O2 was formed in 1985 by John Carrington when it was known as Cellnet. It was a venture between BT and Securicor but by 1999 BT bought out the rest of the company and rebranded itself as BT Cellnet. In June 2002, the company was rebranded to O2 and in 2005 they were acquired by Telefónica in a £17.7 billion deal.
O2 is the second-largest mobile telecommunications provider in the United Kingdom and several virtual networks use its infrastructure including Giffgaff and Tesco Mobile.
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O2 tariffs are priced pretty similarly to the other main mobile networks although they are certainly at the pricier end of the spectrum. Especially when compared to the cheaper virtual mobile networks, they seem to offer pretty poor value for money. They do offer a good text bundle on the Simplicity tariff though.
But what about the quality of the network? They have a reliable 2G network that has excellent reception in the UK but unfortunately their 3G network only covers 80% of the country. This makes them probably the worst network in the UK for data especially as they don’t offer any unlimited data deals. Further investment in their high speed network is definitely needed. Even worse than this, the PAYG customers have a crippled data connection as, compared to the contract customers, the data speeds are highly throttled.
Their customer service seems to vary but they have several high street stores which is useful in choosing a phone or for sorting out problems. They do have plenty of options for PAYG tariffs so even though they are pricey, you should be able to find something that is suitable for you. They are also known for throwing in freebies to established customers.
Overall, O2 have a wide range of tariffs available but unfortunately they are all quite expensive compared to their competition. Also, if you plan to use 3G data a lot, check their coverage in your area as their 3G network is relatively poor.
At a glance
O2 is one of the most expensive networks in the UK. The PAYG prices are 35p/minute for calls and their texts are the dearest at 12p each. Even internet is £1/day (although you do get a 100MB allowance for this) and they charge 15p/minute for 0800 calls. Even the bolt-ons are a poor value for money with 50 texts costing £4/month (that’s still 8p each, double Giffgaff’s normal rate) or £4.99/month for a 50% discount to three numbers of your choice.
However, O2 does offer some tempting deals on a few of their tariffs. For example, if you top-up £15 on O2 Unlimited you get unlimited calls and unlimited texts but only to other O2 customers. Giffgaff offer this free of charge but obviously don’t have as many users as O2.
Alternatively, the Simplicity rate gives you unlimited texts for only £7.50 a month which is great for high-volume SMS users. Another tempting deal they offer is unlimited calls to O2 mobiles and UK landlines from a chosen postcode but you do have to pay £30/month to qualify.
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