You can normally use a mobile phone SIM card in other devices like a tablet, 4G router, mobile broadband dongle or other smart devices.

In the past, it was necessary to buy a mobile broadband SIM card if you wanted to use it in devices other than your smartphone (e.g. in a tablet, a 4G router or a mobile broadband dongle). This also used to apply to IoT (internet-of-things) devices such as smart cameras, alarms and GPS trackers.

Nowadays, it’s no longer the case that you’ll need to buy a special type of SIM card. This is because you can now use a mobile phone SIM card in any device you like (with only a few exceptions). This includes using a regular mobile SIM card inside a tablet, in a 4G router, in a mobile broadband dongle or in an IoT device. This follows an Ofcom ruling on net neutrality in 2018 which said that mobile networks shouldn’t discriminate based on the type of device and based on the equipment you’re using to access their network.

Compatible SIM Cards: From £5 per month
Unlimited Data: £16 per month
Recommended Network: Three
Tablet & iPad SIMs:
Router & Dongle SIMs:

Best SIM Cards By Device Type

Tablets & iPads

If you’re using a 4G tablet like the iPad or a Samsung Galaxy Tab, our recommendation would currently be to get a SIM card from Three. This is because you can get a SIM card from as little as £5/month with inclusive data that can be used on your tablet or iPad.

For regular usage, we’d recommend the £8 per month plan with 12GB of data or the £16 per month plan with fully unlimited data.

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
Three200Unlimited2GB£5.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited4GB£6.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited8GB£7.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited12GB£8.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited30GB£10.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimited100GB£12.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£16.00
12 months

See Three SIM Only Deals →

Normally, you won’t be able to use the minutes and texts inside a tablet (as neither of them are supported on the iPad). However, you’ll still save money compared to buying a mobile broadband SIM card. On some Android-powered tablets (e.g. those from Samsung), it might be possible to make and receive phone calls and text messages on your SIM card.

Routers & Dongles

If you’re using a 4G router or a mobile broadband dongle, our recommendation would currently be to get a unlimited data plan from either SMARTY or Three. This is because they both offer unlimited data without speed restrictions and without any limitations on how many devices you can use at the same time.

You can currently get unlimited data from £15 per month on these networks:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£15.00
1 month
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£16.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£20.00
6 months half price
24 months

Customers choosing Three instead of SMARTY will have the benefit of 5G coverage at no extra cost and the ability to get a proper IP address on their 4G router. For more information, see our guide on using SMARTY for mobile broadband.

If you’re unable to get a 4G signal where you live from Three or SMARTY, you can also consider Vodafone’s £20/month Unlimited Max plan. This gives you unlimited data without speed restrictions and without limitations on how many devices you’re able to connect at one time.

IoT Devices

If you’re using an internet-of-things (IoT) device like a GPS tracker, an alarm system, an entry system or a sat nav, the best value SIM card will depend on the requirements of the device.

For something that doesn’t use very much data, consider getting a 1pMobile internet-of-things SIM card. This gives you 2G, 3G and 4G coverage from EE at Pay As You Go rates of just 1p/minute, 1p/text and 1p/MB. There are no regular monthly charges on 1pMobile, but you’ll need to top-up your SIM card at least once every 120 days.

Alternatively, for IoT devices that are in regular use, Vodafone offers a Smart SIM for internet-of-things devices. You’ll pay an upfront fee of £5 for the Vodafone Smart SIM, followed by a subscription fee of £2 to £4 per month. This is compatible with a number of vehicle trackers, smart cameras, pet trackers and other devices.

Net Neutrality & Smartphone SIM Cards

You can use a regular smartphone SIM card in other devices like a tablet or dongle.

In the UK, mobile networks have historically sold two different types of SIM card: a SIM card for your mobile phone (with inclusive minutes, texts and data) and a SIM card for mobile broadband (normally only including data).

Over the past few years, the market for regular mobile phone SIM cards has become much more competitive. Meanwhile, the market for mobile broadband SIM cards has hardly moved. For this reason, you can now get a lot more data for the same price when you choose a mobile phone SIM card (with inclusive minutes, texts and data) over a mobile broadband SIM card (that only includes data).

For instance, you can now get unlimited data on a range of smartphone SIM cards for as little as £15/month:

NetworkMinutesTextsDataMonthly
Cost
SmartyUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£15.00
1 month
iD MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£15.00
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£16.00
12 months
iD MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£16.00
12 months
iD MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£16.00
24 months
iD MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£16.00
1 month
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£16.00
24 months
iD MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£17.50
1 month
Superdrug MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£20.00
1 month
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£20.00
24 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£20.00
12 months
Tesco MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£20.00
24 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£20.00
6 months half price
24 months
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
2Mbps max
£22.00
24 months
Lebara MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£22.50
6 months half price
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£24.00
1 month
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
2Mbps max
£24.00
12 months
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimitedAlways-On£25.00
1 month
Lebara MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£25.00
6 months half price
1 month
O2UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£25.00
24 months
Virgin MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£25.00
12 months
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
10Mbps max
£26.00
24 months
Lebara MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£27.00
6 months half price
12 months
ThreeUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£28.00
1 month
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
10Mbps max
£28.00
12 months
VOXIUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£30.00
1 month
Lebara MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£30.00
6 months half price
1 month
Tesco MobileUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£30.00
12 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£33.00
12 months
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£33.00
12 months
giffgaffUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£35.00
1 month
EEUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£35.00
24 months
O2UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£36.00
1 month
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
2Mbps max
£36.00
1 month
EEUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£37.00
12 months
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£37.00
24 months
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£40.00
12 months
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
10Mbps max
£40.00
1 month
EEUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£41.00
24 months
VodafoneUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited£45.00
1 month
To show you the most relevant plans, 28 similar but more expensive plans have been hidden. .

Until 2018, the terms and conditions on many mobile phone SIM cards would prevent you from using the SIM card in devices other than a mobile phone (e.g. so you wouldn’t be able to use a smartphone SIM card in your tablet). However, this changed in 2018 as Ofcom ruled that this was a breach of net neutrality as defined in the Open Internet Access Regulation:

The EU Open Internet Access Regulation, among other things, enshrines ISP customers’ fundamental right to access the content and information, to use the applications and services, and to use the terminal equipment of their choice through their internet access service through their internet access service. ISPs may enter into agreements with their customers on the commercial and technical conditions of the service, but in doing so they cannot limit customers’ core rights.

In particular, Ofcom took issue with a mobile network that “imposed restrictions on the devices in which a SIM can be used – e.g. where a SIM purchased for a mobile phone cannot be used in a tablet”.

Since the Ofcom ruling was published in 2018, most restrictions stopping you from using a smartphone SIM card in other types of device have been removed. You can therefore now use a regular mobile phone SIM card in other types of device. Most restrictions on the use of tethering and personal hotspot should also now have been removed.

In recent years, however, some restrictions have been re-imposed on the unlimited data plans from certain networks:

  • On EE unlimited data plans, tethering and personal hotspot usage is limited to a maximum of 12 devices. This is intended to discourage the use of their unlimited data SIM card inside a 4G router or mobile broadband dongle. There’s also a 600GB per month fair usage limit.
  • On O2 unlimited data plans, there’s a specific requirement that the SIM card mustn’t be used inside a mains-powered device. This is intended to prevent you from using the SIM card inside a 4G home broadband router. In addition, tethering is also limited to a maximum of 12 devices and there’s a 650GB per month fair usage limit.

The ruling on net neutrality is not affected by Brexit as this has already been transposed into UK law. You can therefore continue using a mobile phone SIM card inside other types of device from January 2021 onwards.

SIM Cards for Smart Devices

In most cases, it should now be possible to use a regular smartphone SIM card in any smart device. This includes your tablet, mobile broadband dongle, router or other smart devices like your laptop, camera, vehicle tracker, pet tracker, alarm, etc.

Before going ahead and choosing a SIM card, however, it’s still worth thinking about the following things:

  1. Are you using the SIM card inside a router? If so, we’d recommend getting an unlimited data SIM card from Three. This is because they’ll allow you to use the unlimited data SIM card inside a router. They’re also the only provider to give you a publicly-accessible IP address. If you don’t need a publicly-accessible IP, SMARTY’s unlimited data plan is also worth considering as you can use this in a wide range of devices.
  2. Do you need 2G or GSM coverage? Some IoT devices will only function on 2G coverage (also known as a GSM or GPRS signal). If your device requires 2G coverage to work, you should choose a mobile network that uses coverage from either EE, O2 or Vodafone. It isn’t possible to use Three or another mobile network that uses coverage from Three as they don’t offer any 2G coverage. If you need better rural mobile coverage (e.g. for use in a GPS vehicle tracker), we’d typically recommend choosing a SIM card with EE coverage. This is because they tend to have the widest geographical coverage in the UK.
  3. What do you need in terms of download speeds? Different use cases and different categories of device may require different download speeds. For instance, Vodafone’s unlimited data plans come with a range of speed limits (2Mbps on Unlimited Lite, 10Mbps on Unlimited and uncapped download speeds on Unlimited Max). For high bandwidth devices like a router or dongle, you’ll want access to the fastest speeds available.
  4. Do you want to Pay Monthly or Pay As You Go? For most high-bandwidth devices that are in regular use (e.g. tablets, dongles and routers), you’re best off getting a Pay Monthly SIM card. These SIM cards start from around £5/month for an inclusive data allowance (plus some minutes and texts that you may or may not be able to use in your device). For low-bandwidth devices that will only connect to the internet occasionally (e.g. alarms and GPS trackers), it may be better choosing a Pay As You Go SIM card.
  5. What are the minimum usage requirements on Pay As You Go? If you choose a Pay As You Go SIM card for your IoT device, you should bear in mind the minimum usage requirements. Typically, your SIM card will get disconnected from the network if you don’t use it for a chargeable activity at least once every 6 months. Some IoT devices have the functionality to keep your SIM card alive (e.g. by sending a text message automatically on schedule). If not, it’s possible you’ll need to pull out the SIM card from time-to-time, placing it inside another device to trigger a chargeable activity (e.g. by sending a text message to yourself).

For more information, see our guide to the best Pay Monthly SIM cards and the best Pay As You Go SIM cards. If you’d like access to 5G, you can also see our guide to 5G SIM-only deals.

More Information

For a full round-up of the best SIM cards currently available on the market, see our guide to the UK’s best value SIM only deals.

Your Comments 87 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 87 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Hi Ken,
    Great article – my wife is setting up a shop, so mobile broadband/data is necessary as there’s no phone line. There will be a few devices connected: till, card machine, weighing scales etc, will it be necessary to have the public ip for these types of things, or would any data connection be fine?

    • Hi Daniel,
      Thanks for your comment. Without knowing exactly how those devices work, my guess is you should probably be fine without a public IP. The latter is normally only required if you’re running a server of some type that needs to accept incoming connections.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi, I recently purchased an unlocked 4G mobile broadband dongle, so if I put an ordinary 4G compatible mobile phone SIM (in this case O2 Data Big Bundle with 7GB of data) into the dongle will I still get 4G reception? And will I be able to get 7GB from the laptop? Will it work just like on the smartphone?

    Do you think dongle users with data-only dongle SIM cards will eventually get more data per month now that mobile phone SIM card users are allowed to do this? Although it’s a good thing is it not a little unfair on dongle users with data only SIM cards who don’t get anything like 7GB for £10 a month on their dongles?

    ‘3’ mobile broadband users get 1GB for £10 a month. But a mobile phone user can now put his SIM in a dongle and now get more? Is that not a little unfair on the dongle user.

    Many people like myself can’t afford BT Broadband and use pay as you go mobile broadband dongles, but aren’t getting the same amount of gigabytes as smartphone users. Will something be done about this to make it fair?

    Thanks for an informative article on this. I wasn’t aware it was possible to put SIM cards from smartphones into dongles now, until I read your report.

    • Hi Philip,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, you can put it inside a 4G dongle and you’ll get 4G coverage in the same way you would on a phone. Therefore, it’s probably best to just ignore the mobile broadband SIM card options, especially when they offer much worse value. The market for regular smartphone SIM cards is much more competitive than that for “mobile broadband SIM cards”. For the networks, the economics are normally better too as most smartphone users won’t use the full allowance. For the end consumer, you can now use either one, so I’d go for the regular SIM card that gives you much better value 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Hi Ken, thanks for your reply. I will give it a go and see how different using a mobile phone SIM in a mobile broadband dongle will be. It certainly looks as if I will get more data for my money this way, and with large Windows 10 updates for my laptop to cope with, this will be most needed.
        I can see a time when only 1 type of SIM card will be made available which can be used in ALL devices, rather than some people having a mobile broadband SIM and some people having a phone SIM, as seems to be the case now, and it would certainly be better for the consumer this way.
        Thanks again for your advice.

  • Francesca Corsini said:

    Hi Ken, I’m hoping to work from home in Europe (France/Italy) for a few months. I will need to purchase a 4g router to connect phone via Ethernet.

    Would the 3 unlimited data sim be suitable for travel abroad? Thank you

  • Mervyn Kinloch said:

    Hello Ken

    Can I tether my phone to a 4G router ( unlocked ) using ethernet connection so I can use the data allowance via Tesco plan primarily for phone to enable sharing this data to other devices ? I’m trying to avoid taking out a separate sim for the router only as I am not using all the data available on the phone plan

    Thanks

    mervyn

    • Hi Mervyn,
      Thanks for your comment. You’ll need to check your router’s documentation to see whether it will support this feature. However, ordinarily, you won’t be able to do this. Instead, it might simply be easier to do one of the following:
      (1) put your Tesco Mobile SIM card inside the router when you want to use it (with the downside that you won’t be able to receive calls during that time)
      (2) use the personal hotspot feature on your phone, bypassing the router entirely
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    I’m currently using a virgin sim in my router which is connecting to Vodafone mast. The download speed after a few months has went from 56mb to around 10 max. Bt has the best speed an signal in my area but I’m not sure if they have a fair usage policy. I’ve seen i can get a bt unlimited sim for £25 a month which was there 100gb sim upgrade on family plan. I had bt hub before but speeds were terrible so I did away with phone line etc. EE sim is £37 a month which is too expensive considering I’m in the countryside with no 5g available. Do bt have a fair usage and can/do providers throttle sim speeds as they like. Thanks

    • Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your comment. You might find it helpful reading my guide on unlimited data plans – it should hopefully have everything you require including information about fair usage policies, speed limits, etc.
      To answer your question directly: BT doesn’t have any fair usage limits on their unlimited data plan. However, you can only get it if you’re a BT Halo customer (which requires you to have a BT fibre broadband connection). If you want unlimited data with EE coverage, your only other real option would be to get an unlimited data plan from EE. It’s definitely a lot more expensive at £37/month but the freebies might make it a little more worthwhile (e.g. Apple Music, BT Sport, Prime Video, etc). Alternatively, you can consider a different coverage provider such as O2 or Three.
      Ken

  • Rob Flanagan said:

    Hi Ken. Great article especially the 2018 OFCOM ruling meaning its now possible to use a normal phone sim in a 4G router (which I suspected). Anyway, I presently have a Three contract with unlimited data on a Huawei B535 4/5G router on our narrowboat (where we live). The location where we are now moored has poor Three coverage. I have fitted a directional external antenna to improve reception. Its ok in the morning or afternoon (about 10-12 MB) but in the evening, the data slows down to perhaps 1-2 MB. I think the mast is just overloaded with Three users. When my contract runs out later this year, would I be able to use another networks SIM in my router? I know that when I reset the router, the Three APN is default. I guess the router in not locked to Three? Fortunately, I do have another onsite wifi to use as a backup. Thanks in advance. Great site, Ken

    • Hi Rob,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, you can use a SIM card from another network inside the device, providing it isn’t locked to a network. I don’t believe Three locks their devices so you should be good to use a SIM card from another network 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hello, does anyone have some knowledge in relation to the different SIMs offered by Three. Is there any benefit in buying any particular ones (eg reduced throttling, network priority etc).

    There is a unlimited SIM with Minutes and Texts for around £20, Data Only Sim Unlimited for around £24, or a Unlimited Data Only SIM on a business contract for around £22

    Any help would be great

    Currently using a Huawei b535 – External antenna pointed at a 4g mast.

  • Hi Ken great article!!!

    We’re moving to a rural area so although present fibre is topping out at 12mb 🙁 I’m looking at a dual sim draytek as 4g is really strong and I require the bandwidth for work and kids on Netflix /sky etc. Thinking a gift gaff and virgin sim based on your article and bonding/aggregating the carriers.

    Do you know if the tethering limit is applicable/enforceable when using a sim router as This will have to be a consideration.

    • Hi Scott,
      Thanks for your comment and a very good question! To be honest, I’m not sure how well the tethering limits are enforced by the networks. My general feeling is that it’s something they place within the terms and conditions, and it’s therefore a valid reason for them to terminate your service if they find you in violation of the terms. Whether they automatically enforce it or only through manual investigation of flagged accounts is something that might vary between networks (and could also change over time, if they wanted).
      In my opinion, you’re best off choosing a mobile network that has no restrictions on tethering or 4G broadband usage. Both Three and SMARTY are good options for this as they both expressedly say that it’s fine to use your SIM card in this way.
      Ken

  • John Ramsden-Knowles said:

    Hi Ken,
    Great site! I have a Huawei mobile router with unlimited SIM card. Can I insert the SIM card in a Netgear Nighthawk router or is the SIM card tied to the Huawei router?
    Many thanks
    John

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for your message. Yes, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t be able to put the put the SIM card in another device like the Netgear Nighthawk.
      Ken

  • Maurice Atkinson said:

    Great article. I bought a 3 sim and all works ok when on the three.co.uk apn. But when I switch onto 3internet my firestick and all my samsung phones stop working. I cannot stream any media content (bbc, netflix, lbc) from the internet on these device (via 3internet apn). All my laptops and desktops work OK and can stteam content from these sites.

    Switch back to three.co.uk apn and firestick and phones burst into life again.

    But I want a routable ip address on 3internet!!

    Anyone come across this and have a solution?

  • Duncan Graham said:

    Hi Ken,
    What a brilliant resource – just too much information. Which UK network offers the least restriction on data in France. I wanted to spend 3-4 months down there using a Huawaei 4g router (and external aerial) but wondered about restrictions on data use. I know Vodafone offers 25Gbs, any networks better that one please?
    Thanks,
    Duncan

    • Hi Duncan,
      Thanks for your comment. For information about the international roaming limits, take a look at my guide to unlimited data SIM cards. BT and EE are the best mainstream networks as far as I’m aware, allowing you to use 50GB of data in Europe each month. Alternatively, you can always choose a Vodafone Red plan (not Vodafone Unlimited). This allows you to use your entire allowance abroad, so can be better (e.g. if you have a 100GB data plan).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • I was speaking to Vodafone tech rep who said that data only sims would have better connectivity and faster speeds in a 4G router than a standard phone sim with the same data plan but with talk and text. Does anyone know if this is true? Another vodafone rep who I was transfers to later said the opposite, so I don’t know who to believe.

    I’m looking at Vodafone’s unlimited max plan with no speed caps but the data only sims aren’t offered on a cheaper per month 24 month plan whereas the phone sims with the same data plan are. What to do?

    • Hi Timothy,
      Thanks for your comment. There shouldn’t be any difference between the two, though do make sure you choose an Unlimited Max plan. This will give you access to uncapped 4G and 5G speeds on the Vodafone network. If you choose the Unlimited Lite or Unlimited SIM cards, this will have a speed limit of either 2Mbps or 10Mbps. More info here.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Richard Hutchins said:

    I am just coming to the end of a Three UK mobile home broadband contract. I have a very good signal where I live (70-80mbps) I have a TP Link 4G Router (model is Archer MR600). If I take out an Unlimited/unlimited/unlimited sim only contract with Three will it definitely work as home broadband as we have now? When 5G is available in my area can I simply get a new router?

  • Hi Ken,

    We have just purchased a Huawei E5576 mobile router and bought a 3 mobile data app however 3 has no coverage where we live as we found out. What other Data sim could we use without spending too much money? We have O2 and EE in the area.
    Thanks,
    Lynn

  • Nathan Talbot said:

    Thanks for this summary! My dad has got an EZR23 series indoor 4G LTE router (https://ezr23.outdoorrouter.com/). He was using an EE PAYG data-only sim with a 30-day data package on this router just fine.
    He’s now signed up to an 18-month PHONE contract with unlimited data package. He’s tested the SIM on a phone and an EE mini hotspot – works fine. But the router’s logging is showing ‘Failed to register’ and he’s not able to get any QMI Connected info on the router status.

    Any ideas? The router’s help manual says “You can check with the mobile carrier if the SIM card is eligible to access 3G or 4G networks”, but we know it is!

    • Hi Nathan,
      Thanks for your comment and that’s very odd. Unfortunately, all I can really do would be to suggest using the SIM card in another device to verify that it works, before placing it back in the 4G router. You should also check the APN settings to ensure it’s correct for the Pay Monthly plan, but I’m not sure this is the cause of the error message you’re seeing.
      Ken

      • Nathan Talbot replied:

        Thank you, Ken. We ended up force-resetting the router to factory settings and setting the router up from scratch and that seemed to sort it, even though all the APN settings were the same (though, oddly, ‘dial code’ wasn’t, but we couldn’t change that!).

  • Hi, I am currently using a Smarty SIM in a Samsung mobile phone as my router as our home wifi signal is very bad. The problem I am having is that the IP address is changing which is causing me problems with banking and I think with some games. Is there a way to make the IP address static, like with a router that takes a SIM for instance? Hope you can help, thanks

    • Hi Matt,
      Thanks for your comment. Sadly, it isn’t possible to get a publicly accessible IP address on SMARTY, let alone one that’s static due to their use of CGNAT technology. I’d recommend getting a SIM card from Three instead if you want a publicly accessible IP address. This should resolve the issues you’re having with some online games. I don’t believe it’s a static IP but there shouldn’t be any need for this for online banking and gaming.
      Ken

      • Ok, thank you for the quick reply, I did not know this. I was going to try a router but I will change SIM provider and hope that sorts the problem out. I have been advised by ESO support that I need to forward lots of ports which is why I was going to try the router as I cannot port forward from my phone. But would this work with a SIM/ router combination or is it the SIM that does not allow port forwarding?

        • Hi Matt,
          It isn’t possible to forward ports on a SIM card that uses CGNAT technology as your router doesn’t have an IP address that’s accessible from the rest of the internet in the first place. Instead, the CGNAT IP address you’re given is shared with lots of other users on the service. I believe Three is the only provider to give you a real IP address, when you use the 3internet APN setting.
          Hope this helps,
          Ken

  • Hi, I am currently on unlimited data with 02 paying £36 a month, which I use in HUAWEI Mifi box, I seen Tesco are doing same deal but at £20 , that shud still work with what ur saying ty

  • Can I buy a data SIM card and use it in a 4GEE mini WiFi router?The router was bought on a pay as you go basis but is out of its monthly contract.

  • I have recently bought a tablet and presumed I could use my o2 sim only account for both my mobile and tablet. When I called o2 to order bigger sim I was informed I could not do this and would need a dual sim contract costing a lot more. Is this correct?

    • Hi LuLu,
      Thanks for your comment. You can use your current SIM card inside a tablet if you like. However, the SIM card can only be inside one device at a time, so you’ll need to get an extra SIM card if you want to use them both at the same time. Alternatively, you can use the tethering & personal hotspot feature on your phone to share the connection with your tablet. That will allow you to use it on both devices at the same time (with the requirement that they’re both in the same place).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Caio Simmonstre said:

    So I’m moving to a new apartment building that has fiber installed, but stuck with my 3Three 4g mobile broadband service for 1.5 years via contract. Since I’m locked in and have to pay for the remainder of the contract, can I take the sim card out of my Huawei 4g modem and put it into an iPad (or any other tablet) that has a SIM slot and continue using the data that I’m having to pay for anyway?

    • Hi Caio,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, you can move the SIM card into any other device to continue using it for the remainder of the contract.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hi, I’ve just ordered the Huawei B818 router to get a better wifi signal in my house by using 4g broadband. I plan to get a Three sim only unlimited contract but just wondered what I do about activating the sim? Do you need to activate it before putting in the router and how do I do this without using my phone which is locked to Vodafone? Thanks so much!

    • Hi there,
      Thanks for your comment. No need to activate the SIM card in your phone – you can do it in any 3G or 4G compatible device (including your router).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Hugh Doherty said:

    Hi, I use a Huawei E3372-h modem on my computer – I don’t have a smartphone – but sim cards received recently from O2, Vodafone and 1pMobile are not recognised by the modem. Is there anything I can do? My current provider 3, is total rubbish but the only one that connects.

    • Hi Hugh,
      Thanks for your comment. There are two things to check here:
      1) Is your device locked to Three? If so, you’ll need to unlock it before it will accept a SIM card from another network. Typically, Three doesn’t lock their devices (or at least, they haven’t for quite a long time, so this will only be applicable if it’s quite an old device).
      2) You’ll need to change the APN settings on your device to those applicable to your new mobile network before you can access the internet. You may need to log in to your modem to change these settings.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Great information. Highlighted loads of very important and useful points and also how I was wasting my money on various SIM cards which would have been saved if I had done it after reading your article.
    The information you give is not freely given by the sales persons in the mobile phone shops.
    Many many thanks….I am now armed with much better information and knowlwedge.

  • Ken, big thank you for your outstanding hard work, this site. I have an excellent vanilla TP-LINK M5350 mobile wifi device, manufacturer/shop return, less than ten bucks, as new. Lebara works, Vectone does not, and a skilled person at Vectone customer service clearly informed me that the sim will only work in a phone and not a tablet, mobile wifi treasure etc. I’m trying others as a kind of geeky hobby! ‘Now Mobile,’ is next. OTA flashing devices is becoming very problematic as a device reset then you NEED a wifi signal for id email password to get to display/home screen. Hey presto, get a mobile treasure.
    Keep up the great work, and again, thank you.

    • Hi Jim,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the net neutrality regulations are very different in the US and Europe! For this reason, it may not always be possible to use a smartphone SIM card in other devices like your tablet.
      Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    Brilliant article and excellent info.
    With regards to the change in legislation how do you think O2 get away with still restricting usage of SIM cards in certain devices? Their fair use policy specifically states you must not put a SIM card sold for a phone into a modem. This seems in direct contravention of the change in policy. I use a Three SIM card in a 4G Router without problem but this was sold as a phone deal. However O2 seem to be still restricting use. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Hi Andy,
      Thanks a lot for your feedback! I think I’m probably with you with regards to what you say about net neutrality. Saying that, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know whether Ofcom have made a further judgement or comment on the legality of that restriction.
      Ken

  • Hi,
    Please is there any way to achieve the following task:

    Presently if I put my sim card inside a mobile broadband router I am unable to receive or make calls on my mobile phone as the sim card has been placed inside the router.

    I would like to put my sim card in a mobile broadband router and still be able to use my mobile phone to make and receive calls.

    Please is there a way to do this?

    • Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your comment. Sadly, it isn’t possible to do this. However, some 4G routers have a RJ11 phone port. This allows you to plug in a desk phone and to use it for calling and texting.
      Ken

  • Tracie Sandra Bailey said:

    Hi i have just bought a Huawei in car wifi. I plan to use it in uk and in europe. Can you recommend the best simm card to use? I take it it will have to be a phone card. I am already with o2 for my phone should i get another one from them thanks tracie bailey

  • Brian Nicholson said:

    I’m trying to use a Three PAYG SIM card in a new dual-SIM tablet as well as my simple phone (where it works well, good signal etc.) It won’t connect. A separate app tells me the SIM is fully recognised and ready but (in red) that the service state is ‘out-of-service’. There is a good signal The APN has auto-filled plausibly and the tablet knows exactly which network the SIM is on The phone is a Sony Ericsson Z610i .The network phone technology is GSM/UMTS. It works happily on Three as (presumably) 3G.

    Is there something else I should be doing, or is this a Three restriction, possibly unwarranted? Three are not usefully contactable right now.

    There is no reason why you should trouble to reply, but if you do, thanks!

    • Hi Brian,
      Thanks for your comment. With regards to your dual-SIM device, do you know whether it supports 4G on the second SIM slot? I believe lots of dual SIM devices are 2G-only on the second SIM card slot, which isn’t compatible with the Three network (more info here).
      Ken

      • Brian Nicholson replied:

        Thanks for such a quick reply. The tablet is 4G capable and probably has the 4G/2G limitation you mention. My network app tells me the phone type is GSM. and that it is voice capable. I only have the one SIM card. When placed in slot 2 no network signal is found and the SIM service state is Power Off (in red). When the SIM is placed in slot 1 a decent signal is found and the SIM service state is ‘out-of-service’. Does this look like something Three is causing and if so are they allowed to? It looks as if I will have to find a way of getting hold of a competent person at Three but you can tell me what to expect.

      • Brian Nicholson replied:

        I have found the terms for my 2017 PAYG SIM and they are just as your article describes – use only in a phone. So that has to be the problem. Thanks for your article (and replies); I have not seen the point so clearly made elsewhere.

        • Hi Brian,
          Thanks for getting back to me! You’re right: there used to be a restriction on the devices in which you’d be able to use a Pay As You Go SIM. However, this changed in 2018 as a result of an Ofcom ruling on net neutrality (essentially saying that mobile networks couldn’t discriminate based on the type of device). It should therefore currently be allowed to use a regular Pay As You Go SIM inside a tablet.
          Ken

  • Hi Ken,
    I live in an area of poor signal strength. I used to be with Three using a mobile router for internet connection and also boosting the signal in my house for the mobile phone. I now have a landline internet connection – fine. My problem is the weak signal for my phone. If I buy another sim card (minutes & texts only) and put that into the router, will that boost my signal to the mobile phone. Will they have to be the same networks to ‘talk’ to each other. I am presently with Smarty for the phone, which I believe piggy backs on Three. Your advice will be appreciated.

    • Hi Ian,
      Thanks for your comment. You can use a 4G home broadband router to produce a wi-fi network that your mobile phone is able to connect to. It would essentially act as a replacement for a fixed-line home broadband connection. The router, however, wouldn’t affect the 3G or 4G coverage on your phone, and therefore your ability to use the minutes and texts on your phone.
      Ken

      • Hi Ken,
        Thank you for your reply. I am content with the landline broad band – no problem. If I put a minutes and texts sim card in the router, does it have to be the same network as the sim card in the phone for them to work?
        Sorry for me not completely understanding your kind response.
        Ian

        • Hi Ian,
          The SIM card placed in your 4G or 5G router will only allow you to use data/internet over the wi-fi network it creates. In general, it won’t normally be possible to use the minutes and texts (unless you have a 4G router with support for a RJ11 telephone). It’s totally separate from your smartphone and won’t affect the minutes, texts or coverage on that device.
          Ken

  • Hi Ken. Brilliant article, thank you. I’m about to move from SIM only with EE, to SIM only plans with BT for our mobiles (we depend upon wifi calling at home). Where your article is relevant is, at the moment, I will get Double, double data on the SIM only plans (for our phones) but were I to also get their Data Only SIM card for my car, then I’d be paying twice the price for a given amount of data as their data only SIM cards do not appear to benefit from the Double, double data offer (with Halo Broadband).

    Thus, I’m thinking that I should ignore their Data only SIM card and get a SIM only plan (as for the phones) which, if I read your article correctly, ‘should’ work in my car – it’s a Range Rover Evoque and needs “…a micro SIM card with mobile data enabled..” for the In Control Touch Pro Connectivity. From 2016 I’d been using a Data only SIM card from EE. I’d also want to set up a wi-fi hotspot in my car.

    So…… do you think, from what I’ve said, I should be ok getting a SIM only plan for my car as well as the two that I’ll get for our phones. Your confirmation that I’ve correctly understood your article would give me the confidence to challenge them if they say it won’t suit my needs!

    • Hi Clive,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, it should be fine using the regular SIM card in your car. I believe this is covered by Ofcom’s net neutrality provisions 🙂
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Julie Lewis-Thompson said:

    I have purchased a Huawei Mobile wifi E5785 which is unlocked and can take any local SIM card (Im UK based). I also purchased a GiffGaff £25 pay as you go bundled SIM card. Put it into the mobile wifi device, and whilst it will connect to the internet, can see it is 02 provider etc. it will not allow me to do anything – it just says no internet. I have communicated with Huawei who believe it is an issues with the SIM card. Cannot speak to anyone at GiffGaff – been back and forth via email, and getting absolutely nowhere. It is really frustrating as trying to work from home but my broadband cannot support my work and my sons home schooling. I think it is an issues with the SIM not functioning in a MobileWifi device (as opposed to phone). Not sure if this is deliberate on an error by GiffGaff – any advice appreciated. I am not a software engineer and this is really frustrating!

    • Hi Julie,
      Thanks for your comment. First of all, have you set up the Access Point Name (APN) settings for giffgaff on your Huawei E5785? This is normally the most common reason for not being able to access the internet on a new device. Apart from that, I’d obviously make sure your giffgaff SIM card is active (e.g. try using it in another different device and see if you’re able to get any signal).
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      • Julie Lewis-Thompson replied:

        Thank you so so so much. After weeks of struggling. Emails back and forth with Huawei and GiffGaff, frustrations etc. – this solved my issue in seconds! I am now online with my Huawei device! Thank you. Thank you

    • Katie Hooper replied:

      I have a giffgaff sim in a mobile broadband device and it works fine. Set up was not too faffy either (APN etc) My son only had to interfere once!

    • Hi Paul,
      Thanks for your comment. If your phone’s SIM card is inside a mobile router, you should be able to use the internet & most apps through wi-fi. You won’t, however, be able to make or receive phone calls as this requires the SIM card to be inside your device.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

  • Alexander G said:

    So I want to make sure I understand this. I can place a Total Wireless SIM in my Verizon Tablet and it should work for data as long as the tablet is unlocked? Total Wireless uses Verizon’s towers. I have service with them on a Google Pixel and I want to purchase their second line service to use my tablet on.

    • Hi Alex,
      Thanks for your comment. Sadly, the information on this page relates to the UK mobile market – I’m not quite sure how things work over in the US. Probably worth checking with Total Wireless themselves before you try doing this 🙂
      Ken

    • Hi Colin,
      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite clear what you meant by your question. However, if it’s whether a SIM card is required for a tablet, the answer is generally no as you can use it as a wi-fi only tablet. If you mean whether it’s required to insert the SIM card into a tablet to activate it, then yes, you’ll normally need to do this.
      Ken

  • One gotcha I recall reading in the past was where SMS was used for activation or similar purpose and the device was unable to accept.

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