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Cheapest UK 4G and 5G Unlimited Mobile Data Plans Compared – 2022

Monday, April 18th, 2022 (12:01 am) - Score 5,640
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Over the past few years’ we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of UK mobile operators offering unlimited data plans, most of which have sprung up alongside the advent of the latest 5G based mobile broadband technologies. Today we take a quick look to see what you can get across the market.

The following comparison will focus on the cheapest Pay Monthly SIM-Only plans with unlimited data, which is partly because the dedicated Mobile Broadband plans that are still being offered by some operators have not kept pace with what you can get on SIM plans and aren’t strictly necessary (i.e. you can usually put a regular SIM into a mobile broadband router of your choice, or turn your Smartphone into a WiFi Hotspot).

NOTE: Most Smartphones also enable you to establish a wired mobile broadband hotspot via the USB port (example). Bluetooth also works, but it can be fiddly to setup.

The next thing to be mindful of is that there are four primary Mobile Network Operators (MNO) in the UK market – EE (BT), O2 (VMO2), Three UK and Vodafone. Most of these also supply their services to a large base of smaller Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), which will inherent some of their parent’s performance or coverage limitations.

In addition, MVNO providers don’t automatically gain access to all of the latest features that their parents may offer (e.g. 5G, Wi-Fi Calling etc.). Such details tend to depend upon the specifics of each MVNO agreement, thus it’s wise not to assume that taking out a contract with an MVNO provider will result in an identical service to that of the primary mobile operator to which it is associated.

Finally, we’ve noticed that some mobile operators attach a Fair Usage Policy (FUP) to their “unlimited data” plans (e.g. O 2 and E E). Most such policies are fairly soft (flexible) and rarely ever enforced, which is perhaps because enforcing them might breach the advertising watchdog’s guidelines on unlimited data.

Example FUPs from 7th Feb 2022

➤ O 2 – Unlimited available on Custom Plan on selected handsets and selected SIM Only tariffs. Fair use policy applies, personal and non-commercial usage only. If you regularly use 650GB of data per month or tether 12 or more devices we may consider this to be non permitted use and have the right to move you to a more suitable plan. EU roaming capped at 25GB per month, chargeable at £3 per GB afterwards.

➤ E E – Unlimited Plans: Uncapped and Unlimited data – If you’re outside the UK you’ll be subject to the data fair use policy cap (given in your roaming plan). Personal, non-commercial use only. If you regularly tether 12 or more devices, we will consider this non-personal use and have the right to move you to a more suitable plan. We will consider usage above 600GB/month to be non-personal use and have the right to apply traffic management controls to deprioritise your mobile traffic during busy periods or to move you to a business plan.

NOTE: We are only showing the standard plan prices below, excluding any discounts as these may only apply for limited periods. So far as we can tell, all unlimited data plans also come with unlimited UK calls and texts. All the plans below also appear to support 5G and the price data is from early February 2022.

The UK Cheapest Unlimited Mobile Data Plans 2022

Operator MVNO Price (Monthly)  Contract
iD Mobile Three £16 1 Month
Utility Warehouse E E £18 1 Month
ASDA Mobile Voda £20 – £30 1 Month
Smarty Three £20 1 Month
Three UK n/a £21 12 Months
Vodafone (Voda) * n/a £23 – £32 24 Months
Lebara Voda £25 1 Month
Lyca Mobile O 2 £25 1 Month
Tesco Mobile O 2 £25 24 Months
Virgin Mobile (VMO2) Voda £25 24 Months
O2 (VMO2) n/a £30 24 Months
EE (BT) n/a £35 24 Months
giffgaff O 2 £35 1 Month
VOXI Voda £35 1 Month

At present, iD Mobile appears to have the cheapest SIM-Only unlimited data plan, which also has the bonus of coming attached to a monthly (30 day) contract term. In fact, all of the four cheapest packages have a monthly term, which highlights that if your goal is just to save money and secure more contract flexibility, then you can probably skip the big four primary operators.

However, it’s worth noting that you may get various premium extras if you take a plan from one of the biggest and more expensive operators. For example, at the time of writing, O2 were offering 6 months free Apple Music, 6 months or more of free Disney+ and various bonuses for existing Virgin Media customers. Some operators also include special features, such as with how EE allows you to share your data with family members.

Meanwhile, in other areas, you may need to watch out for caveats. For example, both Vodafone and MVNO partner ASDA Mobile separate their unlimited data plans by speed caps (e.g. Voda caps their £23 package at speeds of up to just 2Mbps, rising to £27 for 10Mbps and £32 for up to 150Mbps) – this is why both operators have been given a price range above.

Giffgaff is another awkward operator to place. On the one hand they have an unlimited plan for £35, but they also have a cheaper ‘Always On‘ plan for £25, which gives you unrestricted speed until you hit 80GB. After that it caps your connection to just 384Kbps from 8am to Midnight (that’s a bit too restrictive to be considered ‘unlimited’, but each to their own).

One final point to make is that some unlimited data packages DO NOT include the cost of sending MMS (picture) messages, which are – somewhat bizarrely in this modern digital age – still ridiculously expensive (e.g. 65p on Three UK). The annoying part is that many operators still don’t make this clear when you sign-up, thus you might only find out once you get hit by it. So the general rule is, don’t send pictures via MMS – internet messaging services are much better for this.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
34 Responses
  1. Dan says:

    Three still charge 1.2p or something like that for every SMS delivery report on pay monthly.

    1. alan jones says:

      And on payg,but smarty which is owned by three they are free

  2. Alan says:

    I went to order an unlimited Data Sim from Utility Warehouse and the order link fails on their web site
    Cant even find a Contact Number ?

    1. Ben says:

      I think that could be becuase UW only offer their unlimited SIM to customers who take another service (i.e. energy or broadband) from them.

  3. Mark says:

    Smarty do have £16 unlimited data, unlimited minutes, unlimited texts on both 4G or 5G with tethering allow with no FUP policy or usages policy for £16 a month (12 months through uswitch sim only deal)

  4. Chris says:

    Fair use policy for Utility Warehouse:

    You must only use our mobile SIM in a personal mobile device. It is not intended for use in
    any other type of device, including 4G/5G routers, and is not intended to replace a fixed
    broadband service.

    USELESS!

    1. Peter F says:

      They are not allowed to tell you how you can use your sim.

    2. CJ says:

      They’re not allowed to, but they do anyway. Lyca and Tesco have similar restrictions.

      Ofcom will not take enforcement action until the outcome of their net neutrality review is known. Responses to the consultation are on the Ofcom website. As you might expect, Utility Warehouse would like their (currently illegal) restriction to be made legal.

  5. High Lander says:

    Do all operators allow tethering? I do know a lot do not allow WiFi Calling. I’ve just done the research and now have a VOXI sim, they were the only company to offer both tethering and wifi calling (with god service and no contract).

  6. James says:

    UW don’t support 5G do they?

    Says it’s ‘coming soon’

  7. Fred says:

    £17.50 for the 1 month ID mobile £16 based on 12 months price

  8. chaos export says:

    From smarty.co.uk “SMARTY is a trading name of Hutchison 3G UK Limited”
    Who is Hutchison 3G UK Limited better know as?

    There no point look at who ever owns three.co.uk

    (“SMARTY”) Is it really MVNO?
    If (“SMARTY”) is MVNO then isn’t (“Three”) MVNO as well?

    1. Kyle says:

      The ultimate legal entity.

    2. Michael says:

      No, Chaos. Three is a mobile network operator. They build their networks. 3G, 4G, 5G.

      They created the Smarty brand & that operates separately.

  9. Fred says:

    Would have been great to have 5G and VoWiFi capability included in the table.

  10. Daniel says:

    I’ve been with ID mobile unlimited for over a year now and they allow free roaming data up to 4 consecutive months at no extra cost, free tethering and wifi call.

  11. Alan says:

    Chris
    You say “You must only use our mobile SIM in a personal mobile device. It is not intended for use in any other type of device, including 4G/5G routers, and is not intended to replace a fixed
    broadband service”

    How would they know what device you are using ?
    I am using a PN 50gb Data Sim in a Huawei Router for months

    1. CarlT says:

      Your device reports its IMEI number to the network – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Mobile_Equipment_Identity

    2. Chris says:

      @Alan

      Plusnet are allow tethering with their 4G sim only Utility Warehouse are not allow any tethering using 4G mobile broadband router.

  12. MilesT says:

    I have a “retention” sim only deal with unlimited data on Three which is a lot cheaper than cheapest in table. (Limited but adequate texts and minutes)

    Have been on same sim only deal for about 4 years.

    1. James says:

      Which obviously isn’t available to everyone. That’s what this is highlighting. Deals available to everyone.

    2. MilesT says:

      Always worth asking for a retention deal from existing supplier, as they may offer a cheap unlimited SIM only deal better than the “public” deals

  13. Mark says:

    There was no point in me having unlimited data when I was on Three. The speeds were absolutely horrendous! According to nPerf, I was getting 0.04Mb/s and 4.2Mb/s upload (great for uploading I suppose) – When I phoned to complain, I was literally told by customer support “Our 4G network is heavily oversubscribed, you would be better off using 3G instead” (I disabled 4G on my phone, used 3G and got 7.8Mb down, 1.4Mb up)

    There were also many posts on the TBB forums where other people were told the exact same thing as well!

  14. El Guapo says:

    £3 (+VAT) unlimited data, on three. 900mbit. Chuffed to bits.

    1. Mark says:

      Is that zero plan with unlimited add on, if so three has now removed zero plan for existing customers for end of May

    2. El Guapo says:

      Mark, it’s a business data-only SIM deal they don’t seem to offer right now. But I got two of them at £3 each and put one in my Huawei 5G router and one in my phone.

    3. Kevin says:

      I thought I had a good deal at £6+VAT per month with Three Business!

  15. Biffa says:

    The best Three SIM deals are on the business side, they do a 24 month unlimited SIM only plan for £15/mth

    1. Bent says:

      I’m paying £11 a month for my sim only from three .

  16. Cardiffian says:

    Tesco Mobile unlimited data, minutes and texts is currently 17.50 a month on a 24 months contract (if you have a clubcard) with unlimited EU roaming (as long as you don’t use it for commercial purposes) I would avoid Three and it’s piggybacked MVNOs as they are extremely unreliable speed wise. I do understand that this depends on your location but in general I’ve seen (and read) more people unhappy with Three and it’s piggybacked MVNOs than happy. I’ve tried both Three and Smarty and during the day it’s ok but in the evenings it’s almost useless.

    1. Harold says:

      Can you use a Tesco Mobile Unlimited Data SIM to replace an O2 SIM for Mobile Broadband?

  17. Gerhard says:

    “tether 12 or more devices”

    I wonder how they could find out how many devices are behind a router NAT? That would require a lot of deep packet inspection to figure out the number of devices.

  18. Danscreet says:

    Are any of these sims able to provide and accessible external IP? i.e. if I place one in my 4g dongle and plugged that into my compatible router, could I access my ports?

  19. Mark says:

    I wouldn’t touch Three or o2 with a bargepole, including any of the MVNO’s! Speeds when I was with them were diabolical!

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