TPO Mobile, or The People’s Operator, gives 10% of your monthly phone bill to charity.

The Peoples Operator Logo 2016TPO Mobile (also known as The People’s Operator) is a UK-based mobile network with a unique model of charitable giving.

In July 2016, the company switched to using coverage from Three. However, a poorly managed migration has led to customer complaints and problems. Readers have also reported problems getting a response from TPO customer services. Prior to July 2016, TPO Mobile offered coverage from EE.

The unique selling point of TPO Mobile is their offer to donate 10% of your monthly phone bill to charity. In 2015, a total of £79,000 was donated to charity whilst the company made an annual loss of £10.5 million. As of March 2016, TPO has 80,000 subscribers in the UK.

In this article, we review TPO Mobile. We’ll look at their price plans and tariffs, and also at their commitment to give to charitable causes. Finally, we’ll discuss the level of coverage you can expect on the network and how you can keep an old phone number when switching to TPO Mobile.

Pricing & Tariffs

SIM card
The People’s Operator is a SIM-only provider: you’ll need your own unlocked smartphone to use with the tariff.

The People’s Operator offers a choice of Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go tariffs. All of their price plans are provided SIM-only (you’ll need to provide your own unlocked smartphone to use with the service).

Pay Monthly

There’s currently a choice of five Pay Monthly SIM cards on The People’s Operator:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
TPO Mobile200500500MB£7.50
TPO Mobile500Unlimited2.5GB£12.50
TPO Mobile500Unlimited4GB£15.00
TPO Mobile1,200Unlimited5GB£18.00
TPO Mobile2,400Unlimited6GB£20.00

For a full comparison and to see how The People’s Operator stacks up against rival networks, please see our in-depth comparison of SIM only deals available in the UK.

Pay As You Go

Top Up LogoCustomers can also use a Pay As You Go service from The People’s Operator. Here, you’ll pay 4p/minute, 3p/text and 2p/MB when accessing the internet. With the average smartphone user consuming around 25MB per day, you can expect to pay around 50p/day when accessing the internet.

Customers using their phone on a fairly regular basis may find it better value to convert their credit into a 30-day bundle. Known as the three Hero Bundles, you’ll get a set amount of minutes, texts and internet to use at any time over the next 30 days. At present, there are five Pay As You Go bundles available.

Any allowances that remain unused after the 30 days will automatically expire along with your bundle. If you use up the allowances included in your bundle, you’ll revert to paying TPO’s standard rates:

Calling Rates:
Voice Calls 4p/minute (any network, any time)
Calls to TPO Customers 100 minutes free every month (subject to £10 monthly top-up)
Calls to Voicemail 4p/minute
Messaging Rates:
Text Message (SMS) 3p
Texts to TPO Customers 250 messages free every month (subject to £10 monthly top-up)
Picture Message (MMS) 30p
Internet Rates:
Mobile Internet 2p/MB (approx 50p/day)

On Pay As You Go, The People’s Operator is fairly competitive against the mainstream networks (networks such as EE, O2 and Vodafone will typically charge you 30p/minute and 12p/text). For a cheaper alternative, Three currently charges just 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB (read our full review of the 321 tariff). Alternatively, Talkmobile charges 10p/call (up to an hour in length), 4p/text and 2p/MB.

For more information, see our price comparison table for Pay As You Go tariffs in the UK.

Premium Rate Numbers

By default, premium rate phone numbers are blocked on The People’s Operator. If you’d like to call or text a premium rate phone number, you’ll be required to provide a £100 deposit to The People’s Operator. You may also be asked to provide a copy of your bank statements for the past 3 months.

Charitable Giving

The Peoples Operator - Mobile Network That Gives Back
The People’s Operator calls itself “the mobile network that gives back”.

A unique selling point of The People’s Operator is there’s a charitable donation included in the monthly cost. The charitable donation amounts for 10% of your monthly mobile spend excluding VAT.

The People’s Operator has also pledged to donate 25% of their future profits to charity (so far, this is mainly academic as the company made a loss of £10.5m in the last financial year).

10% Of Your Monthly Mobile Spend

Each month, subject to certain conditions, The People’s Operator will donate 10% of your mobile tariff spend to a charitable cause or organisation. The amount donated excludes VAT so for a customer spending £10/month on The People’s Operator, the charitable donation will amount to 83p/month.

In 2015, a total of £78,679 was donated to charity. Amongst the 80,000 customers using The People’s Operator, this amounts to an average donation of 98p per TPO customer.

The Peoples Operator - 10 Percent to CharityWhen signing up for TPO Mobile, you’ll need to choose the charity or organisation that benefits from your donation. The money will only be sent when total donations reach £50 or more. There are a wide range of charities and organisations to choose from: everything from big household names like the NSPCC to local organisations such as your school, church or hospital. You can also donate to political organisations including the Labour Party and the Unite trade union.

You can search for charities and organisations under the “Find a charity, cause or enter your Partner Code” heading when ordering a SIM card.

Your Total Monthly Spend 10% Charitable Donation
Including VAT @ 20% Excluding 20% VAT Per Month Per Year
£5/month £4.17/month 42p/month £5/year
£10/month £8.33/month 83p/month £10/year
£15/month £12.50/month £1.25/month £15/year
£20/month £16.67/month £1.67/month £20/year
£25/month £20.83/month £2.08/month £25/year
£30/month £25.00/month £2.50/month £30/year

In our opinion, there are some key limitations to this model of charitable giving.

Firstly, your chosen charity will only receive their donation when their total amount donated reaches £50 or more. Assuming you were to pay £10/month on your phone bill with no other customers choosing the same charity, your donation will accumulate at the rate of £10/year. It would therefore take five years for your charity of your choice to actually receive their donation.

Secondly, charitable donations via TPO aren’t tax efficient. Namely, they aren’t boosted by government tax relief. For basic rate tax payers, an additional 25p of Gift Aid can normally be claimed for every £1 donated. For higher rate tax payers, another 25p can normally be claimed via your tax return. For charitable donations via TPO, Gift Aid top-ups are not available. Furthermore, you’ll be paying 20% VAT on your charitable donation (no VAT will apply for direct charitable donations).

Because of these two limitations, you’ll potentially do a lot more good for charity by saving money elsewhere and donating the difference directly to charity.

25% of TPO’s Profits

The Peoples Operator - Charitable Foundation
The People’s Operator aims to support a number of charity partners as well as “progressive causes”.

The People’s Operator has pledged to give 25% of future profits earned to the TPO Foundation.

The TPO Foundation is chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly and has been “set up to award funds to organisations, local communities and charities that are trying to make a positive difference to people’s lives”.

So far, the pledge to give 25% of their profits to charity has mainly been academic. This is because The People’s Operator is a loss-making company. In 2015, The People’s Operator made an annual loss of £10.5 million.

The People’s Operator is itself a for-profit company, floated on the AIM stock exchange under the TPOP ticker. More information can be found in their 2015 annual report.

Financial Year Operating Loss
2015 £10,454,176
2014 £2,328,399
2013 £1,478,440
2012 £566,231

Source: The People’s Operator 2015 annual accounts (available here).

Political Connections

The People’s Operator has political connections to the British Labour Party. They’ve championed Labour as a “progressive cause” on their website as well as various trade unions including the GMB, the PCS and Unite.

In the past, The People’s Operator has actively supported Labour by providing a number of subsidised deals for Labour party members who used the network for campaigning. In 2013, The People’s Operator was criticised in the UK press for its connections to Unite.

Although the network actively supports Labour, it doesn’t prevent customers from choosing to donate 10% of their bill to other political parties (e.g. the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats or the SNP).

Poor Customer Support

In July 2016, TPO migrated from their previous service on EE to a new service on Three. Unfortunately, a large number of readers have reported problems with the migration including the loss of their phone number, credit or service. Customers have also reported problems getting a response from TPO customer services.

For the time being, we would recommend readers against joining the TPO mobile network, at least until the ongoing problems with the service can be resolved.

Unlocked Handsets

The Peoples Operator - Select SIM Card Type (Updated)
You’ll have to choose either a “standard/micro” SIM or a”nano” sized SIM card. Please refer to our guide on smartphone SIM card sizes.

The People’s Operator is a SIM-only network. You can’t buy a handset from TPO: instead you’ll need to provide an unlocked handset of your own. This can either be a new handset that has been purchased SIM-free or it can be an old or existing handset that’s been unlocked from your network. For more information, see our in-depth guides to unlocking an iPhone, unlocking a Samsung Galaxy or unlocking another device.

When ordering a SIM card from The People’s Operator website, you’ll need to choose the size of SIM card you require. The required SIM card type will depend on your smartphone: see the guide here to find out which SIM card you need.

Network & Coverage

3G & 4G Coverage from Three

Mobile MastThe People’s Operator is one of the UK’s virtual network operators (MVNOs).

As of July 2016, TPO Mobile is using Three as a network coverage provider. Customers using TPO Mobile will therefore receive 97% population coverage using Three’s 3G & 4G networks. You can check the coverage in your area by entering your postcode on TPO’s online coverage map.

Check TPO Coverage Map →

Between November 2012 and July 2016, TPO Mobile used the EE network for coverage. Customers using the old TPO service on EE had access to 2G and 3G coverage from EE.

Tethering

Tethering means sharing the mobile internet connection from your smartphone on to other devices (e.g. onto a tablet or laptop). Typically, this involves making use of the portable wi-fi hotspot feature on your smartphone.

Unfortunately, tethering and portable wi-fi hotspot is not permitted on The People’s Operator. Their fair usage policy on both Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go says: “Using your phone as a modem (tethering) is not permitted.”

Roaming Restrictions

Going AbroadBy default, international roaming is disabled on The People’s Operator (so you can’t use your phone outside of the UK). If you’d like to enable international roaming on your account, you’ll need to pay a £50 deposit to The People’s Operator. You may also be asked to provide a copy of your bank statements for the past 3 months.

Keeping Your Phone Number

If you’re switching to The People’s Operator, it’s a straightforward process to keep your existing phone number.

Start by asking your old network to provide you with a PAC Code. The relevant contact details for your old mobile network can be found on this page.

After receiving the PAC Code from your old network, you’ll need to get in touch with TPO Customer Services. You can either call 500 from your TPO handset (free on Pay Monthly or 5p/minute on Pay As You Go) or you can call 0333 313 7760 from any other phone. The People’s Operator will handle the transfer of your phone number (it normally takes about one working day once you’ve given them the PAC Code).

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

PAC Code Finder: Transfer Your Phone Number to TPO Mobile

Your current network provider:

  More Options

For more information on transferring your phone number between networks, please see our guide on PAC Codes.

Popularity & Number of Subscribers

According to a regulatory filing from The People’s Operator, they have 80,489 subscribers as of the 31st March 2016. This makes them a relatively small player in the UK market (other virtual network operators such as giffgaff and Tesco Mobile typically have more than a million subscribers).

Date Number of Subscribers
31st March 2016 80,489 (22,595 PAYM & 57,894 PAYG)
31st December 2015 69,000
29th September 2015 50,360
12th May 2015 30,000
30th April 2015 28,200 (9,680 PAYM & 18,520 PAYG)
31st December 2014 14,032
31st October 2014 10,913
30th June 2014 5,800
31st December 2013 2,400

Approximately one-quarter of customers are on a Pay Monthly contract with the other three-quarters on a Pay As You Go deal.

More Information

For more information, please see the TPO Mobile website.

Your Comments 218 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 218 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • I had three Samsung e1100’s with TPO sims on payg. They were used as spares by the family. Every month I make a call from them to keep the balance and the number going.
    Then one day none of them worked! I found out that TPO had moved from EE to 3.
    So I contacted TPO and eventually they sent me out three new sims which they said I could activate and the balances would be transfered.
    But I could not activate any of the sims as the system said it was past the cutoff date!
    I went to several EE and 3 shops for advice, but they had not even heard of TPO.
    Back to TPO and no sensible advice on how to proceed or even how to get my balance refunded.
    Utterly hopeless.

    • Hi, may I suggest you log a formal complaint with tpo. You will have to play a little bit of email tennis with them and they won’t resolve your issue. After 8 weeks take them to the ombudsman when hopefully common sense will prevail.

      • I have contacted OFCOM but they just log the issue and file it away as a statistic. They do nothing to resolve issues. A waste of space. Perhaps the ombudsman can do something.

    • I don’t know where to start from with TPO! Since 2014 I joined for 15 a month and within weeks I noticed I don’t receive text messages on my phone. I informed TPO and they said that was probably a fault with my phone.
      As at that time I wasn’t able to budget for a new phone I got myself a pay as you go lyca sim and inserted it in a second older phone which received text messages, mind you I had tried changing the TPO sim and it still didnt work on the other phone too. After a couple of months I finally got myself a new phone and still that didn’t work, then TPO said they would sort it out. Back and forth I had to keep calling cos they never bothered to call back.
      After one and a half years of me giving up my paycheck came late and that quickly blocked my phone! When I called they said this and that then i asked them if its like that i need to be compensated for the loss of service for over a year!
      I was so upset and insisted to speak to a manager and the lady put some guy and said he was the manager. He said he’d sort it out and for that month I wouldn’t need to pay and would be compensated. He told me he’d get my phone back on and call me the next day so I can get my compensation but in the meantime I was to give my details so that my direct debit would be saved back.
      He reassured me no one would touch my account until the issue was sorted. By now I was paying 20 a month. Next day my phone was on and no one called. When I again started calling back no one knew about that phone call and they went into my account and took 71 pounds! They claim there was no manager and had no voice recording of that. I sent a screen shot of the day and time I spoke to the manager and told them to pull out the voice records and I can’t believe it that customer service actually says I haven’t sent any mail yet, it’s clear to see the screen shots in the email I forwarded to them and they reply back to me.
      Now end of month and i cancelled direct debit cos i know all they want is to dig in my account and not solve my issue and i quickly got an email saying they are closing my account tomorrow cos i cancelled my direct debit and not cooperating.

      I will now get in touch with ombudsman cos this company is a disgrace for all the charities they claim to support cos this is thievery that should be made public for others not to get ripped off of money and services. I will do all I can to get my compensation cos it seems they have been getting away with a lot that’s why they are confident in giving bad service.

      A very very very disappointed customer who is a customer advisor myself and wonder what kind of people work as unprofessional as for this company

  • Very poor customer service, rude, tech support useless. If you don’t have LTE service the regular 4G doesn’t work at all. Nonrefundable plans if you even used 1 minute of service they won’t give you a refund. Do not recommend at any price it’s very bad

  • Hi all,
    Thank you for all of the feedback below. I have passed a message onto the team at TPO to let them know how unhappy I am about their ongoing customer service issues. I have also updated the article above with to advise other readers against joining TPO.
    Once again, I’m very sorry to hear about the problems everyone has experienced with the TPO service. I can only hope they’ll resolve these problems as quickly as they can. If anyone else has further concerns, do please feel free to send me another comment or e-mail.
    Ken

    • Hi Ken

      This so called company have no idea what they are doing nor do they have the systems and support in place, so they just ignore you.

      It’s as simple as that. That’s not an exaggeration, or keyboard rage, it’s my learned opinion.

      I’m off as soon as I can. Weeks and weeks of going around in circles and still no resolution, time to just cut my losses and leave.

      Making an official complaint is the same process as opening a ticket! Which they then just ignore for days and weeks, then respond with daft questions or useless comments, and close your ticket! or just open up any direct FB messages…..and ignore them.

      Ofcom don’t care either. Neither do the ADR schemes, because TPO simply ignore your complaint. If any potential TPO customers are reading, just run away. Very fast. See FB and Twitter for reviews, that is, until they delete the comments.

      A phone company that doesn’t answer the phone. Ever. Or emails. Or social media messages. They take your money and provide no service. Complete blaggers.

      • Agreed, went to resolver to try and resolve the complaint before going to the ombudsman (who from an initial inquiry didnt seem particularly good or particularly interested) and TPO dont engage with Resolver at all= no progress made + more time wasted.

        What a truly awful company OFCOM should shut them down.

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