Mobile networks in the UK
The best mobile phone packages
Renewing your current mobile deal is the easiest approach in the short term but will likely cost you more in the long run. Here is why you should compare deals from different mobile networks to make sure you get the best deal on the perfect network for you.
Which Network Provider Offers the Best Mobile Phone Packages?
The immense competition among phone networks has greatly improved customers’ options. Read on to see why some of these networks might be right for you. We also include a coverage checker where available.
Best for: loyal BT customers who don’t need the latest phone.
Apart from being well known for its home phone and broadband services, it also offers mobile phone options. BT Mobile is a little unusual in that it does not offer the latest handsets. If you want the latest iPhone or Samsung device then you’ll have to go to EE, which is owned by BT. BT does provide 5G SIM-only deals, though.
BT customers can get money off and double data if they have BT broadband and BT Halo. The latter unlocks the unlimited data plan.
Best for: those who want streaming perks.
EE is known for being one of the best networks when it comes to providing 4G and 5G network coverage. EE pay monthly phone contracts come with a tonne of additional benefits like access to Apple Music, Netflix, BT Sport, and unlimited video streaming. These benefits come in the form of swappable perks. You can get one to three benefits depending on the type of plan you choose.
Best for: those who like concerts.
Those who subscribe to O2 mobile phone packages get access to exclusive presales at O2 venues. So if you like concerts, you will have plenty of time to get those all-important tickets.
Like most major networks, O2 offers 4 and 5G across its network. O2’s customer service comes across as friendly and will do their best to resolve any queries and issues.
Best for: Sky TV customers, who want to switch their handset and plan.
Sky Mobile has both SIM-only and phone contracts. The TV giant allows its users to switch up and down between data plans when they want to. Each plan has unlimited calls and texts, but it won’t be good for those who need a lot of data. The highest data plan we could find offered just 50GB.
The good news is that unused data rolls over and Sky apps don’t count against your limit. Sky’s phone contracts also allow you to exchange your phone for free once during your contract term. It offers two and three year handset contracts.
Best for: Plusnet customers who have broadband and want cheap rolling contracts.
Plusnet’s main selling point is that it sells affordable 30-day rolling contracts. This means that you can exit the contract when you’re ready and won’t have to top up your mobile as with pay-as-you-go.
Plusnet Mobile’s main focus is a limited range of SIM-only plans. Packages are cheap but don’t offer a lot of data allowance. Some options don’t even offer unlimited minutes. Plusnet offers one or two extra perks, such as more data for its broadband customers.
Best for: those who want to avoid data slow down.
Three prides itself on its network speed. It claims not to slow down speeds in the UK even if you’re a heavy user.
Unlimited data Is available on certain monthly plans. Pay-as-you-go and SIM packages are available too. We found that unlimited data can be bought for just £20 on a SIM deal.
If you enjoy exploring the world around you, then Three’s roaming offer might be appealing to you. ‘Go Rome’ allows you to use your plan at no extra charge in 70 countries around the world. This must be included as part of your plan, though. Unlike in Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you will be subject to fair use limits.
Best for: those who want no upfront cost when buying a handset.
Virgin Media offers both phone and SIM-only contracts. The network has access to both 4G and 5G and customers can rollover unused data.
One positive about the Virgin Mobile experience is that there appears to be no upfront cost on the handsets. This means that you’ll only need to pay the monthly cost and won’t have to pay an upfront lump sum.
For those who want a mobile plan but aren’t sure how much data they need, Virgin has them covered. Your calls, texts, and data are on a 30-day rolling basis. This means that you can switch up or down each month.
Whether you’re going for a monthly phone contract or just a SIM-only option, contracts come in 12 and 24-month variants. If you buy a phone from Virgin and wish to pay it off early, you also have that option.
Best for: those who want entertainment included in their package but don’t mind Internet slowdown.
This mobile phone network offers streaming and free subscriptions to content channels. If you like the sound of YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime, or Spotify Premium being included in your package, then Vodafone might be for you.
The mobile phone deals offered by Vodafone include both pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go options, as well as phones from the top brands. Vodafone also offers unlimited data plans to its customers with unlimited calls and texts starting from £22 a month. The unlimited plans provided by Vodafone differ based on download speed.
Put simply, downloading things like music and video will take longer, depending on the type of plan that you choose.
Best for: those who want to gain Clubcard points.
Tesco Mobile Allows you to choose between pay-as-you-go, SIM-only and pay monthly phone deals. You can gain Clubcard points when paying your bill and you can also use them to pay off debt from your account.
Contract lengths range from 12 to 36 months. For those who need a lot of data, Tesco provides an unlimited package for just under £30.
Best for: those who want short-term flexibility.
giffgaff isn’t the cheapest but it does offer flexibility. It does this with a pay-as-you-go SIM setup. You can amend or cancel your plan each month.
4G and 5G are on offer, but the latter is only available on certain plans. Calls and texts are limitless, but unlimited data will cost you £35 per month. Mobiles are available to purchase outright or for a monthly fee.
Best for: those making frequent calls to international destinations.
Lebara Mobile is geared to those who want to make international calls. It offers inclusive coverage in over 40 countries. You can choose to take out a SIM plan on a 30-day basis with no contract or save money over a 12-month period.
At the time of writing, unlimited international minutes start at a respectable £15. This is on a 30-day basis. You can also choose to go pay-as-you-go.
Best for: those who spend a lot of time on social media.
VOXI is geared towards those who love social media. Each of the company’s plans allow unlimited social media use. According to the company website, “Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Messenger, and Pinterest” won’t affect your data allowance. This only applies to the UK, though.
This all-you-can-eat approach also applies to certain video apps on plans starting from £15. These apps include Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
You can choose to purchase SIM and phone packages. Plans operate on a 30-day rolling basis so you can cancel it without paying a penalty. You can even choose to cancel your SIM plan while continuing to make payments on a handset.
How to Compare Deals from Mobile Networks
With so many contract options, tariffs, and phones to choose from, it’s essential you gather the right information to pick a deal that suits you. You don’t want to end up paying for a phone package that doesn’t suit your needs.
The ease of renewing your existing contract might save you hassle in the short term but could ultimately see you losing money in the long run.
Whether you’re an Apple disciple, a Samsung fan, or a budget boss, this guide will take you through the reasons why you should be carefully examining the wealth of options available, as well as provide tips for finding the best deals and what might make each network right for you.
Why Compare deals from Different Network Providers?
Whether dealing with work, family, or just a busy social life, finding the best deal on a mobile package can seem like a boring inconvenience. With two-to-three-year contracts now the standard within the industry, apathy is not your friend. You could be feeling the repercussions of a hasty decision for years to come.
You should take the time to compare deals offered by different networks because it will almost certainly save you money in the long run. If savings alone don’t do it for you, perhaps the extra perks will.
O2 offers presale windows on events at the O2; EE offers BT sport for free with some of its packages; while VOXI provides social media access which doesn’t eat away at your data plan. These are just a few examples that demonstrate the wealth of opportunity open to you should you choose to explore.
While you’ve probably heard of major UK networks like O2, EE (formerly Orange), and Vodafone, you might not know that there are actually tonnes more besides.
TV providers like Sky and Virgin have stepped in to compete in the mobile sector, while supermarket chain Tesco also has telecom deals to showcase. Fresh players like giffgaff also offer competitive rolling contracts for those who don’t wish to be tied down.
Whether running on their own network or piggybacking off a competitor, there are plenty of vendors to choose from in this busy marketplace.
How Long do Mobile Phone Contracts Last?
Although it might not seem like it, there are plenty of ways of buying your phone and usage plan. The length of the tariff depend on several factors including the type of contract and plan you choose;
A phone and plan contract
With this type of deal you’re buying both a phone and a plan at the same time. Billing is done monthly, typically over two or three years. Shorter terms do exist, though. If you wish to exit, you must pay the remaining balance on your contract. The things you will need to look for in a plan are the number of minutes, texts, and the data limit. The first two are usually unlimited.
If you would like this type of deal then you should find it advertised under either pay monthly or pay monthly phone contract.
SIM-only plans are similar to an all-inclusive contract but do not include a handset. With this type of option, you pay a monthly rate for the minutes, texts, and data you use. As with an all-inclusive contract, lengths vary. You can choose to opt for a rolling contract, which you can leave at the end of any month, or commit to a longer term deal.
The former allows for flexibility but is likely to work out more expensive, while the latter should work out cheaper in the long run but you will be locked into the contract.
The advantage of the SIM-only plan is that you can easily transfer your SIM card from phone to phone and keep your plan.
There is no monthly contract with this type of deal: you are responsible for topping up your account. You should expect to be charged per minute, per text, and per megabyte of data used.
How to Get the Best Value Mobile Phone Deal
Keep the following tips in mind when looking for a good mobile phone deal:
- If possible, pay for your new handset upfront and get a separate SIM-only deal. This approach can make things cheaper, as paying in monthly installments runs the risk of being overcharged. If you’re considering entering a contract, check the retail price against the final cost of paying in installments. Splitting the handset and plan purchases can also give you better options as you’re not limited to the options of one network, instead having the chance to mix and match with multiple sellers.
- If your old phone is in good shape, consider selling it. You can either do this separately at a second-hand shop, like Cex, or you can often exchange it with the phone provider. If you’re not in a rush to sell, you may find that you get the best value by selling it on an auction site like eBay. When selling your phone, try to find out its current market value in second-hand shops and on resale websites so that you’re in a better position to negotiate a fair price.
- Try to not exceed the limits on your data allowance and calling minutes. This will incur extra charges on top of your set bill.