Top 10 Best Mobile Plan Providers

ByTop10.com StaffMar. 13, 2019
Mobile Plans

When it comes to mobile plans, British consumers are blessed with choice. There are more than 60 active mobile service providers in the UK, offering a broad selection of prices and features.

The 4 major carriers, EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone, each operate their own network. All the other providers “piggyback” off a major carrier’s network, but are otherwise completely independent of that carrier. Consumers can check coverage in their area with Ofcom’s free mobile coverage checker.

Because mobile plans are such a competitive space, consumers can save money by shopping around. We recommend comparing providers by things like price, contract length, customer service, and mobile coverage in your area. Most providers offer a choice of contract phones (including a phone and plan), SIM-only contracts, and Pay as You Go. Under Britain’s Consumer Contracts Regulations, consumers may cancel their mobile contract within 14 days of signup without being penalised.

Which mobile plan is best for you? We've searched the internet for "best of" lists from Britain’s top online newspapers, comparison sites, and tech publications, from The Telegraph to The Independent, and Tech Advisor to Money Saving Expert, to bring you the ultimate top 10 mobile plans superlist. Our top provider, EE, was mentioned in 16 of the 19 publications we checked. See the graph below for the rest of the numbers.

A comparison of the UK’s top 10 mobile providers
 How the top UK mobile providers stack up

Checking such a wide range of sources gives us the best unbiased consensus of the top mobile plans possible. Read on for more information on what each of these mobile providers has to offer.

1. EE

Best for: Guaranteed mobile coverage no matter where you are in the UK

  • Contracts from £17-£30 / month
  • Several Pay as You Go options
  • Best overall network coverage

BT-owned EE is the largest mobile service provider in the UK by number of customers, and it’s easy to see why with a wide range of price plans. EE offers 5 types of SIM-only contracts, ranging from unlimited texts and calls and 3GB of data from £17 per month, to unlimited calls and texts and 60GB of data from £30/m. EE also has a range of plans to help customers purchase or upgrade their phones.

EE is the acronym for “Everywhere Everywhere”, and this provider truly is everywhere in Britain. According to the latest version of the RootMetrics annual report on the 4 major carriers, EE ranks first in all 5 categories: reliability, speed, data coverage, call coverage, and text coverage. Notably, EE ranked number one in each of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and number one in each of the UK’s 16 biggest cities.

What the experts say: “EE boasts 4G voice and data coverage across more than 90 percent of the UK and more than 99 percent of its population, giving it excellent coverage up and down the country.”  -Android Authority

2. Three

Best for: Using global roaming in 71 popular destination countries around the world

  • Contracts from £9-£29 / month
  • Pay as You Go includes third-party app of your choice
  • Global roaming in 71 destinations

Three offers some of the cheapest monthly plans out of the major carriers. Its SIM-only plans start from just £9/m for 600 minutes and a very basic 1GB data, and up to £30/m for unlimited calls, texts, and data. Pay as You Go customers get a free monthly subscription to one of the following apps: Headspace, Hayu, Xbox Game Pass, Rakuten TV, Tinder, or Deliveroo.

Most of Three’s subscription plans include Go Roam Around the World, which includes roaming in 71 countries at no extra cost. Subscribers may use roaming for calls or texts or to set up a personal hotspot, saving them the cost of having to purchase a new SIM for their holidays.

What the experts say: “With the Go Binge feature, Three lets you stream shows from Netflix, TVPlayer, Dave, and the History Channel, and songs from Deezer, Apple Music and SoundCloud infinitely without it counting towards your data allowance. “ -Tech Advisor

3. Vodafone

Best for: Getting a Prime Video and Spotify subscription with your mobile plan

  • Contracts start from £11 / month
  • Cancel within 14 days
  • £42 gets you impressive all-inclusive features

Vodafone offers a wide range of phone and SIM-only plans, as well as Pay as You Go. SIM-only contracts include 12-month contracts and 30-day contracts. All contracts include unlimited minutes and texts, 500 minutes abroad, and roaming in 48 to 71 destinations abroad.

The real highlight here is the Red Entertainment SIM-only contract, with costs up to £42 per month but includes up to 80 GB data and subscriptions to Prime Video, Spotify, NowTV, and Sky Sports.

What the experts say: “Vodafone have just announced their brand new freebie app, that means you can also get free coffee and cheap cinema tickets each week.” -Mirror

4. O2

Best for: Discounts on phone upgrades and purchases

  • Contracts from £9-£25 / month
  • Pay as You Go and monthly payment options
  • Buy a phone and get free data

O2 offers a range of plans, including 12-month contracts, no-contract monthly payments, and Pay as You Go. Monthly contracts start from as low as £9 for unlimited calls and texts,  and 3GB of 4G data. The plans also comprise 100 “inclusive texts,” which you can use if your tablet, Pocket Hotspot, or dongle are capable of sending and receiving text messages.

This is a good provider if you’re looking to get the best deal from upgrading or purchasing a new phone. When we last checked, O2 was offering £150 off the iPhone X or 30GB for the price of 15GB for customers purchasing the iPhone 8 Plus.

What the experts say:  “O2 clearly breaks down the cost of your phone, showing you how much you’re paying up front, how much it costs to pay off the phone itself, and how much it costs for your bundle, or airtime plan.” -Which?

5. Tesco Mobile

Best for: Reasonably-priced SIM-only deals

  • SIM-only contracts from £7.50 / month
  • Works on O2 Network
  • Get £20 off by referring a friend

Tesco Mobile is operated by the grocery store chain of the same name. It offers a wide range of phones, phone contracts, and SIM-only deals with contracts ranging from 12-36 months. Its SIM-only contracts start from £7.50/m for a 1-month contract with 250 minutes, 5,000 texts, and 250 MB of data. Plans go up to 50GB data for £35 / month.

Just like Tesco supermarkets, Tesco Mobile offers incentives to loyal customers. One of these is the refer-a-friend promo, where you get £20 off your bill each time a friend uses your referral code to sign up to Tesco Mobile.

What the experts say:  “SIM-only prices can be under £10 per month, so if you’ve got a handset you already love it could save you a lot of money.”  -Tech Advisor

6. Virgin Mobile

Best for: Putting a spending cap on your plan

  • Monthly plans from £7
  • Works on EE network
  • Free WiFi at more than 3.5 million hotspots

Virgin Mobile is owned and operated by Virgin Media, the multinational that also offers TV, broadband, and home phone. It offers phones, SIM-only contracts and Pay as You Go. It has possibly the cheapest monthly SIM-only plan of the major mobile providers, at £7 for 1,500 minutes, unlimited texts, and 1 GB data.

As of 2018, Virgin Mobile customers can set a cap for any additional costs outside of their monthly call, text and data allowance.

What the experts say: “The company has positioned itself as one of the more flexible carriers, allowing users to roll-over their unused data, and switch between different packages each month.” -Android Authority

7. iD Mobile

Best for: Paying the lowest possible price for a SIM-only deal

  • UK’s lowest-priced SIM at £4 / month
  • Runs on Three network
  • Up to 50GB extra data on selected phone

iD Mobile has carved out a role in the market for cheap mobile plans. Its SIM-only plans include a £3.99 / month plan which appears to be the cheapest in the UK. This plan includes 150 mins, unlimited texts, and 500 MB data.

Other features include: rollover of any unused data to the next month; option of setting your own spending cap; and roaming in EU countries.

What the experts say: “With each of iD Mobile's SIM only plans, you'll also get to choose a free feature to add on to your purchase, including Data Rollover or Capping.” - Mirror

8. Giffgaff

Best for: Pay as You Go deals

  • Specialises in Pay as You Go
  • Runs on O2 network
  • Tops customer satisfaction surveys

Giffgaff has made a name for itself as a specialist in no-contract Pay as You Go plans. It offers monthly “goodybags” ranging from £5 for 150 minutes and 500MB to £25 per month for unlimited calls, texts and data. Customers can purchase new goodybags any time they want, with absolutely no commitments.

Giffgaff’s customer service works differently than other mobile providers in that it doesn’t have any customer service centres. Customers can ask questions of other customers and expert users on the forums. 

What the experts say: “Budget pay-as-you-go mobile operater Giffgaff came out top for customer satisfaction in an extensive Which? survey of British consumers.” -Daily Mail

9. Sky Mobile

Best for: Bundling together with Sky TV packages

  • Monthly plans from £6-£25 / month
  • Runs on O2 Network
  • Watch Sky TV on your mobile

Sky Mobile offers 4 SIM-only plans with 12-month minimum contracts, ranging from £6 for unlimited calls and texts and 1GB data to £25 for unlimited calls and texts and 20GB data.

All Sky TV customers can stream Sky TV channels from their Sky Mobile-activated phone. Sky TV comes with unlimited streaming and isn’t deducted from the customer’s data allowance.

What the experts say: “There's a fun feature called Piggybank Rewards, which means customers can cash in their unused data allowance for savings on phones, tablets and accessories.” -Tech Advisor

10. BT Mobile

Best for: Getting an affordable mobile plan for the whole family

  • SIM-only deals for individuals and families
  • Runs on EE network
  • Free Wi-Fi in millions of hotspots

BT Mobile is owned by the BT Group, the same company behind EE. It runs on EE’s network, which has the best mobile coverage in the UK. BT Mobile specialises in SIM-only deals for individuals and families, with 6GB of data for as low as £12.

BT Mobile’s family SIM deals let you add up to 4 users and save on each new user. The 12-month, £45/m plan for 3 users offers £24/m in savings. Subscribers get global 10GB data per sim, roaming in 47 destinations, free WiFi in 5 million hotspots around the UK, and free mobile access to BT Sport.

What the experts say: “Discounts are offered to BT TV, landline, and broadband customers, which will save you £5 per month off the price.” -Android Authority

Compare the Top Mobile Providers

We all need a mobile plan, but each of us needs it for different reasons. Fortunately, there are mobile plans out there to suit all types of consumers. There are dirt-cheap plans for people who only need their mobile to make or receive calls or texts through to premium services for people who need lots of data and fast streaming. With so much choice in mobile plans, British consumers are the winners.