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Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki

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BasicsEdit

The UK has 4 network operators:

  • EE (for Everything Everywhere)
  • Vodafone
  • O2 (by Telefónica)
  • 3 (= Three by Hutchison)

About 50 MVNOs operate on EE, Vodafone and O2. 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 been started in 2013 on all networks. Frequencies on 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz bands were granted. 4G is offered by all networks on prepaid now, but only on some MVNOs. In 2015 EE has the best 4G/LTE coverage at about 80% of population, while Vodafone, O2 and 3 have all around 50% coverage.

Prepaid is often called "pay as you go (PAYG)" in the UK. The list starts with the network providers according to size followed by the most important MVNOs on the market.

ValidityEdit

Nearly all networks have an expiry policy of six months since the last balance deduction. Although this is official policy, it is usually sufficient to receive a call every six months because this generates revenue, albeit small, for the network. The most notable exception is Lycamobile which operates a 90-day expiry policy since the last balance deduction in all of the markets in which it operates. For visitors, the easiest way to maintain validity while outside the UK, in order to keep both credit and the mobile number for future visits to the UK, is to send a roaming SMS.

"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 whitelisting 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 accessability, 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 (takes 1 minute). For this you may need to provide some form of ID to prove your age, when you look young.

RechargesEdit

Topping up your SIM online can be done only if you have a UK-issued credit or debit card. There are some private service providers on the net like mobiletopup.co.uk or Top Up UK who accept international cards and do it for a surcharge. Mobiletopup charges a flat per-order surcharge, no matter how many vouchers you buy. If you don't have a UK credit or debit card, you need to buy top-up vouchers which are widely available in shops throughout the UK, but refills from abroad not having one of these is tricky. Topping up via cashpoints (ATMs) is also widely accepted but again you may only do this if you have a UK-based credit or debit card.

EEEdit

EE Logo

EE (formerly called Everything Everywhere) was created in 2010 after the merger of Orange and T-Mobile to become the biggest operator in the UK. In 2015 EE was acquired by British Telecom. Their GSM is on 1800 Mhz, UMTS on 2100 MHz and they were the first to start 4G/LTE on 1800 and later on 800 and 2600 MHz in 2013: EE coverage map. They cover about 80% of population with 4G in 2015.

EE now only sells SIM cards with 4G/LTE included with no surcharge. Their prepaid SIM is called "4GEE" including 4G/LTE. 4G+ is "double speed" LTE with average download rates of 24-30 Mbps instead of 12-15 Mbps.

Data feature packsEdit

Their new packs all come with data, domestic voice and text included:

Price Data Dom. Voice Dom. text Speed Time Activation
1 GBP 100 MB 10 mins 10 4G 7 days DP1
10 GBP 1 GB 50 mins 50 4G 30 days DP10
10 GBP 500 MB 150 mins unltd. 4G 30 days EP10
15 GBP 2 GB 500 mins unltd. 4G+ 30 days EP15
25 GBP 4 GB 1000 mins unltd. 4G+ 30 days EP25

To activate, go online on your EE account, use the EE app or text code to 150. 4G+ is double 4G speed. No data outside these packs.

Data-only SIM Edit

Attention: These SIM cards are contracts: PAYM not PAYG!!! see comments. I suggest to delete them. Reasons given in the comments line: contracts, linked to a credit card, not accessible to foreigners without UK card. We need reports, if someone may have bought them in a shop for cash and 1 month only. For longer only UK CC and no top-up vouchers can be used.

EE has also introduced a new free data-only SIM for tablets and modems which has no voice and only text. It used to be called Mobile Broadband but now renamed in 4GEE Data. These add-ons are available:

  • 10 GBP: 1 GB, 30 days, 4G
  • 15 GBP: 3 GB, 30 days, 4G+
  • 20 GBP: 15 GB, 30 days, 4G+
  • 30 GBP: 25 GB, 30 days, 4G+

See current price list [1].

AvailabilityEdit

  • Offline in EE stores: Store locator, sold for free
  • SIM card can be purchased online to be sent to an UK postal address for free too

SIM sizesEdit

Both combi micro/regular and nano SIMs.

More infoEdit

  • VoIP is allowed
  • APN: everywhere
  • T&Cs and further rates: EE

T-Mobile and Orange Edit

Tmobile-logo

T-Mobile UK and Orange UK were merged to EE (see above) in 2010. Existing prepaid customers can still use 2G/3G of EE network, but not 4G/LTE.

Orange UK

Effective of Feb. 2015 EE has discountinued all new plans for T-Mobile and Orange through direct sales at EE stores, from March 2015 through indirect channels. Existing customers have grandfathering and can stay on the old brands.

You might still get old starter packs on Ebay or other platforms for a while. But officially, they have been withdrawn from the market. So we don't list them anymore.

  • last T-Mobile prepaid price list, still valid only for existing customers: online in PDF
  • last Orange prepaid price list, still valid only for existing customers: online in PDF
  • APN for Orange: orangeinternet
  • APN for T-Mobile: general.t-mobile.uk

VodafoneEdit

Vodafone
Vodafone UK has a good coverage on 2G and 3G nationwide, and are rolling out 4G/LTE on 800 and 2600 Mhz now: Vodafone coverage map. They cover about 50% of population by LTE in 2015.

Their 4G/LTE network is now accessible for prepaid customers on the new Freedom Freebee packs (GBP 20 and up) as listed below. When spending GBP 30 and up, they also come with Spotify Premium or Sky Sports (Music/Sport Streaming) for the full 30 days included free.

They are also running a scheme of prepaid cards with "rewards" for top ups not debited and data add-ons.

AvailabilityEdit

You can purchase a SIM card online or from any Vodafone store for free. You can recharge it at their stores or many other kiosks or convenience stores throughout the country. This SIM needs to be activated by gonig online or calling 4354. Then you have to choose one of their "freebee" schemes all valid for one month:

Freedom FreebeeEdit

price dom. calls dom. texts data speed
GBP 10 150 min unltd 500 MB 3G
GBP 20 500 min unltd 2 GB 4G
GBP 30 unltd unltd 4 GB 4G
GBP 40 unltd unltd 6 GB 4G
  • Internet overuse 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.
  • An extra data add-on is offered for another 250 MB for 5 GBP by calling 34441
  • Spotify/Sky Sports are included from GBP 30 and up for free, lasting the 30 days alongside the minutes, texts, and data included.

Freebee DataEdit

  • a £10 top up gives you 500 MB data "reward" thus not debited on the top up
  • a £20 top up gives you 1 GB data reward
  • overuse is charged like on Freedom Freebee (see above)
  • extra data add-on like Freedom Freebee (see above)

Data-only SIM cardEdit

You can convert your SIM to a data card too. Thus no calls or texts are possible anymore. These packs are sold:

  • £3 data pack for 200 MB in 24 hours, 3G
  • £5 data pack for 250 MB in 30 days, 3G
  • £10 data pack for 1 GB in 30 days, 3G
  • £20 data pack for 3 GB in 30 days, 3G
  • £25 data pack for 6 GB in 30 days, 4G/LTE

When used up, you can buy a new pack ahead of time

SIM sizesEdit

Standard SIMs are freely available and can easily be trimmed down with scissors to fit the iPhone.

Technical infoEdit

O2Edit

O2 logo

O2 UK has good coverage nationwide using 2G GSM on 900 and 1800 Mhz, 3G UMTS on 2100 Mhz and has started LTE on 800 Mhz. O2 coverage map.. It has opened some of its prepaid products to 4G/LTE with a surcharge. It covers about 45% of the population with 4G/LTE in 2014. This gives a great variety of prepaid products on offer.

AvailabilityEdit

The SIM cards are for free ordered online or bought at their stores. Cashcards for top-ups can be found all over the country.

3G Data SIMEdit

It's called 3G iPad or Tablet SIM and is data-only on 2G and 3G:

  • GBP 2 for a daily (= 24 hrs) rate and 200 MB
  • GBP 10 for monthly 1 GB
  • GBP 13 for monthly 2 GB

4G Data SIMEdit

It's called 4G iPad or Tablet SIM and is data-only on 2G, 3G or 4G

  • GBP 15 for monthly 3 GB
  • GBP 25 for monthly 5 GB

Pay & Go bundlesEdit

These monthly bundles with data, domestic text and voice are available:

  • £10: 500 MB up to 3G speed, 500 dom. texts and 100 dom. mins
  • £15: 1 GB up to 4G speed, 2000 dom. text and 200 dom. mins
  • £20: 2 GB up to 4G speed, 4000 dom. text and 400 dom. mins

You can upsize data by "bolt-ons": 100 MB for GBP 3, 500 MB for GBP 6 and 1 GB for GBP 10 by calling 2202 or online on your account. Be aware that outside of the bundles you surf on a ridiculous default rate of GBP3/MB!

SIM sizesEdit

Standard, Micro SIMs and Nano SIMs are all available online via 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.

TetheringEdit

Possible on Android phones, but no official profile available for the iPhone.

APNEdit

  • APN : payandgo.o2.co.uk
  • User Name: payandgo
  • Password : password

3 (= Three) UKEdit

3-brand

3 (Three) has the smallest network of all operators in the UK but the most agressive pricing. Three is a 3G and 4G network only with only a voice/text fallback to Orange 2G in low coverage areas. The text and call coverage can be much worse in the countryside compared to the three big ones.

3 coverage map You need to have a 3G UMTS phone on 2100 Mhz and for 4G a device which can transmit on 800 and 1800 Mhz. 2G phones don't work on Three.

Three has launched 4G services in late 2013 charging the same for 4G as it does for 3G, unlike the other three primary networks which all surcharge for 4G. It covers about 48% of population with 4G by the end of 2014.

The SIM card is given out for free. They have different products for phones and computers.

Pay as you go on ThreeEdit

This product is for smartphones only and does not include tethering. It will be blocked if detected. For tablets and modems see the Mobile Broadband offer.

Default rateEdit

1p per MB

Data feature packsEdit

  • daily rate: 120MB valid for 1 day for £0.5
  • monthly rate: 500MB valid for 30 days for £5
  • free internet with every top up: 150 MB are added
  • all-you-can-eat data (no limit or fair use policy applies) in 30 days for £15 (with 300 mins and 3000 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 £0.30 per MB if another add on is not bought.

AvailabilityEdit

Purchase from a Three store for £10 which includes £10 credit, also available online. 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 doesn't expire on Three SIMs.

Mobile BroadbandEdit

Their Mobile Broadband pay-as-you-go SIM is a data only SIM for tablets, modems or routers. They are often sold as ready-to-go kits with the data preloaded.

  • daily rate: pay-per-day: 500 MB until midnight British time on the following day: £2.99
  • 1 GB in a month: £10
  • 3 GB in a month: £15
  • 7 GB in a month: £25

"Feel At Home" Option Edit

This roaming option is available to all pay-as-you-go SIMs of Three UK and is valid in Austria, Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Macau, New Zealand, Norway. Ireland, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland and in the US (on both AT&T and T-Mobile networks!!). It is enabled automatically when entering one of these countries above with a Three UK SIM on roaming and means that data is charged the same like in the UK with no roaming surcharges at all. More info in the European Union section of this WIKI at Euro3.

TetheringEdit

Tethering is officially not allowed on any prepaid SIM card of Three. On their "Pay as you go" product, Three verifies if you use it on a smartphone by TTL detection; tablet and modem use is banned, as well as tethering to it. On their "Mobile Broadband" product, tethering is only officially banned, but not blocked. This means that you will not receive a profile to use it for tethering on an iPhone. Tethering from Android devices still works, on roaming too, verified 26/4/15, no matter what Three sales reps. are telling you.

As Three sells a combination of a Huawei E5330 Mobile WiFi (MiFI) with a preloaded 3GB/3 months SIM (http://store.three.co.uk/view/plan/MBBD02072014T090233) use in a MiFi seems to be permitted.

Further infoEdit

  • SIM sizes; mini SIMs as standard. micro and nano SIMs may be available on request
  • APN: three.co.uk
  • Three price list: 3

giffgaffEdit

Giffgaff-logo1

Giffgaff is a wholly owned subsidiary of Telefónica, who also own O2, and operates as MVNO on O2 UK (for technical info see O2). 4G/LTE is open without surcharge if you have one of the new 4G SIM cards.

AvailabilityEdit

GiffGaff SIMs can be ordered online to a UK address for free (delivery can take between 4 to 6 days). Or you can order from any member and get £5 free credit on activation from any member of giffgaff. The member him/herself also receives 500 points worth £5 of balance on activation of the new SIM. If you would like to order from a member for UK delivery, here are some member links to choose from:

There are also a couple of members who can send a free SIM card (with the above £5 free credit deal) to an address outside the UK so that you already have your SIM before you travel.  We have provided the links for the order pages here:

RegistrationEdit

To activate your SIM on their website, you need a UK-issued credit card or will need to credit your account with a top-up voucher. You can buy credit from many UK convenience stores and almost all supermarkets and fuel stations (ask for giffgaff or O2 cards) and can also buy top up vouchers online at private facilitators like mobiletopup.co.uk or Top Up UK for a surcharge. Mobiletopup charges a flat per-order surcharge, no matter how many vouchers you buy.

Default rateEdit

  • 20p for the first 20 MB, then 20p / MB for further usage that day.
  • 6p text
  • 10p per minute domestic calls

Data feature packsEdit

  • £5 for 500 MB per month
  • £7.50 for 1 GB per month
  • £12.50 for 3 GB per month
  • overuse: 2p per MB
  • standard phone and text rates apply (see above)

Combined bundles (goodybags)Edit

Price UK calls domestic texts data
£5 60 min 300 20 MB
£7.5 200 min unlimited 250 MB
£10 500 min unlimited 1 GB
£12 500 min unlimited 3 GB
£15 500 min unlimited 5 GB
£18 2000 min unlimited unlimited
  • All bundles are valid for one month.
  • Calls amongst giffgaff numbers are free.
  • No "fair use policy" applies meaning unlimited data are unlimited.

SIM sizesEdit

Both "hybrid" micro/normal and nano sim sizes can be ordered from the above options. 

TetheringEdit

Tethering is not allowed on the bundles that have unlimited data included but is allowed on the other bundles.

Technical infoEdit

  • APN: giffgaff.com 
  • Username: giffgaff or vertigo
  • Password: password

Email enquiries@gg-sim-order.co.uk for enquiries and further information.

ASDA MobileEdit

ASDA
ASDA Mobile is a MVNO which used to operate on the Vodafone network. In April 2014 they have migrated to the EE net (see above, no 4G/LTE on ASDA mobile).

ASDA Mobile SIM cards can be bought online on their website or in many ASDA supermarkets and grocery stores throughout the UK: store locator

BundlesEdit

price UK calls domestic texts data activation SMS
GBP 5 100 min 2000 SMS 100 MB 5 to 2732
GBP 10 250 min 2000 SMS 250 MB 10 to 2732
GBP 15 500 min 2000 SMS 500 MB 15 to 2732
GBP 20 1000 min 2000 SMS 1 GB 20 to 2732
GBP 5 ----------- -------------- 500 MB DATA to 2732

All packages are valid for one month.

Overuse and out of bundle fees are: 8p per min for domestic calls, 4p per SMS for domestic texts and 5p per MB for data.

SIM sizesEdit

Stock standard SIMs.

APNEdit

  • APN: everywhere

Virgin MobileEdit

Virgin-mobile-logo-01

Virgin Mobile is a MVNO that operates on the EE network on 2G and 3G only (see above)

AvailabilityEdit

Virgin mobile SIMs can be ordered online for free or in shops e.g. the Virgin megastores store locator. SIMs are also sent to hotel adresses.

Default data rateEdit

The "starter tariff" has a data rate of GBP 1 per 100 MB

Data feature packsEdit

"Big data and texts" rewards (meaning doesn't debit) you with

  • for a top up of GBP 10 with 3000 texts and 1 GB of data
  • for a top up of GBP 15 with 3000 texts and 3 GB of data
  • overuse rate is the default data rate (see above)
  • to activate call 789 and press 3

SIM sizesEdit

Stock standard SIMs & Micro SIM

TetheringEdit

Tethering (at least on Android phones) and VoIP possible

Further infoEdit

If you want to use the Virgin Mobile SIM in a 3G Wifi Router, be aware you'll need to call the company through the SIM you're about to use for data (to activate the Big Data Pack). This may cause problems since routers are not made to call someone (duh!) Furthermore, if your 3G Router needs another SIM format than your phone, you might also encounter problems to activate the tariff.

There is no other way to activate the option than calling Virgin through the SIM. You cannot activate it via their website or SMS. In this case make sure you have an old phone available to activate the desired option.

  • APN: goto.virginmobile.uk

Tesco MobileEdit

Tesco
Tesco Mobile is the MVNO of Britains leading cash'n'carry supermarket chain operating on the O2 network. From 2014 Tesco Mobile allows all customers on the O2 4G/LTE network for free.

Their SIM can be ordered online or can be bought at Tesco megastores: Tesco store locator for free. You can top-up with e top-up cards or by voucher from any Tesco store available from GBP 10 to 50.

Default Data RateEdit

10p per MB

Data feature packsEdit

  • 500 MB in 30 days for GBP 5, activation: text 500MB to 28948
  • 1 GB in 30 days for GBP 7.50, activation: text 1GB to 28948
  • 2 GB in 30 days for GBP 10, activation: text 2GB to 28948
  • 3 GB in 30 days for GBP 12.50, activation: text 3GB to 28948
  • 4 GB in 30 days for GBP 15, activation: text 4GB to 28948
  • 6 GB in 30 days for GBP 17.50, activation: text 6GB to 28948
  • 8 GB in 30 days for GBP 20, activation: text 8GB 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.

Further infoEdit

The T&C don't allow P2P, VoIP, continuos streaming and tethering
APN: prepay.tesco-mobile.com   Username: tescowap   Password: password

Lebara mobileEdit

Lebara logo
Lebara mobile is Britains leading ethno market provider operating on the Vodafone network (see above) on 2G and 3G only.

The SIM card can be bought or onlineor offline at stores for free.

Default Data RateEdit

15p per MB charged if no data bundle is booked or used up

Data feature packsEdit

  • 500 MB in 30 days for GBP 5, activation: text WEB500 to 65088
  • 1 GB in 30 days for GBP 7.50, activation: text WEB1GB to 65088
  • 2 GB in 30 days for GBP 10, activation: text WEB2GB to 65088
  • 3 GB in 30 days for GBP 12.50, activation: text WEB3GB to 65088

You may only have 1 Data Pass active at any time. If you consume all of your Data Pass allowance, you will be charged  the default rate. Data Passes auto-renew on expiry. If you don’t have sufficient credit, Lebara will try to auto-renew for 7 days or until you cancel auto-renewal. To cancel auto renew text WEB500*STOP or WEB1GB*STOP to 65088 or opt-out via your MyLebara account.

Further info

  • APN: uk.lebara.mobi    Username: wap    Password: wap
  • Lebara mobile UK SIMs are distributed abroad by Travelers Mobile

LycamobileEdit

Lycamobile
Lycamobile is the main competitor of Lebara on the ethno market. It is a MVNO on the O2 UK network in 2G and 3G and one plan on 4G/LTE too. The SIM is sold online or offline at stores for free.

Default Data RateEdit

9p per MB charged if no data bundle is booked or used up

Data feature packs (2G/3G)Edit

  • 500 MB in 30 days for GBP 5, activation: text 5001 to 3535
  • 1 GB in 30 days for GBP 7.50, activation: text 7001 to 3535
  • 2 GB in 30 days for GBP 10, activation: text 1001 to 3535
  • 3 GB in 30 days for GBP 12, activation: text 1201 to 3535
  • 7 GB in 30 days for GBP 25, activation: text 2501 to 3535

These plans above are on 2G and 3G only,

4G/LTE plan Edit

Lycamobile is one of the first MNVOs which makes 4G/LTE accessible for prepaid on the "National PLUS Plan". For 15 GBP per month you get 6 GB 4G data, unlimited domestic texts, 500 minutes domestic voice. Activation is by texting 11544 to 3535.

Further info Edit

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 Services for free on 353 before the expiry date.

  • APN: data.lycamobile.co.uk
  • Username: lmuk (that's lowcase L, not capital I)
  • Password: plus

Vectone MobileEdit

Abba
Vectone Mobile is a MVNO using the EE network on 2G and 3G only (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, but nano SIMs need to be ordered online for GBP 1.

Default rateEdit

  • 9p per MB. A minimum balance of 50p is required to use data.

Data feature packsEdit

Price Volume Valid for Dial to activate
£1 125 MB 24 hours *125#
£2.50 250 MB 7 days *250#
£5 1 GB 30 days *8811#
£12 3 GB 30 day *8812#

Data pack will be auto-renewed once the validity expires. To opt out, call Customer Service on 322 or 020 7179 0134. Overuse is charged by the default rate.

Technical infoEdit

  • APN: webuk.mundio.com
  • Internet cannot be used with Blackberry phones
  • There are lot of complaints on the internet about Vectone's poor customer service

Delight Mobile Edit

Delight mobile

Another very similiar MVNO from the same group is Delight Mobile operating on EE's good network in 2G and 3G only.

Availability Edit

You can get a Delight Mobile SIM card by ordering a starter pack online or from the many shops showing the Delight Mobile sign. The starter pack is free, but you will need to top-up to start making calls.

Top-ups vouchers can be bought at Esso or Total petrol stations, Sainsbury's and Spar, supermarkets, Costcutter, WHSmith, PCWorld, Dixons, Wilkinson. For every top-up, you get data bonus:

  • for £5 top-up, 10 MB per day for 7 days
  • for £10 top-up, 10 MB per day for 15 days
  • for £20 top-up, 10 MB per day for 30 days

Data feature packs Edit

Standard rate outside of packs is a very low 1p per MB. These monthly packs are available:

Data Volume Price Activation
500 MB £ 3 *1106#
1 GB £ 5 *1107#
2 GB £ 10 *1108#
3 GB £ 12 *1109#

To check the remaining bundle units in your internet bundle, dial *1102#. All packages auto-renew, to unsubscribe dial *1103#. If you exceed your units limit. you pay standard prepaid rates. You can renew your bundle only after the end of your bundle validity period.

Technical details Edit

  • APN: webuk.mundio.com

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