BT is one of the UK’s biggest providers of broadband and TV services but the telecoms giant also runs a mobile network, offering handsets, SIM deals and more – with additional benefits available to customers who are already signed up to BT broadband.
BT first entered the mobile phone market in the 1980s with its Cellnet brand, which was renamed BT Cellnet in 1999 and became O2 a few years later before being sold to Spanish telecoms firm Telefonica. BT returned to the mobile market in 2015 as an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) with the launch of BT Mobile, running on the EE network.
Who is BT Mobile?
As with all mobile providers, there are features of BT Mobile that make it what it is. Here’s a run-down of what makes BT Mobile stand out from the crowd.
- Discount for BT broadband customers – If you have BT broadband at home then you are eligible for a £5 discount on BT Mobile plans, including handset and SIM-only deals. It’s not just the account holder who qualifies for the discount, everyone in the household can benefit.
- BT reward cards – BT Mobile plans almost always come with a BT reward card, which is basically a prepaid Mastercard that can be used almost everywhere on the high street and online.
- Free wifi access – Plans come with free access to more than five million UK wifi hotspots. You can read more about wifi hotspots and where to find them in our wifi hotspots guide.
- Family SIM deals – BT’s Family SIM plans offer a discount for each additional SIM you add and give you the option to add or remove SIMs each month to suit your family’s needs.
- Free BT Sport – Selected BT Mobile plans include free access to the BT Sport app, which allows you to watch live sport including Champions League football on your phone.
- Worry-free returns – With SIM-only and Family SIM plans, you can cancel at any point in the first 30 days if you’re not happy and get a full refund for everything included in your plan.
- Refer a friend – If you refer a friend using the form on the BT Mobile website, and your friend joins using the unique link, you both get a £25 Amazon gift card.
- Wifi calling – BT is one of a growing number of mobile providers offering wifi calling, which lets you make calls and send texts over wifi when you have no mobile signal.
What does BT Mobile offer?
- Pay monthly phone deals – BT Mobile tends to only stock the most popular phone brands, although of course this means that it still caters for the vast majority of people. We’re talking about Apple, Samsung and Huawei, with the occasional Nokia, Sony or Motorola thrown into the mix.
- SIM-only deals – BT has a number of SIM-only deals available with 12-month contracts. There’s no option for a shorter contract length but you can switch between plans every month if you wish to suit the amount of data you think you’ll use.
- Data-only SIM deals – If you’re looking for a SIM for your tablet then it’s better to get extra data rather than texts and minutes you’re not going to use. BT has a range of data-only plans for exactly this purpose.
UK mobile providers can’t legally charge you extra for using your data, calls or text allowance within the EU. BT Mobile, like a number of other providers, actually includes more countries than just those in the EU bloc in its list of inclusive roaming destinations.
BT Mobile lets you roam like at home in 47 destinations, which it splits into what it calls Roaming Zone 1a and Roaming Zone 1b. Roaming is free in both zones but the price you pay per call, text or MB of data if you go over your allowance depends on which zone you’re in.
In BT Mobile’s Roaming Zone 1a is Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira), Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Vatican City. BT points out that when roaming in northern Cyprus you may connect to a Turkish network and therefore be charged.
In Roaming Zone 1b is Canary Islands, French Guiana, Gibraltar, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Iceland, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Martinique, Mayotte, Norway, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, San Marino and Switzerland.
For data roaming outside of BT’s Roam Like Home destinations, you can buy a Travel Data Pass that gives you 500MB for £6 a day. This can be used in Andorra, Australia, Canada, China, India, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, UAE and USA.
How good is BT Mobile’s network
BT Mobile is an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) and uses the network of EE, which it bought in 2016, to deliver its mobile services. EE is one of four mobile network operators in the UK along with Three, O2 and Vodafone – all other mobile providers are MVNOs and run on of these networks.
The EE network allows BT Mobile to offer 4G calling, which means clearer sounding calls if you’re connected to 4G (as opposed to 3G or 2G). EE is working to increase its 4G network’s geographical coverage of the UK to 95% by 2020.
In its most recent mobile experience report, OpenSignal found EE to have the best 4G availability of any of the UK’s four 4G networks. Mobile users with the OpenSignal app could access EE’s 4G network 89% of the time, five percentage points ahead of its nearest rival O2. EE also provided the fastest average download speeds, according to the report, measuring an average of 29.6Mbps.
What are the alternatives?
- ASDA Mobile – ASDA Mobile, which uses the EE network, offers pay as you go SIMs and 30-day pay as you go bundles.
- EE – EE offers a wide range of handsets, SIM-only deals and pay as you go. Plans come with a number of benefits including a music and video data passes and BT Sport.
- giffgaff – giffgaff, which uses the O2 network, offers 30-day SIM deals and unlocked handsets, both new and pre-owned.
- iD Mobile – iD Mobile uses the Three network and offers pay monthly phones, SIM deals and pay as you go. Its 4G plans come with data rollover and bill capping.
- O2 – One of the UK’s best known mobile providers, O2’s pay monthly phones, SIM-only and pay as you go deals come with membership of its rewards scheme O2 Priority.
- Plusnet Mobile – Plusnet, which is owned by BT and uses the EE network, offers a range of 30-day and 12-month SIM-only deals.
- Sky Mobile – A relative newcomer to the mobile scene, Sky Mobile (using the O2 network) offers handsets and SIMs with extra benefits on offer to those already signed up to Sky broadband or TV.
- SMARTY – Owned by Three and running on its network, SMARTY offers 30-day SIM deals and gives you money off the next month for any data you don’t use.
- Tesco Mobile – Tesco Mobile has a range of pay monthly, SIM- only and pay as you go deals, all of which can earn you Clubcard points. The supermarket giant uses the O2 network.
- Three – With a strong focus on customers who spend a lot of time online, Three’s plans tend to skew pretty data-heavy and it even offers unlimited pay monthly mobile and SIM-only deals.
- Virgin Mobile – BT’s great rival Virgin also uses the EE network. Its pay monthly mobile and SIM plans include data rollover and data-free use of Facebook Messenger, Twitter and WhatsApp.
- Vodafone – Vodafone offers pay monthly mobile, SIM-only and pay as you go plans, some of which come with a free subscription to Sky Sports Mobile TV, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify or NOW TV.
Frequently asked questions
Does BT Mobile do pay as you go?
No, BT Mobile doesn’t offer a pay as you go service. EE, which is part of the BT Group, does and you can check out more deals on our pay as you go comparison page.
Can I keep my phone number if I switch to BT Mobile?
Yes, in most cases you’ll be able to keep your existing mobile number. You’ll just need to speak to your current provider and ask them for a PAC code. The nine-digit code they’ll give you will be valid for 30 days, during which time you’ll need to speak to BT Mobile about what to do next. Once you’ve given BT Mobile the PAC code, it should take no longer than two days to transfer your number.
How do I know when I’ve switched from my old provider to BT Mobile?
You’ll get a text from BT Mobile to let you know the switch has been completed. This will be between 11am and 6pm. When you get the text, it’s time to take your old SIM out of your phone and pop in your new BT Mobile SIM.
How can I tell how much data I’ve got left?
You can check your allowance with the free BT Mobile app, available for Apple, Android and Windows phones. Or you can log into the BT website to see all sorts of information about your plan.
Does BT Mobile support VoLTE?
Yes, BT Mobile does support VoLTE (Voice over LTE, also known as 4G Calling), a technology that lets you make calls over 4G, giving you a clearer, better quality sound than you get over 2G or 3G.
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