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A new best UK mobile phone network has been crowned in 2018

Earlier in the year, Ofcom released its first major report of 2018, revealing the UK’s best mobile networks for customer satisfaction – and the worst for complaints. However, there are plenty of other metrics and independent group RootMetrics group have another network topping the pops, as has consumer advocacy group Which? even more recently. 

While Ofcom’s customer satisfaction poll is a great indicator of network quality and performance, the independent RootMetrics tests empirically measure overall reliability and speed across the entire United Kingdom.

Which? for its part relies on a small customer satisfaction survey to deliver its findings – and the results are interesting to say the least.

In April 2018, Which? shared its take on the best and worst UK mobile phone networks. The company didn’t divulge its full rankings – it wants you pay for that – but it did reveal how the big four providers fared against lesser known competition.

Chiming with Ofcom’s report (more on that below), Vodafone was bottom of the Which? pile for the seventh year running, according to its latest customer satisfaction survey. One in six respondents said they would not recommend the network to a friend, and Vodafone ended up with an overall score of just 49%.

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The other big players didn’t fare a great deal better. EE was also in relegation zone for customer satisfaction, with specific criticism reserved for its pricing, which customers thought was on the high end. O2 was third ‘least worst’, while Three came out on top, mainly because of the value for money it offers compared to the other major networks.

Trumping all four, however, was little-known Utility Warehouse, with a staggering nine out of 10 customers saying they’d recommend it to a friend. It piggybacks off of EE’s network and is a multi-utility provider that also offers affordable landline, broadband, gas, and electricity tariffs.

The Which? survey took in 3683 members of the public – not a huge sample compared to the hundreds of thousands of subscriber complaints Ofcom’s reports are based on, or the 708,000 network tests conducted by RootMetrics across 22,000 miles.

Best UK Mobile Network 2018: The top four phone networks right now according to Ofcom

In Ofcom’s poll, Tesco Mobile took top honours, as it had the fewest number of complaints per 100,000 subscribers – the primary metric Ofcom uses to measure customer satisfaction. It also translates this into a 1-10 rating (1 being the best, in this case, and with ‘5’ representing an industry average), with Tesco Mobile scoring a ‘1’.

At the other end of the league table was Vodafone, which scored a not-so-perfect ’10’. Its customers are apparently particularly aggrieved over how Vodafone handles issues around billing, pricing and charges.

Also in the relegation zone were BT (‘9’), TalkTalk (‘8’), and Virgin Mobile (‘8), while Tesco Mobile was joined by Three, O2, and EE at the business end of things.

That means, that according to Ofcom at least, the UK’s four best mobile networks right now in 2018 are:

  1. Tesco Mobile
  2. Three
  3. O2
  4. EE

Of course, a major caveat is needed here. Measuring customer satisfaction is only one indicator of how good a mobile network is (albeit a pretty damn important one), with 4G coverage, contract value, and added extras all also playing an important part in how ‘good’ you’re likely to find a particular provider.

EE, for instance, boasts the UK’s most comprehensive 4G network, while Vodafone took home our reader-voted Mobile Network of the Year at the Trusted Reviews Awards 2017 and bundles in things like Spotify, Sky Sports Mobile TV, and NOW TV Entertainment with its tariffs.

That said, there’s clearly a case to be made for Tesco Mobile (it piggybacks on O2’s slice of the UK 4G and 3G spectrum, if you’re interested), as this is the 14th consecutive quarter it has been named tops for overall ‘customer satisfaction’. That’s three-and-a-half years of keeping people pretty sodding happy.

But muddying the waters further is that fact that a lot of peeved customers, in true British fashion, can’t be arsed to complain, so perhaps a more accurate moniker would be ‘best customer satisfaction amongst those who love having a moan’. It’s certainly not subject to the same level of rigorous real-world testing we would apply before naming a product or service best in class, so please don’t consider this our endorsement.

For the battle-hardened whinger, though, it does seem pretty settled – Tesco Mobile will suffer you in the finest fashion.

Best UK Mobile Network 2018: The RootMetrics results

As we said, RootMetrics carried out 708,000 tests across more than 22,000 miles and found EE came out on top, continuing its recent stream of victories.

During the second half of 2017, the firm topped all of the major categories: overall performance, network reliability, network speed, data performance, call performance (tied with Three), text performance.

“We’re starting to see that capital expenditure in the latest network infrastructure, such as EE’s investment in VoLTE pays off in the form of improved customer experience,” said RootMetrics GM Scott Stonham.

O2 was bottom off the pile, falling short in a number of major categories, according to RootMetrics’ tests.  The group says O2 has a chance to boost its national standing if it improves service in rural areas.

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