Getting a Mobile Phone Number and SIM Card in the UK

Given that most of the world uses the GSM mobile network found all over the UK, you should have no problems with your imported phone. That said, you need to decide if you need 5G connectivity and if in your region, your favorite carrier even offers it. You want to avoid taking a 4G plan if you go somewhere with only a G or 3G network (for example, center rails, northern island, Scottish Highlands, Islands, rural areas, or other isolated regions). 

If you are moving, you may want to consider bundling a mobile phone plan with home Internet or cable TV as providers like Sky and Virgin offer discounts when you combine services.

Mobile Phone Operators in the UK

Finding a good deal on a mobile phone plan in the UK is relatively easy, given the selection of mobile phone operations. With some offering contracts and others offering pay-as-you-go plans, it’s essential to make sure you read the fine print. The trick to find which operator will give you what you need is to take your research online.

Start with your region and see what national-level, top carriers are operating in that region. The best way to do this is to determine the postcode for your region and confirm that the operator you are considering definitely services the area. Many cut-rate providers often operate entirely online. This means you’ll need an address where you can receive your free Sim card via post. Unfortunately, there will be fewer options for operators with a walk-in service, and they will undoubtedly cost more to pay for all the real estate work.

Starting the Research

Once you’ve narrowed down an operator, you need to consider the type of plan you need. In narrowing down what you need, ask yourself: “What will I be doing with my phone?” If you are going to be driving a lot, it makes sense to provision enough mobile Internet on the go, without roaming charges, and most definitely little to zero overage. Just know that you are still likely to be on your own due to exceptionally patchy coverage. This is true despite the fact national companies like British Telecom, O2, and Vodafone offer mobile phone plans. Narrow down which plan is for you by using comparethemarket or (that lets you compare and purchase plans simultaneously). 

When Should You Take Out a Contract?

Mobile contracts only ever make sense if you don’t have a phone and there is an opportunity to acquire one at a low initial cost. But don’t jump in blindly. You should still do the math to ensure you aren’t paying a lot more than the phone’s value. You may also find that the plan you need requires a contract due to your region’s unavailability of prepaid options. Depending on how you use your phone, opting for a contract may even save you money (think high mobile internet usage or lots of texts). 

To get your mobile phone number and SIM card, you will need a government ID card, your address proof ( such as a utility bill), and sometimes a bank account for payment. Many operators may want to run a credit check, especially for post-paid contracts that require regular payments. Signing up for a mobile phone plan online rather than in a store may save you money and get you bonus deals. However, you may have to wait for up to seven days for your SIM card to be delivered. 

Finding a Deal

We did a quick search online and found excellent 5G plans at reasonable prices. Going with Vodafone, we found unlimited minutes, text messages, and 100 GB of data for only £16 a month, with a 12-month contract. With iD mobile, we found the same plan for £15 a month but with a 2-year contract. Note that there was some amount of cash back with each option. But, as with all other things in life, the cheapest isn’t always the best. 

Paying a few extra pounds monthly may get you far better reception and call quality. While it may take a bit of time and effort, you’re sure to find a plan that fully works for you. Just make sure you pick a plan that works for your needs from the outset since additions and changes, later on, will only increase expenses for you disproportionately.

Written by Adam Eaton