Unlimited data plans allow you to download as much as you like, with always on data. We compare unlimited data plans on giffgaff, SMARTY, Three, Virgin and Vodafone.
Whether you’re a heavy smartphone user or whether you just want the reassurance of never running out of data, several UK mobile networks now offer an unlimited data plan so you can download as much as you like without worrying about your data limit.
At present, it’s possible to get an unlimited data plan from either giffgaff, SMARTY, Three or Virgin Mobile in the UK. With all of these plans, you can stop worrying about how many gigabytes you’re using and you’ll never again run out of data mid-month.
As a cheaper alternative to unlimited data plans, you can also consider a zero-rated data plan which gives you unlimited data for a number of services. These are available in the form of Three’s Go Binge, Vodafone’s Passes (also available on VOXI) and Virgin Mobile’s Data-Free Messaging.
In this article, we’ll review and compare your options for an unlimited mobile data plan in the UK.
Overview of Unlimited Data Plans
Unlimited Data Plans
In the UK, there are currently four mobile networks offering an unlimited data plan:
|Mobile Network||Unlimited Data Plan||Limitations & Restrictions|
|giffgaff||Always-On Data||4G speeds are only available on the first 20GB per month. After this, speeds are restricted to 384kbit/s between 8am-midnight.|
|SMARTY||Unlimited Data||A fair usage policy of 1000GB per month applies.|
|Three||All-You-Can-Eat Data||A fair usage policy of 1000GB per month applies.|
|Virgin Mobile||Unlimited Data||Only available to Virgin Media TV and Broadband customers.|
giffgaff offers 4G coverage from O2, whilst Virgin Mobile offers 4G coverage from EE. SMARTY is a low-cost sub-brand of Three, which has its own mobile network offering 99% 4G population coverage (see their online coverage checker here).
Normally, giffgaff’s £25 goodybag and SMARTY’s £25 unlimited plan are the cheapest and most flexible unlimited data plans (both are available on a 30-day rolling basis). However, discounts and offers may sometimes make the unlimited data plans from Three and Virgin Mobile better value overall.
Zero-Rated Data Plans
As an alternative to unlimited data plans, you can also choose a zero-rated data plan. This gives you unlimited data, but only for use on selected services:
|Mobile Network||Zero-Rated Data Plan||Services Included|
|Three||Go Binge||Netflix, Snapchat, Apple Music, TV Player, Deezer and Soundcloud.|
|Virgin Mobile||Data-Free Messaging||WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter.|
|Vodafone||Vodafone Passes||Multiple video, music, chat & social providers (depends on the pass).|
|VOXI||VOXI Endless Passes||Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Viber and Facebook Messenger. Video and music providers available at extra cost.|
Through the rest of this article, we’ll review each of the unlimited and zero-rated data plans in more detail.
Unlimited Data Plans
At present, unlimited data plans are available in the UK from giffgaff, SMARTY, Three and Virgin Mobile:
giffgaff is a low-cost sub-brand of O2 offering 3G and 4G network coverage from O2. Unlimited downloads are available on giffgaff’s £25 goodybag which comes with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and “Always-On” data:
With Always-On data, you’ll only get full 4G download speeds on the first 20GB per month. After this, your speeds will drop down to standard 3G (384kbps) between 8am and midnight each day. This may stop you from doing things like streaming music or video from the internet, but it shouldn’t prevent you from browsing the internet or using messaging services.
Because of the speed reduction after the first 384kbps, giffgaff’s Always On data plan may not be suitable for very heavy data users. However, it’s a good option if you’re mainly looking for some peace of mind, and is available on a one-month rolling basis with no credit check required.
SMARTY is a low cost sub-brand of Three, offering SIM-only deals on a one-month rolling basis. For £25/month, you can get the unlimited plan from SMARTY which comes with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data.
According to SMARTY, tethering is included in the plan and there are no speed restrictions for using too much data. There is, however, a usage cap of 1,000GB per month, along with a fair usage policy of 19GB per month when you’re travelling in Europe:
SMARTY offers 99% population coverage, using 3G and 4G coverage from Three.
On Three, unlimited data over 4G download speeds is available on the flagship unlimited data plan (also known as all-you-can-eat data). The main restriction is a fair usage policy of 1,000GB (1TB) per month. According to Three:
The following table shows SIM-only plans with unlimited data on Three:
It’s also possible to buy a new smartphone on a 24-month contract with unlimited data included.
Prior to October 2018, Three’s unlimited data plans had a restriction on tethering. It was only possible to use up to 30GB of tethering each month. This restriction has now been removed for all new and existing customers as a result of Ofcom’s net neutrality rules.
On Virgin Mobile, an unlimited data plan is available but this is exclusive to customers who have Virgin TV and broadband at home. The plan comes with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and unlimited data and normally costs £25/month.
According to Virgin, there are no restrictions on “tethering, throttling, speed restrictions or caps”. Download speeds of up to 70Mbps are available on Virgin Mobile using 4G coverage from the EE network.
Besides giffgaff, SMARTY, Three and Virgin Mobile, other UK mobile networks do not currently offer an unlimited data plan. However, you might be able to get a very large data allowance (for instance, EE offers up to 100GB of data per month in their EE Max price plans).
Zero-Rated Data Plans
Zero-rated data plans give you unlimited data for use on selected services, and can be a cheaper alternative to unlimited data plans:
Three Go Binge
Three offers an inclusive service called Go Binge to all customers with a Pay Monthly plan with at least 12GB of data per month. This gives you unlimited data for use in six applications: Netflix, TV Player, Snapchat, Soundcloud, Deezer and Apple Music. Usage of these six services is “zero-rated” so will not count towards your normal download allowance.
For more information, please read our full review of the Go Binge service.
Virgin Mobile Data-Free Messaging
On Virgin Mobile, data-free messaging is available to all customers with a 4G Pay Monthly plan. Usage of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter are zero-rated, so you can message as much as you like without worrying about how much data you’re using.
The following table shows 4G plans from Virgin Mobile with data-free messaging:
Vodafone offers a choice of Vodafone Pass add-ons to customers who have a Pay Monthly contract with them (excluding Vodafone Basics). The passes give you unlimited data for use on selected services within the category of video, music, chat and social media. The passes are a paid-for addition to your normal mobile contract.
At present, there are four Vodafone Passes available. They cover the following applications at the time of writing:
All four passes can be purchased as a Combo Pass bundle for £15/month. For more information, please read our full review of Vodafone Passes.
VOXI Endless Passes
VOXI is Vodafone’s low-cost sub-brand for customers who are under 30. On VOXI’s flexible 30-day rolling plans, you’ll get “Endless Social Media” with zero-rated data on Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Viber and Facebook Messenger.
You can add a VOXI Video Pass for £7/month or a VOXI Music Pass for £5/month. These passes work in the exact same way as they do on Vodafone, giving you endless data on selected video and music streaming services.
The following table shows 30-day rolling plans with endless social data on VOXI:
Occasionally, other mobile networks may choose to zero-rate selected apps and services on a promotional basis. For instance, EE offers zero-rated data for Apple Music during the six month free trial available on EE Pay Monthly plans.
For more information on specific unlimited data plans, please see the giffgaff, SMARTY, Three and Virgin Mobile websites. For more information about zero-rated data offers, see the Three, Virgin Mobile, Vodafone and VOXI websites.