Visiting Or Moving To the UK: Using Your Cellphone & Best SIM Cards

July 29th, 2017

Find out how to use your cellphone in the UK if you’re visiting or moving to the United Kingdom.

Whether you’re visiting the UK on a short-term trip, or moving there longer-term for study or for work, it’s easy to use your existing cell phone on the cellular networks within the United Kingdom.

In this article, we’ll discuss cell phone compatibility on UK cellular mobile networks. We’ll also compare the two different ways of using your phone in the UK: roaming on your domestic SIM card or getting a local SIM card in the UK. Finally, we’ll compare the best value pre-paid SIM cards for both visitors and for people moving to the UK.

Cell Phone & Network Compatibility

Network Frequencies & Bands

  • EE
  • O2
  • Three
  • Vodafone

In the UK, there are four cellular coverage providers: EE, O2, Three & Vodafone. Between them, the four providers each cover about 99% of the UK using GSM (2G), WCDMA (3G) and LTE (4G) technologies.

There are also a number of MVNOs (virtual network operators) that piggyback on coverage from one of cellular coverage providers.

The four coverage providers use the following bands and frequencies:

Cellular Coverage Provider 2G Coverage Bands 3G Coverage Bands 4G Coverage Bands
EE GSM 1800 WCDMA 2100 LTE bands 3, 7 & 20
O2* GSM 900 WCDMA 2100 LTE band 20
Three WCDMA 2100 LTE bands 3 & 20
Vodafone* GSM 900 WCDMA 2100 LTE bands 7 & 20

* Both O2 and Vodafone also have some limited coverage on GSM 1800 and WCDMA 900 (available in selected areas only).

In order for your phone to work in the UK, it will need to support at least one of the above frequencies. Most modern cellphones should at least support 2G and 3G in the UK (with the exception of CDMA-only handsets). Some will also support 4G coverage in the UK (but this will depend on the model of your handset and where you purchased it).

If you’re unsure about the bands/frequencies supported by your cellphone, you should consult your handset manufacturer’s documentation.

Roaming VS Using A UK SIM Card

There are two ways to use your cellphone in the UK: you can either roam on your domestic SIM card or you can pick up a local SIM card from one of the UK mobile networks.

If you’re only visiting for a short amount of time & only want to make occasional phone calls or text messages, roaming on your domestic SIM card may be the best value option. In advance of travelling to the UK, you should check with your cellular provider on the costs of using your phone in the UK. You should also ensure that international roaming is enabled on your account (sometimes, you may need to ask for it to be switched on).

If you’re planning to stay in the UK for a little bit longer or if you full access to the mobile internet when you’re travelling around the country, it may be worthwhile getting a local UK SIM card. This will probably be more convenient and cheaper than roaming on your domestic SIM card. In the UK, prices start from about £10 for one month’s usage on a local SIM card (this will also cover any usage in other European countries). You’ll get a UK-based phone number (beginning with +44).

Getting a UK SIM Card

In the UK, it’s a straightforward process to pick up a pre-paid SIM card. All you need to do is to order a free SIM card online, or you can pick one up in person for a minimal cost. There’s no need for you to be a UK resident and there’s also no need to provide any ID when ordering your SIM card. Your cellphone will however need to be carrier-unlocked for it to accept a SIM card from UK networks.

At present, we’d strongly recommend giffgaff as the best SIM card for anyone visiting or moving to the UK. The reason for this is because they provide free international delivery and because they also allow you to top-up with a non-UK credit card or debit card (most other networks will require you to use a UK-based card).

giffgaff

  • Free international delivery & top-up using international credit/debit cards.
  • £10 top-up buys: 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB internet.
  • Uses the O2 network. 99% coverage, 3G & 4G internet, check coverage here.

Giffgaff GoodybagsOur recommended pre-paid network for anyone visiting or moving to the UK is giffgaff.

One of the UK’s most popular cellular network brands, giffgaff is unique in offering free international SIM card delivery. This means you can have a SIM card on your doorstep before you even leave for the airport. giffgaff also allows you to top-up with an international credit or debit card (most other networks currently require you to have a UK-based credit or debit card).

On giffgaff, a £10 top-up will give you 2GB of 4G data along with 500 UK minutes and unlimited UK texts. You can also get low-cost international phone calls from the UK to other countries and you can tether at no extra charge (so your mobile internet connection can be shared with other people or other devices). You’ll also get unlimited free calling to other giffgaff members and you can use the SIM card in Europe at no extra cost.

For customers wanting a larger allowance of data, giffgaff charges £12 for 3GB, £15 for 5GB, £18 for 6GB and £20 for Always-On data.

Order giffgaff SIM card (Free) »

giffgaff uses O2 as a network coverage provider so will work on any handset supporting GSM 900, WCDMA 2100 or LTE band 20.

If you’re not able to order a SIM card from giffgaff in advance, you can also pick up a SIM card in-person when you arrive in the UK.

If possible, I’d strongly advise against getting a SIM card at the airport (e.g. at Heathrow or Gatwick). This is because SIM cards at the airport are grossly overpriced. Instead, wait until you get into town and make a visit to the nearest cell phone store, grocery store or gas station (mobile phone shop, supermarket or petrol station in the local lingo). If you’re buying a SIM card in-person, you should expect to pay about £1 for the SIM card plus £10 for the initial top-up. Our guide to Pay As You Go SIM cards will give you a full overview of the available options.

As a word of warning, it’s worth noting that most UK networks will not allow you to top-up remotely using a card registered outside the UK. Therefore, unless you’re on giffgaff or another network that specifically supports international top-ups, the only way for you to top-up will be in-person at locations showing the green ‘top-up’ logo (shown on the right).

At the end of your trip to the UK, it’s worth holding on to your SIM card. Typically, your pre-paid SIM card will remain active for about 6 months after the last usage of your SIM card. Therefore, if you’re planning to visit the UK again on a future trip (as we hope you will!), you may be able to re-use your SIM card on that occasion.

Note on Pay Monthly deals: If you’re moving permanently to the UK, you may be tempted to get a Pay Monthly SIM card on contract. In order to get a Pay Monthly contract, you’ll need to be a UK resident and you’ll need to undergo a UK credit check. You’ll also need a UK bank account against which your Direct Debit payments can be made. Unless you’ve lived in the UK for a certain amount of time, we’d always recommend getting a pre-paid deal like giffgaff which requires no credit check.

Using Your Phone In Europe

If you’re combining your trip to the UK with a trip to mainland Europe, you can continue to use your pre-paid SIM card there at no additional cost. There is no need to get a separate SIM card in each country you’re visiting, particularly with the advent of Roam Like Home legislation.

You can use your UK SIM card at no extra cost when travelling to one of the following EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland,  Israel, Italy (includes Sardinia and Sicily), Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal (includes Azores and Madeira), Republic of Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (includes Canary Islands and Balearic Islands) and Sweden. Likewise, if you already have a SIM card from one of these EU countries, you should be able to use it in the UK at no extra charge.

If you’re travelling to Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Monaco or Switzerland, you should read the article here for information on whether it’s covered by your network.

Some networks also go beyond roaming in Europe. For instance, a pre-paid SIM card from Three in the UK can also be used at no extra cost in countries like the USA, Australia, Brazil, Singapore and more.

Other Useful Information

Terminology

In the UK, cellphones are known as ‘mobile phones’.

In the UK and Europe, the cellular industry tends to use slightly different terminology to North American countries and some other countries around the world. Namely:

  • Cellphones are typically referred to as ‘mobile phones’ in day-to-day usage.
  • Carriers or cellular networks are more commonly referred to as ‘mobile networks’ in the UK (or ‘mobile phone networks’ to give them their full name).
  • Instead of re-filling or re-charging your prepaid plan, we typically just refer to topping-up your Pay As You Go account.

When shopping or comparing price plans, it’s also worth being aware that prices in the UK already include VAT (sales tax).

International Dialling

If you’re using a UK SIM card, you’ll be assigned a new UK-based phone number on the SIM card. The phone number will be 11-digits long and will start with 07 (e.g. 07123 456 789). If your friends or family would like to call you from outside the UK, you’ll need to replace the zero at the start with +44 to get your international number (so, for instance, 07123 456 789 would become +44 7123 456 789).

Similarly, if you’re calling abroad from your UK phone number, you should add the relevant international calling code before dialling out to that number.

Useful Resources

In the UK, the emergency services phone number is 999. This is a single phone number for all emergency services including the police, ambulance and fire services. The pan-European emergency number (112) should also work when you’re in the UK.

If you’re looking to get connected to the internet without using your cellular data connection, many locations now offer free wi-fi (including coffee shops, grocery stores, train station and more). The main providers are BT Wi-Fi, O2 Wi-Fi and The Cloud (there’s more information here on how to get connected).

For getting around, it’s worth being aware of the Transport for London (TfL) and National Rail Enquiries websites. They’re both invaluable for providing you with information on how to get around the UK (TfL covers public transport in London whilst National Rail Enquiries covers rail travel across the UK). You can also use Google Maps for transit directions, as well as CityMapper in major urban areas.

We hope you have a fantastic time in the UK and a very enjoyable trip!

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

  1. Greg said:

    Hi Ken,

    We are coming to the UK for 3 weeks (from NZ) – but also going via Canada, France, and Singapore – the GiffGaff looks great when in the UK – but are there Sim only roaming options that work for the side trips. Also we are likely to call home (NZ) and want to text to home (NZ) too. Data is likely to be our biggest usage.

    Any advice welcome.

    Great site btw – thxs

    Greg

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Greg,
      Many thanks for your comment. You can use the SIM card from giffgaff at no extra charge in France, but unfortunately Canada & Singapore are not covered there. One possible alternative is to get a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three (with their Feel At Home offer, you’ll also be able to use the SIM card at no extra charge in Singapore). With Three, you’ll need to physically top-up with cash whilst you’re in the UK. I’m not aware of any PAYG deal that also works in Canada at present, so the chances are you’ll need to get a separate SIM card there.
      Hope this helps and have an amazing trip!
      Ken

  2. Soumita said:

    Hi Ken
    Could you please suggest which SIM card should be used for mobile data network in Switzerland, I live in U.K. and for 5-6 days planning a trip to Switzerland.
    Thanks.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Soumita,
      Many thanks for your comment. I recommend taking a look at my guide to European roaming – it will highlight the mobile networks that allow you to roam in Switzerland. You can order a free Pay As You Go SIM card here if you need to get a new one for your trip.
      Ken

  3. David Palmer said:

    Hi Ken,
    My wife and I are spending a month in UK, next month and wish to obtain a local sim card, mainly to use maps to find our way around the UK in a car, so we will need UK road maps as well. Not a lot of phone use.
    What plan should we be looking for from a provider?
    Cheers
    David

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi David,
      To be honest, you’ll probably be fine getting any Pay As You Go SIM card in the UK! However, my suggestion would probably still be giffgaff based on the reasons above (e.g. being able to order a SIM card from Australia, and being able to top-up with your Australian credit card). You can get something like the £10 goodybag (approx 16AUD) which gives you 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 2GB of data. You’ll then be able to use Google Maps when you’re on-the-go, including GPS navigation.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. David Palmer replied:

        Thanks, Ken. You have confirmed my thoughts. I’ve ordered the sim card.
        Cheers
        David

  4. Pete Forman said:

    This is an excellent article but I would add two things. Visitors from the EU when roaming will pay their usual domestic rates.

    My second point, though obvious to most people, is that swapping in a UK SIM means that you cannot receive calls on your normal number.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Pete,
      Many thanks for your feedback and input on this! I agree – these are two very important and key points – I’ve just updated the article so hopefully this is a little bit clearer!
      Thanks again,
      Ken

  5. Dinesh said:

    Hi Ken,
    I visit the UK usually once or twice a year. I’d like to keep the same number and not bother buying a sim each time. Do you know of any payg schemes that won’t expire (usually after 12 months of non use they no longer work) but a cost effective? Thanks.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Dinesh,
      Many thanks for your comment. Yes, take a look at my article here for a full in-depth discussion about the issue. In short, most mobile networks require you to use your phone at least once every 6 months in order to keep it active (on some networks, this goes up to 270 days). If you’re abroad, you can always keep the SIM card active by sending a text message through the roaming service.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  6. Tolg said:

    Hi. Can you tell me if the Asus Zenfone Max ZC550KL works in the UK and specifically what 4G network providers it will work with in the UK? Thanks in advance!

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Tolg,
      According to GSMArena, the Asus Zenfone Max ZC550KL supports LTE bands 3, 7 and 20. If this is the case, it will work on all 4G network providers in the UK 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  7. Monica said:

    I travel a lot to the UK in my work (I work offshore) and recently bought a pay-as-you-go sim card at Tesco. It worked fine for the first month but now I wanted to top it up. This proved to be more difficult than I would have thought. I could not top it up online as you need a UK address to do that and not only that, you also need a UK credit card. Nowhere in their “Terms & Conditions” could I see that I could not top it up without a UK address or UK credit card! Not only that, the pay-as-you-go sim also have a Parental control by default, a thing you cannot lift unless you have a UK address and UK credit card. So, I have really wasted £15 which I paid to get a top-up voucher and is stuck with a sim card that have restrictions when it comes to internet, I cannot go to sites that are considered not suitable for children, i.e. I cannot read the newspaper properly or click on links in Facebook etc! And Tesco Mobile want to charge me £1 to lift the Parental Control, and I can do that using a credit card but, yes you guessed, – they don’t accept non-UK credit cards! So it’s really “Catch 22”.

    I will need to get a new sim card with a provider that accepts non-UK credit cards and where you are able to top-up online as well as in a shop somewhere. I am not that concerned about calling, I need the sim card for internet. Any suggestions?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Monica,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I’ve not looked in to see which mobile networks will allow you to top-up with an international credit card online. I believe international cards are sometimes rejected for online top-ups as there is a high chance of fraud.
      If you’re physically present in the UK, there should be lots of places where you can top-up in person (e.g. at supermarkets, petrol stations, etc). Your international credit card should be accepted here. With regards to removing parental controls, this could probably also be done through in-store document verification (that is, if you’re using one of the major mobile networks who actually have a physical store).
      Another way to side-step this might be to set up a UK-based pre-paid card (if you’re an EU citizen, this shouldn’t be too hard) or cheekily you might be able to borrow someone else’s card for the age verification process (with their permission of course!).
      So unfortunately I have to stop short of giving a concrete recommendation but hopefully this should give you a few pointers in the right direction.
      Ken

  8. Jojo said:

    Hi

    Wondering if you could help me please? Currently living in Canada but will be returning to live back in the UK next spring. I have a Samsung S7 and I am not sure if it will work in the UK. Here are the specs for it:

    4G LTE : (Band 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41)
    4G UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (B1, B2, B4, B5, B8)
    2.5G (GSM): 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz

    Thanks in advance for any help 😀

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Jojo,
      You’ll be glad to know your handset will work on any UK network providing it’s unlocked. In the UK, we use the following bands:
      4G LTE: Bands 3, 7 and 20
      3G UMTS/HSPA: Band 1 (2100MHz)
      2.5G GSM: 900MHz and 1800MHz
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. Jojo replied:

        Thanks for your reply! That is great news

  9. John said:

    Hi Ken. Good day! I’ve read your article and very useful. I am currently here in UK and got a sim. May I know if this is possible to reload as I will stay here for 3 months? I read that the sim load will be usable only for a month. Your response is much appreciated. Cheers!

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes: you can reload or top-up your SIM card with additional credit to continue using it after the credit expires 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. John replied:

        Cheers mate!

  10. John said:

    Hi there
    My phone supports 4G: FDD-LTE B1/B3/B7/B20
    I am using it perfectly on 3 network but will it support other networks as well.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi John,
      Thanks for your comment. You’ll be glad to know the phone will work on any 4G network in the UK (we use FDD-LTE bands 3, 7 and 20).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  11. Ian Besch said:

    Hey Ken,

    I’ve visited this thread before – I say again, it’s very useful, thanks.

    I travelled to Scotland this past September (2016) and picked up an EE PAYG card at WHSmith’s in the Edinburgh airport. For the second year in a row the SIM cards from EE have not been recognized by my Moto G 1st gen unlocked phone. The folks at the EE store in Edinburgh couldn’t get their test SIM to work either – go figure. I replaced it with a card from O2 which did work in the phone, although I wasn’t impressed with their coverage (other than in and around urban centres). I have an old Orange card which my phone “sees” as well. I guess the claim on the EE package that the SIM card “works in all phones” may need to be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to the Moto G 1st gen!

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Ian,
      Very strange! Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure why this didn’t work (in theory, there shouldn’t be any issues with incompatibility). It sounds like it’s possibly a manufacturing issue with the EE SIM card, hence why the O2 & Orange SIM cards work in your phone. However, this doesn’t explain why EE’s tester SIM card also failed, unless the same problem occurred on both SIM card.
      Ken

  12. Steve said:

    Hi Ken,

    I have a :

    W/CDMA 2100Mhz 3G Mobile Cell Phone Signal Repeater Booster Amplifier

    On route to the UK to help boost signal on my Lenovo X3 Vibe android 6 smart fone which works fine on Three network (contract)

    Will this work ok for a 3G signal as a bit confused because Hsdpa is listed in some comments for the 2100mhz 3g signal and not W/CDMA !?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your comment. HSDPA is basically an improved version of WCDMA: you can treat them as more-or-less the same time in this situation. One word of warning however: I’d double check on the legality of using the repeater in the UK (if it’s an active repeater that actually broadcasts its own signal, the chances are it will be illegal to use this in the UK).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Steve replied:

        Hi Ken,

        Thanks for your reply well it most definitely works in the UK I don’t know whether its active but you do plug it into the mains and it has an aerial!

        It enhances your signal but it only has a short distance (5 meters or so) and I am only using it for camping when in remote areas as struggle to get a connection I have only tried it at home to test it so far !

        Regards, Steve

  13. Brendon said:

    Cellular Networks – GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900, UMTS/HSPA+/WCDMA 850, 1700, 1900, 2100 im so confused which network i supposed to go on for right sim in the uk for my neptunepine phone watch

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Brendon,
      The good news is your device should work on all UK mobile networks! Every UK mobile network uses WCDMA 2100 for 3G. For 2G, O2 & Vodafone use GSM 900 whereas EE uses GSM 1800.
      Ken

  14. Paul Wilkinson said:

    Hi Ken.

    I’ve just bought a retro Blaupunkt cassette player which has a telephone system built in.

    Looking at the specs I think this uses GSM900.

    “Telephone Standard: GSM Frequency band:Send 890 – 915 MHz/Receive 935 – 960 MHz”

    My friend thought it may be analogue and defunct. Could you advise if I can still get a SIM for this unit (credit card sized, so I may have to make one up from a smaller SIM)

    Here’s the manual..

    http://www.blaupunkt.com/fileadmin/user_upload/Service/SERVICEDOKU_ZIEL/BA/GB/7647980010001_BA_GB.pdf

    Thanks

    Paul

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure whether this will still work, though in theory you can use O2 and Vodafone as they have coverage on GSM 900 (you won’t be able to use EE or Three as they definitely won’t work). Getting a SIM card from giffgaff will probably be your best option in terms of value for money (giffgaff makes use of coverage from O2).
      With regards to the credit card sized SIM cards: believe it or not, free SIM cards are normally still provided in a credit card sized format. Rather than popping out the SIM card from the centre as you normally do, just insert the entire thing into your device!
      Please do let me know if you have any success with this (this is certainly one of the most interesting comments I’ve had for a long time!)
      Ken

      1. Paul Wilkinson replied:

        Thanks for the prompt reply Ken.

        I have ordered an 02 SIM card so hopefully that can be ‘trained’ as the manual suggests.

        I’ll keep you updated

        1. Paul Wilkinson replied:

          Update:

          My 02 SIM card arrived (credit card sized) and after downloading the Blaupunkt user manual I managed to clone the original Blaupunkt settings onto the 02 card.

          Once this process was complete I tested the unit and was able to dial out successfully.

          I am now waiting to take delivery of the handset and microphone to complete the unit.

          Thanks for the advice Ken.

          1. Ken replied:

            Hi Paul,
            Fantastic stuff! Really glad to know you were able to get the Blaupunkt to work 🙂 Congratulations!
            Thanks,
            Ken

  15. Ahmad said:

    Hi Ken ,

    I bought a Xiaomo redmi 3 phone from China. I am with talkmobile and it doesn’t connect to mobile data. They say the phone supports the following frequenceis:
    2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
    4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100/2600MHz
    Is there any way I can it connected to mobile data, it works well otherwise.
    Many thanks.

    Ahmad

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Ahmad,
      The handset should be compatible with the Talkmobile network as they use WCDMA 2100MHz. Just wondering if you’ve got the Talkmobile internet settings? If you don’t have their APN settings, this might stop you from connecting to mobile data.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  16. Nick Elton said:

    Hi Ken,

    Is there anyway of finding out which parts of the UK use Vodafone at 900MHz and which parts at 1800MHz?

    Thanks!

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Nick,
      This is a great question! Unfortunately, I don’t know of any easy way to do this, as they don’t split up their online coverage map between GSM900 and GSM1800. It might be possible to find out from Vodafone directly? I’m sure they’ll hold this information somewhere in their systems, though whether customer service will have access to it is a totally different matter.
      Ken

    2. Martin replied:

      As far as I know 1800mhz is only used to provide extra capacity in city centres and other high demand areas. 900mhz is available everywhere. A 900mhz only phone will provide good coverage everywhere, 1800 only provide only very limited coverage.

  17. Arlene Gunawan said:

    Hi Ken, thanks a lot for your helpful guide. I’m planning to go around Scotland including the island of Skye this July. What I need the most is the internet and GPS signal.Do you have recomendation for the one with best coverage in Scotland? And maybe some cheaper alternatives for the data plan with decent coverage in Scotland?

    Thank you very much 🙂

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Arlene,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t give you any detailed advice about coverage in those areas (you might want to try a local forum for the area). I suspect it’ll be either O2 and Vodafone giving the best coverage, but this is an absolute guess! Once you’ve found out which mobile network gives the best coverage, you can see my guide on virtual network operators and Pay As You Go SIM cards.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  18. Iain Purdie said:

    Hi.

    I’m looking into buying a Mobile Signal Booster for EE. Would one from the US for T-mobile work here?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Iain,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t know how US mobile signal boosters work so I can’t give you a full and detailed answer. Does it pick up a signal and re-broadcast it? If so, it’s probably illegal to use this in the UK without a license (but it probably won’t work as we use different frequencies here in the UK). If it’s a femtocell, the answer is the same – if it’s just a leaky feeder or something along those lines then it should probably work fine.
      Ken

  19. Zbigniew said:

    Hey
    I want to buy a phone from outside the UK but use here
    4G: LTE FDD-2100/1800/2600 / 800MHz (B1 / B3 / B7 / B20)
    I now use the 4G network Three, my question is whether this frequency will work with my SIM card Three 4G
    Please help

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      Yes! In fact, it will work on any 4G mobile network here in the UK (we use bands 3, 7 and 20).
      Ken

  20. William Bryson said:

    Hello again Ken. I have a question Please.I am with Sprint here in the US and have bought a Three.co.uk PAYG all you can eat 30Day Sim.When I swap the Sims will I still have my contacts, apps etc. I have tried to find an answer to this but all the results just talk about switching phones not Sims.. Thank you very much I am not much of a tech person. Cheers and thhak you for a Great Site.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi William,
      Thanks for your comment and that’s a very good question! Yes, your phone book and applications should still be available after changing your SIM card. They’re normally stored on your handset’s internal storage rather than on the SIM card. For this reason, changing the SIM card will not affect it.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  21. Terry Maker said:

    Hi Ken,

    I have an unlocked AT&T Motorola VA76r here in the UK, that only does calls, and texts, due to the bands it uses. (GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900)

    Have you any thoughts on a UK sim card that would give me internet access as well?

    My current PAYG EE sim doesn’t support it!

    Regards
    Terry

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Terry,
      Thanks for your comment! In theory, your phone should support 2G internet on those bands (assuming it has GPRS or EDGE listed on the spec sheet) but this will be super-slow (you’ll essentially get dial-up internet speeds). If you’d like to use it, the chances are you’ll need to set up the APN settings for EE. You can also use 2G internet on O2 and Vodafone (both of which use GSM 900 which is supported by your phone).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Harold Bennett replied:

        Hi Ken,

        I too have a unlocked handset purchased from the US and wanting to use it in the UK with EE.

        The info on the handset is as follows:

        GSM: 850/1900 MHz
        HSPA: 850/1900 MHz
        LTE: 700/1700/2600 MHz

        Can this device work in the UK?

        Many thanks

        1. Ken replied:

          Hi Harold,
          Thanks for your comment. Are they the only bands supported by the handset? If so, it’s highly unlikely that device will work in the UK (it uses totally different bands to what the UK networks use).
          Ken

  22. steve clayton said:

    I am looking at buying an INEW U3 dual sim 4G phone. Will this work with Tesco Mobile 3G sim and a ‘3’ 3g/4g sim?. It seems to cover most if not all frequencies of some phones that you say will work. Thanks for you help.

    2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz(band5,band8,band3,band2)
    3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz(band8,band1)
    4G: FDD-LTE 2100/1800/2600/900/800MHz(Band 1/3/7/8/20)

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes – your phone should work absolutely fine on any mobile network here in the UK. Tesco Mobile (which runs on O2) uses GSM 900MHz, WCDMA 2100MHz and FDD-LTE band 20 (800MHz).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  23. Alan said:

    Just found you and really appreciate the effort you have made to help users. May have been caught out by buying a used HTC M8 on eBay as a share and backup to my regular M8s. This happens to be the week when many of we longstanding Three Network customers had our monthly charges doubled.
    Along with many others I’ve fallen for the Vodafone special offer of 20GB and unlimited minutes and texts for £20 per month.
    However, just discovered the Vodafone 4G SIM won’t register for 4G but ok for 3G and data.
    Long efforts with Vodafone customer service and their store teams. Phoned HTC today who identified the phone as a Taiwanese version and said absolutely nothing I can do to get 4G in UK on any network. Is there any firmware upgrade products hardware and software fix? It seemed such a bargain!

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Alan,
      Thanks for your comment. I guess this is because Vodafone uses band 20 (800MHz) LTE. Band 20 is typically used only in the EU, which explains why a Taiwanese handset may be lacking support for it. For band 3 LTE (1800MHz), your only two options in the UK are Three or EE.
      Unfortunately, there’s no way of adding support for a new band to your handset – it’s a hardware limitation of the device. Sorry to report back with the bad news 🙁
      Ken

      1. Alan replied:

        Again many thanks to you Ken for all this work. Two comments in passing. When I asked HTC what I could have done to avoid buying a non-EU handset, all they could suggest was before buying to phone them with an IMEI number. Unsure how possible/practical it is in the heat of an eBay auction! Doesn’t seem to be any self-verification process that we could ask sellers to supply in advance (but I think Apple has something if you suspect phone could be stolen).

        On a lighter note. took my HTC M8 into the third Vodafone store (ever hopeful) to try for 4G coverage, and after twenty minutes one of the young sales girls (not tech support) lifted it up to look at it and instantly the 4G symbol popped up! Ran Ookla speedtest and confirmed as typical 4G speed. All excited, walked out of store as it was closing and within three minutes 4G dropped off and has never returned!

        A self-evident discovery is just how dramatically different the quality of 4G coverage is (i.e. the strength of signal, not just coverage). Within the Vodafone store ‘Ookla’ speeds of 35-39mb and uploads 40mb – assume they have a super-strength dedicated aerial within the store. Less than a km away here in Mayfair (the centre of the centre of London!) lucky to see 8-14mb 4G downloads on all my devices.

        1. Ken replied:

          Hi Alan,
          Thanks for getting back to me!
          With regards to the first point, I’d personally expect the onus to be on the retailer that sells the handset (an imported or foreign model should normally be clearly marked in the description). The other tell-tale sign, of course, is the specifications listed (e.g. was it made clear that the handset was imported & that it lacks support for some LTE bands in the UK). I’m not sure how this would apply to a second-hand sale on eBay, but I would certainly expect it when buying a new device from reputable online retailers.
          With regards to you getting 4G coverage in Vodafone: that’s super, super interesting. Vodafone does actually have some 4G coverage at 2600MHz (band 7). Typically, this is only really used in conjunction with the 800MHz spectrum (band 20) to give faster speeds on LTE-Advanced (also known as 4G+ on EE and 4.5G on Vodafone). It’s possible your handset was able to pick up the 2600MHz signal, which would have given you 4G coverage for the short time you were inside the store. I wasn’t aware you could pick up this signal on its own, but if so there’s at least a glimmer of good news!
          Thanks,
          Ken

  24. Hayat said:

    Hello Ken

    I have just purchased a phone watch with a micro SIM card that works only with 2G network. Is it possible to use a 3G sim card? Or what does it take to upgrade to 3G? I live in the US where 2G coverage is very spotty.
    Thank you for your help,
    Hayat

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Hayat,
      Thanks for your comment. If your phone watch is only compatible with 2G networks, unfortunately it won’t be possible to access 3G coverage (even if you had a 3G-compatible handset). If the phone watch is able to connect to 3G networks, then you can connect to 3G providing you have a 3G-ready SIM card (I’m expecting the majority of SIM cards distributed in the last 15 years should already be 3G-ready).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Hayat replied:

        Hello Ken
        Thank you for your helpful response and promptness.
        Best,
        Hayat

  25. Pearl said:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for sharing such a great site! I’m from Singapore and will be traveling to UK early next month. I will buy a SIM card when I arrive at London as you have recommended. May I know would the SIM card still usable when I am at Northern Ireland?

    Thank you.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Pearl,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes: you can use your SIM card when you go to Northern Ireland (all of the normal UK networks are available there).
      Have a lovely trip to the UK next month! 🙂
      Ken

  26. Anna said:

    Hi Ken,

    Firstly, thanks for this advice on this page it has been really useful.

    I was looking to buy the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge off eBay (as no shops sell it), however I can’t get my hands on a UK version. I am looking at the N915G model, which uses the following:

    GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 , HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 ,LTE 700 / 850 / 900 / 1700 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600

    I want to buy a Giffgaff sim however I assume at the moment I can’t use O2 4g, as I believe it uses 800MHz, however will I still be able to get 3g?

    Also, I read O2 are expanding to get 1800MHz, do you know where I can see when this will be in my area?

    Any advice welcome.

    Thanks for your help
    Anna

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Anna,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re right: giffgaff/O2 uses band 20 LTE (800MHz). For this reason, it won’t work on your imported model. With regards to 1800MHz, only EE and Three have the necessary spectrum with which to offer this service. If the upcoming merger between O2 and Three is given the go-ahead, you could speculate that O2 might combine some their spectrum with Three. Saying that, the merger hasn’t yet been given the go-ahead and it may come with certain conditions (e.g. it might be necessary for the combined network to dispose of some of their spectrum).
      Ken

  27. Trang Thai said:

    Hi Ken,

    This topic is so helpful. But it is almost a foreign language to me. All I know is that we have to make smart choices.

    So, I plan to buy an unlocked iphone 5 that was originally with AT&T (the provider uses GSM).

    Here are the specs from AT&T’s website
    https://www.att.com/shop/wireless/devices/apple/iphone/5-16gb-white.html

    Wireless Technology
    4G-LTE Band 4 and 17
    4G HSPA+ with enhanced backhaul
    3G – UMTS 850/900/1900/2100MHz
    GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900MHz

    Do you think it will be compatible with EE in UK? Thank you so much.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Trang,
      Thanks for your comment. Based on the specifications listed in your comment, it won’t work on the 4G networks here in the UK (in the UK, we use band 3, band 7 and band 20 LTE). It will work on any UK network with 2G and 3G coverage, including EE who use GSM1800 and UMTS2100.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Trang Thai replied:

        Thanks Ken for a very prompt response.

        That was what I thought, too. It seems like no US iphone could work for UK 4G. The international or UK version is the only (and safe) way to go.

        Happy holidays!

      2. Trang Thai replied:

        Hi Ken,

        I have sent you an update before but seems like it never made its way to you.
        Starting from iphone 5S (not 5), therefore including iphone 6 and iphone 6S, have specs that work fine for UK networks.

        I sent my bf in UK an iphone 5S, accepting the risk, and it worked just fine.

        http://www.apple.com/lae/iphone-5s/specs/

        Model A1533 (GSM)*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)

        Most of iphone 5S from other carriers should work as well as I see band 20.

        Model A1533 (CDMA)*: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)
        Model A1453*: CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26)
        Model A1457*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20)
        Model A1530*: UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20); TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40)

  28. Joanne kelly said:

    Hi Ken,

    I recently brought a Nexus 5 D829 model (unlocked) and then realised it is the North American version of the phone. I want to use it in the UK, preferably on EE/orange network. I have included the details of the phones connectivity below. Will I be ok to use this phone in the UK?

    2G Network CDMA 800 / 1900
    GSM 850/900/1800/1900

    3G Network HSDPA 800 / 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 / 900

    4G Network LTE 700 / 800 / 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600

    Many thanks,

    Jo

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Joanne,
      You can use the phone in the UK on 2G and 3G (as it supports GSM 900, GSM 1800 and HSDPA 2100). For 4G, it depends on the exact bands supported by your phone. In the UK, we use band 3 LTE, band 7 LTE and band 20 LTE (1800MHz, 2600MHz and 800MHz). While the specifications in your comment list 800MHz & 2600MHz, I’m not sure these are the right bands to be used in the UK (e.g. band 18 and band 19 are also 800MHz, and coverage on 2600MHz will be super limited). If your handset supports band 20 LTE, you should be fine to use 4G in the UK.
      Ken

      1. Joanne kelly replied:

        Thanks Ken that’s great. I think my contract is 3G as I only pay £15 a month for unlimited calls, texts and data on a sim only deal (I came out of contract last year and was given a good deal by EE). The 4G contracts are much more expensive I’ve noticed and I’ve not had a new contract phone for a few years now. That’s set my mind at ease as I thought the phone would be totally useless here in the UK.

        Really appreciate your help.

        Many thanks,

        Joanne

  29. James Stone said:

    Hi Ken

    Great site with good advice.

    I brought two Blu Studio 6.0 HD phones from the U.S to use in the U.K

    the Phone specs are

    Technology
    GSM / HSPA
    2G bands GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – SIM 1 & SIM 2
    3G bands HSDPA 850 / 1900 – D650a
    HSDPA 850 / 2100 – D650i
    Speed HSPA 21.1/5.76 Mbps
    GPRS Class 12
    EDGE Class 12

    Two questions really, we are not locked to any network so will any network run on these phones ?

    And is it possible to re-program the frequencies to work in U.K ? either by flashing the rom or any software add on ?

    Thank you in advance !

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi James,
      Thanks for your comment. In theory, providing your handset is unlocked:
      – The D650a will only give you 2G coverage on EE, O2 and Vodafone (EE uses 1800MHz whereas O2 and Vodafone use 900MHz)
      – The D650i will give you 2G and 3G coverage (you can use any UK network as they all use 2100MHz spectrum).
      For information about virtual network operators such as giffgaff, see the article here for more information.
      Unfortunately, it’s not possible to re-program the frequencies on which your handset will work – it’s a function of the physical hardware inside of your handset.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. James Stone replied:

        Hello Ken

        Again thank you for the great advice, it was a gamble using them in UK.

        Great website !!!

        Thanks

  30. ali said:

    hi ken
    i have bought a phone from china LG G2 and after checking i found its USA t-mobile made. i live in UK so its running on 2g only not supporting 3g,4g
    any suggestion for me please

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Ali,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s worth having a look at the page here on LG’s website (it has a list of supported bands on the T-Mobile US version of the LG G2). According to the specs there, it should support 3G in the UK (it has UMTS band 1 or 2100MHz which is what we use here in the UK). 4G isn’t supported (as we use bands 3, 7 and 20 here in the UK).
      Ken

  31. Peter said:

    Dear Ken, Thanks for a most informative website. I will be traveling to the UK next year carrying a Verizon Samsung Galaxy S5 with me. You state correctly that the Verizon network uses CDMA but will my phone work in the UK? I say this because apparently the S5 has Global functionality and I believe will work on several different bands i.e. Global/CDMA/LTE/GSM/UTMS. I believe the Galaxy GSM band utilizes the 800/1900 Mhz range so it should work in the UK right?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your comment. Your smartphone should indeed work in the UK if it supports GSM 900, GSM 1800, UMTS/WCDMA 2100 or LTE band 3/7/20. If you’re planning to use your Verizon tariff here, you should double-check with them to make sure roaming is enabled. If you’re planning to get a free SIM card when you’re here in the UK, you’ll need to make sure your Galaxy S5 is unlocked for use on other networks.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. Peter replied:

        Thank you Ken for your verification, that’s really good to know! Keep up the good work!

  32. zegen pei said:

    my smartphone support Fdd lte band1/3.
    And i get a talk home mobile sim card, it can not use the 4G network. Why?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      Unfortunately, Talk Home Mobile doesn’t provide any 4G coverage (they only provide 2G & 3G coverage on the EE network). See my article on my mobile network coverage for more information. If you’d like to use FDD-LTE band 3 in the UK, you’ll need to choose a mobile network with 4G coverage on either Three or EE.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. zegen pei replied:

        ok, thanks.

  33. Nii Nai said:

    I’m considering buying a redmi note 2 but i don’t know whether it will support EE 4G
    the bands are: GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHz; WCDMA: 850/900/1900/2100MHz, FDD LTE: 1800/2100/2600MHz

    thank you

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      It should probably support the EE 4G network (they use LTE band 3 which is at 1800MHz). It is however worth double-checking the exact bands supported by the device: the reason being that band 9 LTE also operates on 1800MHz (if the handset only supports band 9 LTE, then it won’t work on the EE 4G network).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  34. Ian said:

    Hi… Please can you advise ? I have just brought ASUS Zenfone2 and have been advised that it will run on 4g ? Currently I have Virgin Mobile (who dont support 4G) SO I want to change to a 4g provider. Can you advise what service provider will support the following –

    Networks:
    2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    3G: WCDMA 850/900/1900/2100MHz
    4G: FDD-LTE 1800/2100MHz

    Many thanks 🙂

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Ian,
      FDD-LTE at 1800MHz is supported by EE and Three in the UK. You can see the article here for more information.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. Ian replied:

        Hi Ken… Many thanks for your swift reply.

        I guess I will swap over to Three as they offer unlimited data packages… unlike EE.

        Many thanks
        Ian

  35. Damian said:

    Hi I am looking to buy a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge plus with the following specs.
    2G GSM: GSM850, GSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900
    3G UMTS: B1(2100), B2(1900), B5(850), B8(900)
    4G FDD LTE: B1(2100), B2(1900), B3(1800), B4(AWS), B5(850), B7(2600), B8(900), B12(700), B17(700), B18(800), B19(800), B20(800), B26(800)

    Will this phone work on the giff gaff network across the required bands ?

    Thanks

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Damian,
      Thanks for your comment. The phone you mentioned will indeed work on giffgaff and on the O2 network. They use the following bands to provide their service:
      2G GSM: GSM900
      3G UMTS: Band 1 (2100MHz)
      4G FDD-LTE: Band 20 (800MHz)
      It will also work on all other networks in the UK.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  36. Moheen Mahmood said:

    Hi I want to purchase a samsung galaxy note 5 unlocked from Northern America. Here are the compatible band

    2G Modes/Bands850/900/1800/1900 MHz
    Supported 3G Modes/Bands850/1700/1900/2100 MHz
    Other Supported Modes/BandsLTE+ (Bands 2/4/5/7/12/13/17/29)

    I am in the UK using tesco mobile can you tell me if 4g or lte will work in the UK with tesco mobile on this mobile please?

    I think tesco uses 800mhz maybe band 20? How many bands are there? Will 4g work? Thanks

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Moheen,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the handset will not work on 4G networks here in the UK (we mainly use band 3 and band 20 LTE). Tesco Mobile uses the O2 4G network which exclusively runs on band 20 LTE spectrum. In theory, you might be able to get very limited coverage on EE & Vodafone (2600MHz or band 7 LTE) but I wouldn’t rely on this as it’s practically non-existent.
      Ken

  37. Abhay said:

    Hi Ken

    You are doing a great job in answering all these questions. I am considering buying the Galaxy note 5 form the USA. The seller will be able to unlock it (currently on AT&T ) and send it. The model is Samsung Galaxy Note5 SM-N920A. The spec I pulled up off the net is this:

    Frequencies and Data Type Infra: 2G GSM, 3G WCDMA, 4G LTE FDD;
    2G GSM: GSM850, GSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900;
    3G UMTS: B1(2100), B2(1900), B5(850);
    4G FDD LTE: B1(2100), B2(1900), B3(1800), B4(AWS), B5(850), B7(2600), B8(900), B17(700), B20(800)

    My question to you is what are my restrictions on 3g and 4g networks in the UK as I am curently not in a contract. Sorry for such a long message, aand thank you in advance

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Abhay,
      From the looks of it, it should work on all UK networks without a problem. For 3G, we use 2100MHz. For 4G, we use band 3 (1800MHz), band 7 (2600MHz) and band 20 (800MHz) LTE. The main thing, of course, is making sure the handset is unlocked. It’s also worth making sure that the handset isn’t affected by region locking.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  38. mark said:

    hi ken great site by the way, im thinking of buying a motorola droid turbo verizon lte from hong kong asked the seller and sait it was on these bands 2G bands GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    CDMA 800 / 1900
    3G bands HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
    CDMA2000 1xEV-DO
    4G bands LTE band 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 7(2600), 13(700)
    can you tell me if these work on any uk network providers? and will i get 4g?
    thanks mark

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your comment. As mentioned above, your phone should work on any UK network providing it’s unlocked (all UK mobile networks use 2100MHz for 3G). With regards to 4G, your phone will work on EE and Three (they’re the two networks using band 3 1800MHz LTE). You won’t be able to use O2 or Vodafone 4G as they both require band 20 LTE at 800MHz.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  39. Hannah said:

    Hi

    I recently returned to the UK from Thailand where I bought a LAVA iris510 and now have a tesco sim in it which texts fine but I can’t seem to get a data connection. I have checked the specs and it does do GSM 900 and 1800 and WDCMA 2100 which seems to be what the UK uses? Can you suggest anything for me to try in order to get it working?

    Thanks,
    Hannah

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Hannah,
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you’re probably missing the Tesco Mobile APN settings. You’ll need this if you want to send a picture message or if you want to browse the mobile internet. You can find the Tesco Mobile APN settings here.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  40. Sam said:

    Ken,

    I have a friend who is moving to the UK from India as a student, soon!

    She’s planning to get a new phone (even sooner), as Meizu M2 Note with the following connectivity standards:

    Connectivity technologies GSM, (900/1800 MHz), WCDMA(850/900/1900/2100 MHz), TD-LTE, (1880-1920/2300-2400/2570-2620/2555-2655 MHz), FDD-LTE, (1920-1980/1710-1785/2500-2570 MHz)

    – I think she’d be able to use GSM without a glitch in the UK?
    – Would she also be able to use 4G with the phone?

    Any help/insight would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your comment. According to the specs listed in your comment, the Meizu M2 Note should work fine in the UK on 2G and 3G (we use GSM 900, GSM 1800 and WCDMA 2100). Unfortunately, however, it wouldn’t work on the UK 4G networks (we use FDD-LTE at bands 3, 7 and 20).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  41. Kate said:

    Hi! I’m moving to the UK in two weeks from the USA. My iPhone however, just broke. Would it be wiser to buy a phone in the USA, or to wait until I’m in the UK to buy an iPhone?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your comment. You can use an unlocked iPhone from the US whilst in the UK. It’s probably also cheaper to buy the handset before go 🙂 Just make sure it’s an unlocked handset (otherwise you may have difficulty unlocking it later on).
      If you choose to buy your handset in the UK, the benefits are easier access to support and less hassle with regards to unlocking.
      Ken

  42. Gabriela Opazo said:

    Hello!

    I have an LG G2 D805, I am from Chile. From LGs official website my phones characteristics are:

    GSM 850/900/1800/1900, UMTS 850/900/1900/2100, LTE 700(17)/1700(4)/2600(7)

    My phone is unlocked for any company here in Chile.

    I will be travelling to England soon, will my cellphone work with a UK SIM card?

    Thank you very much for your help!!

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Gabriela,
      Thanks for your comment. Your LG G2 will work in the UK but only with 2G and 3G coverage (for 2G we use GSM900 and GSM1800; for 3G we use UMTS 2100). Unfortunately, it won’t work on 4G networks in the UK. If you’d like to use a UK-based SIM card, you should also double-check to make sure your handset is unlocked 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  43. sue said:

    Hi
    I have just purchased an iFcane E1 mobile, it will not receive or make calls have tried 3 sim cards none work. What could be the problem?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Sue,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve just done a quick search on Google: it looks like the iFcane E1 is a 2G-only handset. Unfortunately, you must have a 3G or 4G handset before you’re able to use the Three network. The good news is it apparently supports GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz. You should, therefore, be able to use it on other networks in the UK (e.g. you could try a free SIM card from giffgaff).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  44. Moira said:

    I was given a Verizon Moto E 2nd Generation, I live in the UK. I have put a 3 (UK) sim in phone and I cannot get the phone to recognise the sim.
    I tried changing the Network from CDMA/LTE to GSM/LTE then go to the Preferred Network Mode but cannot get an option for 4G, there is only the option for LTE/CDMA?

    Can you please help me as this is beyond me now.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Moira,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve taken an in-depth look at the specifications for the Verizon Moto E 2nd Generation. Unfortunately, it won’t work on Three in the UK. This is because Three uses WCDMA band 1 (2100MHz), LTE band 20 (800MHz EUDD) and LTE band 3 (1800MHz). The Verizon Moto E doesn’t support any of these bands.
      If you’d like to use the Moto E in the UK, try a SIM card from either EE, O2 or Vodafone (those three networks have GSM 900 & GSM 1800 which is supported on the Verizon Moto E). Please note: this is only 2G coverage – it should be fine for calling and texting… browsing is also possible but will unfortunately be super-duper slow!
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  45. Yoosuf said:

    Hi I have a sprint iPhone 6 and I just landed in London from the U.S. I had previously called my sprint international services to see if there will be any outrages charges using texts/calls and data and they all told me no except 20 cents a minute per call. They told me to go to my settings, turn enable LTE off, turn roaming ON, and and then turn international CDMA off. And connect to a UK carrier, and the one I am connected to is O2-UK and my aunts wifi at her home. Is this all correct information? Or I will be left with a hefty bill when I come home to the U.S, I am here for a month currently. Do I need to get a temporary SIM card???? I’m so lost! I know roaming charges a lot, so why would sprint tell me to turn it on? They said there will be no additional charges.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Yoosuf,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with the answer to this question: it depends on what Sprint charges you for roaming. I’d advise you to double-check these charges directly with Sprint (I’m no expert on American tariffs). The good news is you definitely won’t pay a penny when using your aunt’s wi-fi connection. For this reason, I strongly advise using wi-fi whenever you can.
      Ken

    2. Arne replied:

      Alright. I just wrote a giant comment about how you should disable dataroaming, because you’re in another continent and that they definitely will charge you insane high prices, but then I found this article from April 2015:
      http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2481186,00.asp

      Leave dataroaming on then (it’s free anyways), text your homies as much as you want (it’s completely free), and calling home is really cheap (20c/min.! It’s more expensive to call from EU to EU, and you’re calling from EU to US…)

      You shouldn’t worry about using data if you’re not on WiFi, as it’s completely free, but keep in mind that you’ll only get access to the 2G network.
      2G -> GPRS / EDGE
      3G -> UMTS / HSPA
      4G -> LTE
      GPRS, EDGE and UMTS are really slow. And you won’t get anything faster than EDGE. Sending iMessages will work, Snapchat might work REALLY slowly (only photo’s, no video’s), but downloading a game or Facetiming your family… I don’t think so.
      You said you’re on Sprint: well, 2G is about the same as 1x for Sprint and Verizon. Ever had the 1x? That’s the speed you’ll get. It’s pretty useless.
      You could leave LTE off, since you won’t get any LTE reception. It looks like Sprint only has an agreement with O2’s 2G network. If can choose to only connect to 2G (Settings > Cellular data > Voice & data > 2G), than I’d reccomand you to do so. I don’t know if Sprint actually does have an agreement that allows their customers to roam on the 3G or 4G (LTE) network, but if they do, you might get charged, since they’re only talking about the 2G network in the article. You will have to have iOS 8.3 or higher for this, and your carrier must allow this (I tink all US carriers do, even without iOS 8.3, maybe it’s only for our European carriers it requires iOS 8.3).
      If you can’t find ‘Voice & Data’, or can’t find 2G, just disable LTE. You should see ‘O2-UK GPRS’ or probably ‘O2-UK E’. It’s really slow, but free.
      So don’t worry, and leave dataroamin on.

      There’s absolutely no need to get a sim card in the UK, and I’m not sure if you can get a sim card out of a CDMA phone. If you have the iPhone 6 on a contract with Sprint, it wouldn’t work anyways, since they made the iPhone work with Sprint sim cards only.

      Have a great time in the UK!
      Greetings from Belgium.

  46. Stacy said:

    Hi, I am traveling to the UK and planning to use Three’s SIM card. What compatibility should I look for in an unlocked phone? Do you have any suggestions for type of phone under 100 with GPS/maps usage?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Stacy,
      Thanks for your comment. To use your handset on Three, it needs to support 3G connectivity at 2100MHz (this may be described on the spec sheet as WCDMA 2100, HSDPA 2100, HSPA+ 2100 or something along those lines). With regards to the best value handset, I’m afraid it’s quite difficult to make a recommendation! For readers of this website, the Moto E 4G is a really popular choice (approx £90 for 4G connectivity and all of the features you mention in your comment).
      Ken

      1. Stacy replied:

        Thank you ken! Very helpful

  47. Luis said:

    Hi Ken,
    I hope you can help me… I recently bought a mobile phone in the US. I am planning to move to London in a few months. I was wondering if my BLU Vivo IV will work in UK.
    Thanking you in anticipation…

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Luis,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m pleased to report the BLU Vivo IV should work fine in the UK – just be sure to make sure it’s unlocked before you leave the US. In the UK, we use GSM 900 (2G coverage on O2 and Vodafone), GSM 1800 (2G coverage on EE) and HSDPA 2100 (3G coverage on all major networks).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  48. Neil said:

    Hi Ken

    I have just purchased a TBS3202b gps phone watch that only supports 2g GSM
    850/900/1800/1900MHz. I have tried 2 x pay as you go micro sims from EE and O2 and the watch does not recognise both cards, is there a SIM card provider in the uk that has 2g only SIM cards as I think that the cards I have are 4g compatable and the watch will not recognise the cards.
    Your help would be Much appreciated.

    Neil

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Neil,
      Thanks for your comment. Both EE and O2 still provide 2G coverage on their mobile SIM cards (on a 2G-only device, you’re still able to get 2G coverage). The only UK network not offering any 2G coverage is Three and all of the MVNOs running on Three’s network. In theory, the specs of your watch phone suggest they should work on both EE and O2 (EE uses GSM at 1800MHz whereas O2 uses GSM at 900MHz). If you’re having problems getting the smartwatch to work, you may need to contact the manufacturer.
      Ken

  49. Amarjit Ranu said:

    Hi Ken
    I am thinking of buying a HTC M9+ which is available from SZ CH.
    Would I be right in assuming that as Virgin works on EE frequency I would be able to use the mobile in the UK. Or would I be best to change mobile supplier and if so which would be the best to move over to.

    Thank you for your help.

    Kind Regards

    Ami

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Amarjit,
      Thanks for your comment. Virgin uses GSM 1800 for their 2G coverage (the same as EE). For 3G, they use 2100MHz (the same as for EE and for all other networks in the UK). Hence, your HTC M9+ should work fine in the UK on Virgin Mobile. With regards to 4G: unfortunately, Virgin Mobile doesn’t give you access to EE’s 4G network. Hence, you’ll only be able to access 2G and 3G services.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  50. Karina said:

    Hi Ken,

    I am planning to buy a Samsung Galaxy S6 edge in HK. Will it work with my Three network when I am back at UK please?
    From Samsung HK customer service, their phone support
    FDD-LTE (4G): 700,800,850,900,1800,1900,2100,2600,AWS
    TD-LTE (4G): 1900,2300,2500,2600
    UMTS/WCDMA (3G):850,900,1900,2100
    TD-SCDMA (3G): 1880,2010
    CDMA2000 (3G): 800
    GSM (2G): 850,900,1800,1900
    CDMA (2G): 800

    From Three UK customer service, they only can say they use 800 and 1800 band. Not sure whether they match? Can you please help?

    Also will I need to do the regional locking 5mins call in HK before I leave as well?

    Many thanks,

    Karina

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Karina,
      Thanks for your comment. Three uses band 3 (1800MHz) FDD-LTE and band 20 (800MHz) FDD-LTE for their 4G services in the UK. Hence, according to the specs on the Samsung Hong Kong website, it should be OK to use the handset in the UK.
      With regards to region locking: I’m not sure whether Samsung applies this to handsets in Hong Kong (check any labels on the box to see whether it’s mentioned). To be safe, it would be best to make a 5 minute phone call in Hong Kong if possible.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. Karina replied:

        Thanks Ken.

        Very helpful advise.

        Karina

  51. elsa said:

    Hi, tell me I go a new cell phone from china but the frequencies and network are: WCDMA/GSM,
    3GWCDMA900/2100
    GSM900/1800
    My micro SIM is 3G Tmobile contract will work in this cell phone or not?
    I need to know to buy this cell phone.
    Thank you
    I live in UK England

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Elsa,
      Thanks for your comment. Based on the bands you’ve described, the phone should indeed work on T-Mobile in the UK. For 2G, T-Mobile UK uses GSM 1800. For 3G, they use WCDMA 2100.
      Ken

  52. Subhaan Mahmood said:

    Hey,
    I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy s6 which is an AT&T US version but it is unlocked.
    These are the frequencies:

    • GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    • HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
    • LTE band 1(2100), 2(1900), 3(1800), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 7(2600), 8(900), 17(700), 20(800)

    Will my Three contract sim work in this phone?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Subhaan,
      Thanks for your comment. Providing the handset is unlocked, it should work without problems on Three in the UK. For reference, Three uses HSDPA 2100 for 3G connectivity and LTE band 3 (1800MHz) for 4G connectivity. It’s worth double-checking to see whether the handset has a US region-lock before you bring it to the UK. If it does, you’ll need to make a 5 minute phone call on US networks before it’ll work in the UK.
      Ken

  53. Akidcalledquest said:

    Wassup Ken

    Because I also have a HTC one M8 (only it’s a China import) , to get 4g coverage in the UK I would also have to be on either EE or Three wouldn’t I?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi there,
      I’m not entirely sure what the supported LTE bands are on the Chinese HTC One M8. However, assuming it’s the normal Asian version which supports band 1 (2100MHz), 3 (1800MHz), 7 (2600MHz), 8 (900MHz) and 28 (700MHz), you’re right: it’ll only work on EE and Three.
      Ken

  54. harold said:

    Hi Ken, not sure if my comment was sent the first time. Basically, I purchased a Yezz Andy 5T handset in USA and want to know if it will work in the UK on my 3G contract with t-mobile. I have attached link of device.

    Many thanks

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Harold,
      Thanks for your comment. In the UK, all four mobile networks use 2100MHz for their 3G service. So yes, according to the spec sheet, the handset you mentioned should work in the UK 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  55. Carol said:

    Hi Ken, We’re traveling to Scotland (with a 4 hr layover in Dublin) in a few weeks. We’ll be there about 8 days. I have an old iPhone 2 from AT&T that I got unlocked. Our newer iPhone 5c is thru Verizon, which uses CDMA, so decided to unlock the older phone for use. From my research online, it looks like Vodafone has best coverage where we’ll be. Would the best plan be to buy a Vodafone SIM card there, and get a top off? How expensive is it to call US from Scotland (a few short calls )? Won’t need to use much data, how much top off may be needed? Will the SIM & top off permit data and texting? Thanks for any help; no techie here!

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Carol,
      Thanks for your comment – hope you’re looking forward to the trip to the UK!
      As you say, Vodafone is a pretty good bet for coverage in rural areas. O2 is often pretty good as well: you can use the network coverage maps listed here to double check the coverage on each network.
      With regards to the Vodafone Pay As You Go tariff, I’ve reviewed this in more detail over at this page. To summarise, a £10 top-up on Freedom Freebees (Vodafone’s most popular tariff) will give you 150 UK minutes, unlimited UK texts and 500MB of 3G internet.
      Depending on how you’ll use the service, you might find it better value to get a SIM card on the International Freebee (this includes 60 minutes of free US calling with a £10 top-up). After this, for additional minutes calling the US, you’ll pay 1.5p/minute. The International Freebee tariff doesn’t come with data so you’ll need to buy these using your credit: it’s either £2/day for 50MB of internet or £5/month for 500MB (to get the latter, call 34441 to buy the add-on). More info on the tariff here.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  56. Gus said:

    Hello ken,
    possible to get a sim card in the UK that covers Europe as well?
    What do you recommend?
    Thanks

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Gus,
      Thanks for your comment. It is possible to use a UK-based SIM card when you’re travelling in Europe but the price will vary depending on the network you choose. I recommend having a look at my article on the best SIM cards for travelling in Europe.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  57. Chas Hydfe said:

    Hi
    A friend’s brother is visiting soon from Australia, and wants to know if he will be able to get a SIM in the UK which will work in his smartphone.
    It is this phone :-
    5.0″IPS Touch Dual SIM Unlocked Dual Core Android Smart mobile phone 3G WiFi GPS

    It gives the following info, I am struggling to work out if it will operate successfully in the UK

    SIM1(Standard SIM Slot) : 2G (GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHZ)/ 3G (WCDMA 850/2100 MHz)

    SIM2(Micro SIM Slot) : 2G (GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHZ), (Don’t Support 3G Or 4G Network)

    Any help would be great, thanks.

    Chas

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Chas,
      Thanks for your comment. The phone should work fine in the UK providing it isn’t locked to a network in Australia.
      O2 and Vodafone use GSM900 for 2G.
      EE uses GSM1800 for 2G.
      All four networks (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) use WCDMA2100 for 3G.
      For other networks (e.g. giffgaff and Tesco, see my article here for more information.
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  58. Mrs Lee said:

    Hi Ken

    I am from Singapore and would be visiting London and then Paris in early May 2015 for a total of 2 weeks.

    Would like to seek your help on the following questions:

    1. Would I be able to use a Three’s “Pay As You Go” data SIM with the “Feel At Home” offer across both countries? (I am wondering if “Feel At Home” is only meant for UK citizens traveling to other EU countries.)

    2. Would I need to change any settings on my iPhone6 for the data to come in when I am in France? (Basically, would it be a seamless network transition between 2 countries?)

    Thank you!

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Mrs Lee,
      Thanks for your comment.
      1. Yep – you can indeed use the Three SIM card in both the UK and France (just be sure to buy an All in One add-on when you get the new SIM card). There’s no need to be a UK citizen to get the Three SIM card. Simply walk in to any Three store in the UK to get one of the SIM cards or order it online for delivery to a UK address (unfortunately, Three will not dispatch the SIM card to other countries).
      2. Nope! Providing your iPhone to set to choose a network automatically, it will work seamlessly in France without any need for configuration.
      Don’t forget to unlock your iPhone before coming to the UK and enjoy a lovely trip when you visit in May!
      Ken

  59. Spandana said:

    Dear Ken,

    I am from India. I recently bought Lenovo A6000. I am providing the gsmarena link here:

    http://www.gsmarena.com/lenovo_a6000-6938.php

    From your very helpful review above, I think it is going to work in UK. I shall be travelling to UK in August, and wish to use a pay-as-you-go sim of Lyca/ Lebara. Can you confirm whether the set is compatible (regarding the GSM 2G/3G bands)?

    Also, are any of the pay-as-you-go sims available in the Airports micro-sim? It seems that the mobile companies have stopped making mini-sim phones. Should I carry a mini-sim set that I know has worked well in UK (my previous set, samsung galaxy S advance is one such set)?

    I must say you are doing one hell of a job, helping all of us out here.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Spandana,
      Thanks for your comment. I can happily confirm that the Lenovo A6000 supports 2G, 3G and 4G coverage here in the UK. For 2G coverage in the UK, you need 900MHz or 1800MHz. For 3G, you need 2100MHz (O2 and Vodafone also have some 3G coverage at 900MHz but it’s not actually necessary for your phone to support this). For 4G, you’ll need 800MHz, 1800MHz or 2600MHz (the Lenovo A6000 supports all three).
      Longer answer (if you’d like more detail):
      – Lycamobile uses coverage from O2. Required bands are GSM 900 for 2G, HSDPA 900/2100 for 3G and LTE 800 for 4G.
      – Lebara Mobile uses coverage from Vodafone. Required bands are GSM 900 for 2G and HSDPA 900/2100 for 3G. 4G coverage isn’t currently available on Lebara.
      As a side note, take a look at my comparison table for international calling using your smartphone (you might find giffgaff offers better value than both Lycamobile & Lebara Mobile).
      Finally, it shouldn’t be a problem getting a SIM card in any of the three sizes (Mini SIM, Micro SIM and Nano SIM are all easily available). Do be aware if you’re buying at the airport you’ll normally pay more for the SIM card itself (a shop in the airport may charge around £10 whereas you can get the SIM card for free elsewhere in the UK).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

      1. Spandana replied:

        Thanks boss! Cheers!

  60. Michael said:

    Hi, Ken. I’m an American considering pre-ordering a Three SIM card to use in my American mobile phone for my upcoming UK and Ireland visit. If I have one mailed to me in the US, when does the 30-day clock start: When the SIM card is sent to me, or when I first use it?

    Thanks, Michael

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment. I presume you’re looking to get an All in One bundle on Three Pay As You Go with the Feel At Home offer so you’re also able to use your allowances in Ireland? If so, the 30 day period starts from when you activate the bundle (this will be when you arrive in the UK and when you first use the SIM card on Three’s network).
      By the way, depending on the SIM card you’ve ordered, you might need to follow the instructions here to buy the All-in-One add-on.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  61. Becca said:

    Hi Ken,

    Love your page. Just got a quick question about buying phones abroad as well. I planning to buy the new Samsung Note 4 when I’m on holiday in Hong Kong. Would there be any limitations on which networks I could have it on when I return back to the UK (preferable on 3g or 4g networks)?

    Thanks in advance,
    Becca

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Becca,
      Thanks for your comment. The Hong Kong version of the Galaxy Note 4 (SM-N910U) should work on all 2G and 3G networks here in the UK. With regards to 4G, it unfortunately lacks support for Band 20 LTE (800MHz). This means you’re unable to use it on the O2 4G network and the Vodafone 4G network. You still have access to Band 3 LTE (1800MHz) which will give you some coverage on EE and Three (see my article on the UK’s 4G landscape).
      One more thing: Samsung implements region locking on their Galaxy smartphones. Before you’re able to use the handset in the UK, you’ll need to activate it on a network in Hong Kong (this requires you to make a voice call of at least 5 minutes on a Hong Kong network).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  62. Jay said:

    Hi Ken – This is very useful information:o)

    I was wondering if you knew if the Sharp Aquos Crystal/Crystal X can be used in the UK? I am aware that it has been released in Japan and the USA, but I am not sure if it is just CDMA?

    http://www.devicespecifications.com/en/model/031a2ede – Where are the specs, but I can’t seem to find any info on the bands, the UK service providers use for 2/3/4G…

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Jay,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve taken a look at the link you provided – the handset would work on any 2G or 3G network here in the UK. For reference, O2 and Vodafone use GSM 900MHz; EE uses GSM 1800MHz. For 3G, all four networks operate on UMTS 2100MHz (O2 and Vodafone also have some UMTS 900MHz but I would generally ignore them as coverage is very limited). For 4G, the handset would only work on Three or EE (only these two networks have LTE at 1800MHz).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  63. mike said:

    Hi I have a lenovo S8/S898t+
    TD-SCDMA 850/2100Mhz. it works fine on my contract talktalk Sim on 2g, but is their any other UK sims I could get to use the 3g? Thanks

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. Your Lenovo Golden Warrior S8 will only work on 2G networks here in the UK. This is because the handset supports GSM 900 and GSM 1800 (these frequencies are used for 2G in the UK).
      For 3G, we use WCDMA technology. Unfortunately, WCDMA coverage is not incompatible with the TD-SCDMA technology used by China Mobile.
      Ken

  64. Stephen said:

    Hi

    I wish to know if T-Mobile in the UK will be compatible with a phone that support the following networks & frequency:

    Networking GSM/WCDMA
    Frequency
    2G: GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
    3G: WCDMA 900/2100MHz

    Some of the research I have done suggests that it will, but I found a site that said that for 3G the phone would have to be compatible with both 1700 AND 2100 MHz, while others say just 2100 MHz, although I may be getting details for America and UK confused. At the end of the day I would to just confirm if the phone will work with T-mobile in the UK.

    Many thanks in advance for any help.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Stephen,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to report your phone will work fine on T-Mobile in the UK. T-Mobile in the UK uses GSM 1800MHz and WCDMA 2100MHz, both of which are supported on your handset.
      WCDMA 1700/2100MHz refers to the AWS band used by T-Mobile in the USA (it’s not applicable for users in the UK).
      Ken

      1. Stephen replied:

        Hi Ken

        BIG THANKS FOR YOUR QUICK FEEDBACK!

        I have had a similar reply from US-T-mobile community forum which along with your reply re-enforces my own research.

        Have good 2015.

        Regards Stephen

        1. Ken replied:

          No worries Stephen: glad to be of help! Wishing you a happy new year and all the best for 2015 🙂
          Ken

  65. Satnam said:

    I have purchased a Motorola Nexus 6 from the US (Sprint unlocked). I live in the UK and have a micro sim that i cut to nano sim size to use in the device. This worked without any issue and i also ordered an ‘official’ nano sim from EE.

    EE deactivated my old (cut) sim and activated the new one, this however does not work.

    Is there a difference between the micro sim and the nano sim that might cause this?

    Or does the phone itself not allow it to use the uk nano sim?

    In the phone menu accessed by *#4636#*#* i only see 4 bands:

    USA Band
    Band mode 6
    Band mode 7
    Band mode 15

    I’m not sure if this is related to the SIM or phone.

    Many thanks in advance, Satnam.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Satnam,
      Thanks for your comment. It’s really odd that the self-cut Nano SIM is working in the phone but the officially provided Nano SIM isn’t. There shouldn’t be any significant differences between the physical SIM cards so it is rather odd that things aren’t working properly. If possible, I would probably try using the new nano SIM within another handset (this will allow you to double-check the nano-SIM is working properly). You could also try using a nano-SIM from a different mobile network (this will tell you if it’s a problem specifically with the EE nano-SIM or rather a problem with nano-SIMs in general).
      Good luck in finding the solution to your problem,
      Ken

  66. riho said:

    Hi there I have just bought a mobile phone called Xiaomi Red Note. There are 2 versions; 3g and the 4g, I purchased the 4g version. Could you tell me if this phone would work in the UK? Thank you

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Riho,
      Could you kindly provide the specifications for the handset you bought? I’ve found the GSMArena page on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4G (not sure if this is the one you bought?). If so, according to that page, 3G only works with TD-SCDMA technology and 4G with TD-LTE technology. Unfortunately, in the UK, we use neither of those technologies (we use WCDMA and FDD-LTE). Hence, the handset wouldn’t work on 3G or 4G networks here in the UK. 2G connectivity should still be fine (the handset supports GSM 900 & 1800) but your download speeds will be incredibly limited.
      Ken

      1. riho replied:

        Thank you for your reply.

        I bought mine directly from China through a friend, and according to her, there are two types of 4G specifications on the phone of the same model:

        (1) TD-LTE/FDD-LTE/WCDMA/GSM and

        (2) TD-LTE/TD-SCDMA/GSM.

        The one that I bought is the (1) version with the FDD-LTE and WCDMA. Since you mentioned that the UK have both of those, I guess the phone will work here.

        1. Ken replied:

          Hi Riho,
          Fantastic! Yep… WCDMA and FDD-LTE are the things you’re looking for. As well as checking the technologies, you’ll also need to check the supported frequencies. For 3G connectivity, it must support WCDMA at 2100MHz. For 4G connectivity, you’ll need FDD-LTE at 800MHz or 1800MHz (that’s band 3 or band 20). EE and Vodafone should also theoretically support band 7 FDD-LTE (2600MHz) though I’m not sure whether they’ve actually begun to roll out this type of coverage.
          Ken

          1. riho replied:

            Hi Ken,

            Thank you! I’m glad I made the right purchase! Thanks again for helping me out

            riho

  67. Rob said:

    Hi Tim,

    I have just bought a ZGPAX S8 for my son for Christmas. but I cant get the sim to work in it.

    it says on the box it is 3g compatible and works with wcdma 2100mhz

    My son has “THREE” NETWORK SIM CARD we are in the uk.

    Should this sim card work on this watch phone.

    Thank you for your time.

    Rob

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Rob,
      Thanks for getting in touch with your question. A device supporting WCDMA 2100MHz should in theory work on the Three network. Hence, I’m not totally why it isn’t working in this situation. I’d recommend trying a few things:
      1) Check the SIM card from Three is working in another device (this will rule out a problem with the SIM card).
      2) Try the device with a couple of other SIM cards (e.g. from giffgaff or another network, you can order a free SIM card here). For instance, other networks also have 2G support so they might work better in the device. For instance, a watch will have a very small antenna so may struggle to receive coverage on 3G.
      If after trying both things the watch is still failing to work, you might then need to contact the network.
      Ken

  68. JIm Regan said:

    Hi Ken

    You seem to have offered some great advice in the comments so i hope you don’t mind if I jump in with a questions too.

    I have been using the BLU Win HD phone in the US and am coming back to the UK. Would this work back there?

    Its specs are 4G 850/1700 or 850/1900/2100.

    Many thanks

    Jim

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Jim,
      Thanks for your comment! Which version of the BLU Win HD are you planning to buy? I found the handset listed on Microsoft’s website but the specs are listed as follows:
      2G: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
      3G: HSDPA 850 / 1900
      Based on the info from Microsoft’s website, the handset would only work on 2G networks here in the UK. However, I suspect I’m probably looking at a different phone to the one you were looking at seeing as the listed specifications differ in your comment?
      Ken

  69. Adam said:

    I’m thinking of purchasing a new Nexus 6 from the US and I was wondering if it would work on the three / 3 network.
    I live in the UK and the price for the phone here is about £110 more for the 64GB model. If the unlocked model from the Google play store in the USA works on three with their 3g and 4g networks, I definitely won’t hesitate to buy one.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Adam,
      Thanks for your comment. I believe the North American version of the Nexus 6 (model number XT1103) should work OK on the Three network (for 3G you’ll need band 1 WCDMA; for 4G you’ll need band 3 or band 20 LTE). The North American version of the Nexus 6 supports band 1 WCDMA and band 3 LTE. However, there’s no support for band 20 LTE (800MHz) so 4G coverage could be limited or intermittent in some areas.
      Ken

      1. Brian replied:

        Hi Ken! I’m planning a trip to London and Paris and I’d really love to use my Nexus 6 (U.S. version XT1103) while there (mostly for navigation and data service).

        I’d really like your advice on what brand of SIM card to get. Will it make any difference which network I choose?

        I’m looking for a pay-as-you-go SIM with the best coverage/bandwidth. I’d like to be able to top up with a non-UK credit card if possible. Most important thing to me good 4G service – cost is secondary. I’ll be making calls and texts back to the US also. Thanks!

        1. Ken replied:

          Hi Brian,
          Thanks for your comment. My recommendation is to get a SIM card from Three. The reason being you’re able to use the SIM card in France at no extra charge (see here for more information). Upon your arrival in the UK, you’ll need to find a Three retail store (alternatively, you can also find the SIM card in many supermarkets). You’ll need an All-in-One add-on to take advantage of the Feel At Home offer.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

  70. Kyle said:

    Hi,

    I have a Sprint LG G3 and I am in the UK. I picked up a Three SIM card, but I have a feeling I made a mistake. Am I unable to use the Three network on my LG G3 by Sprint?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Kyle,
      I’ve just taken a look at the LG website: the LG G3 on Sprint (model number LS990) supports UMTS 2100. This means it should work on any UK network providing it isn’t locked to Sprint.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  71. Pooja said:

    Hi Ken

    I am with EE now and thoroughly unsatisfied with their service/network quality. Looking to move to Voda. Do you think this is any better? In area [removed].

    Thanks
    Pooja

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Pooja,
      I’ve just checked on the Vodafone website: in theory you should be able to get 2G, 3G and 4G coverage from Vodafone in your area. The best way to test the service quality is to first order a free Pay As You Go SIM card from Vodafone. You can put this in your handset and walk around the house: look at the signal bars and make sure you’re able to get good reception indoors. You could also make a couple of test phone calls.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  72. Paul said:

    Hi

    Hope you can help. I am interested in buying a HTC One M8 from the US to use in the UK.
    My question is, would the phone actually work on the 4g network in the UK on T Mobile. I am confident it would work on 2g and 3g but have read different stories with regards to 4g.
    From looking at the spec of the US phone, I can see that it has different frequency coverage for Sprint and Verizon as per below:

    2G Network – GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 – Sprint, Verizon
    CDMA 800 / 1900 – Sprint, Verizon

    3G Network – HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100 – for Sprint
    HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 – for Verizon
    CDMA2000 1xEV-DO – for Sprint, Verizon

    4G Network – LTE 800 / 1900 / 2600 – Sprint
    LTE 700 / 1700 / 1800 / 2100 / 2300 / 2600 – Verizon

    I have checked T Mobile’s frequency which it uses for 2g, 3g and 4g and it appears that the Verizon phone would be compatible in the UK if it were to be Unlocked.
    Despite this I have read that it would still not work due to Verizon not having LTE 800 and Sprint not having LTE 2100 so neither network is compatible?
    Can you confirm if this is indeed the case and if so, if any of the other US phone networks would work in the UK.

    Thanks
    Paul

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. Before I answer your question, it’s worth noting that T-Mobile doesn’t offer a 4G service here in the UK. To get 4G, you’ll need to “upgrade” to the 4GEE brand (this is true regardless of your handset).

      For 2G coverage in the UK, you’ll need to have either GSM 900 (for O2 and Vodafone) or GSM 1800 (for EE). Three doesn’t offer 2G coverage.
      For 3G coverage in the UK, you’ll need HSDPA 2100 for all of the UK networks (some limited coverage is also available on HSDPA 900 but I wouldn’t rely on it being available).
      For 4G coverage in the UK, you’ll need LTE 800 for an optimal experience (see my article on the UK’s 4G landscape) on O2 and Vodafone. For EE and Three, it’s normally best to have LTE 1800 support (they also have coverage at LTE 800 but coverage & speeds are currently more limited). LTE 2600 is yet to launch properly in the UK so isn’t useful at present.

      Concluding from this, the Verizon phone should work in the UK providing it’s unlocked. It would work on any of the 3G networks but would only work on EE and Three if you wanted 4G coverage (it doesn’t support LTE 800). The Sprint version would give you 4G coverage on Vodafone and O2 (it doesn’t have LTE 1800). A version of the phone bought in the UK would support both types of frequencies and would hence give a slightly smoother experience.

      Hope this helps!

      Ken
      Based on the specifications you’ve written in your e-mail, neither handset

      1. Paul replied:

        Thanks Ken

        Answers it perfectly.

        Just out of curiosity, do you know if AT&T handsets would work in the UK if they were unlocked?

        Regards

        1. Ken replied:

          Hi Paul,
          I believe it should be possible to use an unlocked AT&T handset whilst in the UK. You’ll need to make sure it’s a quad-band GSM handset (it’ll need to support the UK 2G frequencies of 900MHz and 1800MHz). For 3G connectivity, you should also check for WCDMA or HSDPA 2100 support.
          Hope this helps!
          Ken

          1. Paul replied:

            Thanks Ken

  73. Giovanni said:

    Hi ken,

    I’m looking at the thl t6s as a temporary phone until the new year, but i’m still uncertain if it will support the O2 network I would appreciate some clarification as I think I will only have partial 3g coverage in London.

    Thanks,
    Gio

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Gio,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ve just taken a look at the THL T6S smartphone. According to the specs, it supports quad-band GSM (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) and WCDMA (3G) at 850MHz and 2100MHz. As O2 uses 900MHz for GSM (2G) and 2100MHz for WCDMA (3G), it should support 2G and 3G fully. You won’t have access to the WCDMA service at 900MHz but in reality this shouldn’t make very much of a difference (2100MHz should be available across London).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  74. Kiran said:

    Hi,
    I recently brought a mobile in India to use in UK, it has GSM/GSM dual sim phone. I did not get a chance to use it in India, when I put the sim in UK the signal is alright, i can send messages but the only problem I am facing is when I make a call I can hear the other person but they cannot hear me, do you think it could be something to do with network bands?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Kiran,
      I’m not sure if this would happen due to network band support (unless for some reason, your handset only supports the UK downstream frequency). Have you tried making the call on another UK network? (e.g. if you’re using a 900MHz network such as O2 or Vodafone, you could try EE which uses 1800MHz). Something else to try is making the call with your hands-free kit in (this would allow you to tell if the problem is actually related to the microphone not working).
      Ken

      1. Kiran replied:

        Thanks for the reply Ken, the problem was with the microphone, I tried recording a video and it was recorded without any voice, though there was lot of noise when the video was recorded. So now I have asked for a replacement with the manufacturer. The good thing is it works with bluetooth and headphones.. so still been able to use it.

        Thanks,
        Kiran

  75. Sukesh said:

    Dear Ken,
    I will be visiting London in September 2014 for one week. I will require a sim for my ipad which I intend to use for Google Maps and other travel related apps & sites. What are the best options for me.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Sukesh,
      Thanks for your comment. For a Pay As You Go SIM card for tablets, all of the major UK networks offer pretty much the same deal – £10 (approximately US$17) for 1GB of data and up to 30 days usage. Upon your arrival in the UK, you can buy a SIM card at any mobile retailer (e.g. retail stores from EE, O2, Three and Vodafone). If you’re able to order a SIM card for your arrival in the UK, giffgaff has a better value deal with 1GB of internet for £7.50 (you’ll need one of their gigabags). Although it’s slightly cheaper, there’s still a minimum top-up of £10 (so it’s only worth doing if you plan to leave some money on the SIM card and to re-use the SIM card on a subsequent trip to the UK).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  76. Yoseph said:

    Hi Ken ,
    I will be coming to Scotland (edinburugh ) and Ireland (Dublin) in August for 15 days .
    I need SimCard for surfing (Google Maps , WhatsApp , Viber ) using my Huawei E589u-12 mobile WiFi router .
    What package/s will be ideal for my needs .
    Thanks
    Yoseph

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Yoseph,

      Thanks for your comment. As you’re using a mobile wi-fi router, you’ll need to use a mobile broadband tariff rather than the normal tariff designed for smartphones. As you’re travelling to both the UK and Ireland, my recommendation is go to with Three (they have networks in both countries and offer a deal where you can use your mobile broadband in both of the countries).

      On Pay As You Go, £10.49 gets you 1GB of data (or £20.49 gets you 3GB of data). It’s Pay As You Go so there’s no contracts to be signed (nor any need to pass a credit check in the UK). When travelling to Ireland, you can take advantage of the Feel at Home offer (continue using your mobile broadband in Ireland at no extra cost).

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  77. Tunde said:

    I will be coming to the UK from Nigeria in July for a 7 day stay, I will need a mobile line to call home regularly and data for my browsing, google map and whatsapp. I have an unlocked I phone 5 which I will bring into the UK.
    What package and which carrier will be ideal for my needs?

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Tunde,
      Thanks for your comment and hope you’re looking forward to your trip to the UK! The best deal for you would probably be Lycamobile. For calling Nigeria, it’s 1p/minute to landlines and 3p/minute to mobiles. For data, you can either buy the £5 bundle which gives you 500MB of data or the £7.50 bundle which gives you 1GB of data. The SIM card is free if you order it online (you can also pick one up in-person in the UK, though a small charge may apply for the SIM).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  78. Michelle said:

    Hi Ken great info on ur pge. Could you help me please as I’m so confused with which is the best sim for my iPhone 4, I’m traveling from Australia in Aug 2014 to the UK spending 5wks in the UK including 1wk of that spent in France.
    I’d like a prepaid sim that I can use in the UK & France for little voice calls & lots of texting within UK & within France and texts back home to Australia. I also have my iPad 3 3G/wifi which I’ll require a data sim service for within UK & France. Or do u think I’m best to use the data on the iPhone SIM card via wifi hotspot on my iPad rather then purchasing a separate data only SIM card? What do you recommend my best options / provider would be?

    I really look forward to your reply & advice.. Many thanks in advanced 🙂

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Michelle,
      Thanks – and hope you’re looking forward to your trip to the UK! The good news is that EU roaming charges will be cut from July (so you can use any UK SIM card when travelling in France… it’ll cost you a maximum of 18p/minute, 5p/text and 19p/MB of data).
      For someone visiting the UK and France, my recommendation would be to order Three’s 321 SIM card. Once you get the SIM card, either buy the ‘All in One 10’ or the ‘All in One 15’ bundle. For £10/month, you get 100 UK minutes, 3000 texts and 500MB of data. Starting from July, France is also part of Three’s “Feel At Home” offer. Hence, with an “All in One” add-on, you can carry on using your SIM in France at no extra charge. The £15 bundle gives you unlimited UK data and up to 25GB of data in France.
      The main downside is it’s 56p/minute for calling Australia (you can of course use Skype or another app to avoid these charges).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

  79. Linda in Toronto Canada said:

    Hi Ken – great site! We are visiting from Canada for about 2 weeks and I’d like NOT to roam on Rogers (my carrier). I have a “locked” iphone 5 on the Rogers network and a laptop I’ll bring with me. I’d sure like to have a mobile internet connection as we’ll be camping/RVing. Can I “get” a phone with data plan there and “tether” it to my laptop? Just trying to get my head around the best options and thought you could help.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Linda,
      Thanks for getting in touch! I’m really delighted you’ll have the chance to visit the UK and hope you’ll enjoy a really lovely time here!
      Unfortunately, as your iPhone 5 is currently locked to Rogers you won’t currently be able to use it on any UK networks. My recommendation is to first try unlocking your iPhone from Rogers. After unlocking, your iPhone should work on any of the UK networks (in this case, you simply pick up a local UK SIM card and enable the tethering function on your phone). Choose a nano-SIM when asked by your network. £10 of credit (18CAD) should easily last your 2 week trip.
      With regards to phone rentals, I don’t think this is a service commonly offered in the UK (though it may be possible at larger airports such as Heathrow). Rather, it’s more likely you’ll be asked to buy a new device on arrival (something like a Mobile Wi-Fi router will cost you around £50/91CAD on Pay As You Go). It’s rather expensive for a two week trip (though you do of course have the router for future trips abroad) so I would still recommend unlocking your iPhone!
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  80. Anthony Luna said:

    Hi Ken,

    Its our first time to go to London and we will be there this middle of June. We will be traveling around tourist spots of interest up to Edinburg for 14 days . I am using a Samsung Galaxy Note 2. Most of our travels are on our own and its important for us to use my smart phone in obtaining maps,train & bus routes, GPS and to be able to call back home (Philippines) via Skype / Viber /Tango.

    From what I get from your previous replies we need to purchase a local SIM in London.
    Can you please explain what is the best thing for us to do?

    Thanks.

    Anthony

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Anthony,

      Thanks for getting in touch and hope you’re looking forward to your trip to the UK! First of all, I’d double check your Galaxy Note 2 is unlocked for other networks. If it’s still locked to a network in your home country, you should unlock the handset before leaving home (it’ll be much harder to unlock from the UK).

      After arriving, there are many options as to which SIM card to pick up. If you’re doing a home stay, try ordering a SIM card from giffgaff. A £10 top-up will give you 500 local minutes and 1GB of internet. Otherwise, the best thing to do is to find a phone shop near to your hotel. For a full comparison of the latest deals, please take a look at my article here. My recommended deal for a short-term visit to the UK would be Three’s 321 Pay As You Go SIM card. For £10, you’ll get 1GB of data (plus 150MB free with the top-up). You can use the 3G data for calling over Skype (it’s substantially cheaper than making an international phone call). A more expensive option is to get your SIM card from the airport (in addition to the £10 top-up, you’ll normally need to pay around £5 to £10 to get the SIM card).

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  81. Simon said:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the above comment. Can you also advise what is the cost for data as I am going to UK for 10 nights and will use the data extensively such as Whatsapp, Google map, etc. Also, which provider would you recommended as I would spent time mostly in North of England and few nights in London.

    Thanks very much in advance.

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Simon,

      Thanks for your comment! As a short term visitor to the UK, I’d suggest getting a Pay As You Go SIM card. The SIM card is free but you’d need to make a minimum top-up of £10 to activate it. For 10 days of usage, I’d say the best deal is giffgaff’s £10 goodybag. You’ll get 500 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet. The downside is that giffgaff SIM cards aren’t available from retail stores: you’ll need to order it before you arrive (delivery by post to a UK address only). Coverage is provided by O2 (good for the North of England and London). If you wish to get your SIM card from a shop, I’d recommend going to a Three store upon your arrival. With their Pay As You Go SIM card, you can take advantage of Three’s 321 Plan. Data is just 1p/MB and you’ll get 150MB free with your top-up (£10 top-up = 1.15GB of data).

      For more information, see the table here for a comparison of PAYG rates. Also, you can see my full comparison of PAYG bundles.

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  82. Hannah said:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the tips! Thought I’d just mention that it might be useful for people travelling to the UK to know that whilst most SIM providers don’t post sims abroad, if visitors do wish for a sim before their departure, many giffgaff members are happy to send sims abroad (e.g. http://giffgaffgsimabroad.wufoo.com/forms/get-a-free-giffgaff-sim-abroad/ )

    Hope this helps!
    Hannah

  83. Demi said:

    I want to buy an unlocked HTC One from America to use in the UK as I am on holiday in the States soon, I would like to know if it will work? I am currently on Virgin UK.

    Thanks

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Demi,

      Thanks for leaving us a comment! If you’re buying a handset from America, be very careful to check the specifications.

      For 2G access, you’ll need GSM/GPRS/EDGE support at 900MHz (O2 & Vodafone) or 1800MHz (EE).
      For 3G access, you’ll need HSPA/WCDMA support at 2100MHz (EE, O2, Three & Vodafone).
      For 4G access, you’ll need LTE support at 800MHz, 1800MHz or 2600MHz (800MHz is best as it will work on all four networks – see the table here).

      In your case, you’re on Virgin Mobile UK which runs on top of the EE network. Hence, your imported phone will need to support the following frequencies:
      GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 1800MHz
      HSPA/WCDMA: 2100MHz

      I’ve looked up the unlocked HTC One for the US – it costs $600 and the full specs can be found on this page. Based on the specs provided, the handset will work on Virgin UK for 2G and 3G. However, you won’t be able to use 4G in the future.

      Hope this helps!

      Ken

  84. Tim said:

    I recently bought a GTmobile sim-only card for my unlocked Samsung phone with a view to phoning a friend abroad during August – now in September I still had credit on it as I kept using it for local/national calls until it stopped. I was surprised to find out that it's another virtual provider on the O2 network, but only charges 2p/min for landline and mobile networks.

  85. josh said:

    i uave an italian 3 sim card but im in the uk… can i top up using a uk three top up………………….:-)

    1. Ken replied:

      Hi Josh,

      Unfortunately Three UK and Three Italia are two separate companies – sorry! You will not be able to use a Three UK top-up card with a Three Italy SIM card.

      Ken

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