Lebara Mobile Review: Low Cost International Calling & ‘UK Plus’ Bundles

July 24th, 2015

In the UK, Lebara Mobile is a specialist provider of low-cost international phone calls (from 1p/minute). They also offer ‘UK Plus’ bundles for your smartphone.

Lebara MobileLebara Mobile is a specialist provider of low-cost SIM cards for international calling. Whereas the mainstream mobile networks can sometimes charge you up to £1.50/minute for calling another country, the rates on Lebara Mobile start from only 1p/minute. Lebara also has a range of UK Plus bundles with inclusive UK calls, texts and internet.

In this article, we review the Lebara Mobile service. We’ll look at the prices on Lebara and we’ll see how they compare to those on rival networks (EE, giffgaff, O2, Lycamobile and Vodafone). We’ll also look at how to use an existing handset on Lebara, the level of coverage to expect and how to keep an existing phone number when moving to the network.

Pricing

UK Rates

Top Up LogoWithin the UK, Lebara Mobile charges 19p/minute, 19p/text and 19p/MB for accessing the internet (approximately £1.90/day if you were to use 10MB of data on your phone).

While the cost of calling in the UK is slightly cheaper than on the mainstream mobile networks, Lebara Mobile is relatively expensive when compared to low-cost rivals such as giffgaff (10p/minute, 6p/text and 20p/day for 20MB of internet).

Calling Rates:
Voice Calls 19p/minute (any network, any time)
Calls to Voicemail 19p/minute
Calls to Special Rate Numbers 25p/minute access charge
+ service charge from the company you’re calling
Messaging Rates:
Text Message (SMS) 19p
Picture Message (MMS) 45p
Internet Rates:
3G Internet 19p/MB (buy a UK Plus bundle for better value)

The cheapest Pay As You Go rates currently available in the UK are 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB (this is on Three’s 321 tariff). Unfortunately, the 321 tariff is relatively expensive for calling abroad. For this reason, giffgaff is probably better as an all-round alternative (they have low-cost rates both for calling within the UK and for calling another country).

A full list of Lebara Mobile’s rates can be found on their website. Lebara uses per-minute billing (the length of all phone calls is rounded up to a full minute before the charge is taken from your account).

International Rates

Earth

Lebara allows you to call other countries from only 1p/minute.

A key selling point of Lebara Mobile’s service is their comparatively low rates for international calling. Whereas rival mobile networks can sometimes charge up to £1.50/minute, Lebara allows you to call another country from only 1p/minute.

The exact cost of calling abroad depends on the country you’re calling as well as the type of phone number (mobile or landline). In general, it’s normally cheaper to call a landline.

The following table shows per-minute rates for calling popular countries on a Lebara Mobile SIM card:

CountryCalls to MobileCalls to LandlineText Message
China (+86)2p/minute1p/minute19p/message
India (+91)2p/minute2p/minute19p/message
Ireland (+353)5p/minute5p/minute19p/message
Italy (+39)5p/minute5p/minute19p/message
Pakistan (+92)8p/minute4p/minute19p/message
Poland (+48)5p/minute2p/minute19p/message
Romania (+40)5p/minute2p/minute19p/message
Sri Lanka (+94)15p/minute12p/minute19p/message
Turkey (+90)9p/minute3p/minute19p/message
United States (+1)5p/minute5p/minute19p/message

Cost of international calls & international text messages on the Lebara Mobile network (calls & texts made to a phone number in another country whilst you're in the UK). Last updated on 1st October 2016. Source: lebara.co.uk.

For other countries that are not listed in the table above, see our in-depth guide to the cost of international phone calls.

Order a SIM card from Lebara Mobile (free) »

Customers buying a UK Plus bundle will sometimes get a discounted rate for calling other countries. For instance, the costs of calling India and China will drop down to only 1p/minute. For more information, please see the Lebara Mobile website.

UK Plus Bundles

Lebara Bundle

Lebara has a range of UK Plus bundles from £7.95 per month.

For customers who regularly use their smartphone in the UK (e.g. for domestic phone calls or for accessing the mobile internet), Lebara currently offers a choice of 30-day Pay As You Go bundles. Known as a UK Plus bundle, you’re able to convert a certain amount of your Pay As You Go credit into a 30-day allowance of UK calls, texts and internet. You’ll also get a discounted rate when calling abroad to selected countries.

At present, Lebara offers a choice of five UK Plus bundles:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
Lebara Mobile150200500MB£7.95
Lebara Mobile5002001GB£10.00
Lebara Mobile1,0002002GB£15.00
Lebara Mobile1,0002003GB£20.00
Lebara Mobile2,0002005GB£25.00

As well as the UK Plus bundles, Lebara also has some specialist bundles for customers who predominantly call a certain specific country (e.g. China, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Singapore and Thailand).

Order a SIM card with UK Plus from Lebara Mobile (free) »

Once you have a SIM card from Lebara, you can buy a 30-day bundle by sending a short text message to 38885:

Bundle Name Buying Bundle* Stopping Auto-Renewal
UK Plus £7.95 Text UK150WEB to 38885 Text UK150WEB*STOP to 38885
UK Plus £10 Text UK500WEB to 38885 Text UK500WEB*STOP to 38885
UK Plus £12 Text UK1002WEB to 38885 Text UK1002WEB*STOP to 38885
UK Plus £15 Text UK1003WEB to 38885 Text UK1003WEB*STOP to 38885
UK Plus £17 Text UK2005WEB to 38885 Text UK2005WEB*STOP to 38885

* Automatically renews at the end of 30 days. If there isn’t enough credit on your account, Lebara tries to renew the bundle on your account for another seven days. To stop the bundle from renewing automatically, you should text the relevant keyword to stop auto-renewal (this needs to be done before 9pm on the day of the bundle expiry).

Any unused allowances remaining at the end of 30 days will automatically expire along with your bundle. Where possible, Lebara will try to renew your bundle automatically at the end of 30 days (if you don’t want this to happen, you should opt-out by sending the relevant keyword before 9pm on the day of your bundle expiry).

To find out the remaining allowances in your bundle or to find out the current balance on your account, you should call 5588 or you should log in to the My Lebara website.

Credit Expiry & Inactivity Policy

Phone Call

You’ll need to use your Lebara Mobile SIM card for a chargeable activity at least once every 84 days.

In comparison to other UK networks, Lebara Mobile has the strictest policy on account inactivity.

Light users (e.g. people who only use their phone for emergencies) should be aware that Lebara Mobile has an 84-day inactivity policy. If you don’t use your Lebara SIM card for a chargeable activity in an 84-day period, your service will be terminated and your phone number will permanently be lost. For a further 96 days after the disconnection, you’ll be given the option to reconnect your account (you’ll be given a totally new phone number but any unused credit will be restored to your account). After this period, your Pay As You Go credit will also permanently be lost.

Comparison To Alternatives

International Calling

Although the main selling point of Lebara Mobile’s service is their low-cost international phone calls, it’s important not to assume they’re always the cheapest network for calling another country.

In many cases, giffgaff (which uses coverage from O2) has comparable or lower rates for calling another country. An opt-in deal from one of the major mobile networks can also give comparable rates when you’re calling another country:

CountryCost of calling abroad from the UK (per minute)
EEgiffgaffLebara MobileLycamobileTelloO2Vodafone
China (+86)2p
(2p to landline)
2p
(2p to landline)
2p
(1p to landline)
3p
(1p to landline)
2.4p
(2.4p to landline)
1.5p
(1.5p to landline)
1.5p
(1.5p to landline)
India (+91)2p2p2p2p2.7p2p1.5p
Ireland (+353)8p
(1p to landline)
5p
(2p to landline)
5p
(5p to landline)
19p
(7p to landline)
4.7p
(2.1p to landline)
5p
(1p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
Italy (+39)7p
(2p to landline)
7p
(3p to landline)
5p
(5p to landline)
19p
(7p to landline)
3p
(2.1p to landline)
10p
(2p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
Pakistan (+92)10p
(10p to landline)
8p
(8p to landline)
8p
(4p to landline)
8p
(8p to landline)
4.5p
(4.5p to landline)
6p
(6p to landline)
30p
(12p to landline)
Poland (+48)5p
(1p to landline)
5p
(2p to landline)
5p
(2p to landline)
5p
(1p to landline)
3p
(2.6p to landline)
5p
(1p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
Romania (+40)5p
(1p to landline)
2p
(2p to landline)
5p
(2p to landline)
4p
(1p to landline)
3p
(2p to landline)
4p
(1p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
Sri Lanka (+94)20p
(10p to landline)
14p
(14p to landline)
15p
(12p to landline)
15p
(12p to landline)
14.9p
(15.5p to landline)
14p
(14p to landline)
30p
(12p to landline)
Turkey (+90)15p
(5p to landline)
11p
(3p to landline)
9p
(3p to landline)
12p
(3p to landline)
11.9p
(3.7p to landline)
12p
(3p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
United States (+1)3p2p5p6p2p2p1.5p

Cost of calling abroad from a UK mobile network (per minute). As the headline figure, we've shown the per-minute cost of calling a mobile phone number. Where a lower price applies for calling landline numbers, this is shown separately in brackets. Last updated on 1st October 2016. Source: ee.co.uk, giffgaff.com, lebara.co.uk, lycamobile.co.uk, tello.co.uk, o2.co.uk, vodafone.co.uk.

In the table above:

For an in-depth comparison covering 79 countries across 6 different continents, see our guide to the UK’s cheapest network for calling internationally.

£10 per month bundles

10 Pound NoteFor £10 per month, the Lebara Mobile UK Plus bundle includes 500 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 1GB of UK internet. For the same monthly price, giffgaff’s £10 goodybag has an identical monthly allowance (often with even lower rates for calling another country).

If you aren’t concerned about making international phone calls, ASDA Mobile has even larger allowances on their £10 per month bundle. For the same monthly price, you’ll get 600 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 1GB of UK internet. Unfortunately, it costs 25p/minute to call a phone number in the EU, USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. It’s £1.20/minute to call a phone number in any other country.

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ASDA MobileUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited1.5GB£10.00
giffgaff500Unlimited1GB£10.00
Lebara Mobile5002001GB£10.00
Three1003,0001GB£10.00
EE1001,0001GB£10.00
O21001001GB£10.00
O22501,000500MB£10.00
EE150Unlimited500MB£10.00
Vodafone150Unlimited500MB£10.00

£12 per month bundles

For £12 per month, Lebara Mobile has a UK Plus £12 bundle with 1000 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 2GB of UK mobile internet. For heavy data users, the £12 goodybag from giffgaff will offer better value. It has 500 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 3GB of mobile internet in the UK.

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaff500Unlimited2GB£12.00
EE300Unlimited1GB£12.50

£15 per month bundles

15 Pound NotesFor £15 per month, Lebara Mobile has 1000 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 3GB of UK mobile internet. For the same monthly price, giffgaff’s £15 goodybag has 500 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 5GB of mobile internet in the UK.

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaff1,000Unlimited4GB£15.00
EE250Unlimited4GB£15.00
ASDA Mobile1,000Unlimited3GB£15.00
Lebara Mobile1,0002002GB£15.00
O27502,0002GB£15.00
EE500Unlimited2GB£15.00
Vodafone250Unlimited1GB£15.00

For a full comparison of the monthly bundles available on each network, see our guide to the UK’s cheapest Pay As You Go bundles. Please note: some Pay As You Go bundles aren’t compatible with the lowest rates for calling another country. For instance, O2’s lowest rates for calling abroad are only available to customers with an O2 International SIM card (customers with a Big Bundle from O2 can’t access these rates).

Handsets

Smartphones

You can use your existing unlocked smartphone on the Lebara Mobile network.

In the UK, Lebara Mobile is predominantly a SIM-only mobile network. Most users should order a SIM card from Lebara which will then slot inside an existing unlocked smartphone.

You can either choose to keep a handset from your old network (if you’re doing so, see our guides to unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy). You can also buy a new unlocked smartphone from online retailers such as Amazon.co.uk.

When ordering your new SIM card from the Lebara Mobile website, you’ll be given the option of three different sizes (Ordinary/Standard SIM, Micro SIM and Nano SIM). Most modern smartphones require you to use either a Micro SIM or Nano SIM – see the guide here if you aren’t sure which size of SIM card you require.

Order a SIM card from Lebara Mobile (free) »

Finally, it’s also possible to buy a new handset directly from Lebara. Prices currently start from £29.99 for a feature phone and from £59.99 for a smartphone.

Network & Coverage

2G & 3G Coverage from Vodafone

Vodafone Coverage

Using the 2G and 3G networks from Vodafone, Lebara Mobile has 99% population coverage across the UK.

Lebara Mobile is a virtual network operator that makes use of 2G and 3G coverage from Vodafone. At present, they claim to have 99% population coverage across the UK.

Before ordering your SIM card from Lebara, we recommend checking the coverage on Vodafone’s website:

Check Lebara Mobile Coverage (vodafone.co.uk) »

Customers using Lebara Mobile will get the same 2G and 3G coverage as customers on Vodafone. Other virtual network operators using coverage from Vodafone include Mobile by Sainsbury’s, TalkMobile and TalkTalk Mobile.

4G Coverage

Unfortunately, Lebara Mobile doesn’t yet offer 4G connectivity. It’s not known when 4G will finally launch on their network. Vodafone hasn’t yet offered 4G connectivity to their virtual network operators (for this reason, it’s probably unlikely we’ll see 4G soon on Lebara Mobile).

Tethering

iOS8 Tethering

Unfortunately, tethering is not permitted on Lebara Mobile.

Tethering or personal wi-fi hotspot refers to the process of sharing your smartphone’s internet connection with another device (e.g. your laptop or tablet).

Unfortunately, Lebara Mobile doesn’t allow tethering on their network. From their UK Pass terms and conditions:

Data usage under any UK Plus Pass is for mobile internet services and data consumption actually on your handset. It does not include using file to file peer sharing or using your handset as a modem to connect other devices such as laptops and tablets – also known as “Tethering”.

If you’d like a network on which you’re able to tether, see our guide on the UK’s best value deals that allow you to tether.

Keeping Your Phone Number

If you’re changing from another mobile network over to Lebara Mobile, it’s a straightforward process to keep your current phone number. At the time of writing, Lebara is offering £4 of bonus credit for new customers who port their number in from another mobile network.

To begin the process of moving your number to Lebara Mobile, start by ordering a SIM card from their website. After ordering the SIM card from Lebara, you should contact your old network and ask them for a PAC Code.

After receiving and activating the new SIM card from Lebara, you should contact Lebara Customer Services by dialling 5588 on your Lebara Mobile handset (0870 075 5588 if you’re calling from any other phone). Give Lebara Customer Services the PAC Code from your old network. They’ll then schedule the transfer of your phone number (normally for the next working day). The £4 of bonus credit will be added to your account within 72 hours of your first top-up after porting.

For a step-by-step guide on moving your number to Lebara Mobile, please select your current network operator:

PAC Code Finder: Transfer Your Phone Number to Lebara Mobile

Your current network provider:

  More Options

For more information on transferring your phone number between networks, see our guide to using a PAC Code.

More Information

For more information regarding Lebara Mobile, please see their official website. You can also order a free SIM card from the Lebara Mobile website.

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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 3 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Ryszard Dziedzic said:

    I am user of Lebara about 8 years. Normaly I do recharg by Lebara voucher.This voucher I usuly bay on fuel station in Belfast at Stena ferrys terminal.Now I cant to
    bay voucher beacouse few days charging terminal is out of order.Staff dont now how long will be this situation.For me and my frends this situstion is very dificult.Can Lebara do something for cleaning this situation.
    Many thanks.
    Richard

  2. Maria said:

    This money is not enough for compensating me after 2 weeks waiting for an issue to be fixed.

    The 16th of August I asked Lebara mobile to transfer my number from GiffGaff to their company.
    I purchased a plan AIO15 the 31 of July, 15£ plan, which expires the 31th of August.
    They told me they will transfer my number in 72 hours (3 days).
    Today it will be the 14th day I can’t use my phone. Nobody can call me, apparently my number doesn’t exist and of course I can’t call anybody.
    I can’t use internet as well.

    I’ve asked them repeatedly to fix this issue, I’ve written them 5 times, they asked me to wait 24-48 hours for an answer and after the answer is always the same, “sorry for the inconvenience this issue will be fixed in 24-48 hours.” And we start again.
    I’ve called them twice to the customer service, the 25th and 26th August. Both times the operator assures me that it would be fixed in the very same day. But that wasn’t true.

    This is having an impact in my work (I am an architect and they have been 14 days telling my clients that my number doesn’t exist).
    Also in my private life (as I told their customer service on Friday this long weekend I had my family in London, they are Spanish, and it was impossible for them to communicate with me, etc.).

    The reason why I wanted to keep my number was because of work and the reason to change to Lebara was that I am Spanish and I wanted to call my family in Spain free and to be able to call them when they visit me in London to their Spanish numbers.

    I don’t know what else to do.
    I feel cheated.
    I lost money, tomorrow the plan I bought will expire and it will be 15 days I couldn’t use it. They keep telling me it will be solve but it never is.

  3. John said:

    Just a small correction to Three international calls charges, they also have low prices for pay as you go costumers, but instead of opt-in you have to include a special code in the beginning of the number. This is only available for some countries.

    http://support.three.co.uk/SRVS/CGI-BIN/WEBISAPI.DLL?Command=New,Kb=Mobile,Ts=Mobile,T=Article,varset_cat=roaming,varset_subcat=4157,Case=obj%284160%29

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