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Tips for Installing Mobile Phone Cards UK

Benefits of Studying in the UK|Which Phone Card to Buy for Studying in the UK? Of Course, It Should be Cost-effective!

In the age of digitalisation, the internet should be considered the third most crucial need of modern human beings besides water and air.

This article will introduce you to buying a mobile phone card and installing broadband in the UK.

mobile phone

The difference between the famous mobile phone carriers in the UK and the virtual ones is not that big.

The main things that people care about the most are the following:

☑️ Signal Strength
☑️ Best Value For Money Package
☑️ International Calls And Unlimited Traffic


Cellular Network Service Provider Mobile Card

The UK’s four famous mobile phone operators are O2, Vodafone, EE and 3 (Three). They all have their physical shops. Besides, Giffgaff is the most used phone card for international students.

Rank Carrier Market Share Notable Strengths
1 EE 33% Largest 4G coverage, early adoption of 5G
2 O2 27% Strong focus on sustainability and customer service
3 Vodafone 21% Significant international presence
4 Three 10% Competitive pricing and data plans

# EE


The UK’s largest mobile network operator with over 28 million subscribers in the UK. Formed by the merger of the former T-mobile and Orange.

As such, it is rightly the service provider with the widest mobile network coverage in the UK. It was also the first to offer 4G network services in the UK.

I came to the UK to sign up for EE, which was still T-mobile at the time, but then the monthly fee became more and more expensive, and the signal was often poor. I switched to T-mobile when my contract expired.

# Vodafone 


Vodafone is a UK-based company and one of the largest mobile communications companies in the world. It has investments in 27 countries around the world.

There are quite a lot of people using Vodafone around, and it is very famous in Europe. It’s not good, not bad, but it’s an ordinary company.

If you have a good deal, you can sign up for one.

# O2


Spun off from BT, the UK’s largest telecoms company, in 2001. It is the sixth largest telecoms company in Europe. Many mobile phone cards in the UK use O2’s network, such as Tesco Mobile, China Unicom and Giffgaff.

Another great thing about O2 is that the London Underground uses O2’s network.

If you have an O2 card, you can download an app to connect directly to O2’s hotspot in the UK, and the London Underground wifi can also be connected.

# Three


I was particularly impressed with Three. There was a 3 business office near Chinatown which was full of Chinese customer service.

I later chose to do the contract online. It’s easier to do it online and they will send the card directly. And the information required is not as complicated as on-site processing.

So, Three is very suitable for newcomers who just came to UK and many proofs are not available.

My husband signed up with Three the first week we arrived in the UK, and since the town we were renting from didn’t have a Three office then, I signed up with EE myself.

After the contract expired, I switched to Three, and if I had to recommend any of the above companies, I would recommend Three.


Three Reasons

1. The strongest signal in person! Especially in remote places like the Lake District and Peak District. When everyone’s mobile phones are out of signal, Three is still holding firm with a weak signal of one or two frames.

2. Price-wise, 3’s package is also superior to a few others. This is the main reason why I switched to 3 later.

3. Another most important thing is that Three roaming in Europe is free. Now other merchants are also free, but Three is the first to be free.

Giffgaff is also highly recommended because it is international students’ most used phone card. It is very convenient as you don’t need to sign up, just buy a mobile phone card and register it on the official website!


How UK Calling Cards are Charged

1. Monthly Payment

Also known as Contract Mobile, it is a real-name contracted mobile phone card.

The contract period for a mobile phone is usually two years. When signing a contract, you choose the mobile phone you want, pay a certain monthly fee, and after two years the mobile phone will be yours. Of course, within two years, you can only change the price of your package upwards, not downwards.

The monthly price varies according to the price of your mobile phone and the content of your package. Many packages have unlimited internet traffic. This is great for mobile phone users.

There are two types of sign-ups: shop sign-ups and online sign-ups. Shop signing is a more complicated procedure where you find a mobile phone retailer and go directly to the shop to make an appointment to sign. The merchant will do a simple credit check on you. If you cannot pass the credit check, you will usually be rejected.

There are two main aspects to the check: firstly, whether you have lived in the UK for more than a certain period of time (usually 3 years). The second is whether your credit is good. For example, check your credit card records, previous mobile phone debt records, etc.

Proof of address is required to sign up for a calling card, including:

1. Proof of address: various bills (water, electricity, gas, landline, tax, bank statement, police station registration, etc.). All certificates must be dated within three months in order to be recognised;

2. Proof of identity: signature on the back of your bank card (mainly to prove that you are the person you are). This way would be very restrictive for first timers to the UK. There is another way called online signing up for a mobile phone, which has a much higher approval rate.

To sign up for a mobile phone online, you need to provide your bank card details (Account Number and Sort Code) and proof of address for at least three years. However, they usually don’t bother to review your specific information. So, when you apply, you can advance your address time a little. Drilling a small loophole, you can also successfully sign up.

2. Pay As You Go

Separate the phone, directly buy a SIM into the mobile phone. There is no limit to the amount of recharge, and you can recharge as you go.

Advantage is convenient and hassle-free. Especially suitable for short-term travellers, business trips, visiting relatives or students who are new to the UK. The disadvantage is that the price is expensive and the internet traffic is less.

Therefore, it is only suitable for short-term use. If you are in the UK for a long time, this payment method is not recommended.


Some Tips

✨ Go to the business office before you go abroad to adjust your domestic card to the minimum consumption and open international roaming.

✨ It is recommended to bring two mobile phones to the UK. One can be used as a backup phone to receive verification codes.


FAQs of Mobile Phone Cards UK

What types of mobile phone cards are available in the UK?

In the UK, consumers have access to a variety of mobile phone cards, including pay-as-you-go SIM cards, monthly contract SIM cards, and SIM only deals. Each offers different benefits to suit individual needs, whether it’s flexibility, cost-effectiveness, or a comprehensive package of services.

How do I choose the best mobile phone card for my needs?

When selecting a mobile phone card, consider your usage patterns, budget, and the specific features you require. Pay-as-you-go is ideal for those who use their phone infrequently. Monthly contracts may offer better value for regular users, while SIM only deals provide cost efficiency for those who already own a handset.

Can I keep my current mobile number when switching to a new phone card?

Yes, you absolutely can retain your current number. It involves a process called ‘porting’ your number to your new mobile phone card. Simply obtain a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) from your current provider and give it to the new one; they will handle the rest.

What should I do if I lose my mobile phone card?

If you lose your mobile phone card, contact your provider immediately to prevent unauthorised use. They will block the lost card and issue a new one, ensuring your number and remaining credit are transferred over safely.

Are there any hidden charges with mobile phone cards in the UK?

It’s essential to read the terms and conditions of your mobile phone card carefully. While providers strive for transparency, some may charge for services like voicemail access, customer service calls, or roaming. Always check for any additional fees to avoid surprises on your bill.

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