Millions of people move to the UK each year to live, work and study. If you're immigrating to the UK, check out this guide that explains how the mobile market here works and what kinds of mobile phone services are available.
What kinds of mobile phone calling plans are available in the UK?
There are two kinds of mobile call plans in the UK: pre-pay and contract. These are also known as pay as you go' plans and pay monthly' plans.
Pay as you go mobile phone plans are much easier to set up than pay monthly. As the pre-pay market in the UK is very competitive, most of the network operators here will send you a free pay as you go SIM card by post when you sign up online. Alternatively you can get one from a store, where you will normally pay a small cost. You then add credit to your phone by topping up' online or at places where you see the top up' symbol such as supermarkets, newsagents and convenience stores. You cannot make calls or send texts without credit on your phone. To obtain a pay as you go SIM card you need not provide an address, UK bank account or pass a UK credit check. You will have to have an unlocked mobile phone to use with the SIM.
To get a pay monthly phone contract you must be 18 years or older, have a UK bank account and a UK address. As it is a credit product, you will have to pass a credit check. Your network operator sends you a bill at the end of the month for the calls and texts you have made. 12 month, 18 month and 24 month contracts are available and these include a mobile phone.
If you've had problems passing a credit check in the UK, you could get a SIM-only tariff. This works like a pay monthly contract but comes without a mobile phone. Without an included handset, the credit check is less severe.
Which plans have the best value?
Generally, pay monthly contracts are better value for money as networks will bundle together attractive combinations of free call time and texts to offset the cost of a monthly contract.
If you would like a smartphone, like an iPhone 4 or a BlackBerry, don't forget to look for a tariff that also includes internet.
If you don't use your mobile phone often or you can't get a monthly plan, pay as you go is still a good alternative.
What are the networks?
In the UK, there are five network operators: O2, Orange, 3, T-Mobile and Vodafone. There are other networks available such as Tesco or GiffGaff that piggyback off these networks and are known as virtual operators.
Calling internationally to and from the UK
For others to call you from abroad, they need to replace the 0 at the start of your UK number with +44. You will not be charged to receive an international call or text.
If you are dialling out to an international number, you must enter 00 followed by the international dialling code for that country. For example, if you are calling Singapore you would dial 00 65 (international dialling code for Singapore is +65) followed by the local number.