Which networks piggyback off O2's network?

15 August 2023

Contents list

  1. 5G networks using O2's infrastructure
    1. Sky Mobile
    2. Tesco Mobile
    3. Giffgaff
    4. Virgin Mobile
  2. Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

O2 is one of the UK’s four main mobile networks, alongside Three, Vodafone and EE, and it’s these four that the other smaller networks (known as MVNOs or Mobile Virtual Network Operators) such as iD Mobile and Lebara rely on for coverage.

Specifically, each small network will be partnered with one of the big four, and share its coverage. And in the case of O2, a few different networks are partnered with it.

So if you want O2’s 5G coverage but don’t want to be on O2 itself, then you have a number of alternative options, which we’ve detailed below.

5G networks using O2’s infrastructure

Currently there are four networks that both use O2’s infrastructure and offer 5G coverage. You’ll find an overview of each of these below.

Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile is an O2 MVNO which offers both Pay Monthly phone contracts and SIM Only plans.

It supports 5G of course and its plans come with some useful extras, such as the ability to roll over unused data for up to three years, and stream Sky apps without using your data.

On the downside, its SIM Only plans are all 12 months long, so you’re locked in for longer than on some networks. But Sky Mobile does at least let you move between plans whenever you want, and it promises no mid-contract price rises.

The network also offers both 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling, however in the minuses column you can’t get unlimited data, and roaming costs extra.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
10GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£7.00 a month
12 month contract
£7.00 a month
Data Rollover

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
5GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£10.00 a month
12 month contract
£10.00 a month
Data Rollover

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
50GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£12.00 a month
12 month contract
£12.00 a month
Data Rollover

Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile is another 5G O2 MVNO, and it offers SIM Only, Pay As You Go, and Pay Monthly smartphones.

It also has a selection of contract lengths, with the option of 1, 12 or 24 months on SIM Only, or 12, 18, 24, 30, or 36 months when buying a phone.

So it’s quite customisable, and you can optionally get unlimited data – which comes at a lower price than on most networks.

You can also roam at no extra cost across much of Europe, though this perk is set to end in late spring 2023, and the network is in the process of rolling out 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling at the time of writing. That means you might not have access to it yet, but you should do soon. 

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
2GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£7.50 a month
24 month contract
£7.50 a month
EU roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
2GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£8.00 a month
12 month contract
£8.00 a month
EU roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
12GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£10.00 a month
24 month contract
£10.00 a month
£9 for Clubcard holdersEU roaming

Giffgaff

Giffgaff is an affordable, simple 5G network using O2’s infrastructure. It offers 30-day SIM Only plans, and you can also buy a phone and spread the cost over 24 months.

5G comes as standard, and there’s the option of unlimited data. There’s little in the way of perks and extras, including no 4G Calling or Wi-Fi Calling.

However, you can roam across much of Europe at no extra cost, which is no longer a standard feature of all networks.

SIM Only Deals

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
20GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£10.00 a month
1 month contract
£10.00 a month
Double dataEU Roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
2GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£6.00 a month
1 month contract
£6.00 a month
EU Roaming

Triple SIM

Micro SIM card
6GB Data
Unlimited Mins
Unlimited Texts
£8.00 a month
18 month contract
£8.00 a month
EU Roaming

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile is a relatively recent addition to the ranks of O2 MVNOs, as while it’s not a new network, it was previously partnered with Vodafone and before that EE.

Now though, O2 actually owns Virgin Mobile, so we don’t imagine it will switch again anytime soon.

It’s in a bit of an odd position though as it offers both its own plans and O2 ones – the latter of which come with standard O2 perks, like access to the O2 Priority app for special offers and early gig tickets.

O2 is also planning to migrate all Virgin Mobile plans to O2 ones sooner or later, so this could soon be O2 itself in all but name. Right now though if you’d prefer you can pick a Virgin Mobile plan, and these come with different perks, like data rollover.

You can also get phones on contract with Virgin Mobile, and roaming in Europe is offered at no additional cost.

SIM Only Deals

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an MVNO?

An MVNO is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, which just means any network that doesn’t have its own infrastructure, such as masts, or its own 5G frequencies, and instead relies on one of the big four for coverage – namely O2, Three, Vodafone, or EE.

What are the advantages of choosing an O2 MVNO over O2 itself?

Choosing an O2 MVNO over O2 itself means potentially getting access to different perks and extras, such as the data rollover found with Sky Mobile. In some cases, you can also get the same allowances for less money with an MVNO, as they often undercut O2 itself.

What are the disadvantages of choosing an O2 MVNO over O2?

As a major network, O2 comes with more extras than most MVNOs, including access to the O2 Priority app, free roaming in the EU, Wi-Fi Calling, 4G Calling, and a wide range of plans.

Will an O2 MVNO offer identical coverage to O2?

Typically yes, an O2 MVNO will offer identical coverage to O2. We can’t guarantee that this will always 100% be the case but in general it should be. So wherever O2 has 5G or 4G coverage, you should see the same coverage on its MVNOs.

James Rogerson
About James Rogerson

Editorial Manager

James has been writing for us for over 10 years. Currently, he is Editorial Manager for our group of companies ( 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk) and sub-editor at TechRadar. He specialises in smartphones, mobile networks/ technology, tablets, and wearables.

In the past, James has also written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media, Smart TV Radar, and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV. He has a film studies degree from the University of Kent, Canterbury, and has over a decade’s worth of professional writing experience.

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