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
Beginning in 2021 you will need to carefully check your UK provider about roaming in the EU/EEA and you can't rely on European providers anymore to roam without surcharges in the UK. Without a new agreement in place, from 2021 you can expect UK providers to stay with some of the previous rules as they compete over roaming but may depart from some of them. It can also be expected that some continental providers will regroup the UK similar to Switzerland with surcharges, while others - like Irish providers with close ties to the UK - will keep the UK in their surcharge-free EU group.
- 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 started in 2013 on all networks and is now on B1 (2100 MHz), B3 (1800 MHz), B7 (2600 MHz), B8 (900 MHz), B20 (800 MHz), B32 (1500 MHz Suppl. DL) and B38 (2600 MHz in TD-LTE). The three most used bands are in bold, but this varies between providers.
- 5G has started in 2019 on 3600 MHz in major city centers by all 4 national carriers. This is added by two more 5G networks of Sky Mobile and BT in 2020.
Coverage and speed Edit
Coverage is quite good on 2G and more than 90% of population on 3G, but there are still black spots without any mobile coverage. So if you go to a remote area in the countryside, it's wise to check coverage beforehand.
According tu OpenSignal in 2019 EE leads in 4G/LTE coverage at 90% as well as in speed with 31.5 Mbps in average. In coverage Vodafone and O2 are on par in 2nd place trailed by Three with 76%. The same picture emerges when only the London Metropolitan Area is considered.
5G has started in some city centres in 2019 on 3500 MHz known as n78. So far most providers limit 5G to premium pay monthly customers, not for prepaid; the exception is 3 (Three) which claims that all SIM cards issued by the provider are 5G-ready.
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. However, depending on the capabilities of your device, don't expect immediate coverage on the train as it calls at a station that you are not alighting at as by the time it connects to the WiFi network, the train's doors will have closed and the train would be moving again. 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 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 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 website 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 all 4 French networks Orange, SFR, Bouygues and Free. 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, ding.com, uksims.eu , kwikpay.com or with Bitcoins Bitrefill that accept international cards and do it for a 10-15% surcharge. As all these procedures are troublesome, think them over before you leave the UK. For Three UK we have listed some known bypasses below in the article.
SIM card validity Edit
The four network operators (EE, Vodafone, 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 EU/EEA, note that due to EU roaming FUPs, your SIM may be surcharged for EU/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 which is now broadcast on B1 (2100 MHz), B3 (1800 MHz), B7 (2600 MHz) and B20 (800 MHz) EE coverage map with B3 as main frequency. 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 highest 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.
You may need an UK-issued credit card to top-up online. Alternative approaches for non-UK credit cards include:
- Buy a top-up voucher in-person, available all over the country. You'll get a receipt with a voucher code. To add the credit to your account, send a text to 150 containing the letters VO, followed by a space, and then the voucher PIN code.
- Top-up using the automated phone system (dial 150), which accepts some non-UK cards (verified with a US-issued Visa card as of 9/2019).
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.
Packages below £15 have limited speed to 60 Mbps. Packages above have maximal speed.
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. EE still states a Fair Use cap of 15 GB per month for EU roaming.
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 has rolled out 4G/LTE on B1 (2100 MHz), B3 (1800 MHz), B7 (2600 MHz), B8 (900 MHz), B20 (800 MHz), B32 (1500 MHz Suppl. DL) and B38 (2600 MHz in TD-LTE) with B20 as main frequency : Vodafone coverage map.
In 2018 Vodafone offers 99% 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. Vodafone also has started with 5G on 3600 MHz (n78) in about 40 cities in 2020 so far. It's the first UK operator that has opened up 5G for PAYG customers through its youth brand Voxi (see below).
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|
(*) capped at 25 GB in EU roaming.
For purchase or renewal of bundles you can use their app, online account or text the code to 49501. £30 and £40 plans include also access to 5G network.
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. Only the unlimited plan is capped at 25 GB abroad. Some additional countries have been included to their surcharge-free "Europe Zone", including the Faroe Islands, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Switzerland and Turkey. Albania and Bosnia & Herzegovina were previously included, but are now higher charged on a pay as you go basis.
A list of roaming countries is available at https://www.vodafone.co.uk/explore/costs/travelling-abroad/ and a map here.
Vodafone started in 2017 with an own youth oriented brand. Originally aimed at customers who are under 30 years of age, the network offers 30-day rolling plans with "endless" social data. Since 2019 age is not verified anymore and anyone can use Voxi. In 2020 5G was opened on its £30 plan.
These plans are offered:
- 8 GB data + unlimited mins and texts: £10
- 20 GB data + unlimited mins and texts: £15
- 45 GB data + unlimited mins and texts: £20
- unlimited data (on up to 5G!), mins and texts: £30
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 valid in the EU/EEA too. You can add these two streaming 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 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 consumption you need to top up. If you run out of data, you can restart any plan anytime.
- 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 (B20) only. This was added by B1 (2100 MHz), B3 (1800 MHz) and on TD-LTE B40 (2300 MHz) staying with B20 as main frequency: O2 coverage map..
In 2019 O2 offered 99% population coverage (including 98% coverage on 3G and 97% coverage on 4G). As it originally employed the 800 MHz band only, 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 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.
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#.
A top-up voucher expires after 12 months. Validity of the SIM is 180 days from date of last activity.
They offer two 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, but shut-off having reached £1 (or 330 KB) per day. You can't switch between these lines. Better buy bundles or bolt-ons from the start. Their Classic Pay as you go plan was withdrawn for new activations in 2019.
- 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. All plans include unlimited calls & SMS:
- £10: 3 GB
- £15: 6 GB
- £20: 10 GB
- £30: 20 GB
Activation is online on your account or by calling 2202. All packages now include data roll-over to the next month. (*) - Doubled allowances for first 12 months.
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):
|£10||250 mins||5000 SMS||2 GB|
|£15||500 mins||5000 SMS||5 GB|
|£20||1000 mins||5000 SMS||10 GB|
To select or change plans go online or call 2202. For more data see bolt-ons. Also all packages includes data roll-over
These data add-ons for extra data can be added to all prepaid plans with voice and are valid for one month:
- 100 MB: £3
- 500 MB: £6.50
- 1 GB: £10
- 2 GB: £13.50
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:
- 1 GB for 30 days: £10
- 3 GB for 90 days: £16
- 5 GB for 90 days: £25
- 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.
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 started as late as 2003 and has the smallest market share, it has gained many customers by the most aggressive pricing. 3 is a 3G and 4G network-only with very limited voice/text fallback to EE's 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 at least 800 and 1800 MHz (3, 20) 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 which are now on B1 (2100 MHz), B3 (1800 MHz), B20 (800 MHz), B32 (1500 MHz Suppl. DL) with B3 and B20 as main frequencies. Though they claim "99.8% outdoor population coverage" in 2020, Three's 4G/LTE coverage doesn't add up to the level of its three rivals so far according to network tests.
On the other hand Three offers one of the most extensive coverage for roaming at domestic rates, limited not only to the usual EU/EEA area, but including many other countries too. Their roaming is 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
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.
It has proven very hard to top-up Three UK SIM cards for foreigners outside the country. In the UK you can still be vouchers in shops, but outside of the country you are confined to credit or debit cards. The problem is that Three UK limits acceptance to credit/debit cards issued in the UK only. This is checked by the registered UK address of this credit card. So all cards not registered on an UK address are declined what makes it very hard to topup. There have been some workarounds in the past:
- some non-UK American Express credit cards can't be checked properly for their address and might work anyway
- Curve, a debit card wallet can be registered on a (fake) UK address and a different delivery address on the continent. Combined with a debit card without currency conversion fees like Revolut, this remains one of the least expensive options
- the Kwikpay service accepts non-UK credit and debit cards and does the recharge on their online page (not through the app) for a £1 fee
- you can buy a prepaid debit card in the UK while you are there and use it to pay for Three top-up services
- as a last resort there are some 3rd party agencies like mobiletopup.uk and myphonecard.co.uk that will do the top-up for a high surcharge of 10%-20% and should only be used as a last resort
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: 4 GB for 30 days at £10 (with unlimited domestic calls & texts)
- all-in-one-15: 10 GB for 30 days at £15 (with unlimited domestic calls & texts)
- all-in-one-20: 12 GB for 30 days at £20 (with unlimited domestic 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 domestic 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 domestic 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 domestic 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.
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 in stores and on eBay for 99p without credit (labeled as 'internet with legs')
When registered, the "Data Reward SIM" gives 200 MB high-speed data every month for free. To start this 200 MB per month free data, you need to top-up at least £1. Data 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 (more expensive) monthly bundles activated online:
- 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' feature (previously Feel at Home)Edit
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 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. Three now offers 4G/LTE roaming in most, but not all destinations. You can easily find out whether is available when you fill in your destination country on this site, and check the map on the following site, if it has a 4G layer.
In the USA it's now a good option again as they offer both AT&T and T-Mobile on 4G/LTE. Note that 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 (rather 2 months is used outside Europe) of continuous roaming and only up to 15 GB per month 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.
Mobile hotspot use was a frequent annoyance of Three plans, as they used to ban and block it. After the intervention of UK regulator (Ofcom) Three has changed the rules for tethering on their PAYG plans. Starting from 2018 mobile hotspot use is now available in the UK and roaming all over the EU/EEA. The only exception remain the Go Roam countries overseas like USA or Australia where you still need to buy an add-on to use your device as a WiFi hotspot.
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 Go Roam area abroad, but includes only EU/EEA and Swiss roaming. Smarty is 'hybrid prepaid', meaning you pre-pay the monthly charge that is linked to a credit card.
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 through online platforms.
- for online order you need an UK-issued payment card (credit or debit) to get the starter pack and pay the monthly charges, which most non-residents don't have. Curve may be an option for EU/EEA residents.
If you are in the UK for longer and have a local address and payment card, they may be a good option. 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 network. For details check O2 above.
In some UK stores like Tesco or Poundland they are sold at the checkout register for 99p. Giffgaff SIM cards can be ordered by mail in different ways. You can officially order the SIM to an UK address with delivery by 1st class mail usually within 2 to 3 days on this site: Order. Giffgaff announced official delivery to non-UK addresses in 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" through this site Order.
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.
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 end of 2016, giffgaff has 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.
These following bundles called "goodybags" come with unlimited domestic calls and texts and a data volume for 30 days:
(*) = EU/EEA roaming data without surcharges is capped at 20 GB
(^) = first 80 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 minutes and texts roaming in the EU/EEA are without any extra cost. Roaming data without surcharges is capped at 20 GB abroad in the larger plans. Take care that 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
Tesco MobileEditTesco Mobile is the MVNO of UK's leading retail chain operating on the O2 network. From 2014 Tesco Mobile has allowed all customers on the O2 4G/LTE network. They now offer three different plans:
- Triple Credit
- Rocket Packs
Both tariff lines can't be mixed, but switched online on your account 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 get £45 and for £20 get £60 worth of credit. For a £15 or £20 top-up you can choose a 500 MB data pack 'for free'. Default rate is at £0.10 per MB.
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.
Rocket Packs Edit
Their combo packs have been introduced in 2016. This is a different plan or tariff line that can't be mixed with or switched to Triple Credit. You can activate these combo packages for 30 days:
|£10||500 mins||5000 SMS||4 GB||ROCKET10|
|£15||1000 mins||5000 SMS||8 GB||ROCKET15|
|£20||2000 mins||5000 SMS||16 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.
Lite is the name of their default plan for light users and data always stays at 10p per MB.
EU roaming Edit
Data and calls and texts while roaming within the EU/EEA will come out of your UK allowances, free credit or bundles without extra cost. 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. 4G/LTE speed is capped at 60 Mbps for download and 30 Mbps for upload. For more details check EE network above.
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 out of bundles is 5p per MB. These combo bundles can be added:
|£5||125 mins||2000 SMS||750 MB||5 to 2732|
|£7||300 mins||unlimited||2.5 GB||7 to 2732|
|£10||600 mins||unlimited||7 GB||10 to 2732|
|£15||1000 mins||unlimited||10 GB||15 to 2732|
|£20||unlimited||unlimited||12 GB||20 to 2732|
|£25||unlimited||unlimited||15 GB||25 to 2732|
For data-only you can add one of these bundles. They can also be added for more data to combo bundles:
|£5||1.25 GB||Data 5 to 2732|
|£7.5||2.5 GB||Data 7.5 to 2732|
|£12.5||7 GB||Data 12.5 to 2732|
|£15||10 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. For details about the network, check Vodafone above.
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 both your credit and number will be lost.
9p 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: £3, 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||unlimited||100 mins||ALL3|
|£15||5 GB||unlimited||1000 mins||ALL4|
For activation text code to 38885. For using more, 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 in the ethno market. In the UK it's a MVNO on the O2 UK network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. For details about the network refer to O2 above.
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.
12p per MB is charged, if no data bundle is activated or is 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:
|S||500 MB||500 MB||150||150||-||£7.50||*139*10744#|
|National Plus||3 GB||4 GB||unlim.||unlim.||100||£10||*139*11544#|
|Super||6 GB||16 GB||unlim.||unlim.||100||£15||*139*1544#|
|Mega||11 GB||40 GB||unlim.||unlim.||100||£15||*139*2044#|
|Ultra||20 GB||25 GB||unlim.||unlim.||100||£25*||*139*12644#|
|Giga||25 GB||30 GB||unlim.||unlim.||-||£35*||*139*3044#|
|Tera||50 GB||50 GB||unlim.||unlim.||-||£50||*139*5044#|
|Silver||3 GB||9 GB||250||unlim.||-||£10||*139*5050#|
|Gold||5 GB||15 GB||250||unlim.||-||£15||*139*5052#|
|Platinum||10 GB||30 GB||100||unlim.||-||£20||*139*5053#|
Lycamobile gives out different data volumes, depending whether you have bought the plan online or not.
(*) - 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 applies "roam like at home" to all plans without surcharges. The same default rate of 12p per MB applies in the EU for overuse.
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 (for details see EE 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 rate is 9p per MB. A minimum balance of 50p is required to use data.
Data feature packsEdit
Vectone Mobile offers these data and combo packages that exclude EU/EEA roaming and are valid only in the UK:
|£3||1 GB||100 mins||100 SMS||*2357#|
|£4||3 GB||300 mins||300 SMS||*1006#|
|£6||5 GB||500 mins||500 SMS||*1208#|
|£10*||30 GB (10 GB)||unlimited||unlimited||*1337#|
|£15*||50 GB (20 GB)||unlimited||unlimited||*1001#|
|£25*||100 GB (30 GB)||unlimited||unlimited||*1098#|
(*) - The higher data volume is given only when you purchase the bundle online through credit/debit card or PayPal.
|£5||1 GB||150 SMS||150 mins (national & IDD)||*1044#|
|£15*||20 GB (10 GB)||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||*1043#|
|£20*||25 GB (12 GB)||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||*1401#|
- 10 GB (3 GB)*: £7.50, activation: *500#
- 20 GB (5 GB)*: £10, activation:*750#
All plans are valid 30 days. 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 not allowed. All these packages are auto-renewable. To stop renewal, dial *1160#. To check data remaining, dial *1260#.
EU roaming Edit
Vectone Mobile don't allow to use packages in EU/EEA zone for prepaid users. There are valid domestic only. You can stay on default rate 9p per MB or buy 2 GB for £10 (activation: *2348#) valid 30 days and auto-renew.
- Tethering is included in all plan, but is limited to 10 GB in general (in some plans is lower).
- APN: webuk.mundio.com
- Data can't be used on BlackBerry phones.
- Note that 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.
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/
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 since 2012 in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE. For details check EE network above.
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 British 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: https://www.ctexcel.com/indextemp.jsp (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.
Virgin Mobile (PAYG) Edit
Virgin Mobile PAYG is no longer available to new customers. In August 2019, Virgin Mobile stopped selling prepaid SIM cards to new customers. Existing customers have grandfathering and can stay on the plans. But Virgin now accepts only postpaid clients.