UK Mobile Operator FAQ

There are plenty of mobile service operators to choose from on the UK market, and making that decision can be tough. Today we’re talking about the most frequently asked questions about mobile operators, and giving you some honest answers. So, if you’re on the lookout for a good mobile service, then read on to get some more info before you sign up…

What’s the Best Mobile Operator?
It’s really impossible to say, there is no such thing as the best mobile operator. Your level of service depends a lot on your needs and what you’re looking for, so the best operator for you is different from the best operator for someone else.

OK, What’s the Cheapest Mobile Operator?
Again, that really depends on what you’re looking for. It also depends a lot on the special offers that are constantly changing. However, in general Vodafone is the cheapest operator, though their plans have pretty low limits on calling minutes, text messages and mobile data, so they might not always be the best choice for everyone. Also, different operators are better at different things. So, for example, the cheapest mobile data prices tend to be with Three.

I Want Pay As You Go, So Which Operator Should I Choose?
There’s very little difference between operators on pay as you go plans. Calls tend to be a standard 25p per minute and texts 12p with all the major UK networks. Data prices do vary a little more than that though. Data prices with Three and Vodafone are probably the cheapest right now.

What’s a Pac Code?
A Pac code is a relatively new thing that allows you to keep your current mobile phone number if you switch operators. You simply request your Pac code from your current operator and give it to your new operator, and they will make sure that you keep your number when your service is switched.

Are Free Phones Really Free?
Nope. Some operators offer free or low cost phone when you sign contracts known as “incentive contracts.” However, you don’t actually save any money at all on a device this way. The monthly fees on these contracts are much higher than if you just bought a calling plan contract, and that’s how the operator covers the cost of your phone. On top of that, the extra money that you pay each month will usually add up to more than the retail price of the phone, so you actually end up paying more for a phone this way. You should only sign an incentive contract if you really don’t have enough cash to buy a phone and you need one.

What’s Mobile Coverage, and How Does it Affect Me?
Mobile coverage basically refers to how good your phone reception will be in an area. Different operators have different kinds of coverage in different areas. So, in one area you might have great reception with O2, but terrible reception with Orange. If you have bad reception, your phone will be slow or might not even work at all. Usually rural areas suffer more from bad coverage than urban areas, since there are less cell phone towers in the countryside. However, there are dead spots, even in big cities. That usually happens because something is blocking the signal between the cell phone tower and your phone. This can be anything from a building to a tunnel. You’ll want to check that the network you want has good coverage in the area where you want to use your phone. All major networks have coverage maps on their web sites, so you can easily find out this information.
How Do I Choose a Calling Plan?

Operators often try to push you into signing up for calling plans that are bigger than you need. This means that the monthly limits for calling minutes, text messages and data will be too high for you, and you’ll end up paying for services that you’re not using. Choosing the right calling plan is important, and there are a couple of ways you can go about it. Firstly, if you have a current mobile contract, try looking at some of your old mobile bills. These should give you a good idea of the number of minutes and texts and amount of data you generally use per month. You can also use your phone to track your usage. Most modern phones come with counters for minutes, texts and data that you access through the setting menu. Just reset all these counters to zero and use your phone normally for a month, then go back and check the numbers. You could also consider getting a cheap pay as you go plan for a month while you figure out what kind of plan you need.

Once I’ve Signed a Contract, Can I Get Out of It?
Yes, you can, but it will cost you money. Usually, operators charge a fixed fee multiplied by the number of months left to run in your contract in order to cancel services. Plus, if you signed an incentive plan with a phone, you’ll probably be required to pay the remaining price of the phone before you can cancel your contract. This can get pretty expensive, especially if your contract has more than a couple of months left to run. It’s up to you whether you want to cancel or not, but financially it might not be a good decision.

What Length Contract Should I Sign?
Usually you have three options, twelve, eighteen or twenty four months. On SIM only contracts you also sometimes get the option of a thirty day contract. In general, the longer the contract you sign, the cheaper you monthly payment will be. But don’t forget that signing a longer contract means that you’ll be tied to using the same operator, and often the same calling plan, for a much lengthier period of time. You need to decide how long is realistic for you. An eighteen month contract is usually the best compromise option.

When Sam Jones found a great deal on his mobile contract by using uSwitch, he had to ask his current provider to issue him a PAC code. Once he had it he was able to port his number to his new provider with ease


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