts please? Thanks in advance for the brainpick, if you have a charity of choice please let me know.

    • Hi James,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, Three mainly uses band 20 (800MHz) and band 3 (1800MHz) for 4G. The band 32 coverage (1500MHz) is just supplementary downlink: it can give you faster speeds if available but is by no means required.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • It would be useful to know how a phone decides on the band it will use for your call.
    Does each phone have a preferred band and then fallback if inadequate signal or automatically choose the strongest and can it change mid call if the band weakens.

    • Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, this will be due to how your mobile network has set up their service. Within the setup for the network, they’ll configure the band priority which your mobile phone will then follow.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,

    Do you know if Three/Smarty permit MiFi data devices to access Band 20? I’ve bought a little ZTE 971v to use in our camper and hoping to use Smarty for their value, but many of our frequented locations only have Band 20 according to cellmapper.

    Cheers

    Paul

    • Hi Paul,
      Great question! As far as I know, you should be able to access band 20 as long as your device is able to support it. That said, I haven’t tried it out myself, so I’d possibly test it out with a one-month SIM card from SMARTY if you want to make sure before you finally sign up.
      Ken

      • Cheers Ken, I actually already have a sim but unfortunately the ZTE device doesn’t show band info to confirm.
        From some other reading people have seen band 20 on LTE routers using three/smarty so I assume the mast can identify a data device and permit it.
        Still a grey area though as and any official info seems to say it needs a VoLTE compatible device. I’ll have to find an area served by a band 20 only mast and test.

Load more comments (47)

Leave a Reply