Are giffgaff customers using a throttled O2 network?

I am puzzled by my recent experience with giffgaff and I am starting to think that O2 is throttling their network for giffgaff customers. It’s the only explanation that seems to fit the facts.

I switched from Three to giffgaff about three weeks ago and immediately experienced worse reception than I was experiencing with Three. It was reception issues with Three which drove me away from them into the arms of giffgaff in the first place.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire!

Instagram on a cell-phone

Here are the facts.

1) It is almost impossible for me to receive or make calls in my house. Calls drop out, are distorted or are cut off without warning. I’ve never experienced such terrible call quality and its become a big problem as important people can’t get hold of me.

2) Our children are on Tesco Mobile, which also runs on the O2 network. When i try and call them when we are in the same room, they get good call quality but my connection fails or is distorted.

3) It’s not my phone as call quality was fine when I replaced my giffgaff sim with my Three sim card.

4) I am not the only one experiencing these problems. See the giffgaff reviews on TrustPilot.

O2 must be contraining giffgaff bandwith

Telefonica own the O2 brand and were also very clever in creating a low cost community based brand called giffgaff. This was a smart move, in my opinion, as it allowed Telefonica to capture the price sensitive end of the market whilst protecting its more premium O2 brand.

By having community based support and using the existing O2 network, giffgaff must earn large incremental earnings for Telefonica, but as it becomes more successful the strain on the O2 network can only increase.

It is vital that Telefonica protect the call and data qualities for their O2 customers so it would make sense for them to constrain bandwidth to the lower paying (yet still profitable) giffgaff customers.

I worked in network technologies when I was an IT Consultancy manager so I know how easy it is for a network like O2 to manage bandwidth and to contrain access according to device, usage and subscription. Telefonica must be doing this.

But what about Tesco Mobile? Tesco Mobile prices are generally higher than giffgaff. I am guessing here, but it seems likely that Tesco Mobile have an agreement with Telefonica to allow their users to access the O2 network without constraint. In exchange, it is likely that Tesco pay more for their bandwith, which is why Tesco have to charge their customers more.

You get what you pay for – that is always true, even with mobile phone networks!

The facts point to one conclusion

When you look at it in this way, the only logical explanation is that if you use giffgaff then you are likely to receive worse call quality and data speeds because Telefonica are constraining how much bandwidth it is allowing you.

You pay less and receive less in return. Nothing new there!

But what about iD Mobile?

I have had enough of the giffgaff problems and having been considering moving iD Mobile, which partners with Carphone Warehouse. Their prices are amazing, as you can see in this screenshot of their sim only pricing page.

These low prices are starting to concern me, though. Also iD Mobile reviews on Trust Pilot are not at all encouraging.

Excellent sim only deals from iD Mobile

Excellent sim only deals from iD Mobile

If Telefonica constrain bandwith and service quality for their low paying giffgaff customers, have Carphone Warehouse arranged a similar deal with the Three Mobile network?

I didn’t have my iD Mobile account for long enough to find out yesterday when I foolishly bought my contract from carphone Warehouse instead of directly from the iD Mobile website. So I don’t know how good iD Mobile service quality is in my area.

Have you had any experience with iD Mobile? Do you agree with me that giffgaff customers are probably receiving constrained access to the O2 network? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Update 10 September 2016

I had a conversation with a customer support agent for Tesco Mobile this morning. He pretty much confirmed my suspicions about the giffgaff access to the O2 network.

According to him, Tesco share the network with O2 and any other bandwidth is then available to giffgaff.

What this means is that you should receive similar reception with O2 and Tesco, but if you use giffgaff then you may suffer from worse reception because it is constrained by Tesco and O2 usage.

As I said above, you get what you pay for and if you do receive good reception with giffgaff, you are fortunate in having access to some fantastic deals.


  1. Ash 1st September 2016
    • Chris 1st September 2016

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