The network brought LTE to market nearly a year before its rivals (although regulator Ofcom had a hand in it), launched its own TV and Broadband services, and has established one of the best networks in the U.K.. Since then, EE has managed to cultivate a network that covers marginally more of the U.K.’s population than any of its rivals — 99 percent of it — and is leading the way on 5G.
What does the future hold for the youngest-yet-largest operator in the U.K.? Let’s find out in our EE network review!
EE network technology
EE’s network currently uses the following frequencies:
|1800MHz||GSM / GPRS / EDGE / LTE||2G / 4G|
|2100MHz||UMTS / HSDPA / HSPA+ / DC-HSPA+||3G|
EE’s overall network encompasses over 99 percent of the population and over 90 percent geographically — the largest of any U.K. network. EE also boasts wider 4G coverage than any other network (over 99 percent by population).
Along with the spectrum it owned and acquired, EE was granted permission to repurpose its existing 1800MHz spectrum for LTE use and brought out the U.K.’s first 4G network in October 2012 — almost a year ahead of its rivals.
Initially launching in 11 cities, the network took just two years to roll out 4G coverage for over 75 percent of the U.K. population. After reaching 75 percent, the network set about improving its network by launching the U.K.’s first “double-speed” LTE Advanced network (commonly dubbed 4G+) in London, offering theoretical download speeds of up to 300Mbps on the go, though actual speeds top out at around 160Mbps.
The introduction and rollout of 4G LTE Advanced across the country added additional speed for all LTE users. Average EE speeds have generally increased over the years, as has overall coverage. EE has converted some its 2G airwaves to 4G, gradually moving its 1800MHz over entirely to LTE usage. Likewise, EE began converting its 2,100MHZ band for 3G to 4G at over 500 sites covering “high demand” cities like London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow, Cardiff, and more.
EE has committed to offering 95 percent overall geographic 4G coverage by 2020. In March 2018, the carrier said it had filled 12,000 square kilometers of so-called “not-spots” in the space of a year, providing coverage to areas across the U.K. that had no coverage at all.
EE 5G plans
Having dominated the industry with 4G coverage, EE is understandably looking to carry that momentum into the 5G era.
The carrier came out of the first 5G spectrum auction with 40MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum for 302,592,000 pounds. That’s above Three, on par with O2, and only slightly less than Vodafone’s 50MHz haul.
EE has a slight headstart, however, as it already holds a huge 255MHz of spectrum that’s immediately ready for 5G. This gives EE the largest overall share of 5G spectrum, though its existing useable spectrum isn’t as valuable as those in bands being sold as part of 5G auctions.
EE performed the first 5G trial on the 3.4GHz spectrum in late 2018 in Canary Wharf in London. It later launched nine further trial sites in London and has utilized 5G to broadcast the Wembley Cup Final 2018.
EE switched on its 5G network on May 30 with a full rollout coming in the second half of 2019.
The 5G switch has been flipped in six cities — London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, and Birmingham — with a further 10 due to go live later in the year. The latter launch cities are Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.
EE has also stated that the first 1,500 sites that will be upgraded to 5G next year — which will transmit at up to 10Gbps — will carry as much as 25 percent of all data across the whole network. This will cover 15 percent of the U.K. population in total.
As for 5G phones, EE stocks the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung Galaxy Fold, OnePlus 7 Pro, and exclusively sell the Oppo Reno 5G and LG V50 ThinQ in the U.K.. The Huawei Mate X and Huawei Mate 20 X 5G had both been expected to launch on EE as well, but those plans were put “on pause” following the U.S. Huawei ban and other controversies surrounding the Chinese company.
EE coverage checker
You can check to see if EE has the best mobile network coverage for you using the EE coverage checker.
VoLTE and Wi-Fi Calling
Wi-Fi Calling is also supported on pay monthly plans on a similar range of devices. Check here for compatibility.
EE leases its network to over 25 mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the U.K. — the largest total in the country. These include Virgin Mobile, Plusnet Mobile, and its parent company’s own MVNO, BT Mobile.
EE plans and devices
EE’s Pay Monthly (PAYM) plans are split into two categories. The Essential Plans offer a selection of data sizes at varying costs, but EE also offers more expensive Smart Plans if you’re looking for an “anytime” upgrade path and Swappable Benefits (see “EE perks” section for more info). Exact monthly pricing and upfront cost varies depending on the handset.
The cheapest Essential plan comes with 500MB of data at speeds up to 60Mbps, unlimited minutes, unlimited text, and EU roaming included as standard. This can be boosted up to 1GB, 4GB, 10GB, or 60GB at higher tiers.
Things get a little more exciting with the Smart Plans. These all come with unlimited minutes and text, and data packages with either 10GB, 60GB, or 100GB. You can also upgrade your phone at any time after the first 15 days by paying an upgrade fee and enjoy Swappable Benefits.
5G devices, meanwhile, are available on 5G Smart Plans which come with either 10GB, 30GB, 60GB, or 120GB of 5G data, unlimited minutes and texts, and up to three Swappable Benefits.
EE stocks a wide range of phones from a variety of manufacturers on Pay Monthly plans. Below is the full list of the major brands:
- Land Rover
The selection isn’t quite as great on Pay as you go as EE doesn’t sell premium phones SIM-free (online at least). Instead, you’ll find cheaper handsets from Huawei, Alcatel, Sony, Nokia, Doro, Mobiwire, Motorola, and Samsung.
Pay Monthly SIM only
While most consumers buy their phone as part of a monthly contract, some users will buy phones outright or use an existing phone and just get a PAYM SIM. For these customers, networks offer SIM Only (SIMO) plans and the market has become increasingly competitive over the past couple of years.
EE offers 4G SIMO plans with up to 50GB data each month if you’re willing to sign up to a 12 month commitment. EE also offers 5G SIM only plans that go up to 60GB data and come with two Swappable Benefits.
Here’s EE’s current SIMO pricing (subject to change with promos):
|Data||Minutes||Texts||12-month plan cost||Swappable Benefits|
EE does not offer traditional 30-day rolling plans unlike the other major carriers, but it does have Flex Plans that run on monthly payments but don’t have contract periods. These can be switched after a month. Flex Plans offer up to 20GB of data and range in price from 10 to 30 pounds. You can see the full list of Flex Plans here.
Pay as You Go Plans
Like many networks, EE divides its PAYG offering into packs, offering a combination of minutes, texts and data for different purposes. Packs last a month and EE’s retention offer means the longer you stay, the better it gets; every three months, you can add more minutes, texts or data at no extra cost.
In addition, unused Pack data rolls over to the next month on the Everything and Data Pack tariffs. All Packs include EU roaming.
Here’s EE’s PAYG packs:
|Talk & Text Packs|
EE’s offers here have changed quite a bit over the years, with an increasing emphasis on the Everything Packs, no doubt as consumers have gravitated towards packages offer more data while wanting to keep their call allowances. EE PAYG plans offer up to 20GB 4G data and up to 3000 inclusive minutes each month, making them perfect for both the casual user or heavy consumer alike.
Pay Monthly customers on “smart” plans can choose from one of four benefits that can be swapped in and out at any time. Those on the top plan with 100GB of data get to choose two of the four benefits. Here are the current Swappable Benefits:
- Music Data Pass — Stream music on Apple Music, Deezer, and Tidal without using data allowance.
- Video Data Pass — Stream video on YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BT Sport, TV Player and MTV Play without using data allowance.
- BT Sport app — Live and on demand sport from the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Gallagher Premiership Rugby, UFC and more. HDR support is exclusive to 5G Smart Plans.
- Roam Further — Use minutes, texts, and data at no extra cost in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.
With Data Gifting, EE customers can move unused data to family devices under the same account. Family members with EE accounts can be added to the main account to share excess data.
EE customers that have a phone or SIM only plan and selected mobile or home broadband tariffs can get a data boost on their mobile allowance for up to 20GB of data.
My EE app
The My EE app lets users view bills, check allowances and upgrade eligibility, buy add-ons, and more.
EE offers a range of mobile broadband products like USB dongles, Mobile Wi-Fi routers, and data only SIMs.
Here are the data-only SIM plans at time of writing:
|Data||12-month cost||30-day cost|
EE’s main mobile broadband proposition is the 4GEE Router. The 4G hotspot can connect up to 32 devices and is designed for the home as a broadband replacement with average speeds of 31Mb/s. Pricing starts at 40 pounds with data plans ranging from 50GB to 500GB on either 30-day or 18-month plans.
EE will soon offer 5G mobile broadband products including the HTC 5G Hub and a 5GEE Home Router.
Tablets, accessories, and smart home
EE carries tablets on Pay Monthly plans including Apple iPads, flagship Samsung Galaxy Tab devices, and tablets from Huawei.
The carrier also stocks accessories on a separate dedicated website. Listed products include cases, memory cards, screen protectors, chargers, headphones, and more. On the wearable front, EE carries the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch ranges.
EE’s accessories store sells a wide range of smart home products for heating, security, lighting and more from Hive, Nest, Philips Hue, Ring, TP Link, Honeywell, Logitech, and BT. Google Home and Apple HomePod smart speakers are also available, with the former often included in contract deals.
EE contract customers can also take advantage of the Add To Plan proposition which lets consumers buy the latest tech and spread the total cost over 11 months through their existing EE deal. Add on categories include wearables, smart home, audio, charging, and more.
Broadband and quad-play
The rise in demand for mobile services means mobile operators are encroaching on traditional household services like TV, internet and landline telephones. We can’t complete our EE review without looking at these “quad-play” options.
More U.K. content: Best phones under £500 in the U.K.
EE currently offers five broadband packages: Standard, which has average speeds of (10Mbps), Fibre (36Mbps), Fibre Plus (67Mbps), Fibre Max 1 (145Mbps), and Fibre Max 2 (300Mbps). All deals are contracted for 18 months and most require a set-up free of up to 25 pounds. EE phone contract customers also get additional data to use on their main plan.
Let’s take a look at how they compare:
|Package Details||Standard Broadband||Fibre||Fibre Plus||Fibre Max 1||Fibre Max 2|
|Average Broadband speed||10Mbps||36Mbps||67Mbps||145Mbps||300Mbps|
|Contract Length||18 months||18 months||18 months||18 months||18 months|
|Cost (including line rental)||£22/m|
|Additional mobile data||5GB||5GB||5GB||20GB||20GB|
EE also offers broadband plans that include access to Apple TV 4K and BT Sport. These offers are exclusive to existing EE customers on either 12- or 24-month pay monthly plans.
EE network review: The verdict
EE’s network has undergone great transformations since its beginning as a plucky carrier racing ahead with its 4G rollout. It’s become the biggest name in the business and a source of frustration for its rivals. Sure, the national regulator played a crucial role in the network’s growth by allowing it to repurpose existing spectrum and launch 4G ten months before it was physically possible for its rivals to do so, but the growth of the company has been down to focusing on LTE.
This has continued into the 5G era with the carrier being the first to offer 5G phone and SIM plans. However, its rivals are already catching up and Vodafone in particular has undercut EE’s 5G plans on price by a wide margin.
At one point, EE offered horrendous customer services with call centres abroad not offering the level of service desired by customers but things have improved dramatically over the years. In the most recent survey from Ofcom EE was tied with Vodafone in joint second place behind GiffGaff and ahead of O2 and Three.
It’s difficult not to recommend the most popular network in the U.K. None are perfect in all places or in every way, but EE certainly does a good job. If you’re based in the U.K. — or travelling to the U.K. on holiday and need a SIM — EE will certainly do the job for you.
What do you think of EE’s network and our EE review? Let us know in the comments below.