This website is here to help you save money on your phone bill
There’s never been the same level of competition in the UK market. Speeds have never been faster, managing your account has never been easier. Unfortunately, all of this brings complexity and a need to compare things simply.
Cutting through the overwhelming array of price plans in the UK market involves a few simple steps. We’ve tried to give you everything you need right here.
What you can expect on this site: We begin by telling you what you can expect from our site.
Knowing what’s what : We start, below, by providing the most valuable elements of UK price plans. We explain what each feature is so that you have a clear idea what you’re comparing.
Consider size : Make sure you consider both the big phone companies and the smaller phone companies when comparing SIM only plans. Depending on the features you need, either one could be right for you.
Consider phone type : Consider the type of phone you have – is it 3G or 4G ? You’ve a roughly 50%/50% chance of being right at the moment. Older, 3G phones will give you the best deals. 3G price plans are often much cheaper.
We explain all of this below. Once you understand how things work, you can use our comparison pages to explore the detail of the plan you’re after.
What you can expect on our site
WhatPhonePlans.co.uk is a SIM Only plan comparison site. We compare SIM Only plans from both the big and small phone companies. We don’t cover every phone company but we do cover what we consider to offer the best deals in the country for both Pay As You Go ( prepaid ) and Month to Month ( postpaid ) accounts.
How to use our site
Our team have worked in phone companies for years. With ‘insider knowledge’ you’re in a much better position to share.
Click the menu item and scroll down. You’ll see all the relevant plans from our site displayed. On some pages, we’ve designed things so there’s a separate ‘competitor section’. In here, you’ll see what we believe to be the most worthwhile alternatives for the plan you’re considering.
At the bottom of each page, below the quick summary of the pros and cons of each type of plan, is a ‘Continue Reading’ button. Open it and, in the text which follows’ you’ll see a nuts and bolts discussion on the plan. In these articles, you’ll see the phone companies’ marketing messages ‘translated’ in to plain English. Our team have worked in phone companies for years. With ‘insider knowledge’ you’re in a much better position to share.
What to expect from whatphoneplans.co.uk
Buying a phone plan can seem like a huge and complex activity. As you know. There are a limited number of places you can go to reliably compare the plans which exist. It seems like every day, there is a discussion of two phone companies undergoing a merger, the release of a new quadplay offering, the implementation of some new regulations or rules. A lot of this muddies the waters and means nothing to those watching.
Whatphoneplans.co.uk has been designed to help you navigate the environment and find yourself the right SIM Only plan for you. We’re trying to simplify the process for you. This is what you’ll see on the site :
SIM Only comparisons : A single, simple place to compare the key features of each SIM only plan in a table. We’ve provided filters so you can quickly cut through the range to find the price plan for you. For those who have the time, we also explain on every page how to go about sifting the information. Our comparison table allows users to subset the plans they’re considering using the ‘compare’ feature. From here, it’s easier to pick the plan which best serves your needs.
Best sellers : We have considered average usage requirements of people SIM Only plans. We also use our knowledge of the market and the best plans available to provide recommended best sellers.
Reviews : We provide in depth reviews of the major phone companies. We break each company’s products down in to features ( you can see this in our tables on the operator’s sites ) and line them up side by side to assist your comparison. This way, you can determine the plan features which are important to you and compare the operators on those features before you choose the price.
Insight : We do the phone company plan analysis for you. We’ve used our extensive knowledge of the industry to cut through the multiple explanations offered by the telcos. Our goal is to help you understand where the products are the same and where they differ. We track key industry trends and offer infographics designed to better explain the news you need.
Laymen’s terms : We explore the technology involved in mobile phone plans in details, explaining every term in simple terms so you can understand what you need and the commitment, if any, you are undertaking. We try and lay out complex ideas in simple ways to help you understand the SIM Only plans on the market and how you can quickly pick that which best suits your needs.
The truth : Critical in cutting through phone company marketing materials, we tell you the truth as we see it to inform your own view. Having worked for phone companies in the UK and overseas, we review the plans and plan features of the major phone companies with a suspicious eye. Our goal is to separate the reality from the marketing and present the answer to you in an easy to digest format.
Deals : On each page, we highlight top picks, show you value you may not have found elsewhere and make it easier to delve in to the plans offered by phone companies you wouldn’t have thought of in other circumstances. One of the key comparison criteria of whatphoneplans.co.uk is inclusion of MVNO or Mobile Virtual Network Operators ( more on this below). These smaller phone companies often have deals and offers which provide better value than the top 4 alternatives.
The UK market for SIM Only plans
UK Phone companies are consistently innovative in their plan inclusions. On top of the basic minutes, number of SMS and data inclusions, these are the key value added items to consider when comparing SIM Only plans :
Coverage : We provide detailed analysis of the major UK phone companies. We give you links to their coverage checkers if you want to ensure you’re covered where you live and work. We also expand on general national trends and give you statistics you can use to understand the coverage capabilities of the phone companies around the country. Coverage is such an emotive and important issue for a product like a phone. Coverage expectations are set by the landlines that most customers are familiar with. When you pick up a phone, you expect it to work. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
3G or 4G : Approximately half of the phones in the UK are 3G. The remainder, pretty much any phone purchased after 2011 will be 4G. 4G speeds are 5-10 times faster than 3G. You’ll get more reliable video with less ‘stuttering’ and faster song downloads on a 4G phone.
Data : There tend to be 3 types of data user. Low users know who they are and need less than 500 MB of data, usually for an older 3G / feature phone. Average users who, of course, make up the majority and high users. High users usually know who they are because they need to buy extra data allowances on top of their plans and are techno savvy enough to know how best to manage their data usage.
Data trials : Vodafone is the only phone company to currently offer a trial period for data. With Vodafone, you’re allowed to use data unmetered for the first 3 months of the agreement. This allows you to get your phone set up, apps downloaded and for you to ‘find your groove’ with your data usage. It’s a lovely and important feature and a good reason to choose Big Red.
Self Service : All the major phone companies and most of the smaller ones have a Self Service App these days. You can track your usage and spend, estimate the amount of data you’ve got and add more if you need to. With some, you can even log a service call to have a billing query dealt with.
SMS notifications : Some phone companies will offer you an SMS notification when you get to 80% of your plans allowance. Despite the fact that these notifications can lag your actual usage by up to 24 hours, they are a useful step towards not blowing your bill and incurring overage charges.
Capped Data : Only EE offers capped data plans in the UK. Better than an SMS notification, capped data completely overrides your chances of getting charged more than you thought for your data. Given the overage charges for data which can be up to £25 per GB, capped data is an important and useful way of ensuring that you get the most value out of your data allowance without spending more than you expected.
Capped Spends : Announced in early 2015, capped spends from the major phone companies are a way of limiting your risk. Should your phone be stolen or lost and picked up by someone untrustworthy, setting a cap of, say, £100 per month, insulates you from the worst of their behavior. It’s not uncommon for stolen phones to be used to call extremely expensive numbers overseas. It’s possible for a phone to run up thousands of pounds of charges in a couple of days. If the maximum cost is capped, however, once the pound limit is reached, that’s it. The phone will cut off and the person using the phone will be left without a functioning handset.
Unlimited data : Only Three offer unlimited data in the UK at the moment. 4GB of that unlimited allowance can be used to tether your laptop to the internet ( see next section. ) Unlimited data is an almost unique offering from 3, anywhere in the world. Phone companies rely so heavily on data to grow revenues that giving as much away for free as Three do is unusual.
Tethering : Tethering is the act of attaching your laptop to the internet using your phone. The laptop is then online, through the phone and using your phone’s data allowance to browse, download and connect. Tethering is useful in some circumstances. If you have a plan with an unlimited allowance or a large data allocation it can save you if you’re out and about and need to get online. Be careful, however. Tethering can use an awful lot of data very quickly. It’s just the way laptops work. And, as we know, overage on phone plans is extremely expensive.
Double speed data : EE has led the inclusion of double speed data in their plans. Clever use by both the phone and the network to simultaneously use two frequencies at the same time can double the amount of data coming down to the phone at one time.
Family plans : Increasingly prevalent and difficult for the telcos to build are family plans. They usually involve a ‘Leader’ who has a plan with unlimited calls and SMS plus a data allowance. Subsequent SIMs added for ( presumably ? ) ‘Followers’ then add only an allocation of data to the family’s plan. The Leader can determine the proportion of the total they use. These plans are gimmicky at the moment, won’t save you any money ( especially when you compare them to the stand alone plans of the smaller MVNO phone companies ) and seem set to cause more family arguments than they resolve. Strategically, however, family plans are an important step for the phone companies towards helping us manage multiple SIMs per person.
About picking your SIM Only plan
This article is more about the thinking behind the phone plan you end up choosing. For example, whether you want one from a bigger phone company or a smaller phone company, whether you want 3G or 4G. If you’re interested in more details on specific SIM Only deals and the questions to ask yourself before you buy one then check out our article in the ‘continue reading’ section of our SIM Only page.
Bigger UK phone companies
Since the deregulation of the UK phone market in 1984 with the privatization of British Telecom, things have been getting more and more competitive when it comes to phone company offerings. Here, we explain what that means to you and how you can pick a winner from all the phone plans out there.
There are 4 mobile network operators
Here are the phone company household names you know with some links to locations you can get more information if you’d like it.
The first step in understanding the market and how you can get a SIM which suits you is to understand what a network operator is. Network operators build and operate their own network. Below, on this page, we will introduce you to network resellers. Between them, those two groups make up every phone company in the country.
Here are the phone company household names you know with some links to locations you can get more information if you’d like it.
EE – Everything Everywhere : Probably have the best network in the UK. EE or Everything Everywhere used to be two entities, Orange and T-Mobile. They merged back in 2009 ( as we’re sure you remember ! ) They now offer a range of communications products including fixed line, mobile, TV and broadband. EE offer some great deals. We recommend them for SIM Only plans if you’re prepared to sign up to a 12 month contract. You can read more about EE in our full review.
Vodafone : If you love watching TV on your phone or listening to music, Vodafone might well be right for you. Vodafone made the first mobile phone call back in the day. Unfortunately, in a market which has been recently characterized by mergers, they’re now the third in size. Their CEO talks about their focus on improving their network in big cities, starting of course with London. He also admits there is work to do on the network around the country. We recommend Vodafone for a SIM Only plan if you find appeal in any of their OTT services – like Spotify, the music streaming service, for example which is included ‘free of charge’ on their plans. You can read more about Vodafone in our full review.
Three UK : Always thinking about the data. Three have been around for years in the UK but have always been seen as the smallest of the big 4 phone companies. They operate their own phone network and focus on meeting the needs of data customers. In a very real sense Three are a more modern phone company. They’re more transparent about their pricing and inclusions, they make buying their services easier they bandy around the word ‘Unlimited’ a lot. We love Three for their data inclusions. You can read a lot more about them in our full review.
O2 : Interesting high end data options. Like Vodafone, O2 have a suite of value add products to distract the eye from their SIM Only pricing. They’ll chuck everything from free Evernote ( an app for your phone ) to 2 weeks of music, even for non customers, at you to secure your business. Overall, we find O2’s SIM Only plans slightly less competitive than the competition. However, if you love a bit of data and you must have 4G then O2 might just be right for you. You can read more about O2 in our in depth review.
Building networks – a multi billion pound job for the big companies
They dress it up in brand, bells and whistles, but all a big phone company does is resell a temporary license to a frequency.
Networks cost billions of pounds to set up and run. Initially the phone company needs to license spectrum from the authorities. Ofcom ( Ofcom is the UK regulatory board – it makes sure the phone companies are acting in the public interest ) sells these licenses and they’re not cheap.
A typical license will grant the owner the ability to use a frequency for a period of time between 10 and 20 years. Once they have one of these, the phone company builds the infrastructure – the poles, wires and microwave transmitters to relay a signal over that frequency to your mobile phone. They dress it up in brand, bells and whistles, but all a big phone company does is resell a temporary license to a frequency.
If you think all of that sounds a bit too hard, you’re not alone. There are a slew of network resellers out there who would rather avoid all the cost time and hassle of setting their company up in the same way. Network resellers are known as MVNOs in the business. They rent access to one of the networks run by one of the major 4 networks we’ve already covered.
In some cases, network resellers offer access to the whole network. For example :
Full network access : If you buy minutes and data from a network reseller on the O2 network, you might get access to the entire O2 4G network.
Restricted ( e.g. 3G ) network access : Some network resellers offer access to a subset of coverage. For example, they might offer access only to the 3G component of a full network. A good example of this is Vodafone. They have networks in around 40 places around the world but nowhere do they allow smaller phone companies to resell the full 4G network.
Combination network access : E.g. Google is just about to enter the market for mobile network access. They’re not doing it to make money. They may well have enough of that already. Their goal is to push forward the boundaries of what’s considered possible in the market. One solution proposed by Google is that they will broker and bid for the cheapest and best network access across some of the US operators they’re going to partner with. Putting it in our terms, if you’re a Google customer in an O2 coverage area, you’d buy O2 coverage. If you were a Google customer in a Vodafone coverage area, you’d buy Vodafone access. If you had 5 bar coverage from both O2 and Vodafone, you’d buy whichever was cheapest. How smart are Google.
The major UK networks are well known to most. These are huge brands who try and sell their product by avoiding a direct comparison of the number of minutes, GB and SMS in their plans. This can be confusing but then, actually, confusing is what they want. They’re trying to avoid being treated like a commodity.
But these are not the only phone companies out there. In fact, if you want the best deal possible, you might like to consider others. It only makes sense, right ? Well, not always. There is some disinformation around about smaller phone companies. Let’s deal with that first.
Myths about smaller phone companies
One in five of the people you know ( on average ) buy their network access from a smaller phone companies.
As with all myths, once you do the research, they’re often busted. Here are some of the reasons we hear that smaller phone companies are no good. And the truth behind the concern.
They’re not very popular : You might be amazed at the proportion of UK SIMs that are with smaller phone companies. It’s around 20%. One in five of the people you know ( on average ) buy their network access from a smaller phone companies. And that proportion is rising.
Customer service is bad : Quite the opposite is true. Without the network to differentiate them, the average smaller phone company has limited options to stand out. They can tweak price, customer service and the specifics of the products they sell. A lot of the time, they focus on customer service. There are examples around the world where smaller phone companies have the best levels of customer service in the industry. Not just the best customer service of smaller phone companies, but better than every single phone company large or small.
Poor network speeds : One of the most often heard myths about smaller phone companies is that they are not put at the front of the queue when it comes to network access. The myth is that network traffic is prioritized and smaller phone companies are at the bottom of the pile. This is simply not the case. All the phones on the network get absolutely equal access to the service as part of a charter between the big phone company and the smaller phone company. There are, however, many examples of smaller phone companies which provide 3G network access.
They go out of business all the time : There have been cases of smaller phone companies going out of business. Ovivo in the UK closed down with 2.3m GBP of debts. It had 71,000 customers at the time. However, it went out of business through no fault of it’s own. The premise of it’s operation was the ability to show averts to the people using its service. Unfortunately, their technology provider couldn’t find a way to help them uniquely identify customers which meant they couldn’t. It was a similar deal in Australia with Kogan, another internationally famous telco. They involved an intermediary to purchase minutes and SMS from a major network. It was problems with the intermediary which crashed the system.
They end up costing you more : Nothing could be further from the truth. Network resellers are almost invariably cheaper than the major phone companies. Price is one of the key levers they use to get to consider them. Huge brands build their reputation on their ability to reliably solve a problem. You might be with Vodafone now because they’ve been more or less there for you over the last 20 years. You stick with them because it’s too risky to try another phone provider. Smaller phone companies don’t have that brand history or reputation. They have to offer potential customers a palpable reason to give them a go. Short commitments ( i.e. month to month and or prepaid agreement options ) and lower pricing are just two of the ways they try to entice you.
There’s nothing unique ( or special ) about them : Smaller phone companies look to cut through against the huge marketing spends of the bigger brands by focusing on a segment. A segment is simply a group of users you can target with your message. For example, you could be an individual with a poor credit history – someone the major phone companies won’t deal with. There’s a smaller phone company which has been set up to look after them. You might be a generous individual who donates to charity. An MVNO has been established to address that requirement. Each of the smaller phone companies has something specific about them that may well appeal to you.
They’re always brands you’ve never heard of : Virgin Media, Talk Mobile and Tesco Mobile are examples of sizable UK brands which are actually MVNOs or smaller phone companies. Perhaps as you’d expect, none of them own and operate their own phone networks. You might not even have been aware that they had an arm selling mobile phone services. But they do.
As usual, when deconstructed, most of these myths turn out to be false. Consider the opposite side of these things. The truth is that, without qualification, MVNOs or Network Resellers will give you the same network coverage as you will get from EE, O2, Vodafone or ‘3’. However, without the same marketing costs, spend on brand or the requirement to spend billions of pounds on network, they’ll give you that network access at lower prices.
One of the few questions remaining then is, do you know who any of these smaller phone companies are ? Because as soon as you do, you should probably be considering them.
You are likely to have heard of most of these smaller phone companies
Even if you weren’t aware of the fact that mobile phone SIMs was one of the services they offered, you are likely to know most of these phone company brands.
3G Phone companies who ‘piggyback’ the big networks :
TalkTalk Mobile : Piggyback the Vodafone 3G network ( for their broadband customers ) Talk mobile are one of the UK’s broadband providers with more than 4m customers. Famous for offering multiple services to their customers ( often called ‘quad play’ ) TalkTalk have been around for a while. TalkTalk are one of the few which resell the Vodafone 3G network. We recommend TalkTalk SIM Only plans to people who are already a customer ( you have to be a customer before you can sign up for a SIM ) and who have a 3G phone.
Virgin Media : Piggyback the EE 3G network The Virgin brand is used all around the world under a license from Richard Branson. The brand itself doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s simply a leased quantity to give you the impression of something safe. However, the Virgin Mobile plan range is provided on the EE 3G network which has fantastic coverage across the UK. And pricing is extremely competitive, again on their 12 month plans. We recommend Virgin to people with a 3G phone looking for a value SIM.
TPO – The People’s Operator : Piggyback the EE 3G network Was an unusual decision for inclusion in this section. TPO’s main marketing characteristic is that they will give some of your plan spend ( the money you give them to make calls ) to charity, each month. And it won’t cost you a penny. TPO are quite new so you may not have heard of them. They’ve been phenomenally successful though, signing up tens of thousands of customers since their inception with their unique charity proposition. We recommend TPO to those with a social conscience and a lot to do. In reality ( as you’ll find out if you read our review ) you could give the money to charity, yourself and still get a cheaper plan elsewhere. The fact is, however, it’s easier to give this way and you’ll have thee constant reminder that you’ve done something good every time you make a phone call.
4G Phone companies who ‘piggyback’ the big networks :
Tesco Mobile : Piggyback the O2 3G and 4G network Tesco mobile resell the O2 3G and 4G network. They offer Club Card points for every pound you spend with them and frankly impressive numbers of minutes, SMS and GB of data when you hear that their plans include 4G for free. We recommend Tesco mobile to those with a 4G phone who want a bare bones plan with no frills.
BT Mobile : Piggyback the EE 3G and 4G network Part of a slew of new network resellers, BT launched their 4G service, piggybacking the EE network in early 2015. Again, if you’re a BT broadband customer, you’ll get a fantastic deal from them. And even those who don’t have an agreement with BT as a broadband customer, you’ll be able to buy their SIM cards. They’re just a little bit more expensive.
Carphone Warehouse’s ID plans : Piggyback the Three 3G and 4G network Another newly launched smaller phone company which came to market in early 2015, Carphone Warehouse’s ID plans offer better value and, in some cases, better service than Three – the company whose network they resell.
As you can see from these very brief explanations, the range of networks covered by UK MVNOs increases your choice. There are network resellers for O2, EE, Vodafone and ‘3’ shown here.
UK Network ‘Piggyback’ plans
TalkTalk’s Range of 3G SIM Only Plans
( Postpaid : A mix of 30 day and 12 month agreements shown )
Recommended for : Anyone who has home broadband with TalkTalk and a 3G phone
Best value 3G data plans on any network : If you have home broadband from TalkTalk, love data and own a 3G phone, you need look no further than TalkTalk’s SIM Only offers. TalkTalk offers best in class data value across their range of 3G phone plans on the Vodafone network.
Remember, you can only get these plans if you are an existing TalkTalk home broadband customer.
From basic to unlimited – each plan will save you 30% – 50% on big network equivalent. Compared to the major phone companies – O2, EE, Three – you’ll save around 50% by going with Talk Talk.
Postpaid : A mix of 30 day and 12 month agreement : We usually advise against contracts where it’s possible. However, the 12 month deals available from TalkTalk are just too good to ignore. Just make a note and do your comparison again in 12 months so the price doesn’t rise then. There are a couple of 30 day contracts included in their range. Notably, the Unlimited plan they have is a 30 day rolling agreement.
TalkTalk use the full Vodafone 3G network Coverage from TalkTalk Is through the Vodafone network, which they piggyback. Vodafone’s coverage is good enough but not as good as some of the others’ – notably, EE, for example.
More info : If you have a 3G ( slightly older ) phone, you want more data than voice and you’re an existing TalkTalk customer for your home broadband connection, your search for the best value plan in the UK is over. TalkTalk nail the competition in every way.
Remember though, TalkTalk are a 3G network provider. You won’t get 4G speeds if you have a 4G phone and put a TalkTalk SIM in to it. If you have one of the latest 4G phones, you might like to consider alternatives such as Carphone ID’s plans ( Carphone use the Three 4G network ), Tesco Mobile ( Tesco use the O2 4G network ) or BT Mobile ( BT Mobile use the EE network ). They’re 4G and they’re also the closest you’re going to get to TalkTalk’s pricing. You can only buy these plans if you are an existing TalkTalk home broadband customer.
If you want to read our full review of TalkTalk Mobile plans, you can do that here.
Recommended for :Big talkers who have a 3G phone plan
Best value for voice on a 3G data plan : Virgin Media offer great SIM Only value. If you talk a lot, and data isn’t too important to you, Virgin Media’s suite of 3G plans might be right for you. Make sure you compare with TPO – The People’s Operator. TPO are also 3G and you’ll get substantially more data with them. And if you’re a Talk Talk broadband customer they’ll have the best deal for you.
Phone plan options including unlimited voice and SMS : Virgin’s strength is their voice inclusion. Even TPO doesn’t offer more included voice value in their plans. With Virgin’s unlimited voice and SMS ( in the UK ) plans, you’ll never blow your bill again.
Decent data : Virgin’s range of plans start at 500 MB. Their 1GB of data is suitable for low / average usage on a smartphone and perfect for a feature phone user. Higher data inclusions such as the 3GB you’ll find on their £15 plan will suit older smartphones.
Postpaid : Virgin’s agreements are postpaid. You have the option of month to month rolling agreements or a 12 month contract with better pricing.
Network : Virgin Media resell the full EE 3G network. It covers 87% of the UK population, more than any other network.
If you want to read our full review of Virgin Media’s plans, you can do that here.
* Cheapest standalone plan ( i.e. does not require an existing broadband agreement. )
TPO – The People’s Operator’s 3G SIM Only
( Postpaid / month to month agreements shown )
Recommended for : Anyone* who has a 3G phone and wants the best data inclusion value on EE.
Best value 3G data plans on the EE network : TPO are consistently the best value for those who have a 3G phone and are looking for the best data inclusions on the network with the best UK coverage – EE network. All through their price plan range, TPO have the best UK data inclusions at every price point. Additionally, TPO are also a phone company with a heart. They will give 10% of your monthly payment to them, to a charity of your choice. It doesn’t cost you a penny.
TPO can save you 35 % on the major phone companies rates : Compared to the major phone companies – O2, EE, Three – you’ll save up to 50% by going with TPO. ( See the review for more details. )
Incredible Best In Class 3G data allowances : The key talking point for TPO’s data plans are the 3G data inclusions. You will get more data with TPO than any other UK 3G phone company at any price point you pick.
Unlimited SMS : Every TPO plan bought online contains unlimited SMS.
TPO use the EE 3G network – best for national coverage : TPO ‘piggyback’ ( or resell ) the EE network generally considered the best network in the UK, for example. EE cover 87% of the UK’s population and 74% of the country’s geography with the 3G signal TPO give you access to. Those are higher percentages than any other network.
More info : If you have a slightly older 3G phone ( and around half of people in the UK do ) there is no better deal for your phone than TPOs month to month plans. Compare TPOs fees with Virgin Media’s equivalent if you like to talk more than you want to use data. If you have a 4G phone, consider BT Mobile ( on the EE network ), Carphone Warehouse’s ID plans ( on the Three network ) or, Tesco Mobile ( on the O2 network. )
Read our full review of TPO’s SIM Only plans here.
* TPO are the best value standalone 3G data plans on the EE network in our view. By ‘standalone’ we mean plans that can be bought without any other criteria being met. Both TalkTalk mobile and BT Mobile have their own SIM Only plans. If you are a TalkTalk home broadband customer, you’ll get better data inclusons on their plans. If you’re an existing BT home broadband customer, you are likely to get your best deal with them.
Tesco Mobile’s range of SIM Only plans per month
( Postpaid / month to month agreement )
Recommended for : 4G data speeds with O2’s full 4G national coverage
Tesco Mobile offer affordable access to O2’s 4G network Tesco Mobile’s plans give you 4G coverage on O2’s entire national network with no extra charge. Compare and save. With Tesco you’ll get 300% to 500% the inclusions for the same price !
More voice than O2 : Across the board, Tesco Mobile will give you at least 50% more for the same spend as you’ll get with O2 – and it’s exactly the same network !
More data than O2 : Again, Tesco mobile’s data inclusions on the O2 network offer better value than if you go direct.
5000 SMS : All Tesco Mobile’s month to month plans come with 5000 SMS per month – essentially unlimited text messages between you and your friends each month.
Tesco Mobile provide complete access to the entire O2 3G and 4G networks : Tesco Mobile resell the entire O2 3G and 4G network. If you are a Tesco Mobile customer, whever O2 gets a signal, you’ll get a signal. Where 4G is available, you’ll get it free. Where 4G is not available, your phone will automatically fall back to a 3G signal.
More info : For those living in O2 coverage with a 4G phone, Tesco Mobile is about the best value out there. Tesco’s voice and data inclusions are often 300% to 500% those of O2 at the same price point for SIM Only plans. Or, considered the other way, you’ll be able to cut your spend substantially and get the same network access if you go with O2.
If you want to read our full review of Tesco Mobile’s plans, you can do that here.
( BT Mobile’s plans are offered as 12 month agreements )
Recommended for : Anyone with a 4G phone who needs EE coverage
The best value 4G plans on the EE network : BT Mobile offer the best value 4G plans you’ll find on the EE network.
BT Mobile £10 per month = 200 minutes of voice with 500MB of 3G / 4G data !! Receive £20 gift card on Amazon or iTunes !!
BT Mobile £11 per month = 500 minutes of voice with 2GB of 3G / 4G data !! Receive £30 gift card on Amazon or iTunes !!
BT Mobile £25 per month = Unlimited UK Voice with 20GB of 3G / 4G data !! Receive £30 gift card on Amazon or iTunes !!
Unlimited voice options : BT Mobile charge more for their plans and insist on a 12 month contract. However, you do get that lovely EE network.
From 500 MB to 20GB of 3G / 4G data : An average user can easily run an iPhone or a Galaxy phone using this amount of 4G data. BT Mobile’s plans have access to the full EE 4G network at no extra charge.
Unlimited SMS : More than you could possibly use.
Postpaid – 12 month agreement : BT Mobile don’t offer month to month agreements. You’ll have to commit to a 12 month contract to get the best they have to offer.
BT Mobile use the full EE 3G and 4G network : EE’s 3G network covers a best in class 87% of the UK population. 4G coverage is already 70% of the UK population. If you need national coverage, the chances are EE is right for you.
More info : BT Mobile are a strong choice for coverage if you need it. Take out a 12 month contract with BT Mobile for one of their SIM Only plans and you’ll get rates and inclusions comparable to ( although slightly more than ) those smaller phone companies which do not have anything like the coverage EE enjoy.
And, if you’re an existing customer of BT broadband, the deals get even better with a £5 discount each month for taking a SIM out with them too.As we’ve said in other articles, no one comes close to EE for either 3G or 4G coverage when measured by either percentage of the UK population or number of UK square miles covered. And only Three offer unlimited data on their plans.
Finally, BT also offer unlimited access to their 5m BT broadband hotspots around the country to stretch your mobile data further.
If you want to read our full review of BT Mobile plans, you can do that here.
Carphone Warehouse’s ID Plans offer Stunning value on the Three network at all price points : Carphone’s iD plans are available on the Three network. Three have the best 3G coverage in the UK. They cover 92% of the UK population ( next best EE cover only 87% of the UK population with a 3G signal. ) PLUS, if you choose Carphone’s ID plans, you’ll get 4G data speeds where available for no extra charge.
4G data where available. If 4G data is not available, phone / network will fall back to the Three 3G network.
All Carphone ID plans have 5000 SMS per month. This is, in our view, practically unlimited. You’ll get even better value with their contracts
Best voice value : ID plans match or exceed voice inclusions across the board for equivalent spends from every other 4G network provider. In some cases, for just £1 more with Carphone ID, you’ll get 300% the voice inclusions of a Three network price plan.
Best data value : Noone offers more 4G data at the price points we’ve highlighted.
More SMS than you need : ID plans always include far more SMS than you need – not that you send any SMS any more since you got What’s app.
Carphone Warehouses’s ‘ID’ Plans use the full Three 3G and 4G network : Carphone’s ID plans piggyback the full ‘Three’ network for 3G and 4G coverage. You’ll get exactly the same network coverage across the UK with Carphone Warehouse’s ID plans that you would have done with ‘Three’s network – you’ll just pay less. 3G nationally, 4G where available at no extra charge.
More Info : Carphone Warehouse recently started reselling the Three national network. There is no better UK value that we are aware of, available in market.
There are many, many more network resellers in the UK. On this site, we show the companies which are, in our view, the best of the best. Above, we’ve tried to demonstrate the sort of customer to whom each provider’s plans might appeal. If you see yourself in there, we recommend you compare these providers’ pricing among the full comparison of SIM Only plans.
Smaller phone companies tend not to offer all the ‘extras’
There are some notable differences in plan inclusions between larger and smaller phone companies. Our goal is to inform you so you know which is right for you.
Be aware : Larger phone companies are always including extras to get you to sign up with them, rather than their competition. They may describe these as free although what they mean is included in the price which is not the same thing.
They may only be 3G : Importantly, some resellers only offer 3G price plans. These 3G plans tend to be cheaper than 4G equivalents. If you have a 3G phone and around half of us still do, then there’s no point in paying for fast data capabilities you don’t need. See below for more on this.
No ‘free’ streaming : Unlikely to get included streamed audio content. Vodafone, O2 and EE all have a version of this. Sign up to their plans and you’ll have access to music tunes through your phone.
Roaming specials : Most of the main networks now offer plans which allow overseas roaming for an affordable daily additional charge. None of these network resellers offer that facility.
As usual, if you pay a little more, you’ll get a little more. What’s good about the range in UK price plans is that there’s so much choice. There are some notable differences in plan inclusions between larger and smaller phone companies. Our goal is to inform you so you know which is right for you. You can compare them all on our SIM Only page.
UK major networks’ 4G network rollouts
All of the major phone companies and some of the MVNOs now have 4G speeds available.
4GEE : EE started rolling their 4G networks out back in 2012. They already have more than 8m 4G subscribers and cover 80% of the UK population. Their target is to get to 98% by the end of 2015. – Vodafone 4G : began their 4G rollout later, in August 2013. They currently have 4G coverage to around 50% of the population and have more than 1m 4G customers.
O2 4G : O2 also launched their 4G offering in late summer 2013. They have an obligation to Ofcom to cover more than 98% of the UK population by the end of 2015. O2 are the only network which allow their network resellers to resell 4G speeds.
Three UK : Finally, 3.1m Three UK customers have used their 4G network. That’s not a directly comparable number with those stated above but it does show some progress from Three UK.
Only buy a 3G plan if you’ve got a 3G phone
If you’ve got a 3G phone then you should seriously be considering a smaller phone company.
Watching a black and white film on a color TV will not turn it Technicolor. Similarly, putting a 4G SIM in a 3G phone will not make the data come down any faster. If you’ve got a 3G phone then you should seriously be considering a smaller phone company.
3G phone technology is a few years old now. You might have bought a new phone and not paid much for it. Or you could have received a hand me down phone – e.g. an iPhone 4S. However you’ve got it, if you love your 3G, you are going to get better pricing.
What is the internet of things and how does it affect you now ?
The Internet Of Things is a concept which describes how the way we interact with the internet will continue over time It involved connecting the items you use and interact with every day to the internet.
At the moment, it’s really just phones, tablets and the odd watch which are connected to the net. In addition, you may have seen Vodafone’s foray in to the world of cars. Vodafone has been adding SIMs to vehicles as they leave the BMW plant to connect them to the internet as drivers move around Europe. The reviews have been amazing.
AT&T in the USA have connected nearly 1 million cars to the internet using a very similar scheme. They’re also working, like many, on automated homes. They’ve announced the connection of the two which will enable American users to turn lights and heating on from their car.
The Internet Of Things and SIMs connecting things which weren’t previously connected to the internet are becoming a broader, growing part of the market. In time, almost everything from your umbrella to your child may soon become connected to the internet.
All this internet means you need to manage multiple SIMs.
One of the challenges this presents is the management of multiple SIMs. In the short term, this is manifesting as Family and shared plans from UK networks.
Data doubling every year influenced by a number of factors including the age of your phone and the speed of the processor in it.
The rise of the family or shared plan
The average UK family now has 5 connected devices. In some other countries, it’s as many as 7. And this is only the beginning.
The average UK family now has 5 connected devices. In some other countries, it’s as many as 7. And this is only the beginning. Connected communications technology has exploded through the lives of people much faster than it has in companies.
For the phone company, the easier they make it to buy and add data to your plan, the better it is and the easier it is to sell you more. Which is what they want to do. It’s not hard to imagine a time in the near future where phone calls and texts are given free as part of the service and it’s only data which is charged for.
For each of these, whatever the phone companies call it, you’ll need a leader and a follower. The Leader is financially responsible for everything the followers do. He or she also decides who to add and what data limits to set for people.
The plans are similar across the network. First, the leader is usually an individual who has unlimited minutes and SMS on their plan plus an allocation of data. To that master plan, you can add other individuals. They just need a buy a plan and pay a monthly amount. Usually it’s between 10 and 20 pounds per month per SIM. The leader who manages the amount of data everyone has can add more data through the month if it becomes necessary.
You can also increase the proportion of data that each person is allocated.
Vodafone : Vodafone offer shared data on their Red plus lines. They allow a maximum of 9 shared lines.
EE : Also suggest you start by finding a leader. You can add up to 4 additional SIMs to the Leader’s.
Three : You won’t get shared plans from Three just yet.
O2 Sharer plans : Again you can share data across up to 10 different devices.
These services are chargeable in some countries. It can be as much as 5 pounds per SIM per month with some overseas phone companies just for the privilege of sharing your own data across your own devices ! Luckily for you, in the UK, there is no charge for setting up or for on-going data sharing costs.
What are the advantages of shared plans ?
Shared plans are going to be a much bigger part of our future in the UK.
They can be cheaper : The nature of sharing is that data which may have been left by a tough in usage by one individual in one month can now be used by someone else in the group. Of course, this sort of facility is also subject to the tragedy of the commons which may result in everyone involved using an awful lot more data.
Increased Control : Each of the major mobile providers now offers a high quality app to manage your account. The facilities available in that tool to set up and manage multiple SIMs’ data requirements are impressive. You will be able to set limits for each SIM
A single bill : Instead of trying to figure out how on earth your family used 100 GB of mobile data by looking at a bunch of separate bills, you’ll have a single bill and single management console to help you work through the investigation.
More self managed data : They start you on the path to using more data and managing the process yourself which is, of course, what they want.
In our view, this is the start of a trend. Over time, businesses will be self managing multiple of SIMs, some for staff, some for assets they own ( like a Coke machine or a car ) which are connected to the Internet Of Things.
You, as an individual will have multiple SIMs each of which is managed in a separate way. There will be more intelligence built in to devices so you can ask questions of them. Things which currently are not will be connected to the internet.
Summing it up – consider smaller phone companies and if you need 4G
The government got the result it wanted. A deregulated market for telecommunications. The results are networks which cover more area than they did, offering breathtaking data speeds, pricing which falls every year and a plethora of bigger and smaller phone companies who are there to help you connect to the 4 main UK networks.
But careful what you wish for. The result is a confusing list of technological anagram’s people don’t always understand and a difficult comparison which includes the simple stuff like minutes and GB. They certainly struggle when you get in to shared data plans, streaming music access and charity donations.
With the questions we’ve asked you to consider, above, and the SIM Only page we have on this site, you should be able to find a plan for yourself. The critical question from a cost point of view is whether your phone is a 3G device. If it is, make sure you only get a plan with 3G data. It’s likely to be a lot cheaper. And don’t be shy about trying a smaller phone company.
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