The best UK phone providers 2023

The best UK phone providers stand out from the rest for varying reasons, so let’s dive into what you can expect from the likes of EE and Vodafone.

Best cell phone providers in the UK

Though there are plenty of companies to choose from, we’re here to tell you who the best UK phone providers are. Naturally, we take various things into account, perhaps the most important of which is what the signal range is like. Some cell phone providers provide an excellent signal all throughout the UK, including down country roads, while others don’t offer such an impressive range.

One thing that doesn’t come into what makes a cell phone provider so great is the smartphone itself, and that’s because all of these companies offer the same phones should you be after a contract. Therefore, if you need a new device, it’s a good idea to consult our best Xiaomi phones, best OnePlus phones, best Samsung phones, best Sony phones, and best Google Pixel phones buying guides to see what suits you best.

Here are the best cell phone providers in the UK:

  1. EE – the best UK cell phone provider overall
  2. O2 – the best UK cell phone provider for extras
  3. Vodafone – the best UK cell phone provider for signal
  4. Three – the best UK cell phone provider for contract costs

EE's logo in front of a green background

1. EE

The best UK cell phone provider overall.


  • Strong signal in the majority of places


  • Contracts can be a bit more expensive

I can speak from experience when it comes to using EE as your cell phone provider in the UK, as I’ve been with the company for years at this point. EE is, by far, the best provider for cell phones in the UK because not only can you get an assortment of phones across a range of contracts, but the company fully supports 5G compatibility, and it’s available all across the UK. I’m yet to go anywhere and not be able to get a signal.

Of course, as wonderful as having a signal is and knowing that you can have a strong connection, that doesn’t go too far if the cost of a contract is too much for you. Well, luckily, like a lot of cell phone providers in the UK, EE has a range of contracts for those that are after sim-only deals, as well as consumers in need of a new device. EE has contracts as low as £10 a month and others that are pushing the £100 boundary.

As ever, it all comes down to what exactly it is you’re after. Either way, you can get a strong signal no matter where you are, not just in the UK, but in other countries, too. I recently enjoyed a holiday in Lanzarote off the West coast of Africa, and I had signal all over the island.

O2's logo in front of a blue background

2. O2

The best UK cell phone provider for extras.


  • Great extras
  • Reasonable signal


  • Contracts typically last three years

Honestly, if you like going to the theatre, eating in restaurants, and going to various events and concerts, you might want to consider joining O2. Big names such as Madonna and Taylor Swift make use of the famous O2 arenas found throughout the UK and, as extremely popular artists that know how to put on a show, it can be hard to get tickets to see them. However, as an O2 customer, you have access to priority tickets, meaning you can secure your ticket before the rest of the public.

Besides that, O2 offers a good signal service, so you can always get hold of someone in a pinch. Back when I used O2 as my provider, I could always get a signal, though, depending on where you are, you might not be able to get 5G, or might have slightly less signal power than those with different providers. A problem that you may encounter with various cell phone providers.

Another thing that may put you off joining O2 is that you typically have to sign for a three-year contract, while other providers go for the standard two years, and even less if you happen to be after a sim-only contract. However, as GiffGaff and Tesco Mobile both use O2’s network, you can go ahead and get a shorter contract with one of them and still get some of the benefits of O2’s network.

Vodafone's logo in front of a white background

3. Vodafone

The best UK cell phone provider for signal.


  • Fantastic signal
  • Stores across the UK


  • Expensive contracts
  • Little bonus incentives

So Vodafone is a solid pick if you want a reliable signal, but with the price that a contract costs, you might want to be sure that this is the network for you. I can’t fault the company’s reliability with its services, but there are things that let it down when compared to the likes of EE and O2.

For some, a great signal only gets you so far, but others want the great bonuses you can get with O2 and EE, so should you want Apple Music to be part of your contract or wish to get priority tickets for a gig, this isn’t the network for you. Vodafone is great for those with the spare cash to pay for a premium contract with premium signal, and is especially good if you don’t care about the extra gubbins.

Finally, there are Vodafone stores all over the place in the UK, so should you be in need of assistance, or are looking to join the network, it’s as simple as walking into a store.

Three's logo in front of a white background

4. Three

The best UK cell phone provider for contract costs.


  • Cheap contracts


  • No bonus incentives

You can frequently land a good contract with Three, particularly if you opt for a sim-only contract. However, killer prices come at another cost – cell phone signal. Three’s signal strength has a tendency to waver pretty much all over the place, so it can be a bit of a gamble as to whether or not you get a strong signal.

There is one thing you might want to bear in mind and that’s, from personal experience, Three may struggle to uphold its promises from time to time. For instance, when abroad, the company claims you can always connect to the network, but that’s simply not the case. Again, I return to my holiday in Lanzarote, where I had great signal with EE, yet, despite paying extra money to ensure they could contact family in the UK in case of emergency, my friend couldn’t get signal with Three, and when they tried to get hold of customer service, they didn’t get any help. Should you want to ensure you have a signal regardless of where you are in the world, it’s Vodafone and EE that you should consider.

Still, for people after a bargain, it’s hard to argue with Three’s prices. However, it’s also worth noting that the likes of Virgin Mobile, GiffGaff, BT, and more use the EE and O2 networks, so if you’re after a bargain with good signal, you might be able to capitalize on a new customer contract with one of those providers. Just remember that Three may well offer unlimited data, calls, and texts at a better rate. It’s all a balancing act.

How we chose the best UK phone providers

To select the best UK phone providers we take into account how reliable the network is in terms of signal and whether or not you can consistantly get at least 4G. Not only that, but we consider whether or not 5G is a possibility within the network.

Outside of that, we look at contract prices and wether or not it’s worth you money, alongside with potential bonuses such as Disney Plus, Apple Music, and even whether or not you get priority at certain events. If you want to learn more about how we specifically test phones and tech, take a look at our how we test article.

Who is the best 4G operator in the UK?

EE reigns supreme as the best 4G operator, having the highest 4G speed average throughout cities in the UK. Furthermore, more than half of the population in the UK can use 5G through EE, not just 4G.

Which Network is cheaper in the UK?

As we mention througout this article, the best price and provider may well vary depending on what you want to get out of your contract. However, if it’s a pay-as-you-go sim that you want, it’s hard to beat the prices of 1pMobile which, as the name suggests charges 1p per text and 1p per minute for calls. Furthermore, its coverage provider is EE.

What are the major UK phone networks?

The biggest networks in the UK are Vodafone, EE, Three, and O2, each of which serves as the coverage provider for other networks such as Virgin Mobile, Tesco Mobile, Asda Mobile, and more.

With that, you now know the best cell providers in the UK. Of course, we still encourage you to broaden your search for the best deal, as each provider has different promotions at different times. And again, remember that some of the lesser-known providers do use EE and O2 networks, meaning they’re reliable for signal.