The United Kingdom consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This article covers only the UK and doesn't cover the Crown dependencies of Guernsey and Jersey (known as the Channel Islands) and the Isle of Man, all of which are part of the UK's +44 numbering plan despite being outside the UK, or any British overseas territories.
The UK has 4 network operators:
- EE (for Everything Everywhere, by British Telecom)
- O2 (by Telefónica)
- 3 (= Three by Hutchison)
About 50 MVNOs operate on all four networks.
EU roaming regulations Edit
2G/GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz (except Three which has only 3G and 4G), 3G/UMTS is on 900 and 2100 MHz.
4G/LTE has started in 2013 on all networks. Frequencies on 800, 1800, 2100, 2300 and 2600 MHz (bands 1, 3, 7, 20, 40) are used. 4G is offered by all networks on prepaid, but not all MVNOs so far.
Coverage and speed Edit
Coverage is quite good on 2G and more than 90% of population on 3G, but there are still blackspots without any mobile coverage. So if you go to a remote area in the countryside, it's wise to check coverage beforehand.
On 4G/LTE, EE has the best nationwide coverage and speed, followed by O2 and Vodafone, slightly trailed by Three. In London and other big cities both O2 and Three have lacked spectrum leading to slow speeds at places. From 2018 O2 has added more capacity on its newly acquired band 40 (TDD-LTE on 2300 MHz) that not every device is capable to handle yet.
Prepaid SIM cards are anonymous in the UK and at default unregistered, though some providers may encourage you to register with them. But this is only to link your SIM card to your online account. You don't have to specify any personal details, but your email address and set a password.
Prepaid is usually called "pay as you go" (in short "PAYG") in the UK, although there is usually a distinction between true PAYG incremental charges and prepaid monthly charges such as giffgaff's goodybags. This guide starts with all 4 physical network providers followed by their most significant resellers or MVNOs in the market.
London Underground Edit
There is no mobile coverage in the train tunnels of the London Underground ("the Tube"). But just before the London 2012 Olympics, Virgin Media started to build up WiFi coverage in Tube stations. By 2017, 250 Tube stations are covered including their ticket halls, escalators, corridors and platforms. Coverage is yet to be provided in several stations and coverage is not planned in four stations, most notably Heathrow T5. Further coverage information is available from Transport for London and Virgin Media.
Customers, including prepaid, of all 4 UK network providers and Virgin Mobile can use this WiFi for free. EE customers need to have topped up at least £5 in the last 30 days, for Vodafone you need to have bought a Big Bundle; O2 customers need to have topped up their phone at least once in the last 90 days; and Three customers need to have done any activity within the last 30 days. MVNOs other than Virgin Mobile are mostly unsupported. Giffgaff recently announced a beta launch, but it's not yet reliable. Virgin Media sells standalone passes for its WiFi too, but it's generally cheaper to meet the minimum requirements of network providers. After logging in for the first time, the system indefinitely remembers your device's MAC address for future usage and you will not need to log in again. Then at the beginning of your journey, you need to load any web page in your web browser, which redirects to a splash page, and you should not need to do so again during the rest of your journey. Sometimes you might have to reload the splash page on longer journeys, and some Tube stations, e.g. Waterloo, randomly suffer authentication problems whereby you have to log in all over again, but waiting until the next station can avoid having to do so.
Channel Tunnel Edit
In the Channel Tunnel between UK and France there is no WiFi, but mobile coverage 100 metres below sea level in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. Coming from France to the UK, coverage is provided by the French networks Orange, SFR and Bouygues, but not Free mobile. In the opposite direction of travel, coverage is provided by the UK networks EE, Vodafone, O2, but not Three.
Content Lock Edit
Prepaid SIM cards in the UK are delivered with a so-called "Content Lock" in place. This is to protect children from accessing adult content. The problem is that a white-listing approach is used for this, meaning that everything that has not been actively approved as non-adult will be treated as "adult".
This can seriously interfere with your internet accessibility, e.g. some users could not use their instant messaging services. Even emails and all "unguided" forums like Facebook or Twitter can be affected. However this can be bypassed using a VPN or proxy app/software to conceal your identity
The usual way to disable the content lock is to enter credit card data to prove your age; but this only works with UK-issued credit cards, and as a tourist you probably won't have one of those. Therefore when you buy a new SIM card in store insist that the lock will be removed right away (what takes one minute). For this you may need to provide some form of ID (or passport) to prove your age, if you look young.
Starter packs are available online through the website of the provider to be delivered for free. For this you need to have an UK postal address. In many UK stores like supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, etc..), newsagents or independent phone shops starters of major brands are sold for 99p. They don't include any credit and need to be topped up for use. All PAYG SIM cards are anonymous in the UK and don't require registration. That's why they are sent all over the world by vendors through eBay and other sales channels.
Topping-up your UK SIM can be done in three different ways, but only one of them remains accessible to most visitors.
To top-up via an ATM (often known generically in the UK by Lloyds Bank's "Cashpoint" trademark) is widely accepted, but you need to have an UK-issued credit or debit card for that. Foreign cards are usually not accepted. This applies to Three UK in particular and O2, less to EE, Vodafone and many resellers that have begun to accept foreign credit cards.
Unfortunately, the same is true to online top-ups on the websites of the providers. Only debit and credit cards issued in the UK are allowed for recharges, but there are sporadic exceptions. This very restrictive policy is supposedly to avoid fraud, but shuts out many customers. As long as you are in the country you can always buy scratch cards or top-up vouchers from vendors that are widely available in shops throughout the UK. These shops are marked by a green top-up sign and normally sell credit for all providers. Minimum top-up amount is usually £5, with a few providers £10.
This leaves visitors with the tricky task, how to refill from abroad while not having this domestic option or a UK-based bank card to keep a SIM card alive or just to add some credit abroad. There are few private online service providers like mobiletopup.co.uk, uksims.eu , kwikpay.com or with Bitcoins Bitrefill that accept international cards and do it for a 10-15% surcharge.
Sometimes, it's possible to buy scratch cards on eBay.co.uk. If you are resident in the EEA or Switzerland, you can use a Revolut physical and/or virtual prepaid Visa card or MasterCard to recharge all UK SIM cards online. Revolut's cards early cards had an BIN/IIN of 5391 23, which is recognised as being issued in the UK is confirmed to work for topping up UK SIM cards. However, Revolut's latest cards since mid-2017 have a BIN/IIN of 5352 98, which might be recognised instead as being issued in Romania. Also you can try to buy UK prepaid gift cards and use them for recharging. As all these procedures are troublesome, think them over before you leave the UK.
For two weeks every December, American Express UK runs its Shop Small promotion, whereby a purchase of at least £10 at participating small merchants generates a £5 statement credit, once per registered Amex card per merchant per annum. Participating merchants include thousands of newsagents and convenience stores that sell mobile top-ups. By purchasing £10 top-up vouchers at multiple merchants with a UK-issued Amex card, your top-ups will be half price. This is a particularly cheap way of topping up on an annual basis if you maintain a UK SIM card in the long term. Although this top-up method is of limited practical benefit to non-UK residents, you can ask a UK-resident Amex customer to do this for you; they will be incentivised by Membership Rewards or airmiles.
SIM card validity Edit
The four network operators (Vodafone, EE, O2 and 3) and most MVNOs have an expiry policy of 6 months (or 180 days) since the last balance increase or decrease. It's usually sufficient to receive a call every 6 months, because this generates revenue, albeit small, for the network, but you can't rely on this as it's not official policy with most networks. Most networks also operate a grace period after expiry, during which they will reinstate an expired SIM card including credit if you contact them; Vodafone openly states that its grace period is 3 months.
The expiry policy is shorter with some MVNOs, but similarly any balance increase or decrease suffices. For example, Lycamobile is 90 days; Lebara is 84 days; Vectone and Delight are 120 days, Anywhere depending on top-up for 30-360 days.
If you want to keep your SIM alive for a future visit, remember that you may face problems topping up from abroad; compare validity periods in this guide. Also, for visitors from outside the EEA, note that due to EU roaming FUPs, your SIM may be surcharged for EEA roaming on a future visit if you used it in other EU/EEA countries more than the UK on your last visit.
EE (formerly Orange and T-Mobile)Edit
EE (originally called Everything Everywhere) was created in 2010 after the merger of Orange UK and T-Mobile UK to become the largest operator in the UK under the joint ownership of Orange and Telekom. BT Group plc (formerly British Telecom) acquired EE in 2015/6. Some old devices show their network still as T-Mobile.
EE's 2G is on 1800 MHz, 3G/UMTS on 2100 MHz with the best coverage in the UK at 98%. They were the first to start 4G/LTE on 1800 Mhz to be follwed by 800 and 2600 MHz too: EE coverage map. In 2017 they started to refarm 2100 MHz from 3G to 4G/LTE. In 2018 EE has 99% population coverage across the UK. This includes 98% coverage on 3G and 97% coverage on 4G. This is the widest 4G coverage of any UK network.
Most reviews agree that EE has the best network with the widest coverage and highet speeds in the country. In benchmark tests EE is frequently the top scorer in the UK. This comes at the highest prices on the market.
EE sells triple-size SIM cards with 4G/LTE included. They call them pack and they are sold for 99p in EE stores and outlets: (Store locator) or online to be sent to an UK postal address for free. They don't have any credit, but you can get starters with a first pack included for the price of the pack.
As you may need an UK-issued credit card to top-up online, it's better to buy top-up vouchers available all over the country. To top-up by card, text ETU followed by the voucher PIN to 150. To check your balance, dial 150 or text BA or AL to 150.
If you don’t call, text or top-up for 180 days, you will be disconnected and you’ll lose any credit on your account.
Combo feature packsEdit
Their packs for voice, text and data SIMs all come with a combo of data, voice and text included:
- for a 7 days: £1 Data Pack: 100 MB, 10 mins, 10 SMS for £1, activation: DP1
- for a 30 days with data roll-over:
|£5 Everything Pack||150 MB||50 mins||250 SMS||£5||EP5|
|£10 Everything Pack||1 GB||250 mins||unlimited||£10||EP10|
|£10 Data Pack||2 GB||100 mins||unlimited||£10||DP10|
|£15 Everything Pack||2 GB||1000 mins||unlimited||£15||EP15|
|£15 Data Pack||5 GB||500 mins||unlimited||£15||DP15|
|£20 Everything Pack||4 GB||1500 mins||unlimited||£20||EP20|
|£20 Data Pack||10 GB||750 mins||unlimited||£20||DP20|
|£25 Everything Pack||8 GB||2000 mins||unlimited||£25||EP25|
|£30 Everything Pack||20 GB||3000 mins||unlimited||£30||EP30|
To activate text code to 150, to stop or change packs, go online on your EE account. All packs auto-renew after 30 days, the £1 Data Pack after 7 days. Text 'STOP PACK' and 'YES' to 150 to disable auto-renew.
All monthly packs in the table include data rollover. Unusued data rolls over to the next month, if you buy a new pack. This doesn't need to be the same pack, but any monthly pack.
If you have used up any of your allowances, you can start a new pack early. Check if you have enough credit and then text 'NOW' to 150. They'll remove your current pack and replace it with a new one.
Still it might be a better idea to add extra data online as an add-on:
|100 MB||7 days||£1.50|
|500 MB||7 days||£3|
|500 MB||30 days||£5|
|1 GB||30 days||£7.50|
|3 GB||30 days||£15|
|5 GB||30 days||£20|
Activation is online. These add-ons won't expire when the base package runs out, but can be used for the given period. For activation text code to 150. Other add-ons apply to old customers who have joined before September 2014.
Data-only SIM Edit
For data use only and SMS EE sells their '4GEE WiFi SIMs' as prepaid or PAYG offer too. It's a mobile broadband SIM without voice that can be used for tethering, hence the name 'WiFi SIM', not a WiFi pass. These starters are sold online or in their stores with preloaded data:
|200 MB||30 days||£1|
|6 GB||90 days||£30|
The total price for all of the validity must be paid in advance. For more data or months, one of these data add-ons can be activated online:
|for 30 days||for 90 days|
EU roaming Edit
EE adopts "roam like at home" rules to all their pay-as-you-go allowances for EU roaming at domestic rates without restrictions. The Channel Islands, Isle of Man and Switzerland belong to their roaming zone without surcharges. A general max. of 15 GB roaming data per month applies.
More info Edit
- Tethering and VoIP are allowed; peer-to-peer is not
- APN: everywhere
- Website: http://ee.co.uk/
VodafoneEditVodafone in the UK has a good coverage on 2G (900 and 1800 MHz) and 3G (900 and 2100 MHz) nationwide and is rolling out 4G/LTE on 800, 2100 and 2600 MHz now: Vodafone coverage map. In 2018 Vodafone offers 98% population coverage across the UK. This includes 96% coverage on 3G and 4G each.
Their 4G/LTE network is now accessible for prepaid customers on all plans.
Purchase a SIM card online to be sent to an UK postal address or from any Vodafone store for free. Otherwise, they are sold for 99p in many supermarkets and news agents.
Recharge starting at £5 in their stores or many other kiosks or convenience stores throughout the country.
Vodafone accepts PayPal for online top-ups. That's how you can bypass the UK bank card scheme, but a bad conversion rate is given by PayPal. Some international credit cards also work for top-ups making Vodafone the most accessible operator to be funded by a payment system from out of the UK right now.
To check balance, enter *#1345# or dial 2345.
Vodafone has the longest validity of all network operators. They give you 180 days to show any activity plus an additional grace period of 90 days, before they'll shut you off.
This SIM needs to be activated by going online or calling 4354. Then you have to choose one of their Big Value Bundle schemes all valid for 30 days, which can be added by Data Freebees for more data.
Data default rate Edit
Default rate is £2 per day for 50 MB and 10p per MB thereafter. You can add a package of 500 MB for £5 or buy a Big Bundle (see below).
Big Value BundlesEdit
These combo plans are offered for 30 days:
|£5||100 MB||100 mins||250||BVB5|
|£10||3 GB||200 mins||unlimited||BVB10|
|£20||10 GB||1000 mins||unlimited||BVB20|
|£30||20 GB||2000 mins||unlimited||BVB30|
Allowances are valid in the UK and all over the EU/EEA plus some extra countries (see below) for roaming. For purchase or renewal of bundles you can use your app, online account or text the code to 49501.
Internet overuse in the UK is charged with £1 per day for 25 MB, up to a maximum of 125 MB per day, then charged at 4p per MB thereafter. Unused data rolls-over to the next month (except £30 plan), when it needs to be consumed.
If you need extra data, two add-on packages can be added to the Big Value Bundles:
- 500 MB extra for £5 by calling 34441
- 2 GB extra for £10 by calling 46205
Vodafone gives you extra UK data for 30 days when you top up at least £10. These bonus data can't be used for roaming. Opt in by calling 4358 free from your Vodafone mobile before top-up.
- £10 top-up: 500 MB reward + £10 credit
- £20 top-up: 1 GB reward + £20 credit
Freebie Data can't be obtained nor used when having subscribed to a Big Value Bundle.
Pay as you go £1 plan Edit
Vodafone started a new £1 plan for occasional users. Under this plan you are charged 20p for 5 MB (and per text and min) up to a daily cap of £1. Having reached £1 on the day you get unlimited calls and SMS and up to 500 MB data. A day is valid from midnight to midnight of UK time. The same allowances are given out in EU/EEA roaming too, based on the time zone associated to capital city of the roaming country. For extra data you can add once 500 MB per day for £1 by 2345. So the maximum data consumption is 1 GB per day on this plan.
New starters are sold on this plan already pre-activated or move from another plan by calling 41146, through your online account or app. You can migrate to and from this plan once per day for free. Thus you will lose all allowances like Big Bundles or any rewards. There is no base charge on days without consumption.
EU roaming Edit
In 2017 Vodafone adopted Roam like at home and all allowances can be used without surcharges for roaming in the EU/EEA. Vodafone offers the most international 4G/LTE roaming partners in the UK so far. Some additional countries have been included to their surcharge-free zone: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Switzerland and Turkey.
Vodafone started in 2017 with an own youth brand. Aimed at customers who are under 30 years of age, the network offers 30-day rolling plans with endless social data in three sizes:
- 6 GB + unlimited mins ands texts: £10
- 15 GB + unlimited mins and texts: £15
- 45 GB + unlimited mins and texts: £20
Unlimited use of social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest) and chat apps (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Viber) is included for free. Data volumes are promoted until at least March 2019 and are valid in the EU/EEA too. You can add these two passes:
- Video Pass for unlimited video streaming (on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Go Video, DisneyLife, My5, TVPlayer, Vevo and UKTV Play): £7
- Music Pass for unlimited audio streaming (on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Deezer, Soundcloud, Amazon Prime Music and Napster): £5
To join Voxi you can buy a discounted starter pack at 99p with a £10 voucher or at £9.99 with a £20 in shops. Otherwise you can migrate any usual Vodafone PAYG SIM card to Voxi through the Voxi website. An age restriction which was loosely enforced but not controlled, has been scrapped in April 2019 and you don't need to specify your age anymore.
Voxi is hybrid prepaid. This means that the monthly plan is charged on a credit card (some out-of UK cards accepted) or PayPal account, but can be stopped anytime through your personal profile. For all additional consumptions you need to top up.
- APN: pp.vodafone.co.uk
- Website for Vodafone: http://www.vodafone.co.uk/
- Website for Voxi: https://www.voxi.co.uk/
O2 UK by Spanish Telefónica has good coverage nationwide using 2G on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 900 and 2100 MHz and has started 4G/LTE on 800 MHz only: O2 coverage map.. It has opened all of its prepaid products to 4G/LTE.
In 2018 O2 offers 99% population coverage (including 98% coverage on 3G and 97% coverage on 4G). As it only used to employ the 800 MHz band, it has focused rather on wide coverage than on high speeds. So it gives a rather mixed picture, its 2G for voice and 3G is rather good, while its 4G is known to be slow. In 2018 it acquired new spectrum on band 40 (2300 MHz in TD-LTE) that it began to use in April 2018 to boost coverage and speed in metro areas.
The SIM cards are for free ordered online to be sent to an UK postal address or bought at their stores and outlets all over the UK for 99p or the package price. Standard, micro SIMs and nano SIMs are all available online via the O2 website. However, if a nano SIM is needed then you can use online live-chat function to specify the required SIM type to the agent.
Also, there is currently a promotion at Carphone Warehouse where it is possible to buy a SIM with the £15 Big Bundle (see below) preloaded for £7.50.
Cashcards for top-ups can be found all over the country in any O2 shop or anywhere where you see the green top-up logo. Then call 4444 free from your mobile, enter the number on your receipt and follow the instructions. Top-ups are between £10 and £50. To check balance press *#10#.
Your voucher will expire after 12 months. Validity of the SIM is 180 days from the last activity.
They offer three prepaid product lines with voice, text and data: Classic Pay as you go, Big Bundles and International. Take care that plans come with an horrendous default rate of £3 per MB (except Classic Pay as you go), but shut-off having reached £1 (or 330 KB) per day. You can't swicht between these lines. Better buy bundles or bolt-ons from the start.
- Classic Pay as you go: You need to top-up £10 or more per month to get the new cheap default rate of 1p per MB or you can add Bolt-ons (for both see below)
- Big Bundles: You need to top-up and choose one of the combo bundles (shown below) for 30 days as base plan. This can be added by Bolt-ons for extra data.
|£10||500 mins||5000 SMS||2 GB* with roll-over|
|£15||1000 mins||5000 SMS||5 GB with roll-over|
|£20||2000 mins||5000 SMS||8 GB* with roll-over|
|£25||3000 mins||5000 SMS||10 GB with roll-over|
|£30||5000 mins||5000 SMS||20 GB* with roll-over|
(*) - Triple data for first month.
Activation is online on your account or by calling 2202. Take care that you surf outside of these bundles at an excessive default rate of £1 per 50 MB.
This plan features low IDD call rates. You will get free bonuses for top-ups of £10 or more and can add Bolt ons (for both see below):
- when you top up for £10 or more per month: 100 MB, 3000 O2 texts as bonus
- when you top up for £15 or more per month: 200 MB, 3000 O2 texts, 3000 O2 mins as bonus
To select or change plans go online or call 2202. For more data see bolt-ons.
These data add-ons for extra data can be added to all prepaid plans with voice and are valid for one month:
- 500 MB: £4.99
- 2 GB: £10.99
- 4 GB: £16.99
- 8 GB: £22.99
- 12 GB: £30.50
Bolt-ons don't auto-renew. Activation is online on your account or by calling 2202.
Data-only SIM (called Tablet plans, iPad plans)Edit
O2 sells prepaid data-only SIMs with no voice that are called Tablet plans or iPad plans. They come in all three sizes and in 3 different starter packs:
- with 1 GB for 30 days: £10
- with 3 GB for 90 days: £16
- with 5 GB for 90 days: £25
- with 12 GB for 90 days: £40
For topping up these data SIMs the following top-ups are offered:
|300 MB||24 hours||£3|
|300 MB||30 days||£5|
|1 GB||30 days||£10|
|3 GB||30 days||£16|
|5 GB||30 days||£20|
|10 GB||30 days||£25|
|5 GB||90 days||£25|
|12 GB||12 months||£60|
|20 GB||12 months||£75|
You are allowed to change plans as often as you like. Data lasts for the period and renews automatically thereafter. On O2's mobile data plans all European roaming is blocked.
Possible on Android phones, but no official profile available for the iPhone.
EEA roaming Edit
O2 has adopted 'roam like at home' to all voice and data prepay plans with EEA roaming at domestic rates. Some destinations like the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Monaco or Switzerland have been excluded from their Europe zone for pay-as-you-go and are now only available on Travel Pay As You Go. For £1.99 a day, you'll get 100 MB data there. To activate this pass text 'TRAVELON' to 21300. In 2018 roaming on 4G/LTE networks in many European countries has started. Roaming is generally blocked on Mobile Broadband plans like the Tablet or iPhone Plans.
- APN : payandgo.o2.co.uk
- User Name: payandgo
- Password : password
- Website: http://www.o2.co.uk/ (Note: an UK IP address may be required at times to access website)
3 (= Three) UKEdit
3 (Three) is the runner-up or challenger of the UK providers. While it has the smallest market share, it gained many customers by the most aggressive pricing. 3 is a 3G and 4G network-only with very limited voice/text fallback to EE 2G (at former Orange sites) in some low coverage areas.
3 coverage map. You need to have a 3G phone on 2100 MHz and for 4G a device that can carry 800 and 1800 MHz bands. 2G-only phones simply don't work on Three. Coverage can be worse in the countryside compared to the three other UK networks, unless you have a handset that supports Three's VoLTE. Coverage in urban areas can be better than prepaid with the other networks, because Three supports wifi calling on prepaid with many handsets (including iPhones), meaning that you get coverage in London Underground (Tube) stations for example.
Three launched 4G/LTE services in 2013. In 2018 Three has about 65% population coverage on 4G/LTE. This compares to about 99% 4G coverage on EE, 96% 4G coverage on Vodafone and 78% 4G coverage on O2. Where you can find 3, it offers good speeds at quite low rates. In network tests, it frequently gets higher scores than O2 in spite of lacking 2G.
Three offers one of the most extensive coverage for roaming at domestic rates, not only in the EU/EEA but some other countries too, called 'Go Roam' (previously "Feel at home", see below).
Their SIM card is given out for free, either online or in their stores. It stays valid for 6 months without any activity. Take care, that they have different products which shouldn't be mixed:
- Pay-as-you-go SIMs for phones
- Mobile Broadband plans for tablets and modems
Pay as you go on ThreeEdit
This product is intended for smartphones only. For tablets and modems, it's better to choose the Mobile Broadband offer instead.
Very low 1p per MB (that's £10 per GB), also valid in the EU/EEA and 'Go Roam' countries (see below).
Data feature packsEdit
These daily or monthly add-ons are offered to the smartphone PAYG plans:
- internet daily pass: 120 MB for 24 hours: £0.50 (in practice until the end of the next day)
- mobile internet pass: 500 MB for 30 days: £5
- all-in-one-10: 2 GB for 30 days at £10 (with unlimited domnestic calls & texts)
- all-in-one-15: 5 GB for 30 days at £15 (with unlimited domnestic calls & texts)
- all-in-one-20: 12 GB for 30 days at £20 (with unlimited domnestic calls & texts)
- all-in-one-25: 36 GB (up to 15 GB in EU roaming and a surcharge of 0.5p/MB applies beyond) for 30 days at £25 (with unlimited domnestic calls & texts)
- all-in-one-35: unlimited data (1 TB FUP applies in the UK only, 15 GB in EU roaming and a surcharge of 0.5p/MB applies beyond) for 30 days at £35 (with unlimited domnestic calls & texts)
- all-in-one-90: unlimited data (1 TB FUP applies in the UK only, 15 GB in EU roaming per 30 days and a surcharge of 0.5p/MB applies beyond) for 90 days at £90 (with unlimited domnestic calls & texts)
When data is used up, you are free to buy another pack without waiting until the end of the previously bought add-on pack. After data add-on is used up, charges revert to the £0.01 per MB default rate, if another add on isn't bought.
Purchase for 99p in a store (supermarket, news agent etc.), also available online to be sent to an UK postal address.
Extra credit can be bought from anywhere displaying the green 'top up' logo. Vouchers are available for £10, £15, £20, £25, £30 and £50 and must be activated within 90 days of purchase online or by calling 444. Credit never expires on Three SIMs, but your SIM plan can be terminated, when there is no activity for more than 180 days.
Their Mobile Broadband prepaid SIM is a data-only SIM with text but no voice calls for tablets, modems or routers. You can use it in smartphones too. They are often sold as ready-to-go kits with data volume pre-loaded:
- SIM card with 1 GB data valid for 1 months: £10
- SIM card with 3 GB data valid for 3 months: £16
- SIM card with 12 GB data valid for 12 months: £40
- SIM card with 24 GB data valid for 24 months: £60
You can top-up online on your My3account with these data packages:
- pay-per-day: 500 MB for up to midnight on the next night: £2.99
- 1 GB for a month: £10
- 3 GB for a month: £15
- 7 GB for a month: £25
Data Reward SIM Edit
In 2016 Three introduced their new "Data Reward SIM" to match the offer of FreedomPop (see below). It's aimed at tablet and modems, but contains voice and texts too. So there seem to be no restrictions where to use it whatsoever.
- SIM card with 1 GB valid for 30 days: £10
When registered, the "Data Reward SIM" gives 200 MB high-speed data every month for free. This volume doesn't roll over, but can be used on their "Go Roam" (see below) roaming option too. The cycle depends on the day of activation. The "Data Reward SIM" can be added with these monthly bundles booked through your account:
- 2 GB: £15
- 5 GB: £20
- 10 GB: £25
All usage outside of these packages is at very low 1p per MB in the UK and 3.6-4.3p per MB in 'Go Roam countries'. You can register a maximum of 5 Data Reward SIM cards on your name.
Roaming: 'Go Roam' featureEdit
Their roaming feature dubbed 'Go Roam' (formerly 'Feel at Home') is available to all pay-as-you-go and Mobile Broadband SIMs of Three UK and is valid in about 60 countries and territories, including all of the EU/EEA, Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Macau, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, USA (on both AT&T and T-Mobile networks), Channel Islands (Jersey & Guernsey) and the Isle of Man. From 2017 Vietnam and these Latin American countries are added: Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Peru, Guatemala, Uruguay.
Three misleadingly advertises that Go Roam applies in "71 destinations" because it double-counts parts of Finland, France, Portugal and Spain as separate "destinations". Despite this double-counting, Three offers 3G roaming at domestic prices in more countries and territories than any other UK network.
Go Roam applies when roaming in any of these countries or territories with a Three UK SIM card and means that data is charged exactly the same as domestic data in the UK without roaming surcharges. More info about the pros and cons of their roaming offer in the European Union section of this Wiki at Euro3. Three now offers 4G LTE roaming in 45 destinations, see here for the full list of partners and destinations, but most are outside the free roaming zone. The 4G roaming rollout is expected to be done in 2019 and so far only Three networks in Europe and AT&T in the US are within the Go roam zone. Tethering aka mobile hotspot use is blocked on their PAYG SIM cards (not Mobile Broadband plans) outside the UK.
Furthermore, you can't use it for more than 4 months (2 months outside Europe) of continuous roaming and only up to 15 GB per month (for PAYG from 28/DEC/18) or will be charged at 0.5p per MB otherwise. Using their PAYG rate of 1p/MB instead of a bundled rate, the same 1p/MB is charged in the EU/EEA up to a limit of £42 (or 4.2 GB) when roaming will be cut off to avoid excessive bills.
After the intervention of UK regulator (Ofcom) Three has changed the rules for tethering for their PAYG plans. Mobile hotspot use seems to be now available in the UK as all previous blocking contradicts net neutrality laws. Recently, up to 30 GB are allowed for hotspot use in the UK or 12 GB tethering data in EU countries in their all-in-one-35 plan. So data allowances roaming in the EU/EEA may continued to be affected by their tethering restrictions.
On their Mobile Broadband product, tethering has always been only officially banned, but not blocked. This means that you didn't receive a profile to use it for tethering on an iPhone. Tethering from Android devices seem to work on these plans in the UK and abroad, no matter what Three sales reps are telling you.
Similar to giffgaff from O2 or Vodafone's youth brand Voxi Three started in 2017 an own budget brand called Smarty. It offers monthly plans and a unique feature called “unused data discount”. This gives you a cash discount on your following month’s plan based on data that remains unused at the end of your monthly plan. Note that it doesn't have Three's extended roaming area abroad, but only EU/EEA roaming.
However, for two reasons we can't feature Smarty here on our list:
- it's online only. That means that you need to order it to an UK postal address for delivery. This is quite inconvenient for travellers as starter packs are not sold in stores or online platforms.
- for online order you need an UK-issued payment card to get the starter pack and pay the monthly charges, which most non-residents don't have.
For more information about Smarty check their website.
More info Edit
- APN: three.co.uk
- Website: http://www.three.co.uk/
Giffgaff is a wholly owned subsidiary of O2 UK, and operates as MVNO on O2 UK (for technical info check O2 above). 4G/LTE is provided at no additional cost.
Giffgaff SIM cards can be ordered in four ways. You will receive £5 free credit upon activation if you are introduced by an existing giffgaff member, and in some cases the introducing member also receives some free credit. In some UK stores like Tesco or Poundland they are sold at the checkout register for 99p.
|Official order to UK address||Order||No||Delivery by 1st Class post usually within 2 to 3 days|
|Official order to UK address via an existing member||member 1||£5||You are introduced by any member of giffgaff and receive £5 free credit. The introducing member will also receive £5, but since June 2016 only for the first 15 referrals in a lifetime. The SIM is dispatched by giffgaff in the same way, not by the member, but giffgaff remembers that you were introduced by another member when you activate the SIM.|
|Official order to a non-UK address||Order||No||Giffgaff announced official delivery to non-UK addresses in November 2016. According to giffgaff, "your SIM will arrive within in 3-5 business days in Europe or from 5 business days for the rest of the world" [sic].|
|Unofficial order to a non-UK address||GG Sim Orders||£5||Some members can send a free SIM card (with the above £5 free credit deal) to a non-UK address so that you already have your SIM before you travel. In this case, the SIM is not dispatched by giffgaff, but by the member. The member uses some of his £5 credit to fund the international postage, and therefore makes a loss if you don't subsequently activate the SIM. This method might become unreliable following new limit of 15 referral credits of £5 in June 2016.|
To activate your SIM on their website, you ideally need a credit or debit card, otherwise you can credit your account with a top-up voucher from convenience stores, supermarkets and petrol stations. Since December 2016, giffgaff have officially supported non-UK credit and debit cards. Giffgaff or original O2 reload cards both work. As a last resort you can also buy top-up vouchers online at private facilitators like mobiletopup.co.uk for a surcharge.
Check your balance by dialling *100#.
Your SIM card stays valid for 6 months after any of these activities: an outgoing call (including to free 0800 numbers), SMS or MMS, at least 4 incoming calls (of >10 secs), a data connection, a top-up or receiving "payback" in early June or early December for introducing new members or posting in giffgaff's forums.
Data feature packsEdit
Default rate is 5p per MB. All these following bundles called "goodybags" come with included calls, texts and a data volume, valid for one month:
|£5||150 min||500||500 MB|
|£7.50||250 min||unlimited||2 GB|
|£10||500 min||unlimited||3 GB|
|£12||750 min||unlimited||4 GB|
|£15||1000 min||unlimited||8 GB|
(*) = all calls amongst giffgaff numbers are free.
(^) = first 20 GB each month at high 4G speeds, then throttled to 384 kbps from 8am to midnight.
Check balance in packages by *100*7#. Packages must be activated online through your account.
EU roaming Edit
All plans include data, minutes and texts to all the countries in the EU/EEA without any extra cost. Take care thar roaming on the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man is now charged at £0.20 per MB. In 2018 roaming was extended to 4G/LTE in many countries. For roaming out of the goodypacks you need to have activated your SIM card in their UK network first and have used it within the last 60 days in the UK. Otherwise, roaming will be charged at the standard UK rate of 5p/MB.
- APN: giffgaff.com
- Tethering is allowed
- Username: giffgaff
- Website: http://www.giffgaff.com
Virgin Mobile is a MVNO that operates on the EE network on 2G and 3G, no 4G/LTE for prepaid so far, only for their postpaid plans.
Virgin mobile SIMs cards can be ordered online for free or in shops e.g. the Virgin Megastores (store locator) for 99p. SIMs are also sent to hotel adresses in all three sizes. They stay valid for 180 days without any activity.
Default data rateEdit
The starter tariff has a default data rate of £2 per 200 MB.
Data feature packsEdit
You can buy these packages, called "JAM pack", all valid for 30 days:
|£10||2 GB||500 mins||500 SMS||JAM 10|
|£15||6 GB||1000 mins||1000 SMS||JAM 15|
|£20||10 GB||2000 mins||2000 SMS||JAM 20|
To activate, send SMS to 789789, text Buy <code> for example: Buy JAM 15. It will auto-renew after 30 days. To change plans , send SMS to 789789, text Change <code>. To deactivate a plan, send SMS to 789789, text Cancel <code>.
Tethering (at least on Android phones) and VoIP is possible and allowed.
EU roaming Edit
With Roam Like Home, you can use your mobile wherever you go in the EU and pay no more for your texts, data and minutes than you would in the UK, subject to their fair usage policy. This FUP states that a monthly data cap is in place. If you use more data than the monthly cap allows they may apply a surcharge. It is not made clear what this cap is for each plan. This applies to all data above the amount that can be purchased at the current EU data wholesale capped rate with the credit you have on your account at the point of roaming.
More information Edit
- APN: goto.virginmobile.uk
- Website: http://store.virginmedia.com/virgin-media-mobile.html
Tesco MobileEditTesco Mobile is the MVNO of Britains leading retail chain operating on the O2 network. From 2014 Tesco Mobile has allowed all customers on the O2 4G/LTE network. From 2016 they now offer two different plans:
- Triple Credit and
- the new Rocket Packs.
Both tariff lines can't be mixed, but switched online or by calling customer support at 282. You will loose all credited allowances when changing plans.
You can top-up with e top-up cards or by voucher from any Tesco store available from £10 to £50. To top-up by voucher, call 4444 for free. Check balance by calling 282.
You need to use your SIM every 180 days to keep it alive.
Triple Credit planEdit
On the Triple Credit tariff you get free credit when you top-up. For a £10 top-up you get £30 credit, for £15 £45 and for £20 £60 worth of credit. Furthermore, you can book data-only packages from your main credit.
Default rate is £ 0.10 per MB. They offer these monthly packs for Triple Credit plans valid for 30 days:
For activation, text code to 28948. Overuse is charged at the default rate (see above), all packages auto-renew after 30 days, to stop them from doing so, text STOPDATA to 28948. To check balance in packages, text BALANCE to 2112.
There are restrictions for the bonus credit given out for Triple Credit you should be aware of: Only the 1st top-up per month will be awarded triple credit. You can't activate data bundles for this credit. It's only valid for 1 month, while general credit stays valid for 6 months. If you top-up £15 or more in one go, you can choose a free 500 MB bonus pack.
Rocket Packs Edit
Their new combo package plan has been introduced in 2016. This is a different plan or tariff line that can't be mixed with Triple Credit. You can only book these combo packages for 30 days:
|£5||100 mins||100 SMS||250 MB||ROCKET5|
|£7.50||250 mins||500 SMS||500 MB||ROCKET750|
|£10||500 mins||5000 SMS||3 GB||ROCKET10|
|£12.50||500 mins||5000 SMS||4 GB||ROCKET1250|
|£15||1000 mins||5000 SMS||6 GB||ROCKET15|
|£20||2000 mins||5000 SMS||8 GB||ROCKET20|
All call and text allowances are domestic except for the EU roaming promotion (see below). For activation go online or text code to 28948. All packs can be renewed ahead of time. Overuse fee is £0.10 per MB, but no data-only pack can be added. To check balance in packages, text BALANCE to 2112.
EU roaming Edit
Data and calls and texts while roaming within the EU/EEA will come out of your UK monthly allowances, free credit or bundles without extra cost. Triple Credit bonus doesn't qualify for data packages. Note that Jersey, Monaco, Guernsey, Switzerland and the Isle of Man have been excluded from the zone. Tesco mentions a FUP of using it predominantly at home during a 120 days period.
- Tethering is allowed
- T&Cs don't allow P2P, VoIP, continous streaming.
- APN: prepay.tesco-mobile.com
- Username: tescowap
- Password: password
- Website: http://www.tescomobile.com/
ASDA Mobile Edit
ASDA Mobile is the MVNO of Tesco's biggest rival as retailer called ASDA. It used to operate on the Vodafone network. In 2014 they migrated to the EE network and from 2017 4G/LTE access has been granted for ASDA mobile due to a new wholesale agreement with EE.
ASDA Mobile SIM cards can be bought online on their website or in many ASDA supermarkets and grocery stores throughout the UK: store locator for 50p. They stock hybrid mini/micro and nano sizes. All new SIMs come with free 10 minutes, 10 SMS and 10 MB data.
You can top up at any ASDA store or anywhere you see their logo with a top-up voucher. To check your balance, text 'BAL' to 2732.
ASDA Mobile has the longest validity period of any MVNO in Britain. You will need to use it within 270 days, but it can be revived by a top-up for up to a year.
Combo and Data BundlesEdit
Default data rate ouside of bundles is 5p per MB. These bundles can be added:
|£5||125 mins||2000 SMS||250 MB||5 to 2732|
|£7||300 mins||unlimited||1 GB||7 to 2732|
|£10||600 mins||unlimited||3 GB||10 to 2732|
|£12||800 mins||unlimited||4 GB||12 to 2732|
|£15||1000 mins||unlimited||6 GB||15 to 2732|
|£20||unlimited||unlimited||9 GB||20 to 2732|
|£25||unlimited||unlimited||15 GB||25 to 2732|
|£5||-----------||-----------||500 MB||Data 5 to 2732|
|£7.5||-----------||-----------||1 GB||Data 7.50 to 2732|
|£12.5||-----------||-----------||4 GB||Data 12.50 to 2732|
|£15||-----------||-----------||6 GB||Data 15 to 2732|
All packages are valid for one month and don't auto-renew. To make auto-renew, add AUTO before number of package (for example: AUTO 10). To stop, text "STOP AUTO" to 2732. Overuse and out of bundle fee is at the default rate (see above).
EU roaming Edit
If you have a bundle, you can use it as you would do at home, as long as you're in one of the EU/EEA countries including the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Switzerland, Monaco and Andorra.
- Tethering is allowed
- APN: everywhere
- Website: http://mobile.asda.com
Lebara (previously called Lebara mobile) is one of UK's leading ethno market providers operating on the Vodafone network (see above) on 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE.
They give 50% free credit with your first top-up. Online you may use PayPal for top-ups starting at £5. Offline you can buy scratch cards. To top-up by voucher, enter *#1345*<voucher code>#. To check your balance, type *#1345#.
Lebara has very rigid deactivation rules. Without having used it for 84 days, it will be switched off and your credit and number will be lost.
Default Data RateEdit
15p per MB is charged, if no data bundle is booked or all data are used up.
Data feature packsEdit
Their data packages are valid for 30 days and include 100 internatl. mins to about 50 countries. For activation text code to 38885:
- 500 MB (no EU cap): £5, activation: 'WEB500'
- 1 GB (no EU cap): £7.50, activation: 'WEB1GB'
- 2 GB: £10, activation: 'WEB2GB'
You may only have one data pass active at any time. If you consume all of your data allowance, you will be charged the default rate or can buy an add-on. Data passes auto-renew on expiry. If you don’t have sufficient credit, Lebara will try to auto-renew for seven days or until you cancel auto-renewal. To cancel auto-renew text WEB<size>*STOP to 38885 or opt out via your MyLebara account.
Lebara offers a so-called "bolt on" for extra data when the original package is used up:
- 1 GB: £5, activation: '1GB'
For activation text code to 38885. Be aware, that a bolt-on is only valid for the rest of running time of the original package.
These "all in one" packages contain an UK allowance, capped EU data, voice and IDD minutes and 1000 SMS:
|Price||Data||dom. Voice||IDD Voice||Activation|
|£10||1 GB||500 mins||500 mins||ALL1|
|£10||3 GB||250 mins||250 mins||ALL2|
|£10||3 GB||unlimited||100 mins||ALL3|
|£15||6 GB||unlimited||100 mins||ALL5|
For activation text code to 38885. If overuse, you can buy data bolt-on. To stop renewal, send SMS with STOP and activation code to 38885.
EU roaming Edit
You can use your mobile in the EU as if you were in the UK at no extra cost.
More infomation Edit
- Tethering is banned
- APN: uk.lebara.mobi
- Username and password: wap
- Website: http://www.lebara.co.uk/
LycamobileEditLycamobile is the main competitor of Lebara on the ethno market. In the UK it's a MVNO on the O2 UK network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE.
There and in many other stores, you'll find their top-up vouchers. To top-up by voucher, enter *131*<voucher PIN>#. Check balance by *131#. Credit expires after 90 days and your SIM card will be suspended after 120 days only without a recharge.
Default Data RateEdit
9p per MB charged, if no data bundle is booked or used up
Data feature packs Edit
These data packages are all valid for 30 days in the UK and EU/EEA:
- 500 MB: £5, activation:*139*5001#
- 1 GB: £7.50, activation: *139*7001#
- 2 GB: £10, activation: *139*1001#
- 3 GB: £12.50, activation: *139*1201#
There are these combo packages with data, voice, SMS and IDD mins valid for 30 days:
|National Plus||3 GB||unlim.||unlim.||100||£10||*139*11544#|
|Mega||11 GB||8.5 GB||unlim.||unlim.||100||£20*||*139*2044#|
|Ultra||15 GB||10.75 GB||unlim.||unlim.||100||£25*||*139*12644#|
|Giga||22 GB||11.5 GB||unlim.||unlim.||-||£35*||*139*3044#|
|Forever Data||unlimited#||8.5 GB||unlim.||unlim.||-||£20||*139*2544#|
(*) - These packages are discounted by 50% when you purchase them for the first time with a new SIM card.
(#) - First 9 GB at 4G speeds, after speed throtted to 128 kbps.
Lycamobile will automatically renew your bundle once it expires. Charge for the bundle will be deducted from your main balance at the time of auto-renewal of the bundle. To cancel the auto renewal dial *190# before the expiry date and follow the instructions or call customer service for free on 353 before the expiry date.
EU roaming Edit
Lycamobile in UK applys "roam like at home" roaming in data plans and in combo plans without surcharges up to the limit specified as "EU Data Cap" in the table above. Same default rate of 9p per MB applies in the EU.
More info Edit
- Tethering / mobile hotspot use is banned and blocked
- APN: data.lycamobile.co.uk
- Username: lmuk (that's lowcase L, not capital I)
- Password: plus
- Website: http://www.lycamobile.co.uk/
Vectone Mobile is a MVNO using the EE network on 2G and 3G and now on 4G/LTE too (see above).
Their SIM can be purchased online or in many supermarkets, petrol stations and kiosks throughout the UK. Mini and micro SIMs are free or 99p, but nano SIMs need to be ordered online for £1.
Top-ups are in shops like Tesco and Sainsbury's, petrol stations like Esso and BP, post offices, Payzone and Epay using multifunction voucher. Topping up online, you can use Paysafecards that are sold in many countries. Only online you get data bonuses for recharges: top-up £5 - 1 GB for 7 days, top-up £10 - 3 GB for 15 days and top-up £20 - 10 GB for 30 days.
Check balance by *102#. Credit stays valid for 90 days and the SIM card will be suspended after not having used it for 120 days.
Default data rateEdit
- 9p per MB. A minimum balance of 50p is required to use data.
Data feature packsEdit
|500 MB||250 MB||24 hours||£1||*125#|
|1 GB||500 MB||7 days||£3||*300#|
|4 GB||2 GB||30 days||£5||*500#|
|7 GB||3.5 GB||30 days||£7.50||*750#|
|10 GB||-||30 days||£10*||*1371#|
|12 GB||6 GB||30 days||£12.50||*8812#|
|100 GB||10 GB||30 days||£40||*1372#|
(*) - These packages have been discounted by 50%, if buy a new SIM card (^) - First 20 GB at 4G speeds, after speed reduced to 128 kbps. Data pack will be auto-renewed once the validity expires. To opt out, call customer service enter *1122#. Overuse is charged by the default rate. Check allowances in packages by *1252#. Only one package can be activated. Thethering aka mobile hotspot use is limited to a certain share.
Vectone Mobile also offers combo packages: UK Plans:
|£1||50 MB||50 mins||50 SMS||n/a||50 MB||*1032#|
|£3.50||100 MB||100 mins||100 SMS||n/a||100 MB||*1005#|
|£5||3 GB||150 mins||150 SMS||n/a||500 MB||*1006#|
|£7.50||5 GB||350 mins||350 SMS||n/a||2 GB||*1208#|
|£10||10 GB||unlimited||unlimited||100 mins||3 GB||*1337#|
|£12*||12 GB||unlimited||unlimited||100 mins||-||*1205#|
|£15*||15 GB||unlimited||unlimited||100 mins||5 GB||*1001#|
|£18*||18 GB||unlimited||unlimited||100 mins||5 GB||*1002#|
|£20*||20 GB||unlimited||unlimited||200 mins||6 GB||*2288#|
|£25*||30 GB||unlimited||unlimited||250 mins||6 GB||*1098#|
(*) - These packages are discounted by 50% when you purchase them for the first time with a new SIM card All-in-one bundles:
|£5||1 GB||150 SMS||150 mins (national & IDD)||*1044#|
EU roaming Edit
You can use included data in all data packs and All-in-one/UK plans of £7.50 and more in the EU/EEA without surcharges.
- Tethering is included in all plans, but is limited, some packages don't include tethering (all all-in-one packages don't include tethering).
- APN: webuk.mundio.com
- data can't be used on BlackBerry phones.
- there are lot of complaints on the internet about Vectone's poor customer service
- Website: http://www.vectonemobile.co.uk/
iD Mobile Edit
iD Mobile is a MVNO using the Three network in 3G and 4G/LTE (for specifics see Three above). It's owned by Carphone Warehouse and was launched in 2015. First, they only sold contracts, but in 2016 PAYG was added and their SIM cards finally offered in Carphone Warehouse branches. Their rates are very similar to Three's.
An iD Mobile PAYG SIM can be bought through their website or over the phone using a UK-issued debit or credit card or you can go to any Carphone Warehouse store in the UK (locator). Their SIM is free for the price of the first included package. If you don't select a bundle, you'll need to top-up at least £5 for a start.
Top-ups can be made online on your account using a UK credit/debit card. If you don't have one, you need to top-up at any Carphone Warehouse branch starting from £5. This seems to be a major disadvantage to Three which has many more top-up locations in the country. Furthermore, iD mobile's top-ups are only valid for 90 days and the SIM card will be discountinued after 365 days of inactivity.
Default rate Edit
Their data PAYG rate outside of packages is a low 1p per MB. A rate that is currently matched only by Three.
Combo plans Edit
For bundles iD mobile only offers 3 combo plans with data, minutes and SMS for a month:
- £5: 100 MB, 125 mins, 500 SMS
- £10: 1 GB, 500 mins, unlimited SMS
- £15: 4 GB, 1000 mins, unlimited SMS
For overuse, their default rate applies. You can make the bundles once-off or recurring in your account.
EU roaming Edit
The minutes, texts and data you use for roaming in the EU/EEA come out of your monthly allowances mentioned above at domestic rates. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are included, but no 4G/LTE roaming is offered so far.
More info Edit
- Tethering / mobile hotspot use is banned
- APN: id
- Website: http://www.idmobile.co.uk/
FreedomPop is a new US-based MVNO which started in 2015 on the Three network in 3G and 4G/LTE (for coverage see Three). The UK was their first commercial launch outside of the US with their new business model called Freemium. They give out a small amount of data, calls and texts for free in hope that you buy more allowances later. FreedomPop plans to bring its service to other countries within the next years.
Their SIM card can only be ordered online to be delivered to an UK postal address only. There are plans to sell it in stores, but they have not turned up yet. This makes it inconvenient for travellers, but as an exception we list online-only operators when they give out data for free. The SIM card however is sold for a price: £6.99 for start-up and UK delivery.
They started commercial operations in the UK in September 2015 and need to work on their 250,000 customers on the waiting list. So you can also expect some waiting time.
Every SIM card is linked to a credit or debit card for payment and top-ups. Non-UK issued cards are accepted.
Free allowances Edit
In every month 200 MB data, 200 domestic SMS and 200 domestic minutes are given out for free. Data overuse is charged at 1.5p per MB on the free plan. You can also earn more free data by taking part in third-party offers like filling in a survey or downloading a coupon.
Combo packages for pay Edit
These additional monthly bundles can be added:
|£4.99||500 MB||500 mins||500|
|£8.99||1 GB||1000 mins||1000|
Extra data as overuse for pay plans is 1p per MB, instead of the 1.5p/MB on the free plan.
You can roll over unused data to the next month for £1.49 per month. A maximum of 500 MB can be rolled over and a maximum of 20 GB can be stored.
Beware of a few catches. You should immediately turn off "auto top-up" on your online account, which is turned on by default. Here is why:
- They will automatically top-up your account by £10 of credit when you’re within 100 MB of your download allowance. This means you’re only able to use 100 MB without paying anything extra using auto top-up.
- As payment details are held on record and used automatically for when you incur additional charges, it’s very easy to accidentally run up a bill by surprise. If you’d like to receive a notification when your allowances have been used up, they charge an extra 99p per month for this service.
All calls are routed via VoIP. This means that you need to have a stable and pretty fast data connection to make calls. This is a service, that Three is not always renowned of and beta testers have been critical of the sound quality. For classical voice telephony you'll pay another £1.49 per month for their "premium voice add-on".
More info Edit
- APN: three.co.uk
- Website: http://uk.freedompop.com
Anywhere EditAnywhere is one of UK's multi-network operator. It operates on the networks of Three, O2, EE and Vodafone (depending on the plan).
You will pay much more for having the combined coverage of three UK networks at a very limited validity of your credit.
The SIM card can be bought online to be send to an UK postal address, from argos.co.uk, from Sainsbury's and some other shops. Two different tariff lines are offered that can't be changed: Pure and Plus+.
The starter pack includes the sales price as credit. Pure SIM cards range from £10 for one month to £60 for a year. Plus+ SIM cards from £10 for 30 days to £180 for 180 days. You will need to enter an UK address for activation.
Top-ups can be made online via credit card or by calling 333. Better check before, if your non-UK credit card is accepted. You wont find any option to buy reload vouchers locally. Be also aware of their limited validity. There are top-ups from £10 credit for one month to £60 for one year. To check balance, dial 222.
This plan operates on EE, O2 and Vodafone's 2G and 3G network, no 4G/LTE so far. It hasn't any data plans, but charges at a flat 10p rate per MB (equal to 1 GB = £102).
This plan operates on EE's, O2's and Three's 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE networks. It includes unlimited calls, SMS and 4 GB data for 30 days at £30. This bundle auto-renews.
Data, calls and texts while roaming within the EU/EEA will come out of your UK monthly allowances, credit or bundles without extra cost.
- Tethering is allowed
- APN for Pure plan: mobiledata
- APN for Plus+ plan: Anywhere
- MMS doesn't work!
- Website: https://anywheresim.com/
CTExcel is the brand name used by China Telecom for its MVNOs operating outside China. Unlike Chinese SIM cards, there is no censorship on this SIM. While they target Chinese in particular, anyone can sign up for a CTExcel SIM. In the UK, they use the EE network.
As a rarity among EE MVNOs, they allow to use the 4G/LTE network too for a one-time surcharge.
Their primary way of distributing SIMs is by mail; they can be ordered online to be sent to any UK postal address with an initial top-up required. If you choose to purchase a SIM in this manner, you will receive an e-mailed activation code that you must type into the CTExcel website to activate the SIM once it has arrived.
They also have a network of sales partners that sell their SIMs (list of outlets). They are primarily Chinese supermarkets and travel agencies, with the exception of SIMLocal at Heathrow Terminal 3 Arrivals. Currently they offer two different cards:
- 英伦酷玩系列 - British Cool Play SIM card
- 中英畅行套餐 - Chinese and UK Dual SIM card
The Chinese-UK dual SIM card comes with two numbers, but higher rates and is only better for users who expect calls from China.
Top-ups can be done at any PayPoint or Payzone-supporting merchant while in the UK, as well as online with any international (not only UK-issued) Visa/Mastercard or PayPal from inside or outside of the UK.
CTExcel operates a 90-day expiry policy. If you don't use your SIM (topping up the SIM doesn't count) for 90 days, it will expire. As it roams in most countries, a roaming SMS at least every 90 days is recommended to keep it active. Alternatively, they offer a keep alive service at £1 per month
They will charge a one-time £2 fee for an LTE-capable SIM, or to upgrade a previous 3G SIM to an LTE SIM. All bundles ordered on that SIM will have LTE as long as the SIM remains valid. The free SIM option does not include LTE.
Data feature packages Edit
Default data rate is 5p per MB. All stand-alone bundles are valid for 30 days, while add-ons are valid until the end of the base bundle.
- for the UK Cool Play SIM card:
- £5: 600 MB data, text DA5 to 888 to activate
- £7.50: 200 minutes, unlimited text, 800 MB data, text UN75 to 888 to activate
- £9.90: 250 minutes, unlimited text, 3 GB data, text UN99 to 888 to activate
- £11.90: 1000 minutes, unlimited text, 4 GB data, text UN119 to 888 to activate
- £14.90: 1000 minutes, unlimited text, 6 GB data, text UN149 to 888 to activate
- £19.90: unlimited talk/text and 8 GB data, text UN199 to 888 to activate
- for the Chinese/UK Dual SIM card:
- £9.60: 300 minutes, 300 mins to China/HK/Macao, unlimited text, 1 GB data,
- £14.60: 600 minutes, 600 mins to China/HK/Macao unlimited text, 4 GB data
- £18.60: 1000 minutes, 1000 mins to China/HK/Macao, unlimited text, 6 GB data
These add-ons can be applied to an existing bundle for extra data; they can't be purchased on their own:
- £5: 500 MB data, text AO5 to 888 to activate (only letter O)
- £8: 1024 MB data text AO10 to 888 to activate (first letter O, then number 0)
EU Roaming Edit
CTExcel allows "roam like home" in Switzerland, Monaco, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man as well as the EU/EEA, debiting all usage from domestic allowances including packages.
More infomation Edit
- APN: tslpaygnet
- Website: http://www.ctexcel.com (in Chinese/Mandarin only)
Discontinued offers Edit
Mobile by Sainsbury's Edit
The supermarket chain Sainsbury's suspended the Mobile by Sainsbury's service in January 2016.
Post Office Mobile Edit
The UK Post Office closed down a shortlived attempt to build a UK mobile phone network service as its offering was unable to compete in the crowded British mobile telecoms market.
This Vodafone MVNO closed down at the end of August 2017.
Delight Mobile Edit
Parent company Mundio closed its brand Delight Mobile in 2018 and moved all its customers to its sister brand Vectone Mobile.