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Life In London

Choosing a mobile network

By Konrad 01 Sep 2020

Deciding which mobile provider to go with can be a tough choice, there's so many out there...

With all that choice, there are lots of things to bear in mind so we're here to explain the basics of what to look out for when making the all-important decision.

First, let's explain some basic terms that you will come across when trying to choose a network.

Regardless of which deal you go for, there will always be 3 things that you'll have to consider: minutes, texts and data.

There are a few contract types that are offered:

  • Sim Only - this is a contract that gets you a sim card that you can use in your current phone. Be aware though - in order to use it, your phone needs to be "unlocked". If you got a phone through a mobile network it is usually locked to be used only with that specific network. You can get it unlocked but the rules vary between networks and countries so you'll have to double-check this.
  • Phone deals - this is a contract that comes with a sim card and a phone. They're normally expensive and last for 24 months. Also, to get it you'll need to go through a credit check and if you're new in the UK you'll probably not be eligible.
  • Data Only - this is very similar to Sim Only, but you won't get any minutes or text messages with this deal, just data - perfect for tablets!

Now, that we have types of contracts covered, there are different lengths of contracts that you need to consider. 

  • Pay As You Go (PAYG) - you load your account with money and then you can use your phone to call, text and go on the internet. You don't need to sign a contract as such to get this so if you're new to the UK it might be the best (and only) option for you. 
  • Pay Monthly - this is just a regular contract that you have to sign and every month you will get some minutes, text and data allowance. There are some subtypes of this contract:

12 months contract - you sign a contract for 12 months and you can't leave it before then.
30 days contract - you sign a contract for 30 days and after that, the contract is extended by another 30 days and so on, you can cancel at any time, but these contracts are a little more expensive.
Some networks offer student contracts (9 months). Always ask because even if there isn't a designated student contract, there might be student discounts!

There are quite a few networks to choose from, so here is just a select few to get you started. 

The main mobile networks in the UK are:

There are other smaller networks that have been very popular in recent years and they offer very competitive deals:

A few tips to remember when choosing a new network:

  • Think of data and how much you will need. You'll have WiFi in halls and at uni, but if you like streaming on the go, watching YouTube and flicking through a lot of images, you might want to go for more data.
  • Don't be fooled by thousands of free minutes and text that you'll get with your contract. Realistically speaking, how much will you use? If you're planning to call home abroad, you might want to look into some other services that will work with data and will offer cheap prices.
  • Check if you can use your phone abroad. A lot of networks will let you use your allowances abroad, not just in the EU, but also far, far beyond it. If you're going to travel this is something that might be important.
  • Check if you can get free perks by joining! Some networks will offer you free weekly coffee, % off your food bills or a chance to win holiday or concert tickets! Always ask!:)