4G SIM Only Plans: Comparing Prices on EE, O2, Three & Vodafone
August 15th, 2013
Looking for a SIM Only Contract on your 4G handset? We compare prices on EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.
The UK’s four largest mobile networks have now announced their 4G price plans. They’ll be offering 4G-ready SIM Only Contracts for as little as £6.90/month. Data offerings range from 500MB to all-you-can-eat. Many 4G-ready price plans also come with unlimited calls and unlimited texts. This is great for anyone who likes a good natter. Finally, a range of entertainment packages are also being used to differentiate between 4G networks. With the new line-up of 4G price plans, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone are battling it out for customers with a 4G smartphone.
In this article, we compare 4G SIM Only contracts from all four of the UK’s major mobile networks. To benefit from a SIM Only plan, you’ll need to have an unlocked smartphone. You’ll be sent a new SIM card that slots into your existing device (you can keep your existing phone number). To benefit from 4G speeds, you’ll need a 4G handset that’s compatible with your chosen network. You’ll also need to live somewhere where 4G’s been switched on. We’ll discuss this a bit more later on in this article.
Comparing the UK’s 4G Offerings
It’s been a long wait but all four of the UK’s major mobile networks have now announced their 4G price plans.
There are four networks offering 4G this year:
EE was formed out of the merger of Orange and T-Mobile. They’ve been operating a 4G network since October 2012. Because of their 10 month head start, EE have built the UK’s most extensive 4G network. There’s coverage in 95 towns and cities (approximately 60% of the UK population). In some cities, they’ve also turned on double-speed 4G.
Price Range: £21/month (500MB) to £61/month (20GB)
O2 will launch their 4G network at the end of August. It’ll initially be available in London, Leeds and Bradford. A further 10 cities should be added before the end of 2013. 4G customers will get a 12 months free subscription to O2 Tracks. This allows you to listen to music from the UK Top 40.
Price Range: £26/month (1GB) to £36/month (8GB)
Three will launch 4G in the fourth-quarter of this year. It’ll be available to all customers at no extra charge. Until 4G launches, customers have access to ultrafast 3.9G. This gives very similar speeds to 4G and is available to 80% of the UK population. As Three have decided not to raise prices, they have the cheapest 4G-ready offering. 500MB is available for £6.90/month whereas “all-you-can-eat” data (unlimited downloads) costs just £15/month. Three is the only network to provide unlimited internet on 4G.
Price Range: £6.90/month (500MB) to £15/month (Unlimited)
Vodafone will launch their 4G network at the end of August. It’ll initially be available in London followed by 12 other cities before the end of the year. Vodafone 4G customers will receive a free entertainment package (either Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV). The entertainment package lasts for 6 months or 12 months depending on your chosen plan.
Price Range: £26/month (2GB) to £36/month (8GB)
4G Plans: Less than £26/month
The cheapest way of getting 4G is through one of Three’s SIM Only plans. Whereas the other three networks (EE, O2 and Vodafone) charge a premium for 4G, there’s no premium for using 4G on Three. 4G will launch in Q4 2013 and is available on all SIM only plans starting from just £6.90/month.
The UK’s cheapest 4G-ready plan is Three’s Essential Internet 200 SIM. For £6.90/month, you’ll get 200 minutes, 5000 texts and 500MB of mobile internet. Although this is super-cheap, we don’t think 500MB is enough data particularly when you’re on 4G speeds. A much better option is the £15/month The One Plan SIM. With The One Plan, you’ll get unlimited internet (“all-you-can-eat data“). You’ll also get 2000 minutes, 5000 Three-to-Three minutes, 5000 texts and free tethering. As there are no download limits, you can use your smartphone without the need to worry.
If you’re looking for unlimited internet on 4G, The One Plan is the only suitable option here in the UK. It’s available for £15/month (12-month contract). If you want a shorter commitment, try the £18/month version (1 month rolling contract).
4G Plans at £26/month
At £26/month, you can choose a 4G-ready plan from EE, O2 or Vodafone. All three networks are offering unlimited calls and texts as standard. The main difference is simply in the amount of data they offer. Vodafone are offering 2GB per month on the Vodafone Red 4G-ready plan (to see full details on the Vodafone website, select “12 months” followed by “Red 4G-ready”). For the same price of £26/month, EE and O2 will give you just 1GB of data.
As an added bonus, Vodafone customers receive 6 months of free entertainment (either Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV). Assuming you choose Spotify Premium, this is worth £9.99/month. O2 customers receive a 12 month subscription to the O2 Tracks application. This allows you to listen to music from the UK Top 40 (worth £1.50/week). EE customers can benefit from EE Film (2-for-1 cinema tickets every Wednesday).
4G Plans at £31/month
At £31/month, O2 are currently offering the largest amount of data. You’ll get 5GB of internet to use every month as well as unlimited calls and unlimited texts. For the same price, Vodafone are offering 4GB of data and EE are offering 3GB of data. This makes O2 the top choice for data-hungry users.
* O2 customers: The 5GB/month is an “introductory extra data offer” (expires on 31st October). Customers joining from the 1st November will only receive 3GB/month.
In terms of added features, O2 customers will receive 12 months access to O2 Tracks. This allows you to listen to songs in the UK Top 40. A subscription normally costs £1.50/week. Music fans who choose Vodafone will get 12 months access to Spotify Premium (worth £9.99/month). This has a much larger catalogue: you’ll get access to over 20 million songs and the service can also be used on multiple devices including your PC, laptop or tablet. There’s a free Spotify playlist for the UK Top 40. On balance, we feel that music fans should choose Vodafone due to the better music offering.
EE customers get 2-for-1 tickets at the cinema every Wednesday.
4G Plans at £36/month and more
For £36/month, both O2 and Vodafone are offering unlimited calls, unlimited texts and 8GB of data. EE are offering a smaller allowance of just 5GB of data. Based on the strength of their entertainment offering, our “best buy” tariff at £36/month is the Vodafone Red 4G-ready XL plan.
Customers who need a bigger download allowance can pick up 20GB of data for £61/month on EE. In our view, this is incredibly expensive. Heavy data users would be better off on the Three deal at £15/month. This has unlimited internet and provides much better value for money than EE’s allowance of 20GB.
* O2 customers: The 8GB/month is an “introductory extra data offer” (expires on 31st October). Customers joining from the 1st November will only receive 5GB/month.
As before, Vodafone customers receive 12 months of Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV. O2 customers receive 12 months access to O2 Tracks. EE customers have the “EE Film” discount: 2-for-1 cinema tickets every Wednesday.
Shorter Plans (1 month rolling contract)
Don’t forget that in order to benefit from 4G speeds, you’ll need a 4G handset. Keep a close eye on the frequencies supported by your 4G device. All four networks will use 800MHz spectrum whereas only Three and EE use 1800MHz spectrum. If you have an iPhone 5, it’ll only support 4G on EE and Three. The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c have much broader 4G support: they’ll work on all of the UK’s 4G networks.
If your smartphone only supports 3G, see our guide to SIM only plans for 3G smartphones.
I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.
Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.