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giffgaff – Network Coverage and Data Speeds in 2021

Powered by O2, giffgaff offers 99% population coverage and over 90% 4G geographical coverage in the UK.

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If you’re looking for the most flexible SIM only deals, giffgaff is still one of the best options on the market. The carrier belongs to O2 and therefore giffgaff piggybacks on O2’s network to provide 4G, 3G and 2G coverage to their customers.

giffgaff is a little bit different than other mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). Their goodybag offers (basically contract-free SIM plans) are renewable if you run out of data before the 30-day period is up. It’s a unique approach and we rate it highly. They offer a wide range of goodybags and a traditional pay as you go service with decent rates.

The goodybags are tailored for all types of mobile customers; from light data users to data hungry ones. All goodybags come with unlimited UK minutes & texts and they work on a prepaid basis so there are no credit checks involved. When you buy your 3rd goodybag,giffgaff will boost your data by 1 GB. Data boost is only available when you buy a £10, £12, £15 or £20 goodybag.

The carrier also offers two different golden goodybags that are 5G ready. However, you must set your plan to recur each month to get a golden goodybag. You’ll also need a 5G SIM and a 5G ready handset and be in an area where O2’s 5G network is available.

Network Coverage & Data Speeds

giffgaff customers get the same network coverage and data speeds O2 customers do, as the carrier runs on the O2 Network. O2’s 4G coverage significantly improved over the course of 2020 and as far as availability goes they’re almost on par with Vodafone, but still behind EE.

The carrier’s 4G population coverage has reached more than 99%, and their UK geographical coverage is above 90% and improving. O2 doesn’t enforce a speed cap so giffgaff customers enjoy the same fast 4G download and upload speeds. The network’s average 4G download speeds are around 18Mbps and their upload speeds are around 6Mbps, per Open Signal’s October 2020 test results. O2 offers the slowest 4G data speeds in the UK, but these speeds are still fast enough to stream full HD content on your mobile device without any hiccups.

As always, we strongly recommend using giffgaff’s online coverage checker to make sure your frequented areas have good coverage.

5G Coverage

5G is finally available on giffgaff, but only for the golden goodybag users at the moment. In order to get a goodybag you must set your plan to recur each month. There are currently two different golden goodybags to choose from, but we’d like to remind you that you’ll need a 5G ready handset and a new 5G SIM or else you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of 5G.

The £10 golden goodybag gets you 9GB of data, unlimited UK calls & texts, 1GB extra data once you buy your third goodybag, and free roaming in the EU.

The £35 golden goodybag gets you unlimited data in the UK, as well as all the other benefits you get with the other goodybags.

giffgaff’s 5G hasn’t been tested, but OOKLA tested O2’s 5G and these two services should be identical in every way. O2 has the second fastest average 5G download speeds, averaging around 175 to 180Mbps. At the time of writing, giffgaff’s 5G service is available in 100 UK cities and towns.

Make sure to read our O2 Review and giffgaff Review to learn more about each network.

Voice Call Quality

When we look at the latest voice call quality tests, we see a significant improvement on O2’s side, as a result giffgaff would have improved too. Call setup times of giffgaff are much faster now, but the carrier is still behind the likes of EE and Vodafone and their MVNOs.

Remember that voice call quality depends on multiple factors and it’s not only limited to your network’s coverage area. During peak periods you might experience short delays before your call starts, the overall quality may be lower and other factors such as the quality of your device and battery can be a factor.

4G Super Voice & Wi-Fi Calling

4G Calling (also known as VoLTE) provides crisp call quality and pretty much instantaneous call connection, provided both parties (caller and receiver) are using it. It also eliminates most indoor blackspots and allows you to use your mobile internet at 4G speeds while on a call.

Wi-Fi Calling keeps you connected by using an available Wi-Fi connection when you’re not getting any regular phone signals from your provider.

Unfortunately, neither of these voice call quality improving features are available on giffgaff, and we don’t know if they will arrive any time soon. If you’re looking for a commitment-free deal SMARTY has Wi-Fi Calling, but no 4G Calling yet. You can read our SMARTY Review to learn everything you need to know or you can check out our giffgaff vs SMARTY article to see how these two networks compare.

Free Wi-Fi Hotspots

There are only a handful of mobile networks offering free Wi-Fi services in the UK and giffgaff isn’t one of them. However, giffgaff customers can still connect to O2 WiFi and Sky Mobile’s The Cloud service at no extra cost. Keep in mind that these aren’t exclusive deals as they are available to all mobile customers.

We recommend checking out BT Mobile and Virgin Mobile, if you think you will need free Wi-Fi when you’re travelling. Both networks have millions of free Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK and they offer discounts and other extras to their existing customers.

Tethering

giffgaff’s unlimited golden goodybag is great for tethering to other compatible devices as it doesn’t have any speed caps, unlike their Always-On goodybag. There is a speed restriction for the latter, after 80 GB of data is used giffgaff will reduce your data speed to 384kbps from 8am to midnight. Given how your data gets eaten up at a much faster rate when you’re tethering, we don’t really recommend any light data goodybags for regular use. If you’re unlikely to turn your device into a personal hotspot that often, then you should be okay.. Apps running in the background can burn through a lot of data without you noticing.

If you’re willing to sign up for a long term contract, we recommend Three’s unlimited data plans, as we believe they’re the best unlimited deals on the UK’s mobile market.

International Roaming

All giffgaff goodybags allow you to use your UK allowances in the EU at no extra cost. The carrier charges fairly reasonable for destinations outside the EU and when you’re making international calls from the UK.

The network’s free roaming scheme is okay, but it’s nothing special. The best international roaming deals are provided by Vodafone at the moment. Vodafone’s Unlimited Max plans come with the ‘Global Roaming Plus’ perk, which allows you to use your UK allowances in 81 destinations across the world. This is also the only mobile plan that offers free roaming in Turkey, no other scheme, even Three’s Go Roam doesn’t offer free roaming in Turkey. You can check out our extensive Vodafone Review if you’re still not convinced.

We’d like to underline that Vodafone Basics Plans don’t come with any roaming feature, even in the EU.

Half Cooked’s Overall Breakdown

In the UK, giffgaff’s 4G coverage is pretty good and their voice call quality is improving. However, their 4G downloads speeds are noticeably behind the likes of EE, Vodafone and Three. Their 5G service is much faster than EE and Vodafone, only second to Three, and they are constantly improving their 5G coverage, offering the service in more locations.

If the carrier also offered 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling, we would consider them one of the best on the market. At their current state they’re a decent choice, but they’re not the best in anything besides being the most flexible.

FAQ

Does giffgaff have 5G?

Yes, as of January 2021 giffgaff customers can enjoy 5G coverage and data speeds, provided they have a 5G ready handset, a 5G SIM and a golden goodybag.

What are golden goodybags?

giffgaff’s golden goodybags are special SIM only plans that offer 5G coverage as well as some other benefits. You have to set up a recurring payment method to be eligible for a golden goodybag.

Does giffgaff have 4G Calling or VoLTE?

4G Calling and VoLTE actually refer to the same voice call quality improving service. Unfortunately, giffgaff doesn’t provide 4G Calling.

Does giffgaff offer Wi-Fi Calling?

Sadly, giffgaff customers don’t get to enjoy the benefits of Wi-Fi Calling. Only a few MVNOs offer Wi-Fi Calling and most of them will ask you to sign up for a long term contract anyway.

Is giffgaff’s network coverage as good as O2’s?

Yes, both networks offer identical network coverage and data speeds. giffgaff is owned, powered and operated by O2.