Blackberry Tariffs: Data Plans Explained, Blackberry SIM-Only Tariffs Compared

October 28th, 2010

Blackberry users need a special tariff to access internet, e-mail and Blackberry Messenger (BBM). We outline your options and money-saving SIM-only deals.

To get the most out of your Blackberry smartphone and to use features such as e-mail, web browsing and Blackberry Messenger, you’ll need to have a special Blackberry tariff. In this article, we outline the differences between a Blackberry tariff and a standard smartphone tariff and explore the range of Blackberry tariffs available in the UK.

I have a Blackberry. Will it work with any mobile phone tariff?

Yes – but you’d only have limited call and text functionality. You should be able to make phone calls and texts using any mobile phone tariff even if it isn’t a Blackberry one (providing your Blackberry isn’t locked to a different network). This is because all calls and texts are routed directly through your network provider.

However, you’ll need a Blackberry tariff to use many of the Blackberry’s internet/data functionality including e-mail, applications, web browsing and Blackberry Messenger (BBM). These features require a subscription to the “Blackberry Internet Service” to function correctly and in order to have access to one you’ll need to have a Blackberry tariff.

What is Blackberry Internet Service (BIS)?

When you join a Blackberry tariff, your mobile operator will give you access to the “Blackberry Internet Service” (BIS). The Blackberry Internet Service is run by Research In Motion (the company which makes the Blackberry). The Blackberry Internet Service provides the following functionality:

  • internet access
  • Blackberry Messenger (BBM)
  • e-mail service (including push e-mail)
  • converts e-mail attachments into a format which can be read by the Blackberry device
  • other push alerts
  • compresses all data before it is delivered to your phone (this makes your 500MB last between 2x and 3x longer)

Without a subscription to a Blackberry tariff and the “Blackberry Internet Service”, you cannot use this functionality on your phone.

It’s worth noting that the Blackberry is unique amongst smartphones by having a design which requires all data access to pass through an intermediary. Other smartphones such as the iPhone and Android can connect directly to web servers and e-mail services directly through your mobile phone operator. This means iPhone and Android users have a much greater choice of tariffs and tariffs tend to be cheaper.

Where can I buy a Blackberry on a Blackberry tariff in the UK?

All of the major UK mobile operators are selling the Blackberry:

What SIM-only tariffs are available for Blackberry users?

A SIM-only tariff is ideal if you’ve already got your own Blackberry but you’re looking for a data plan to go with it. They are also ideal for anyone who has completed the course of their original contract (e.g. you signed an 18-month contract and have had it for more than 18 months). Most people find they save around £180 per year by switching to a SIM-only tariff.

O2 have the widest range of SIM-only tariffs for Blackberry users starting at £20/month for 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB internet:

Minutes Texts Data Monthly Cost (1 month contract) Monthly Cost (12 month contract)
300 Unlimited 500MB £20 £15
600 Unlimited 500MB £25 £20
900 Unlimited 750MB £30 £25
1200 Unlimited 750MB £35 £30
Unlimited Unlimited 1GB £50 £45

Vodafone also offer a Blackberry tariff with 900 minutes, unlimited texts and 1024MB data for £25/month (12 month contract).

If you opt for a SIM-only tariff on Orange or T-Mobile, you can add Blackberry features to your tariff for an extra £5/month. T-Mobile customers should select the “Blackberry Mail” booster whilst ordering. Orange customers should contact customer services to add a Blackberry bundle.

If you’re unsure how much data you’ll need, see our guide to what 500MB and 1GB actually mean.

I’m keeping my Blackberry but switching network. Can I keep my number?

Yes. You’ll need to ask your existing network for a PAC code and then you’ll need to give this to your new network. See our detailed step-by-step guide to moving your number between networks.

I’m upgrading to a Blackberry in the middle of my existing contract. Can I add Blackberry services to my tariff?

You should call the customer services of your network – most networks should allow you to add Blackberry services to your existing tariff for around £5/month.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 11 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Andy said:

    Hi Ken,
    Im a bit of a technofobe and work at sea, I have been advised to get a blackberry and am on a giffgaff network. I have purchased a blackberry Z10 but it doesn’t work, I receive txts but cant make calls or txt or check other services like internet, bbm, whatsapp and emails. People are saying this is something to do with the Z10 model. Do you know anything about this and if so, should i purchase a different phone?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Andy,
      I’m not aware of any reason why the BlackBerry Z10 can’t work on giffgaff (indeed, I believe many people are already using the Z10 on giffgaff). My recommendation is to consult the giffgaff help & support forum – they should be able to help you out with your query 🙂

  2. Bella said:

    Hi Ken,
    Thanks for this article, it was very helpful. I have another question perhaps you could help me with? I have a Blackberry Torch which I have unlocked from Orange. I am going to Italy and would like to buy a data sim card to use in the phone so I can tether it to my laptop to connect to the internet whilst I'm there. Do I still need to buy a Blackberry specific sim card or will any data sim package work? Many thanks.

  3. Bates said:

    Hey, I have a blackberry which was with Orange, but the contract has run out so im looking for a sim card on pay as you go only. When i order the sim from orange which one would allow me to have Blackberry Messenger and do i have to call them up to add on BIS? Finally, to have access to the BIS feature, what is the minimal i would have to top up the sim?

  4. Harpsgirl said:

    I'm confused. I've just taken out an Orange Panther 26 contract for my son's new Blackberry 9790. I got a good deal and thought this tariff sounded ideal as with 750GB data allowance my son should have plenty data for his usage.
    He wants to use one of the swapables to watch Sky Sports which I've now been told doesn't use any of his data allowance.
    However the thing that's puzzling me is that when I log onto the Orange account etc I can see no mention of the data allowance or usage. When I queried this with Orange they just kept saying that this is because it is a Blackberry contract but reading your article am I right in thinking that data allowance will be used when he is out and about and using his phone to use the internet? I really wanted to be able to keep an eye on his data usage so that I didn't get a nasty surprise at the end of the month but Orange just say that it will be fine??? Thoughts please as i'm confused!

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi there,

      I don't know exactly how Orange have set up their online system, but it's possible they don't show the data usage on there. There's some forum discussions e.g. that suggest this would be the case. I'm afraid I don't really have any ideas about how to check the data usage, except from maybe through an application on the phone itself…


  5. Ken Lo
    Ken said:

    Thanks for your comment Rich! You reminded me of something I forgot to mention in the original post… if you decide to use a standard data tariff you can still use applications such as Opera to browse the web (providing you set up the correct APNs).


  6. Rich again said:

    When you buy a BB, and you add BIS to your plan – should you also add some sort of bundled data as well? in other words do blackberries use "normal" operator data as well as their BIS?

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Rich,

      I had always assumed that the BIS plan is usually sold with bundled data (one is useless without the other on the Blackberry). It might be worth double-checking this with your operator though.

      Hope this helps,


      1. Rich replied:

        just a FYI. BIS covers your email and internet browsing. However if you use any apps e.g. twitter or facebook over your data connection then that's chargable as a data cost. So bottom line is that you probably do still need an Internet data bundle if you want any of these thing while you're not connected to wifi.

        cheers Rich

  7. Rich said:

    thanks, great summary about BB

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