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  1. Technology
May 20, 2015

Top 10 4G data plans: Which UK network offers the most?

Three, O2, Vodafone, EE, TalkTalk, giffgaff and iD feature on the list.


Any cinema-goer will know that Kevin Bacon "don’t like waiting for anything" – but what of us, the British public? We are now constantly wired into the internet, streaming videos and updating social media profiles, and 4G is a big part of this. CBR rounds up the biggest 4G data bundles out there.

1. Three

Specs: Three is unique among the big four mobile providers in offering an effectively unlimited 4G data plan. Although the website suggests an upper limit of 1000GB, this is based on the maximum you would physically be able to download in a month if using your phone constantly.

Price: "All-you-can-eat" data starts from £15 per month on a SIM-only deal and £28 per month with a handset.

Network reliability: In a report on the UK’s 16 biggest metropolitan areas, RootMetrics found that Three had a median 4G footprint of 24.8 percent and a maximum download speed of 50 Mbps.


2. O2

Specs: O2’s biggest plan offers 20GB of 4G with an iPhone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy S6, although for most phones this only extends to 10GB.

Price: A SIM-only deal for 10GB starts at £32. However, if you are willing to pay for a top-range phone such as the iPhone 6 or S6 then you will get 20GB for around £54 a month.

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Network reliability: The RootMetrics report found O2 had a median 4G footprint of 52.7 percent and maximum download speed of 64.7 Mbps. O2 is of course set to be acquired by Three owner Hutchinson Whampoa, so the amalgamation of their networks could provide one of the most pervasive in the UK.


3. Vodafone

Specs: Vodafone’s biggest data offer comes in at 25GB.

Price: The lowest possible price for the 25GB deal with a phone will set you back £47 a month. For SIM-only you can get 20GB for £40 a month. Vodafone’s overall cheapest deal on 4G is the Nokia Lumia 635 for £17 a month.

Network reliability: According to RootMetrics, Vodafone offers a 58.2 percent median footprint and recorded its maximum speed of 64.5 Mbps in Belfast and London.


4. EE

Specs: EE offers a maximum 20GB. EE has predicted that its 4G network will annually carry an exabyte, or one billion gigabytes, of data by 2018 and it recently became the first European operator to serve 10 million customers on its 4G network.

Price: The cheapest deal for 20GB is £39.99 a month, with which you will get 20GB and a Samsung Galaxy A3. Watch out for their

Network reliability: EE consistently ranks as the top network provider for coverage. The RootMetrics report claimed it had the biggest median 4G footprint and the fastest average and maximum download speed.


5. giffgaff

Specs: Launched in 2009, giffgaff is an MVNO owned by O2 owner Telefónica. Its SIM-only bundles offer 5GB per month of 4G data, although they offer unlimited 3G bundles.

Price: The biggest data bundle costs £18 per month, but as this is a SIM-only deal you will have to provide your own device. 4G bundles start at £12 a month for 1GB.

Network reliability: As an MVNO, giffgaff runs on O2’s networks so will boast similar coverage quality. O2 generally ranks either second or third in studies of the UK’s best mobile networks.


6. TalkTalk

Specs: TalkTalk offers an unlimited data pay monthly SIM, so you may have to provide your own device. However, the company is one of the only companies on this list that can offer a quad-play bundle, making it a strong contender in the family market.

Price: At £12 a month, this is cited as the cheapest unlimited data plan in the UK.

Network reliability: TalkTalk used to have an MVNO agreement with Vodafone, but has now moved to O2.


7. iD (Carphone Warehouse)

Specs: iD, the MVNO from Carphone Warehouse, offers unlimited data on a pay monthly SIM. The move into the MVNO market fits with its continued status as a high-street mobile retailer.

Price: This deal will cost you £20 a month. iD emphasises customer convenience, offering a standardised bill, broader roaming than most other networks and a focus on shorter-term contracts.

Network reliability: iD uses Three’s network, which is probably the least pervasive of the big four mobile carrier networks. However, with the merger with O2’s network ahead, it could be in a position to be a lot stronger.


8. BT Mobile

Specs: BT Mobile offers a 20GB SIM-only, putting it slightly short of Vodafone, offering 25GB and Three, iD and giffgaff which offer unlimited bundles.

Price: Customers can access the 20GB plan for £25 a month. The service is cheaper if you are a BT broadband customer, bringing the cost down by £5 a month. The overall cheapest price includes 500MB a month for £5.

Network reliability: BT seems to have all bases covered: a return to the mobile market with the launch of an MVNO running on EE’s network, and acquiring EE itself. As mentioned above, EE is generally considered to be the most advanced and pervasive network in the UK.


9. Tesco Mobile

Specs: Tesco Mobile, the UK’s largest MVNO, offers maximum 8 GB data. In the SIM-only deal, you’ll get 5000 minutes, 5000 texts and 8 GB data.

Price: To get 8GB of data you will pay £25 a month for a SIM-only contract. With the Nokia Lumia 635 you will pay £27 a month. Tesco Mobile’s overall cheapest deal comes in at £10 a month with a Huawei Ascend Y550 and 500MB.

Network reliability: Tesco’s MVNO runs on O2’s network, so it is generally fairly pervasive in the UK. Like other MVNOs it may stand to gain from the Hutchinson Whampoa acquisition.


10. Mobile by Sainsbury’s

Specs: 2GB data is the biggest bundle you can get at Sainsbury’s. The flexible deal allows you to change between its three different deals each month according to your needs.

Price: With its £12 a month deal, it offers a 50 percent discount for the first three months. The cheapest deal will give you 500MB of data for £8.

Network reliability: Launched in July 2013 after an earlier abortive MVNO back in the early 2000s, the supermarket chain runs its service on Vodafone’s network, one of the middle-ranking carrier networks.

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