There are five main mobile carriers in the United Kingdom. These are 3, T-Mobile, O2, Orange and Vodafone. There are also some other minor networks, such as Tesco Mobile, but they are all owned by one of the five main companies, sharing their infrastructure and services.
When you choose a mobile carrier, you will be provided with a small microchip called a SIM card.
There are two different sizes of SIM cards available, with high-end smartphones such iPhones and Galaxy S4 handsets they normally take a smaller micro-SIM card. Both are compatible with each other by way of adaptors.
Choosing a suitable network depends on the level of coverage in your area and the services and prices offered. The following tips will help you to choose a good mobile carrier which suits your requirements.
1 – Coverage
The most important consideration is service coverage. There is not much point in either signing up for a contract or buying a SIM card from a particular carrier if its network coverage is limited in your area. The independent organization, Ofcom, provides full details about the network coverage of all five mobile networks on their official website at ofcom.org.uk. By entering your postcode, you will be able to find out in a matter of moments. Ensure that the carrier you decide to go for provides the best coverage in your area. In more densely populated areas, it is likely that you will have more options at your disposal.
2 – Costs
Mobile costs are generally getting lower every year as services develop, technologies advance and the competition increases. Long gone are the days of extortionate data charges, but in spite of decreasing prices, extensive use of a mobile phone can still rack up hefty bills. Costs depend on a number of factors, and to get the lowest prices, you will generally be best off going with the same carrier that your most frequent contact uses. This is because rates tend to be even cheaper when calling or messaging between the same network. Other costs to consider are data costs for mobile Internet usage and roaming costs should you plan to use your phone abroad. Contracts usually cost a set amount per month, and this typically includes a certain number of messages, call minutes and data download amounts. More expensive contracts will also allow you to obtain heavily discounted or even free telephones.
3 – Versatility
The carrier you choose, as well as the contract if you decide to go for one, depends also on how you plan to use your phone. If you want maximum versatility without having to worry about unpleasant surprises regarding bills, you may find that a pay-as-you-go plan is the best option for your requirements. However, prepaid SIM cards also tend to be more expensive in the longer term, particularly if you use mobile Internet extensively. Consider how many texts you send per month, how many talk hours you use and how much Internet bandwidth you use. Take a look at any past bills to get a better idea.
4 – Reliability
As technology improves and network coverage expands into more remote rural areas, reliability is becoming less of an issue every year. However, it is still important to read customer reviews. Even more important, is to read reviews from customers who also live in your area. For example, while O2 might offer a good service in one part of the country, its services might be sub-par in another region. You should be able to find plenty of unbiased customer reviews online. Some of the financial comparison websites, where you can compare mobile phone contracts, provide such reviews as well.
5 – Available Options
Most mobile networks provide free prepaid SIM cards if all you want is a simple pay-as-you-go solution. If you want to get a contract, however, you will have a far wider range of options. When signing up for a contract with any of the five main mobile carriers in the UK, you will be able to choose a mobile phone. While these phones are usually generously discounted or even free, you will need to commit yourself to a contract for a year or more. Also, your phone will be locked to the provider, so you won’t be able to use it with a SIM card from another carrier or another country unless you pay to unlock your phone first.
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