Virgin Mobile vs Tesco Mobile 2021: Free Wi-Fi in over 3.5 Million locations or Double Data?

In this article we provide a detailed comparison between Virgin Mobile’s super-fast 4G contracts and Tesco Mobile’s price plans with 4G & 5G coverage.

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Virgin Mobile 5G 32GB Deal 2021 January

Latest Offer: 32GB of Data For £12/Month

Virgin Mobile offers 32GB of data, unlimited UK minutes & texts for just £12/month and it now comes with 5G! The deal is a 24-month contract. It also includes Wi-Fi Calling and free access to millions of Virgin Media Wi-Fi hotspots.

Virgin Mobile regularly updates their deals so hurry up and catch this deal before it’s gone!

Who is Virgin Mobile

virgin-mobile-article-logoVirgin Mobile is the world’s first mobile virtual network operator. The carrier launched all the way back in 1999 and has been operating since then. Virgin Mobile uses EE’s super-fast network to provide 2G, 3G and 4G coverage to its customers. However, this is expected to change in late 2021 as Virgin Mobile’s parent company Virgin Media merges with O2.

Virgin Mobile only has long-term contract deals so either way you’ll have to undergo a credit check to join their network. All Virgin Mobile plans come with Wi-Fi Calling, data-free messaging on Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp & Twitter, and free WiFi. The carrier offers a decent variety of price plans, but their unlimited data plans are exclusive to Virgin Media TV and Broadband customers.

Pro’s

  • Fastest 4G data speeds and best 4G network coverage.
  • More than 3.5 million free Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Data Rollover available on all plans.
  • Wi-Fi Calling included in on all plans.
  • Unlimited UK minutes and texts.

Con’s

  • Doesn’t have a PAYG service.
  • You have to undergo a credit check.
  • No 4G Calling or 5G Coverage.
  • Unlimited data deals are only available to Virgin TV or broadband customers.
 

Who is Tesco Mobile

tesco-mobile-article-logoIn the UK, Tesco Mobile is a low-cost mobile virtual network operator owned and operated by British retailer Tesco. Tesco Mobile uses O2’s network to provide 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G coverage to its customers. The network offers SIM only contracts, phone contracts and multiple pay as you go services, however only contract customers can get 5G coverage.

If you have a Tesco Mobile Clubcard Plus membership, you’ll get double data on all their pay monthly plans, as well as special discounts and more. Tesco Mobile offers competitively priced deals, but unfortunately all their price plans come with 5000 minutes & texts per month.

Whilst the carrier doesn’t offer that many features, they are one of the very few MVNOs to offer 5G plans in the UK.

Pro’s

  • Double data and great deals with Tesco Mobile ClubCard.
  • Price plans with 5G coverage.
  • Multiple pay as you go alternatives.
  • Tesco discounts.

Con’s

  • No data rollover for unused data.
  • No 4G Calling or Wi-Fi Calling perks.
  • No unlimited minutes or texts.
 

Table of Contents

1. Plans & Pricing

– SIM Only Deals

– Pay As You Go

– Pay Monthly Phones

2. Network Coverage & Speeds

– 2G, 3G & 4G Coverage

– 5G Coverage

– Voice Call Quality

– Wi-Fi Calling & 4G Calling

– Wi-Fi Hotspots

– Tethering

– International Roaming

3. Features

– Virgin Mobile’s Features

– Tesco Mobile’s Features

4. Half Cooked’s Overall Breakdown

5. Frequently Asked Questions

Plans & Pricing

SIM Only Deals

Virgin Mobile currently offers 12-month and 24-month contract deals so you’ll have to go through a credit check first if you want to join their network. The network has unlimited data deals for both types of contracts, but sadly they’re exclusive to Virgin Media TV and Broadband customers. If you’re a regular customer, the largest data plan you can get from Virgin Mobile is 100GB/month.

Virgin Mobile’s price plans come with a data rollover feature to give you a second chance to use your leftover data. You also benefit from Wi-Fi Calling, provided you have a compatible phone. Virgin Mobile customers get data-free messaging on Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp, but voice calls and video calls are not included.

Of course, Virgin Mobile’s best perk is having access to free WiFi at over 3.5 million places in the UK.

If you wish to get your hands on a Tesco Mobile tariff, you’ll have to undergo a credit check. Tesco Mobile has 4G plans and 5G plans to choose from, however, regardless of your choice you’re locked into a 12-month contract.

Whilst the network doesn’t offer any great features like free WiFi, 4G Calling or Wi-Fi Calling or a data rollover scheme, you get 6 months of free Tesco Clubcard Plus on selected plans. If you have a Clubcard Plus membership you also get double data on selected plans.

All Tesco Mobile SIM only contracts come with 5000 minutes and texts. This is more than enough for a standard user, but if you make long phone calls on a regular basis, their deals might not be the right choice for you.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

virgin mobile winnerTesco Mobile’s tariffs are a tad cheaper, but Virgin Mobile’s plans most certainly offer more value, and significantly better network coverage combined with faster data speeds (except Tesco’s 5G deals).

Pay As You Go

Virgin Mobile used to offer PAYG bundles dubbed as Jam Packs, but as of July 2020 they no longer exist. At the time of writing the network doesn’t offer any PAYG services, but things may change once the merger with O2 is finalised.

Tesco Mobile has multiple pay as you go bundles and a traditional pay as you go service that rewards you with triple credits if you top-up £10, £15 or £20 in one go. The bonus credits expire after 30 calendar days, but you use them first before dropping to your regular allowance. Tesco Mobile’s out of plan charges are 25p/minute, 10p/text and 10/p MB and the same charges apply to their PAYG customers.

Alternatively, you can buy a Rocket Pack that’s valid for 30 calendar days from Tesco Mobile. These PAYG bundles are just as flexible as giffgaff’s Goodybags, because if you finish up a pack, you can purchase a new one and start using it without having to wait. However, they don’t offer as much value as Goodybags do.

Minutes & TextDataPrice
500 Minutes & 5000 Texts2GB£7.50
500 Minutes & 5000 Texts8GB£10.00
500 Minutes & 5000 Texts15GB£12.50
500 Minutes & 5000 Texts25GB£15.00
500 Minutes & 5000 Texts40GB£20.00

Tesco Mobile’s 5G coverage isn’t available to PAYG customers. You can read our Tesco Mobile PAYG Review to learn everything you need to know about this service.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

Tesco Mobile WinnerTesco Mobile is the winner of this category, since they offer a decent variety of PAYG alternatives and Virgin Mobile doesn’t have a pay as you go service.

Pay Monthly Phones

At the time of writing, there are more than 70 smartphones available on Virgin Mobile’s store. While Tesco Mobile’s site includes over 50 devices, about 40% of these phones are low end devices and they’re not the flagship phones from Apple, Samsung, Huawei or other popular brands.

Unless you’re a regular Tesco customer or looking for a shorter contract there are no extra benefits choosing Tesco Mobile’s phone deals over Virgin Mobile’s. The latter’s phone deals offer much better value for money. Plus you get unlimited UK minutes and texts, as well as the best 4G coverage available. It doesn’t end there as you can pick up deals combined with free headphones, a free year of Apple TV+ or Airpods (provided it’s an Apple device).

Virgin Mobile will let you choose between a 24-month contract and a 36-month contract. Tesco Mobile’s deals are a bit more flexible as you can choose between 12, 18, 24, 30 and 36-month contracts. You obviously pay less when you opt for a shorter contract, but that’s mainly because you’re not paying for an airtime plan, so the cost of the device doesn’t change drastically.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

virgin mobile winnerTesco Mobile’s tariffs are slightly cheaper, but Virgin Mobile’s plans most certainly offer more value, and significantly better network coverage combined with faster data speeds (except Tesco’s 5G deals). It’s a win for Virgin Mobile, unless you’re looking for a 5G deal.

Network Coverage & Speeds

2G, 3G & 4G Coverage

virgin-mobile-network-coverage-map-4gVirgin Mobile is using EE’s infrastructure to offer 2G, 3G and 4G coverage to its customers. EE’s 4G network coverage reaches over 99% of the population. Then again O2 powered Tesco Mobile’s 4G population coverage is also reaching over 99% of the population. So, what’s the difference between their coverage then?

Arguably, it’s the more important UK landmass coverage and EE is second to none in this area. The UK’s largest network has over 90% landmass coverage and it’s expected to reach over 95% before the end of this year.

tesco-mobile-network-coverage-mapEE’s data speeds are also significantly better than O2’s. Virgin Mobile’s download speeds are around 36Mbps, while the network’s upload speeds are at around 10Mbps. Tesco Mobile’s download speeds are around 18Mbps and upload speeds are around 6.4Mbps.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

virgin mobile winnerVirgin Mobile’s 4G network coverage and data speeds are considerably better. There’s no competition between the two networks in regards to this area. We have a clear winner in Virgin Mobile.

5G Coverage

5gVirgin Mobile doesn’t offer any 5G deals yet, and most likely the network will wait till the parent company Virgin Media merges with O2 to provide 5G coverage.

Tesco Mobile offers a few 5G plans, including an unlimited data plan and the network’s 5G service is available in 60 cities and towns in the UK. The carrier’s 5G tariffs are only available to contract customers, meaning PAYG services are excluded.

Minutes & TextDataPrice
50006GB£15/month
500025GB£20/month
5000Unlimited£30/month

You can read our Tesco Mobile 5G Review to learn more about the networks super-fast 5G service.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

Tesco Mobile WinnerSince Virgin Mobile doesn’t offer any 5G plans, Tesco Mobile is the clear winner here. Even though Tesco Mobile is a MVNO, they have multiple 5G deals including an unlimited one. It’s a rare sight in the UK mobile market.

Voice Call Quality

Voice Call QualityWhen it comes to voice call quality, Half Cooked relies on tests performed by independent bodies such as Open Signal, umlaut and OOKLA.

Looking at their combined test results we can see that Virgin Mobile’s host network EE takes the top spot in terms of voice call quality. EE scored ‘Very Good’, while Tesco Mobile’s parent network O2 scored ‘satisfactory’.

The results indicate that the call setup times of EE are much faster than O2’s, and the overall call quality is better on EE’s side.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

virgin mobile winnerVirgin Mobile’s host network EE easily wins this. Tesco Mobile’s host O2 offers decent network coverage, but not nearly as good as EE’s.

Wi-Fi Calling & 4G Calling

tesco-mobile-4g-wifi-calling4G Calling improves your overall voice call quality, eliminates indoor blackspots, and you can use data at 4G speeds even when you’re on a call.

Wi-Fi Calling lets you make and receive voice calls over an available Wi-Fi connection. Thanks to Wi-Fi Calling you can stay connected, even when you don’t get any phone signal. To benefit from these features you’ll need a compatible handset and a price plan that supports them. However, both Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile lack 4G Calling, but at least Virgin Mobile offers Wi-Fi Calling at no extra cost.

A cheaper alternative Half Cooked can recommend is iD Mobile. The network offers both 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling, but you’ll have to undergo a credit check. Make sure to read out iD Mobile Review to learn more about their services.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

virgin mobile winnerTesco Mobile doesn’t offer either services. Virgin Mobile doesn’t have 4G Calling, but at least the network provides a free Wi-Fi Calling service.

Wi-Fi Hotspots

wifi-hotspotsVirgin Mobile keeps you connected pretty much everywhere in the UK with fast 4G and free Virgin Media WiFi hotspots. The carrier’s free WiFi is available at over 3.5 million locations. All you need to do is download the app and set it up once. From that point on you’ll connect to Virgin Media WiFi hotspots wherever available. The network also keeps you connected in over 250 London Underground stations and another 79 London Overground stations. Virgin Mobile also offers 20 million more hotspots across the world!

Tesco Mobile customers can only benefit from O2’s free WiFi and Sky Mobile’s The Cloud service. However, these are also available to all mobile customers in the country, so it’s not an exclusive deal you get for being a Tesco Mobile customer.

We’d recommend reading our Sky Mobile Review to learn more about The Cloud. If you’re looking for a strong alternative to Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile also offers millions of free Wi-Fi hotspots both in the UK and across Europe.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

virgin mobile winnerNo challenge for Virgin Mobile here, they are one of the best when it comes to free WiFi hotspots, both in the UK and in Europe.

Tethering

virgin-mobile-tetheringTethering means turning your handset into a personal hotspot so other compatible devices can use your mobile data to gain access to the internet. Basically, you’re sharing your mobile data with other devices. As always we suggest you to be extra careful when turning tethering on and sharing your data allowance with others. When you’re tethering your data gets eaten at a much faster rate and if you have a low data plan, you can quickly run out.

Both Virgin Mobile and Tesco Mobile allow you to tether freely, however we recommend using a large data plan if you’re planning to tether on a regular basis. Ideally having an unlimited data plan is the best, but depending on your usage a large data plan like 50GB or 100GB might be enough. Virgin Mobile’s unlimited data deals are exclusive to Virgin Media’s TV and broadband customers. On the other hand, Tesco Mobile asks for no such commitment and allows anyone who can pass their credit check to get an unlimited data plan.

Having said that Virgin Media offers a wider variety of plans, but Tesco Mobile also allows you to access 5G data speeds.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

It’s really hard to pick a winner as they both have different pros and cons. Depending on your needs one network could prove better than the other.

International Roaming

international-roamingVirgin Mobile customers can use their UK allowances in 43 destinations in Europe. Tesco Mobile’s inclusive roaming zone is pretty similar to Virgin’s, but offers a few less destinations.

Extra charges apply when travelling outside the inclusive roaming zones on both networks. If you travel abroad often, and your destination is outside the EU, we’d recommend checking out Vodafone’s SIM only deals. Make sure to read our extensive Vodafone Review to find out all about the network.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

virgin mobile winnerWe’re giving the win to Virgin Mobile, but only because the network offers a few more free-roaming destinations.

Features

Virgin Mobile’s Features

Virgin Media WiFi

Virgin Mobile has over 3.5 million free Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK and another 20 million more across the world. Virgin Media customers also get free WiFi in more than 250 London Underground stations and 79 London Overground stations. The feature is exclusive to Virgin Media customers.

Data-Free Messaging on Social Media

The network has a data-free messaging feature for WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger & Twitter. Having said that, this perk only offers messaging, voice calls and video calls over these apps will still eat your regular data.

Data Rollover

Virgin Mobile customers get a second chance to use their left over data. If they didn’t get to use it all, the unused data will transfer to next month’s allowance and will be spent first.

Unlimited Data Plans

If you’re an existing Virgin Media TV or Broadband customer you can get an unlimited data plan from the network. You can choose either a 12-month contract or a 24-month contract.

Tesco Mobile’s Features

Tesco Mobile Clubcard Plus

Tesco Mobile ClubcardTesco Clubcard Plus is a great way to make the best out of your Tesco Mobile SIM. You’ll get double data on Tesco Mobile’s pay monthly SIM deals and you’ll also earn double points on all of your spending related to Tesco. You can even use these points to pay your Tesco Mobile bill. Don’t forget to read our Tesco Mobile Clubcard Plus Review to learn more!

5G Unlimited Data Plan

Tesco Mobile 5GTesco Mobile recently started offering unlimited data plans and the deal also includes 5G coverage in the UK. Tesco’s 5G coverage is live in 60 cities and towns and constantly improving.

Triple Credit

Tesco Mobile’s Triple Credit is a pay as you go feature. If you top-up £10, £15 or £20 in one go, the network will give you triple credit that’s valid for 30 calendar days and you’ll always spend the bonus credit first.

You can also get bonus bundles if you top-up £10 or £15 in one go. Charging your account for £10 can get you either 50 extra texts, 75 extra minutes or 250MB extra data. Make it £15 and Tesco will let you pick between 5000 texts, 200 minutes or 1GB extra data.

Half Cooked’s Verdict

virgin mobile winnerFree Wi-Fi service combined with a decent data rollover feature and other perks give the edge to Virgin Mobile. Tesco Mobile has many good features too though, and shouldn’t be ruled out.

Half Cooked’s Overall Breakdown

virgin mobile winnerVirgin Mobile’s superior network coverage, data speeds, features & perks make the network more desirable over its competitor. But like we stated above, Tesco Mobile is a good choice too, especially if you want to benefit from their 5G network.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does Tesco Mobile offer a data rollover scheme?

No, Tesco Mobile doesn’t have any data rollover scheme at the time of writing.

Does Tesco Mobile have 4G Calling and/or Wi-Fi Calling?

At the time of writing this comparison, Tesco Mobile doesn’t offer any Wi-Fi Calling or 4G calling features.

Which network does Tesco Mobile run on?

Tesco Mobile is powered by O2 and the carrier is offering 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G coverage in the UK.

Do Tesco Mobile and O2 have the same coverage?

Yes, Tesco Mobile is powered by O2 and therefore both networks offer identical network coverage. However, O2’s pay monthly customers also benefit from 4G Calling and Wi-Fi Calling, as well as O2 WiFi, and as a result the host network offers bit better coverage in rural areas.

Who owns Virgin Mobile?

Virgin Mobile is owned by Virgin Media, however the telecommunications company will merge with O2 in late 2021.

What network does Virgin Mobile run on?

Virgin Mobile is currently powered by EE, but once the merger between Virgin Media and O2 finalises, the carrier will switch to O2’s infrastructure.