Big Four mobile providers outdone by smaller rivals, finds Which?

The UK’s largest mobile providers – O2, EE, Vodafone and Three – are being beaten by smaller rivals on customer service and value for money, according to research from Which?.

While the Big Four serve 76 per cent of the UK, the study reveals that less well-known brands like Smarty, Giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, and Sky Mobile are outperforming them when it comes to customer satisfaction – even though these operators use the same infrastructure as the larger providers.

According to Which?, which surveyed 3,305 mobile phone network customers in the UK, Three scored the lowest out of the Big Four – coming in joint 13th place.

It received the lowest rating for network reliability and customers were also unimpressed by its technical support and incentives offered.

45 per cent of Three users experienced problems in the past year.

Overall, three in ten – 29 per cent – of all mobile network customers experienced one or more problems.

Virtual networks Smarty and iD – which use Three’s infrastructure – were among the highest rated by customers in Which?’s table.

Both scored five stars out of five for value for money compared to only three stars for Three.

EE, the largest UK network was in 11th place, it scored three out of five starts in most categories, including customer service, technical support, and value for money.

The network’s download speeds got a four out of five star rating.

Plusnet – which also uses the EE network – was at the top of Which?’s table. It was among the six highly-rated virtual networks that earned full marks for value for money.

The highest scoring of the big four, O2, came in at joint eighth place. Only 20 per cent of customers rated it excellent value for money.

Three of the highest scoring carriers in the survey - Giffgaff, Tesco and Sky - use O2’s infrastructure.

All three virtual networks scored highly across the board, apart from GiffGaff which was "let down on customer service and technical support as customers primarily rely on its community forum for help".

“The vast majority of mobile users are with one of the Big Four providers, but our research suggests consumers could save money during the cost-of-living crisis and get better service by switching to one of the networks challenging their dominance,” said Natalie Hitchins, Which? head of home products and services. “Anyone looking for a reliable carrier that offers a flexible contract and good value for money should consider one of the virtual networks, who continue to outperform the Big Four year after year.”

However, not every virtual network scored highly. Asda was in second to last position, while Talk Mobile came in last. Both providers only got three stars for network reliability despite using the Vodafone network.

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