The UK’s ‘best mobile phone network’ has been revealed but it is not O2, EE, Vodafone or Three

The ‘big four’ mobile phone networks are ‘letting down’ users in terms of value for money and customer service, according to a new study. Consumer championWhich? has revealed that O2, EE, Vodafone and Three each ranked lower than lesser-known rivals.

Those four providers currently service three quarters (76pc) of customers in the UK, according to Ofcom, but Which? say the flexibility of virtual networks keeps mobile costs down and could better support consumers facing a household budget squeeze. Their customers pay on average almost £10 a month for less than big four customers across all contract types.

Three scored the lowest of the big four and received the lowest rating of any network for reliability. Nearly half (45pc) of Three users experienced problems in the past year compared to three in ten (29pc) across all mobile network customers surveyed.

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Despite this, it was actually a network that uses the same infrastructure as Three that came out on top, Wales Online reports. Smarty – a virtual network that offers a monthly rolling SIM-only service – was ranked as the best mobile phone provider. Giffgaff, Plusnet and Tesco were joint second, while the likes of Voxi, Sky, iD Mobile, and Lebara all finished above the big four.

Three scored the lowest out of the ‘big four’

The largest UK network, EE, came 11th out of the 16 providers analyzed with users reporting mediocre customer service, technical support and value for money. The network’s download speeds were the only category to gain it a four-star rating.

Natalie Hitchins at Which? said: “The vast majority of mobile users are with one of the big four providers, but our research suggests consumers could save money during the cost-of-living crisis and get better service by switching to one of the networks challenging their dominance. Anyone looking for a reliable carrier that offers a flexible contract and good value for money should consider one of the virtual networks, who continue to outperform the big four year after year.”

Which? said customers of the big four experienced price hikes of up to 11pc but remained the most loyal, with more than half of EE, O2 and Vodafone users being with the provider for more than five years. Experts warn these longer-staying customers are likely to be paying more than they need to for their phone contract.

An EE spokesperson said: “EE customers enjoy being part of the UK’s biggest and fastest network with more 5G coverage than any other provider. EE has been named the UK’s best network for the past eight years by RootMetrics. We provide the best customer service across the industry reflected in the most recent Ofcom complaints data.”

Three and O2 were contacted for comment.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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