Vote for your favourite mobile network of the year

Is Vodafone your favourite mobile phone network?
Is Vodafone your favourite mobile phone network?

The TechRadar Phone Awards 2011 are now fully underway, but there's a crucial question that's still unanswered: which network do you think deserves the most credit over the last 12 months?

The question of 'best network' is highly subjective, with most customers simply either thinking their provider is perfectly adequate or the worst in the world - but with swathes of them now competing for our dollar, there are a multitude of decent deals to be had no matter what you're after.

With this in mind, TechRadar has narrowed down the best networks to a longlist of 10 - all of which need your help for as many votes as possible.

See below for our list of what we think are the best networks in the UK at the moment - but you can still choose your own favourite in the TechRadar Phone Awards if you completely disagree with our nominees.

So get clicking to help make your favourite provider the pick of the bunch before we whittle the selection down to the top networks - and in the process you can WIN yourself a brand new Windows Phone 7 smartphone.

BT Mobile

While it's not the same as the BT Cellnet we all remember (which subsequently morphed into O2) BT is still offering mobile tariffs in the UK for the business-minded among us.

Whether it's for the new entrepreneur striking out on their own for the first time or someone looking to control a few staff members' phone contracts for not much moolah, BT Mobile offers a few deals to help people get started.

Plus, the option of shared minutes for large businesses or the ability to tailor your package to include Blackberry, Android or Windows 7 devices with a range of data bundles, and for the business people you can see why this might be a winner.


GiffGaff promises to be a 'different kind of network' in that it's run by its members, meaning that users actually get rewarded for taking part in the running of the network, answering questions and pushing the brand.

Offering things like cheaper cross network calls on pay as you go and free mobile internet are bound to entice users in, but also being able to earn money for recruiting others to the network is going to entice customers to encourage others in.

Of course, this is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) running atop the O2 network, so it's not going to be able to compete with the likes of Vodafone when it comes to coverage, but it's all about the SIM cards here - no phones in sight so it's up to you to get the best device through actual saving up (or just bung it in that old iPhone you've finished paying Orange for).


  • Vote for your favourite mobile network here


The bubbly network has enjoyed a steady rise up the charts over the past few years, thanks to some exclusive handsets - and while it's not the only place to get the iPhone any more, it's invested heavily in upgrading its network to keep up with the data demand.

It's still one of the largest networks and offers decent bundles of minutes and texts as well as data, plus a number of tie ins with its music venues and customer rewards.

Other ventures, such as investment in 4G research, NFC and O2 Money, show that the network wants to stay at the cutting edge - but is it your favourite network?


There's a temptation to link Orange with T-Mobile for this award, since the two are now both run by the Everything Everywhere brand - but Orange is still plugging away in a very different direction to its pink compatriot.

It still has a number of exclusive handsets, such as the Motorola Atrix, and the Orange San Francisco has been winning rave reviews as the best budget phone out there at the moment.

It's also the first network to really push hard at Near Field Communication integration on the high street (beeping your phone to pay for stuff has become a reality) - plus Orange Rock Corps is actively encouraging users to donate their time to charitable causes in exchange for concert tickets to make it look all benevolent and that.


  • Vote for your favourite mobile network here


T-Mobile might have garnered less limelight than its more Oompa-Loompa hued stable mate, but the magenta brand is still pushing ahead with its own range of plans and viral videos to boot.

The flash mob ad at Heathrow Terminal 5 garnered a lot of coverage for the network, plus it took advantage of the hype around the royal wedding to offer its own take on how the nuptials might progress.

The tie-in with Orange resulted in a huge amount of extra signal for customers, which is important for a network that has nearly all the top smartphones on its books.


TalkMobile, launched by The Carphone Warehouse a few moons ago, is another MVNO that promises to give its customers the best deals.

It's pretty competitive out there these days, so TalkMobile is offering easy ways to transfer your number, PAYG reward and cheaper calls with shorter contracts to help entice customers across.

Other services like Mobile Banking from HSBC, first direct, LloydsTSB, NatWest, RBS or Ulster Bank allows customers to see mini-statements and the like on the go, and free calls to charity numbers offer the chance to boost your karma rating.

Piggybacking on the Vodafone network means the provider can promise 99.7% coverage - but is that enough to get your vote?

Tesco Mobile

Tesco Mobile - another MVNO in our list - is one of the better known mobile phone providers outside of the 'Big Five'. It's based it philosophy on simplicity, taking a swipe at the fluffy mobile ads and big brand sponsorship its peers advocate.

This means users can get simpler (and often cheaper) deals on the major handsets, with shorter contracts and flexibility on minutes and data too.

Like GiffGaff it nabs O2's signal, so is subject to the same fluctuations in coverage as the bubbly provider - but the network has proved successful enough to branch out on the high street by itself already.


  • Vote for your favourite mobile network here


Seen as the underdog in the mobile network race for so long, Three has been clawing its way back by exploiting the explosion in data usage on the go.

With innovative offerings like the One Plan, which gives users swathes of minutes, texts and data on a number of phones, and finally moving into stocking some decent handsets after years in the feature-phone wilderness, the numerical network is certainly not down and out.

A vicious campaigner for elements like Terminate the Rate and Mobile Number Porting, you could back Three for best network simply because it raises pertinent issues to the industry - or you could just enjoy its quirky ads instead.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile has been around for donkey's years it seems, but in its current guise it's really taking advantage of being bundled in with Virgin Media's services.

But on top of that, the network is keeping up to date by offering handset updates in a timely fashion (the Android brigade goes nuts when its forced to wait for the latest version of the software) while also trying to bring some of the big name handsets to its stables.

Unlike the other MVNOs in our longlist, Virgin uses T-Mobile's signal to get its coverage, offering a slightly different coverage map to its rivals, but a growing user base means its still one of the more visible networks out there.

Virgin mobile

  • Vote for your favourite mobile network here


Vodafone is one of the longest-running networks in the UK, bringing with it a huge user base and a number of exclusive handsets to the party.

The Big Red network is one of the most prevalent on the high street, and with tie-ins with the likes of the McLaren F1 team and festivals means it has a good method of offering outside privileges for its customers.

It's also one of the fastest at delivering Android updates to its handsets - something that's critical in this day and age - and like the other big players has a big focus on expanding its data coverage in the UK. But is that enough to make Vodafone your favourite network?

  • Vote for your favourite mobile network here
Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.