Mobile broadband from EE
EE ARE not only the UK's biggest but fastest 4G network, providing mobile data speeds of up to 60Mb fairly widely - with up to 90Mb available in some parts of London.
That would seem to make them a good choice when it comes to mobile broadband - who else can offer the kind of speeds we'd expect to get over a fixed fibre broadband connection, on a mobile device?
But as we'll explain those fibre-type speeds aren't available everywhere or to everyone - and EE have a reputation for being more expensive than much of their competition.
So how much mobile broadband do they offer, and how much does it cost - and are there any other benefits to choosing EE to get online wherever we are? Read on, or use the menu to the right to skip ahead.
Data SIMs from EE
As with most of our mobile provider reviews, we focus mainly on SIM-only deals to keep things simple: these give us plenty to go on when comparing operators while avoiding the confusion of upfront and monthly device charges.
Pay as you go data SIMs
EE's pay as you go data SIMs aren't what we'd think of as standard pay as you go: they're available on a range of terms from one month to 12, and with the exception of the one month plans, they give us a fresh allowance of preloaded data every month.
One month plans
Longer pay as you go data plans
|Plan||Monthly data||Length of plan||Price|
If and when we run out of this preloaded data, we must buy a suitable add-on if we want to keep using mobile broadband:
The idea with both the data-only SIMs and EE's PAYG SIMs is that compared to working out the cost of a PAYG call or texting session, it can be difficult to tell how much data we're using when we go online.
So for customers to stay in control of their spending, they have to buy more data in set quantities at set prices.
The add-ons start as soon as we buy them, and they last until we've used all the data or they're set to expire: if we've bought a 30 day bundle but still have data left when our PAYG pack is refreshed, we'll keep using the add-on until it runs out.
Pay monthly data SIMs
Given that EE sell their pay monthly data SIMs on both 30 day and 12 month terms, that could make signing up for one of these deals more attractive - unless we're worried about passing the credit check required.
Adding to the appeal of a short term monthly SIM deal is that, unlike with their phone SIMs, EE charge the same price regardless of how long we want to commit.
|Data||Speed||Contract term||Monthly price|
|500MB||Up to 20Mb||30 days||£7|
|2GB||Up to 20Mb||30 days OR
|4GB||Up to 20Mb||30 days OR
|16GB||Up to 60Mb||30 days OR
|32GB||"Our fastest 4G"||30 days OR
These tariffs nicely illustrate EE's three different plan types:
- 4GEE Essential: up to 20Mb connection, no roaming included
- 4GEE: up to 60Mb connection, 500MB of European data included
- 4GEE Max: "our fastest 4G" (up to 90Mb in parts of London, up to 60Mb elsewhere), "roam like at home" (up to 15GB) in the EU
Generally the Essential plans come with the smallest allowances, while the Max plans will be the most generous - and most expensive.
Again, once we reach our data limit, we'll be prompted to buy an add-on or lose our connectivity.
We can only buy one add-on at a time, but there's no limit to the number of add-ons we can buy in any one month. Any data we haven't used when the next month starts is lost.
Alternatively customers who find they're frequently going over their allowance can upgrade, which may be cheaper.
Tablets and iPads
If we want a tablet or iPad with our data SIM, EE would rather we go for a pay monthly plan: at the time we're writing this review there are only two tablets available on PAYG terms, the kids' version of the EE Robin and an 8" Huawei, both of which will cost around £130 upfront.
By contrast there are about a dozen different tablets, including several types of iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, available with a pay monthly data plan; some of the more expensive tablets are available either brand new or refurbished and slightly cheaper.
Whichever tablet or iPad we choose, we're committed to a 24-month contract. With only a few exceptions, we should expect to pay at least £49.99 upfront.
Existing customers can save on both the upfront fee and the monthly cost of certain iPads and Samsung tablets: at the time of writing, here's how being with EE already made a difference to the price of the Samsung Galaxy Tab A (7.0 2016):
|Device||Data||Upfront cost||Monthly price||Total paid over contract|
|Samsung Galaxy Tab A (7.0 2016)||New customer||20GB||£49.99||£22||£577.99|
At most, each tablet comes with a choice of just three data plans: 2GB, 10GB, or 20GB of data per month; the more expensive tablets tend offer either 10GB or 20GB.
There's only a few pounds difference between each data plan, but paying the extra gives users far more than just additional data:
|Data||Plan type||Speed||European roaming||Extras|
|2GB||4GEE Essential||Up to 20Mb||No||Free BT Sport app access for three months|
|10GB||4GEE||Up to 60Mb||500MB/month||Free BT Sport app access for three months|
|20GB||4GEE Max||"Our fastest" (up to 90Mb)||15GB/month||Free BT Sport app access for length of contract|
As well as getting inclusive European roaming or cheaper deals, there are other benefits available with a 4GEE tablet plan - skip ahead to find out what they are.
Mobile broadband devices
EE sell a handful of fairly standard mobile broadband devices on both pay as you go or pay monthly terms - as well as a larger "mobile" hotspot designed to provide 4G mobile broadband for the whole house.
Those after a pay as you go device have the following options:
|Device||Preloaded data, valid||Upfront cost|
|Huawei E3533 Mobile Wi-fi Dongle||2GB
|4GEE Wi-fi Mini||5GB
|Car Wi-fi from EE||5GB
|4G Home Broadband||10GB
With the exception of the dongle, each of these can provide a mobile wi-fi signal for up to 10 devices at once.
Once the preloaded data has been used up, customers will be prompted to buy one of the PAYG add-ons listed above.
Pay monthly customers can choose to pay from £29.99 upfront for one of EE's portable hotspots on a 30 day contract, or sign up to a 24-month deal in which they'll get their device free of charge. Either way they'll have a choice of packages offering up to 64GB a month.
|Device||Upfront cost||Monthly price|
|4GEE Wi-fi Mini||£0 to £39.99||From £10.50 to £61|
|4GEE Wi-fi||£0 to £79.99||From £10.50 to £61|
|Car Wi-fi from EE||£0 to £39.99||From £10.50 to £61|
|4G Home Broadband||Free||From £25 to £75|
The 4G home broadband device is only available on 12 month terms; the minimum data allowance is 10GB for £25 but it's also possible to get 100GB for £75 a month.
Bear in mind that these plans and prices were accurate on the byline date of this article: for the most up to date information check our comparison table here.
EE's approach to tethering is for the most part fairly simple: if we have mobile data, we can use it to create a wi-fi hotspot for our other devices.
This even applies to their PAYG mobile phone customers, even though tethering is conspicuous by its absence in the relevant terms and conditions.
When we asked for clarification, they told us that as long as a PAYG customer's phone is capable of tethering, they're free to use it as a personal hotspot.
Pay monthly SIM-only customers can choose from a range of plans offering up to 30GB of data a month; the pay monthly plans available with the newest or most popular handsets go offer up to 40GB.
We've listed the more generous SIM-only deals below to give an idea of how much it'll cost for the airtime alone, and to highlight what else comes with the calls, texts and all important data:
|Data||Plan type||Contract term||Monthly price|
|1GB||4GEE Essential||12 months||£14.99|
|2GB||4GEE Max||12 months||£19.99|
|10GB||4GEE Max||12 months||£23*|
|30GB||4GEE Max||12 months||£30*|
* Plans on special offer at the time of this review. Offer ends March 14th 2017.
Mobile phone / SIM customers get the combined benefits of the SIM-only and tablet SIM plans for their plan type, plus some phone-specific extras. At present the different plans each offer the following:
|Plan type||4G data speed||European roaming||Extras|
|4GEE Essential||Up to 20Mb||None||Free BT Sport app access for three months
Apple Music free for six months
|4GEE||Up to 60Mb||500MB/month||Free BT Sport app access for three months
Apple Music free for six months
|4GEE Max||"Our fastest 4G" (up to 90Mb)||15GB/month||Free BT Sport app access for length of contract
Apple Music free for six months
Those hoping for a more flexible deal can always look at one of EE's 30 day pay monthly SIMs, but at the time of writing this is the biggest monthly data plan they offer:
Note that while customers getting a 30-day SIM can still get six months of Apple Music free of charge, they miss out on the free access to the BT Sport app.
Coverage and speed
We've already addressed the speed of the connections possible on EE's network, and they're famous for being the UK's biggest mobile network in terms of coverage, but it's worth going into them both in a little more detail.
In their 2016 end of year report, Ofcom had the following figures for EE's network coverage:
|3G and 4G data coverage|
SOURCE: Ofcom Connected Nations 2016. Available here.
As we explain in our full operator review, they're aiming to increase their geographical 4G coverage to 95% by 2020 - which will mean a 4G signal should be available to almost all UK premises.
But not all of those premises - or customers - will benefit from the same data speeds.
OpenSignal publish twice yearly data looking into speed and availability of each of the UK's biggest mobile networks. The October 2016 report gave the following results for EE:
|Average download speed||4G availability|
SOURCE: Opensignal State of Mobile Networks report 2016. Available here.
Shortly after these results were published, EE refreshed their plans to bring them all into line regarding data speeds - up to 20Mb, and up to 60Mb, and introducing the "fastest 4G" tier.
Up to 20Mb is the most widely available connection, while up to 60Mb is available for customers with a 4GEE or Max plan in the UK's bigger cities and some lucky rural locations.
EE's very fastest 4G provides connections of up to 90Mb - but only in small parts of London at present.
EE score highest of the main networks for availability too: OpenSignal found that where customers were in a 4G area, they could connect to the 4G network almost two thirds of the time.
Factors like network capacity and strength of signal can affect whether we get the best network connection available, so no operator is ever going to score top marks. We look into what affects signal and coverage in more detail in this guide.
EE's other services
Finally it's worth considering EE's other products and services, as there can be benefits to taking more than one - as we've already shown in the case of existing customers thinking of getting a tablet.
Mobile network aside, EE are best known for their fixed line home broadband. We've a full review of the products and service here, but briefly, these are the broadband packages available:
EE broadband customers who have some kind of long term pay monthly deal with them - whether SIM-only, or with a phone, tablet or mobile wi-fi device - will get an extra 5GB of data added to their SIM every month, free of charge.
That's equivalent to a £10 a month saving, or £120 a year.
Getting broadband from EE also opens up the possibility of getting EE TV, a supercharged and smarter than standard Freeview service, from £5 a month - although depending on the broadband package we choose it can sometimes be cheaper.
If paying £5 for Freeview sounds a bit rich, it's worth taking a look at some of the features and benefits that come with the service - including the ability to download recordings to go (and to keep) to our mobile devices.