The UK's worst mobile phone provider

Updated: 
OfcomWe take a look at the worst (and best) mobile network operators for customer service...

The mobile phone industry has evolved substantially since the days when they looked like a brick. And likewise, the amount we rely on our cellular friends has changed. Indeed, for many people, if their mobile stops working, so do they.

Which is why receiving good customer service from your mobile operator is now more important than ever.

Ofcom
Ofcom publishes data on the number of complaints it receives about each of the big telecoms providers, including mobile phone networks, each quarter.

These are its results for mobile phones from the most recent report, covering January to March 2012.

Provider

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q1 2012)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q4 2011)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q3 2011)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q2 2011)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q1 2011)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q4 2010)

3

0.14

0.15

0.14

0.14

0.11

0.09

T-Mobile

0.08

0.07

0.06

0.06

0.09

0.06

Vodafone

0.08

0.07

0.07

0.06

0.06

0.05

Virgin Mobile

0.07

0.07

0.08

0.05

0.05

0.03

Orange

0.07

0.17

0.07

0.07

0.06

0.06

O2

0.02

0.02

0.02

0.02

0.02

0.03


As you can see, O2 has enjoyed the fewest complaints for six straight quarters, a pretty impressive performance. By contrast, 3 has had the most complaints for five of the six quarters.

Which?
Earlier this year the consumer group Which? carried out its own research into mobile phone operators by speaking to 8,000 customers. These stats not only took into account the handsets, costs and clarity of bills offered by providers, but also included a wider range of operators.

Here are the results for contract and SIM only phones:

Network

Customer service

Aftersales care

UK call costs

Network coverage

Handset range

Incentives

Customer Score

O2

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

66%

Tesco Mobile

4/5

4/5

5/5

4/5

4/5

2/5

66%

Virgin Mobile

3/5

3/5

4/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

60%

Orange

3/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

4/5

4/5

58%

T-Mobile

3/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

4/5

2/5

57%

Three

2/5

3/5

4/5

2/5

4/5

2/5

55%

Vodafone

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

4/5

2/5

55%

Talkmobile

2/5

3/5

3.5

3/5

3/5

2/5

54%

Here are the results for pay as you go:

Network

Customer service

Aftersales care

UK call costs

Network coverage

Handset range

Incentives

Customer Score

Asda Mobile

4/5

n/a

4/5

4/5

3/5

1/5

72%

Tesco Mobile

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

70%

O2

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

64%

Three

3/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

3/5

59%

Talkmobile

n/a

n/a

3/5

3/5

n/a

n/a

58%

Orange

3/5

3/5

2/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

57%

Virgin Mobile

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

56%

Vodafone

3/5

3/5

2/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

56%

T-Mobile

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

53%

So Tesco and O2 are both very consistent performers at the top end, while Vodafone struggles in both areas.

The survey also shows that pay as you go operators emerged slightly better than their contract counterparts when it comes to customer service.

But customer service and price aren't the only factors you should keep in mind when shopping around for a new mobile phone.

Mobile coverage
Practically speaking, the most important thing to keep in mind when buying any mobile phone is the coverage and reception of the handset and operator. However, when it comes to comparing the best networks for this, the answer gets a little tricky as so much of signal strength depends on location.

The links below take you to each network's coverage map or coverage checker so you can get a decent idea of what coverage you can expect.

Vodafone

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