Smaller mobile networks outperform the ‘big four’ providers and are £10 cheaper per month on average, according to the latest annual ‘best and worst’ survey from Which?.

While EE, O2, Vodafone and Three account for 76% of all UK mobile customers, they consistently score lower for reliability than smaller rivals that use their networks. All ranked in the bottom half of the 16 providers analysed by Which?.

The UK’s largest network, EE, only came in 11th place, and while its download speeds powered by 5G impressed, its technical support, customer service and value for money underwhelmed.

O2 was actually the best of the big four, but it did not stand out in any category, with average scores across the board and a 9th-placed ranking overall.

Three performed the worst of the big providers, with poor download speeds and network reliability common bugbears for the 45% of customers who have recently had problems with the network.

It may come as a surprise, but smaller networks offer much better performance in comparison, with Smarty, a virtual network that piggybacks on Three’s service, topping the rankings.

In joint second place came giffgaff, Tesco and Plusnet, while VOXI, Lebara and iD Mobile all beat out bigger providers.

More importantly, during the cost-of-living crisis, these networks offered better value for money with cheaper deals available across all contract types.

“Anyone looking for a reliable carrier that offers a flexible contract and good value for money should consider one of the virtual networks, who continue to outperform the big four year after year,” Which? spokesperson Natalie Hitchins concluded.