Trying LycaMobile on EE Network (as a GiffGaff user)
I am a long-term GiffGaff user. I don’t remember for how long now, it was something around mid-2012. For years I constantly recommended GiffGaff due to great prices per monthly bundle (goody bags) and prices for calling abroad. Nothing has changed. I still recommend this to everybody who wants a bit of saving and great value for money, but I am always looking if there is something better.
GiffGaff relies on the O2 network and this is why I have stuck with them for so long. I have been on O2 for long. Shortly I explored Three UK but quickly moved away, as it was, and still is, rubbish for daily use in different locations.
Recently I read about a mess that happened on Lyca Mobile when they decided to migrate from O2 infrastructure to EE without properly informing their customers (or seeing how this affect them). This doesn’t look great, but not looking back, I want to try to see how the EE network works in places where O2 is struggling. Lyca Mobile on EE become a much more compelling choice.
Currently, I am paying £10 per month for 20GB Golden GoodyBag (with an extra 1GB on them if I run low) to get unlimited calls and text in the UK. All chargeable numbers and international calling are charged from a separate balance that I need to keep topped up.
The good news is, if I purchase Goodybag and I run out of data before 30 days, I can purchase a new one earlier. I don’t need to wait till the end of the period to do that. In Lyca Mobile this however is not the case. Once purchased a plan, even if you run out of data, you cannot purchase another one before the end of the 30 days.
The Lyca plan that I am looking for (end of August 2023), which is competitive with GiffGaff is also 20GB (for new customers), with Unlimited calls and Text for the same price, which is £10 per month, but for new customers, it is discounted to £5 for first 6 months if you keep auto-renewing your plan.
Additionally, I am getting 100 international minutes to 40+ destinations, including Poland where I am calling most of the time (however less over the mobile network but more over various communicators).
100 international minutes for free is a good deal for a start.
As I am mostly calling mobile numbers in Poland, in GiffGaff, this will cost me 5p per minute, hence these 100 minutes are worth £5. That’s not a bad deal. Above that it’s 6p per minute on Standard International Rates.
The only aspect that I consider is, are EE network coverage better than O2. All the signs say that EE works better.
I know what to expect from O2, but also know where O2 is lacking. My friends who are living in other parts of Leeds, UK have significant issues with phone calls inside their home (1 bar and 4G there is the maximum or no signal at all). I have an experience where it is not possible to use any data with your phone showing 3G, but sometimes, in weak 4G, it’s not working as well and nothing has changed for years.
This is not a specific GiffGaff issue but an O2 network overall.
In some rural areas that I have been to recently, there was no reception at all, despite the coverage map of Ofgem showing differently. When I finally got 1 bar of 4G the internet was still not working.
This made me think and I decided to give Lyca Mobile a try. In the worst case, after a month, or so, I will come back to GiffGaff, as migration between operators, when you are not tightened to a lengthy contract is right now straightforward.
With Lyca, I would like to try eSim in the first place (GiffGagg still hasn’t figured it out, or rather O2 didn’t allow them to go into this route). While still using GiffGaff I can go dual sim on my iPhone before deciding to migrate (or not).
Having a physical GiffGaff card on my phone I decided to activate eSIM from Lyca to try, and, on the other day migrate from one network to another.
Despite that purchase experience was straightforward and I received my QR code to activate my eSIM, this didn’t go according to plan.
When trying to activate my eSIM I received a message “Unable to Activate eSIM. You can try again or contact the network provider for assistance”.
Not a great start!
Just wonder if that was something with the fact that I purchased eSIM on the August Bank Holiday in the UK, and because of that the network may not have activated it yet.
Decided to wait an hour or two before trying again, and if unsuccessful again, I will decide to give Lyca a call.
In opposition to GiffGaff, you can call Lyca and speak with a human, so that’s a plus.
In the meantime, I searched the internet and haven’t found any information about this issue, especially not related to Lyca. Heading to the EE community forum some people recommend taking out the physical sim and then trying to activate eSim. Decided to give it a go.
Tried, but the result was the same.
Decided to give them a call on 0207 132 0322.
The difference between GiffGaff and Lyca is the thing that you can dial their customer service number and speak with a human and not rely only on dropping a message to an agent and waiting patiently until they respond.
Without long waiting times, I have been able to speak with somebody. They opened a case on their end, through which they will generate me new QR code with my eSIM card, as most likely there is a fault with my current code. Sadly, this will take more likely 24-48 hours.
Goods that I am not in a rush for my new card and I can wait for a new QR code, in another case, this is not a great start, but let’s understand that this is just a technology that is not false proof.
I am meantime I want to check my theory, that the eSIM are not always ready from the first minute after purchase, especially those from virtual operators like Lyca and I got right.
Six hours later I decided to re-try adding my eSIM to my phone by scanning the QR code from my email.
This time there was no error message and “Activating…” stayed on screen a bit longer.
Shortly after a while it changed into “Connecting to network…”.
Roughly a minute later it showed the “Continue” button with a message that I could use my iPhone while they activate my eSIM.
In the next steps, I followed setting the primary SIM card, which is used for Data and secondary for other stuff. Nice.
Once my phone showed GiffGaff and EE network on my Gmail landed an email from Lyca Mobile with information about the activation of my eSIM and my Lyca number.
Despite that I have been promised a new QR code for my eSim Lyca never came back to me. This is not a great approach, despite being able to speak with humans, they do not tend to do what they telling you.
I quickly turned on Airplane mode then once again I received text messages from Lyca Mobile that Bundle Activation been Successful and then another text message with my phone number.
This was followed by a link to register my phone number at LycaMobile.co.uk/en/registration, which I do.
After a few days my phone displayed EE as a network provider and changed to be displayed as LycaMobile. This is probably because network settings on a phone need to be updated. That same case is with GiffGaff which is displaying O2 first and then updating itself to display the right name.
When I purchased eSIM for use by my friends, during the week, the activation took approximately 5-10 minutes without any errors. My experience probably has something to do with non-working days.
Once that was done I decided to compare speed in my location.
I turned off my Wi-Fi and ran fast.com speed test on my Primary sim card.
The peak download speed was around 110Mbps and the download 25Mbps with an average of 90/17 on O2.
When I switched from Primary card for data use to Lyca, to my surprise I received information that I am using LTE, not 5G.
This was the first time that I saw an LTE connection in the UK for a while, as typically it’s 4G or 5G (than 3G). In Poland, where I used to live, the LTE (or LTE+) was a very common name years back.
Despite that LTE in theory shall be slower than 5G, during the test it peaked at 270Mbps and stabilised at around 100Mbps with download and 22Mbps peak upload.
This LTE made me think so I headed to Settings > Mobile Data and checked the default setting on the Voice & Data option.
There were more options available there on Lyca than on GiffGaff.
There it was LTE set by default and not 5G Auto. I switched to 5G Auto and tried again.
Once I first ran a speed test on LTE, and shortly after received a text message from Lyca, that I could enjoy 5G data.
This time I noticed 5G in the network bar and not LTE.
Not surprised however that LTE was set by default, as speeds on 5G were worse than on LTE peaking at 80Mbps on download but upload peak at 30Mbps to finish at an average of 72/14.
Then I remembered that my iPhone had Apple’s Private Relay turned on by default. This may have an impact on internet speeds. I decided to remove that and repeat the tests.
- GiffGaff (O2) finished at 120Mbps download and 16Mbps upload average on 5G.
- Lyca (EE) finished 83Mbps on download and 21Mbps upload on LTE.
- Lyca (EE) finished at 54Mbps on download and 18Mbps upload on 5G.
What interested me was Latency on EE on 5G and LTE, which is way worse than on O2. Better latency will work great for people playing on their mobiles.
O2 showed Latency at 49ms when Unloaded, but when loaded peaked at 503ms. You can interpret this as a lag in a game of 0.5 seconds.
EE latency was 61ms when Unloaded and 1s (that’s 1000ms) when Loaded on LTE, and 1.8s (1800ms) on 5G. That’s bad!
To compare, my home internet on Virgin Media 250Mbps connection has a latency of around 80ms (on my OpenWrt router).
A big test would be however to check this in destinations where I always struggle to get internet, like my friend’s house. The map of coverage from Ofgem looks way better for EE than for O2 with them.
Also, at my place of work, I rarely have 5G service indoors and wonder if I will manage to get it with Lyca Mobile. Looking at an Ofgem map, the indoor coverage is patchy.
The speeds were very similar however latency on EE, once again, was poor!
My test at my friend’s house went smoothly but the results weren’t as impressive as I would expect.
Overall signal strength was better. The advantage of having LTE among 3G, 4G and 5G maintain the connection in weak spots.
During the test call, the call was fine (not great, but fine), however, I haven’t lost the recipient. When disconnected, noticed that GiffGaff (O2) showed No Service info where Lyca Mobile (EE) had still been operational.
Where O2 shows barely one bar of 4G and constantly switches between 3G and 4G, the EE shows one bar in 5G.
The speeds oscillate from 1Mbps on download on O2 to 8-9Mbps on EE, so that’s an improvement. The strength of EE has been comparable to what the Ofgem map showed for my friend’s location, however, there was one spot where EE showed me No Service and GiffGaff still hung on a single bar. This however was (EE) way better than what my friends experience every single day, where they miss precious calls because their phone shows them No Signal or a weak signal didn’t allow them to go through.
This proves the point, that, at least for them, trying different networks may be a good option for their problems.
My friend has been using LycaMobile for a couple of weeks and noticed that sometimes the phone is losing signal as well (less than GiffGaff), however when it does it’s more aggressively trying to connect back, probably trying different frequencies. This results in a huge battery drain. On one day when I checked, 25% of the loss of battery on her iPhone was due to No Service rather than the use of other apps. Thats bad.
Despite complaints, O2 didn’t do anything for years to improve their signal in some areas, hence EE will grab these customers who need a bit more reliability.
Let’s not think that everything is better.
I went to my normal place where I training Karate to find out, inside the place (Church), there was No Signal from EE at all when O2 still managed to have full signal on 4G.
This makes me think, is this solution good for me? Maybe it will be better for my friend, but not necessarily for me.
I kept looking for other things before I made a decision.
Another difference between Lyca Mobile to GiffGaff, despite that the GiffGaff website is much more user-friendly (accessible), you can see your Billing History on the website (if it’s working).
This may sound crazy, but sometimes, when you wonder where you have been charged from your balance or where your data goes, you can see it there.
One surprise for me with Lyca was the lack of Two-Step Authentication to access your profile. You can do a SIM swap straight from your account, the lack of additional authentication is a bit risky in current times.
If you travelling to the EU, it will be very important for you to be able to use your phone as you tend to use it. Due to recent changes, most of the operators implemented Data Cap when used in the EU. In GiffGaff, through O2, imposed a 5GB data cap independently if you got a Goodybag with 20GB or a lot more.
With Lyca Mobile is a bit different. The cap depends on the package that you purchased.
For example, in my current package of 20GB, my EU Roaming Data Cap is set at 12 GB.
If you opt-in to the Unlimited plan (speed capped after 300GB uses), you will get 35GB for roaming.
In both instances, that’s way better than just 5GB.
From time to time, when my internet goes down, I need to regain access to my laptop and for this purpose, I am using Tethering.
In GiffGaff there was no issue with that. You using the plan that you purchased and your allowance.
I was a bit surprised that Lyca Mobile in their terms and conditions forbids Tethering and advises that data can be used in the mobile phone only. Seriously!?
That’s a bit of nonsense. In current times, if you paying for something you shall be able to do with it what is possible.
Here is a bit of a mess on the Lyca Mobile end. When you try to go through their website, you will find conflicting information, and tethering is also the same. The only article I found there was from 2019, which is 4 years old, saying that you cannot tether, however, the UK popular site uSwitch, when describing Lyca Mobile stated that it is allowed, hence they need to have, possibly right, information.
They recently updated their website and their FAQ section where they answered the question as Yes and removed reference to old inaccurate articles.
Here the power of the GiffGaff community wins keeping their website fresh and updated, and any old inaccurate information is removed. On Lyca, what has been published, which is not necessarily still the case, is still there. Possibly a different employee added this, and since then when he left, nobody has reviewed that. That is not a good thing, especially since you would like to base all your information using the source - their official website.
After the pros and cons, I decided to give it a try, but I have not fully resigned from GiffGaff.
I kept my number with GiffGaff but switched data use for Lyca Mobile (EE) to see in real life how it works. I turned off recurring Goodybag for a month and selected my main internet to be used through the EE network.
When I decide, I can transfer my number to Lyca Mobile using their form, or cancel Goodybag and use it for a bit longer as PAYG, as most of my friends are with GiffGaff and I got typically 3 months of free GiffGaff to GiffGaff calls and texts since last top-up (purchased Goodybag).
Will see how it will go.
For now it’s like me and my bank - Monzo. I know that other banks give bribes to join them, some of them even £200, however, the flexibility and useability of Monzo, and the lack of unnecessary bureaucracy do not compensate for taking steps back with something that is part of my financial life.
I port a couple of people over to GiffGaff and this was always straightforward, but with Lyca Mobile I feel like a novice user.
Whoever comes up with the idea of Porting Form shall be fired.
Name, Surname, email, number you want to keep then PAC code look very similar, but next we need to put New number (?).
What is a New number if we keep the number provided earlier?.
The Lyca Mobile SIM number is the temporary mobile number attached to our eSIM that will be replaced with our ported number.
Then we got another mobile SIM number, which is?
Finishing with porting date and the acceptance of Terms and Conditions before moving forward.
I was seriously stuck in that form and decided to use the robot icon available in the right bottom corner and do this through it. It was much more intuitive and 2 days later my friend was moved and she was able to start testing Lyca Mobile in a field.
The good news with GiffGaff is, that even when you move away, your account, login details and password will still work. Simply you will not have any SIM attached to it. If you decide that Lyca Mobile is not for you you can easily move back to how it used to be.
The initial test for my friends went so well that they decided to move their other number (partner’s number) to Lyca Mobile as well.
Since I tried to port a number Lyca website has been updated along with the porting form. However, I haven’t been able to see how it looks as their new website constantly has problems and apart from rought information you cannot even access your account.
On that day, when we decided to migrate my friend my Golden Goodybag from GiffGaff expired and I started testing the internet over the EE network as well to give me an overview of how good, or not, this would be for me before I decide, or not, to move my number across. I am not rushing into that and if needed, I will keep testing until my statutory GiffGaff to GiffGaff free calls will be due to expire, which is 11th November 2023.
There is another reason why I am not rushing into moving across from GiffGaff is the fact that I recommend people and I am collecting incentives from that, which is accumulated over periods of months. Currently, I have a small amount for payback for the period finishing in November 2023 and don’t want to risk losing it. But that will give me plenty of time to test Lyca Mobile in a field.
Time has passed and I haven’t found any difference in my use between GiffGaff (O2) and Lyca Mobile (EE).
I know that in some areas it will be better (my friends proved to me that when they got to the sea area, none of their friends on O2 got a signal when she got it all working well), but mostly, in these rural places I am occasionally, typically on school holidays. Having the option to attach eSim in a short period will add options when I need them.
I keep thinking about what to do and the recent events with Lyca mobile just assured me that, when Lyca is working for my friends well, I will not be staying with them.
Some things that I experienced in the testing period just assured me that this was right for me.
At the end of September and the beginning of October 2023, Lyca updated their website worldwide and they messed up with it so badly, that people haven’t been able to do anything with their accounts.
In 2023 they refer people to go back by 10 years when to top up the phone you been forced to go to a physical shop, buy a voucher, dial a number and type the code from the card.
I cannot believe what I saw.
At this time I have been ready to turn off auto-renewal of my plan but I haven’t been able to do so either.
Luckily for me, I still got like 3 weeks before its end and a few days later I was able to log into my account and turn it off.
Good that I did this, as at the time of finishing this article, logging into the account on their new website is down again. The mobile app also throws out an error message and nothing you can do about that.
I still have less than 3 weeks with Lyca before my plan terminates and I reactivate my Golden Goodybag at GiffGaff, but even that I cannot do anything on my account without going into the methods used ages ago by dialling special codes to check my balance.
The problems with the website, mobile apps and logging onto the account were just a final confirmation of the decision that I already made, to leave Lyca and stuck with GiffGaff as a main provider.
There were other things that I didn’t like.
From day one, when I was attached to an eSim and a new Lyca number I started getting spam calls on that new number.
The number that nobody knew, in theory, suddenly been known by telemarketers. The surprise was that they knew my name, so they got this information from somewhere.
It looks like Lyca is doing some shady business selling their customer details. If I just get random spam calls, I would think that they reused some number from the past, but the callers knew the details that they should not. Worrying!
The other aspect was when it came to the time when your plan was meant to be renewed.
GiffGaff is sending you all the information about when the plan is ending, what the next plan and, more important, how much it will cost and when they will charge you.
Lyca is less transparent.
You get information that your plan is extending but you don’t know how much you will get charged.
I initially signed into a deal, so as long my Auto-renewal is on, for the first months I am supposed to be charged only £5 for a plan that normally costs £10, but how am I supposed to know how much they will charge me.
There was nowhere information so see what my charge will be. Also, when (finally) logging into my account I couldn’t find information on how much I am currently paying or will be paying.
This is a bit shady.
Maybe with their new website this is meant to change, however, with current problematic access through it, I will not hold too much hope.
Every single text message and email reminding me about the renewal of my plan has been also not clear, without any cost etc.
I cannot stand this like that if I don’t know clearly how much I am paying.
If they somehow change their prices and I do not notice, I will be facing an ugly surprise that I cannot do anything about it until the next plan starts.
When I thought that things could not go any worse LycaMobile sent me the following text message:
“Lyca Mobile is responding to a data security incident. As a precaution, please read our customer guidance at lycamobile.co.uk/en/update”
There you can read:
“Lyca Mobile UK Limited has been the victim of a systems cyber attack.”
“Lyca Mobile first became aware of this on 30 September and took immediate action to contain the incident, which included isolating and shutting down systems where appropriate.”
As I mentioned in the beginning, the fact that accounts with LycaMobile are not protected by a factor authenticator was one of the things that stopped me from migrating my main number to them and I keep exploring in a dual sim environment.
I bet that they will handle this and learn from the past but for me, it was an interesting experience GiffGaff will remain my main choice.
As I mentioned, there are some pluses and minuses of joining Lyca Mobile.
Ignoring the costs, which Lyca is trying to go absurdly low to gain customers if your main issue is the signal and speed of your mobile internet, then LycaMobile is a good way to try EE network.
In any other instances I still strongly recommend joining GiffGaff where I am heading back really soon.
ps. If you read this in full, I officially never left.
If you are interested in joining GiffGaff, you can always do that by ordering a free SIM card with delivery to your home, and additionally by getting at least £5 balance on it for free when purchasing your free plan but using the below referral code: