Guide to The Right Mobile Provider

Looking for a new mobile service provider? The UK market is overwhelmed with choices when it comes to operators. Today we're looking at some of the most frequently asked questions about mobile operators on the UK market, in the hopes that answering them will make you better able to decide which operator and contract is right for you. So read on to get all the answers you need...

Do I Need an Operator?

Absolutely. If you don't have some kind of plan with an operator, you're not going to be able to use your phone for anything other than calling the emergency services. You'll need a SIM card to use your phone, and you can only get a SIM card through a mobile operator. That card will then give you access to that operator's network so that your phone can get service.

What are My Options?

You have lots of options when it comes to operators. The big three companies in the UK are T-Mobile, O2 Mobile and Vodafone. But there are plenty of other companies too, including Three, Orange, Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile and EE.

O2 Mobile or Vodafone, Does it Really Matter Who I Choose?

Yes and no. Nowadays the cost for calling minutes and text messages are fairly standard amongst all the UK operators. So a call made from an O2 Mobile number is going to cost you pretty much the same as one made from a Vodafone, or T-Mobile or any other number, and the same goes for text messages. The cost of mobile data does vary a little more, but not by much. However what is different amongst operators is the size of the calling plans that are offered. Choosing the right size of calling plan is very important, and you'll find that some operators just have plans that fit your needs better than others.

What's a Calling Plan and Why is it Important?

If you decide to sign a contract with a mobile operator you will have to choose a calling plan. This is a set of limits on the amount of calling minutes, text messages and mobile data that you can use each month for a fixed monthly payment. It's important that you choose the right plan basically because of money. Imagine that your calling plan includes fifty calling minutes. You will pay the same monthly fee for using all fifty minutes as you would if you used only five minutes. This means that when a plan is too big for your needs you are paying for services that you're not using. But what happens if you call for sixty minutes instead of fifty? You're charged your regular monthly fee plus premium prices on the extra ten minutes that you used. So a plan that's too small will cost you too much as well. It's best to consider your needs carefully before choosing a calling plan.

What Kinds of Contracts do Operators Offer?

There are two kinds of mobile contracts. A SIM only contract will give you a calling plan, whilst an incentive contract will give you a calling plan and a mobile phone, often for free but occasionally for a small one-time payment. The monthly price of an incentive contract will be more than that for a SIM only contract, since this is how the operator covers the cost of the phone that you receive. It's important to realise that you usually end up paying a little more than the actual retail price of your phone over the course of an incentive contract, though not usually too much more. Many people prefer to buy their own phones and sign a SIM only contract though, since it saves money in the long term. You'll also be asked to decide on the term of your contract. Contracts come in different lengths, generally twelve, eighteen and twenty four months. It's up to you which one you sign, but longer contracts are usually cheaper. This is especially true if you're signing an incentive contract, since the cost of the phone will be spread out over a greater number of payments.

Do I Have to Sign a Contract?

Not at all, and in fact some people can't sign contracts. In order to sign a contract with a mobile operator you will have to be a legal UK resident, over the age of eighteen, and you will also have to pass a credit check. If you don't meet all of these conditions, you will not be allowed to sign a service contract. But there is another option, called pay as you go. With a pay as you go plan you get a SIM card from an operator which you load up with credit, either at the operator, or through a shop or cash machine or online. You can use your phone as you wish, but every time you use it credit will be deducted from your account. Once the credit is gone you will no longer be able to make calls or send texts, though you will be able to receive both, until you put more credit onto your account. Some people even prefer pay as you go plans, since it makes budgeting easier and you only ever pay for the services that you actually use.

What Happens if I Want Out of My Mobile Contract?

You can cancel a mobile contract if necessary, but you might not want to, since it can get expensive. Contracts generally contain a non-completion clause. This means that if you do not finish the contract the operator can penalise you to compensate for their lost business. The penalty is usually a fixed amount that varies by operator multiplied by the number of months that are remaining in your contract when you stop service. These fees are expensive, and they add up fast. Additionally, if you signed an incentive contract you will also have to pay the remaining balance on your phone before you can leave the contract.

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