London Prepaid GSM and Mobile Data Options

My London trip is fast approaching which means, of course, it’s time to work out which SIM card and data plan I will be looking for. As always, it is an adventure trying to do this research ahead of time. London has many mobile carriers who all have slightly different plans and terminology.

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The first place that I always look for this kind of information is prepaidgsm.net and its forums. That was a huge help when researching cards for Italy, but it seems a little thin and out of date for the UK right now.

I also decided to check out Carphone Warehouse, which is a mobile phone store that carries products from all of the major carriers. The last time I was in London I just walked into one of their stores and came out with an Orange SIM. Their website lists all of the SIM-only pay as you go carriers. [www.carphonewarehouse.com]. Wiki tells us what the 3g Bands are for each of them [en.wikipedia.org]

  • Orange (2100)
  • Virgin Mobile (2100)
  • Vodaphone (900/2100)
  • T-Mobile (2100)
  • Three (2100)
  • O2 (900/2100)
  • Talkmobile (900/2100)

As I had discovered previously [averagetraveller.com], my Canadian HTC Desire Z which operates on the 850 and 1900 bands will not get 3G speeds in London. One option that is getting more attractive is picking up a Pay-as-you-go phone in London. Right now 3 UK is offering the Samsung Galaxy Mini for £89.99 and the HTC Wildfire for £99.99. Both phones run Android 2.2 and will give me full 3G speed in Europe as well as Asia. At that price I think there’s a good chance that I’ll bite. There might be a whole other post coming on this topic! [averagetraveller.com]

At this point I’m only looking at the Pay As You Go (PAYG) plans because those are typically easier to use for visitors. In some places carriers offer 1 month contracts that are better but the websites often hide minimum terms or other gotchas in fine print so I’ll enquire about those when I get to London.

Pay as You Go Details for Each Major Carrier

O2  SIMplicity Pay & Go (http://www.o2.co.uk/tariffs/simplicity).
Basic Phone Plan: £10.50
Data Add on: 1GB of data for £10.00 more.
Tethering: No
UK Calls: 20p – 35p /min
SMS included: 500
International SMS 16.4p per message

3 UK All-In-One 15 (http://threestore.three.co.uk/payg/dealsummary.aspx?offercode=DSL15PP283):
Basic Phone Plan: £15
Data Add On: “all you can eat” data at no extra cost
Included calls: 300 minutes
Included SMS: 3000 texts
International SMS: ?

VodaPhone UK 500mb (http://shop.vodafone.co.uk/shop/sim-only-plans/all-sim-plans)
Basic Phone Plan: £20.50
Data Add On: 500mb Web Data included
Included calls: 300 Minutes
Included SMS: 3000 TXT
International SMS: ?

VodaPhone UK 1GBmb (http://shop.vodafone.co.uk/shop/sim-only-plans/all-sim-plans)
Basic Phone Plan: £31.00
Data Add On: 1GB Web Data included
Included calls: 900 Minutes
Included SMS: 3000 TXT
International SMS: ?

Orange (http://shop.orange.co.uk/mobile-phones/plans/simPlanList.jsp?cmsPageId=02510)
The Orange website is a little confusing right now. Traditionally they’ve offered a Dolphin plan that includes 100mb of data when you top up £10. Some pages still seem to reference this, but on their current SIM only page it says that you can get 500mb of data with all of their £30+ SIM Only packages. At the top of the page it says that the Dolphin plan includes 500mb of data, but then it doesn’t have a £30 plan. I used Orange last time but I think I’ll go another way this time. This strategy also has the benefit of letting me add another branded SIM to my collection!

Virgin Mobile (http://www.virginmobile.com/vm/genericContent.do?contentId=payasyougo.our.tariff.shop.sm285)
Virgin Mobile offers a free SIM and includes bonuses with top-ups. At first it looked promising with an offer of 1 GB of mobile web from a £15 top-up; however, looking at the fine print it says that “Free texts or Mobile Web access will be added on the first day of the month following the top up(s) and are valid for one month or until used.”

T-Mobile (http://www.t-mobile.co.uk/shop/sim-only/)
T-Mobile doesn’t appear to offer data on their SIM Only PAYG plans. Their Pay Monthly plan looks pretty promising with unlimited browsing and email with a fair use cap of 500mb for other types of data.

Talk Mobile (http://www.talkmobile.co.uk/simple.html)
Talk Mobile doesn’t appear to have PAYG SIM Only plans. Their Pay Monthly plans look pretty cheap, though, 200 minutes, 500 txt, and 500mb for £8 or 1000 minutes, unlimited txt, and 1GB of data for  £18.

One thought on “London Prepaid GSM and Mobile Data Options

  1. T-Mobile does offer data on PAYG (I have used it, and also is there following the link you provide; it is in the chart at the bottom). GBP1 per day for basically unlimited data. Works very well. You get charged the first time you connect each day.

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