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
No tariffs could be found matching this criteria.

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 221 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 221 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • TPO are an awful company!!! My sim did not receive incoming texts or phone calls constant promises day after day that my old number would be transferred that day. I lost out on a weeks worth of business phone calls and income as my mobile number is the way that customers can contact me. Utterly disgusted with the lack of interest or urgency on TPOs part and not even one apology from them. NEVER USE TPO EVER!!!!!!!!

  • Joined them last month, left them this month for two reasons.

    1) Poor mobile data speeds seemed to indicate a lack of 4G coverage in the areas I need data on the go making my smartphone a dumbphone when outside wifi coverage. No tethering allowed.

    2) Poor customer support. Until last week, you only have the option to raise a support request online. This then generates an automated email to let you know it’s been raised.
    On the couple of occasions I had to use support, it took TPO customer service a WEEK to respond only to require additional contact from me to clarify their lack of understanding the issue.
    All details were outlined within the details on their online form.
    – Over the past few days, they’ve implemented a “call me back” option which offers three timeslots they will ‘try’ to contact you about your concern.

    I’ve read elsewhere online that their support consists of a handful of staff. My experience is that the errors and delays in dealing with them seems to corroborate their lack of staff.

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