The UK has high mobile phone penetration rate. Almost everyone has a mobile phone. The UK operates a GSM network which is the same as mainland Europe and many other countries. If you are coming from North America or parts of Asia, you may be on a CDMA phone which will not work.
Large retailers offer phones at discount rates. These include Carphone Warehouse and Phones4U.
There are also "virtual providers" which buy air time from the main providers and then operate their own services. These include Virgin and One.Tel.
Different companies offer different prices and contract terms. A contract should detail the terms and offer lower calling rates than prepaid cards. It should be fairly easy to obtain a phone through contract. There are no credit checks or need to provide proof of income. All mobile companies require direct debits from your bank account. Many new arrivals start with a prepaid phone and then convert to a contract when they have sorted out the paperwork. Be sure to read all the other conditions.
There are some basic points you need to consider for choosing the right deal.
Personal Use: Evaluate how much you use the phone, when, where you are calling, how often you use short message services (SMS), if you use the phone abroad, etc.
Coverage: Most important if you live in a remote place or regularly using the mobile while traveling in the countryside as most companies offer decent coverage.
Fees & Rates: Each operator offers several different plans and options. Investigate the plans carefully and evaluate your needs.
Pay As You Go
Prepaid phones offer maximum flexibility. Users pay in advance for credits which are used to make calls. When you need credit you can buy "top-up" cards from news agents, petrol stations and online (as well as directly from the mobile retailer).
Prepaid plans can be as confusing as contracts. Take into consideration these points when picking a card:
- Cost of the purchase of the SIM card itself, which sometimes includes a block of minutes of communication
- Cost of recharging the card
- Connection fees; some operators do not apply connection fees
- Time of the validity to make and to receive calls