The UK's worst mobile phone provider

Updated: 
Mobile phoneThe mobile phone has evolved substantially since the days it resembled 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 complaint figures
Ofcom publishes data on the number of complaints it receives about each of the big telecoms providers, including mobile phone networks, each quarter.

It's now reporting complaints separately for Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go providers.

These are its results for Pay Monthly mobile phone providers from the most recent report, covering January to March this year.

Provider

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q2 Apr-Jun 2012)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q3 Jul-Sep 2012)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q4 Oct-Dec 2012)

Complaints per 1,000 customers (Q1 Jan-Mar 2012)

T-Mobile

0.18

0.18

0.20

0.19

Orange0.140.160.21

0.16

Three

0.19

0.16

0.13

0.14

Vodafone

0.15

0.14

0.12

0.09

Virgin Mobile

0.10

0.10

0.08

0.06

O2

0.05

0.05

0.06

0.05


As you can see, T-Mobile has reclaimed its spot as the as the most complained-about pay monthly provider.

Its customers mainly complained about billing and complaints handling.

Orange, T-Mobile and Three all generated above-average complaint numbers over the past three months.

By contrast, O2 and Virgin Mobile have consistently enjoyed lower numbers of complaints over the past three months and for the last year.

As Ofcom receives very few complaints about Pay As You Go providers (which, by their nature, are far easier to switch), it doesn't provide a company-by-company breakdown. It says it receives fewer than 30 complaints per month per provider, which means the statistics are subject to small fluctuations and, as such, could be rendered meaningless.

Which? research
Last 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

Resolving issues

UK call costs

Network coverage

Handset range

Accuracy of bills

Incenti-ves

Customer Score

Tesco Mobile

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

5/5

4/5

72%

Talk
mobile

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

67%

O2

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

63%

Virgin Mobile

4/5

4/5

4/5

4/5

3/5

4/5

4/5

57%

Three3/53/54/52/53/5

3/5

3/556%
T-Mobile3/53/53/53/53/53/53/556%
EE3/53/53/53/54/53/53/556%
Orange3/53/53/53/54/53/53/555%
Vodafone3/54/52/53/53/53/54/555%


Here are the results for Pay As You Go:

Network

Customer service

Aftersales care

UK call costs

Network coverage

Handset range

Incentives

Customer Score

GiffGaff3/53/54/53/5-3/581%

Asda Mobile

4/5

4/5

3/5

3/5

2/5

2/5

74%

Tesco Mobile

4/5

4/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

3/5

71%

Three3/5n/a3/53/53/52/565%
O24/54/52/53/54/53/563%
Vodafone3/53/52/53/53/53/562%
Orange2/52/52/53/53/53/556%
Virgin Mobile3/52/52/53/52/52/556%
T Mobile3/52/52/53/53/53/552%
So Tesco is the most consistent performer at the top end, while Orange 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.

O2
Orange
Three
T-Mobile
Talkmobile
Virgin Mobile
Vodafone

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