Plusnet Mobile review: A low-cost way to use EE without 5G

Plusnet Mobile is an offshoot of the popular broadband provider, itself an independent sub-brand of BT. This puts it under the same umbrella as BT Mobile and EE – it operates on EE’s network – but works less like a traditional network, and more like a cost-conscious, no-frills option, much like Voxi, Smarty and Giffgaff. With SIM-only plans in the £8 to £15 price range, it’s definitely cheaper than its stablemates, but is it a credible alternative to the leaders of the no-frills pack?

Plusnet Mobile review: What do you get?

Plusnet Mobile keeps things straightforward and simple. There are no monthly contract phones or long-term plans, just a series of packages sold with a 30-day rolling contract, with no other commitments or extras.

There are two things you really need to watch out for. First, Plusnet is a 4G-only service, with no support for 5G through its SIMs. Second, in some cases two plans are offered at the same price point, with no discernible difference beyond the calls and data allowances. There’s no reason to splash out on the £8 2GB data/500-minute package when you could have 5GB and unlimited calls for the exact same monthly cost. Ditto with the £10/4GB and £12/6GB packages when there are 15GB and 30GB options for the same money. Offers will come and go, though, so if you see something you fancy, it’s best to sign up while you can. It’s also worth noting that Plusnet Broadband customers get extra data with some deals.

As far as price goes, Plusnet Mobile is a little cheaper than Giffgaff or Voxi, but not quite as cheap as Smarty or iD Mobile. All the same, it had great results for value in our 2022 Mobile Network Awards survey (conducted in partnership with YouGov). An impressive 61% of Plusnet customers told us they were very satisfied with its value, while a further 30% were fairly satisfied. That puts it just below the top-ranked networks for value – Voxi, Smarty, iD Mobile and Lebara – but in the chasing pack with Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile. That’s a pretty good place to be.

Plusnet Mobile review: Customer service

Plusnet Mobile also does well when it comes to customer service. Nearly 42% of users said they were very satisfied with their customer support, while a further 39% were fairly satisfied. Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile and EE had slightly better results, but Plusnet Mobile really isn’t far behind.

The latest research from Ofcom does not include any figures for Plusnet Mobile, but this should change if the network grows.

Plusnet Mobile review: Coverage, reliability and speed

One of the big things Plusnet Mobile has going for it is that it’s the cheapest way to access EE’s high-speed infrastructure. EE doesn’t appear to apply any speed caps, and it’s currently number one for performance in the UK. The latest figures from RootMetrics give it a UK-wide aggregate median download speed of 66.2Mbits/sec, ahead of Three with 29.9Mbits/sec and Vodafone with 23.8Mbits/sec.

In metropolitan areas, EE won more of RootMetrics’ RootScore performance awards (111) than Three, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone combined, with median download speeds of over 70Mbits/sec in 15 out of 16 cities, with 100Mbits/sec in one of those . This reflects the availability of its 5G services, which does not mean anything to Plusnet Mobile users. Still, if the service upgrades to include 5G, EE’s UK-wide 5G median download speed is approximately 150Mbits/sec, second only to Three with 200Mbits/sec.

Speeds will, of course, depend on coverage. EE’s 4G coverage now reaches over 99% of the UK population, while its 5G services are now in reach of over 50%.

As for reliability, 85% of Plusnet customers told us their connection was mostly or always fast enough for web browsing – a decent result – although the figures for audio streaming and video streaming (52% and 46% respectively) are below the average. Certainly, Plusnet’s users seem to be struggling to get all the speed they need exactly when they need it.

Plusnet Mobile review: Roaming

Plusnet Mobile has its own roaming feature, Roam Like at Home, which gives you your normal calls, texts and data allowance while you’re in the EU, subject to a 15GB fair usage data policy. Beyond that, Plusnet Mobile applies bands to countries. In Band 2, where you’ll find the USA, Thailand, Israel and Canada, calls come in at £1.30p per minute to make and 70p per minute to receive, with texts at 40p and data at £6 per MB. In Band 8, the home of Cuba, Suriname and Antarctica, the same data fee applies, but calls go up to £3 to make and £1 to receive, with texts at 50p. The call and text charges are fairly average, but the data charges are comparatively steep.

Plusnet Mobile review: Other services and spending caps

Plusnet allows you to set a Smart Cap from the My Account section of its website. When you reach it, the network suspends premium rate calls, picture messages, calls, texts and data usage until after your next bill, although any usage within your allowances can continue. You can set the Smart Cap to kick in and not allow any additional spending, or any level you prefer above that.

Plusnet Mobile review: Verdict

While all the talk now is about 5G, EE still has the UK’s fastest 4G network, and Plusnet gives you access to it with flexible, no-commitments packages and at a lower cost. The network scores highly for customer service and value, and customers seem to like it: 78% would recommend it to a friend.

The one point against it is that there’s no way to take advantage of 5G if you have a 5G-enabled phone and it rolls out in your area, or if you’re visiting a town or city with 5G. For this reason, we’d still generally go for Smarty, iD Mobile or Voxi, but if 4G is fine with you, then Plusnet Mobile is well worth checking out.

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