EE SIM only explained
In this guide
- Why choose EE SIM only?
- EE network
- Data and calling features
- Alternative providers
- Frequently asked questions
EE stands for 'Everything Everywhere', and even before the network was purchased by BT in 2016, was making claim to being the UK's biggest and best mobile network. Is that still true? Kinda. Though EE can still claim the most coverage and fastest data speeds, the margin is far narrower than it was back then.
Choosing a network can come down to a lot of factors; how much you pay, the features you get. Or it can be because the advertising worked. Whatever brought you here, we're aiming to answer all your questions about EE SIM only deals, and leave no stone unturned.
Why choose an EE SIM only deal?
All mobile networks do the same stuff when it comes down to it. You make and receive calls, send and receive texts (though most of us use WhatsApp or Apple Messages these days), and you send and receive data via various apps installed on your phone. There isn't a provider out there that doesn't have you covered when it comes to the basics.
Mobile providers have to do something to stand out, though, right? Right. So here's what's good about EE.
- Free Apple Music subscription – All EE SIMs currently offer six months' free subscription to Apple Music. You can even take advantage of this if you've been an EE customer for a long time. Just be aware that 'free periods' such as these are, beneath the surface, a means to hook you into a subscription longer term
- Free BT Sport – You'll get three months free, during which you'll be able to watch BT Sport via the mobile app. See note on Apple Music concerning the nature of free periods as, if anything, it applies even more here
- 4G in more places than other networks – Is a claim made by EE itself. And it's true – the EE network reaches more places than any other. It's also relative. Likely all the networks will reach the places you need them to. Still, if you want the 'best network' this is it, by a nose
- You can gift your spare data – With EE you can bring your family members onto your account, which will not only give you a 10% discount for each additional family member, it also allows you to shift spare data between family members as you please
- The EE app – The EE mobile app allows you to purchase more data instantly, should you ever hit your limit, manage your bills, check your calls through itemised billing and do the aforementioned data gifting, should you have a family account
- UK call centres – EE makes a lot of noise about how its customer service centres are all based in the UK and Ireland, if this matters to you
Is EE a good network?
Despite a rather larger number of UK mobile providers, there are actually only four network providers. That is to say, there are only four providers who own and run their own network. All those other providers piggyback (lease capacity) from one of those four. EE is one of those four network providers – the other three being Vodafone, Three and O2.
EE claims to offer the UK's most comprehensive coverage and best data speeds, thanks to its 19,000 '4G sites' – masts, basically. Independent sources such as OpenSignal agree with EE, though with 4G reaching nearly everyone now, are at pains to note that increases in coverage have slowed to a snails pace. This could be important if you live somewhere with poor coverage and are hoping for things to improve in the near future.
Average 4G speeds on EE are likely to be between 8-10Mbps, with instances in some areas and at some times of day where speeds could reach 40Mbps or more. Typical upload speeds are around 5-6Mbps, with instances up to 15Mbps. In some areas, EE also delivers something called 4G+, where speeds can be three times as fast.
Data and calling features
With every provider, no matter the SIM you choose, there will be some desirable features that it either offers, offers but to a limited extent, or doesn't offer at all.
- 4G data speed – According to Opensignal, the independent mobile network data collector, EE offers the fastest 4G data speeds of all the UK's network providers. According to its measurements in October 2018, EE's 4G speeds averaged 29Mbps
- Data rollover – With EE pay as you go (PAYG) or Flex plans (one-month contracts which allow you to change exactly what you'll get every 30 days) you can 'roll over' a proportion of any leftover data you have from one month to the next, adding it to the total amount available the following month. Note, this feature is not available on regular contracted EE SIM plans
- Tethering – Is where you use your phone or tablet as a mobile wifi hotspot, allowing other devices to connect to it and use its access to the internet to, er… access the internet. There were once strict limits on tethering, if it were allowed at all, but these days most providers let you use your data allowance however you please. EE allows tethering and places no restrictions on what proportion of data you are allowed to use while doing so
- Wifi calling – Is where, if you're near wifi you have the password for, EE's offered wifi calling as part of its plan for longer than anyone else
- Data gifting – This is where you can send your spare or leftover data to another family member. Data gifting relies on you buying multiple SIMs under one named bill payer, for use by different members of the family. You generally find it offered where these family SIM bundles are available. You can gift data on EE, provided you have one of these family bundles
- Data caps – What happens if you hit your monthly data limit? This varies from one provider to the next. In EE's case, it will send you warnings when you're close, then once you hit it, EE will divert your browser to a page where you can top up a little more data to see you through to the end of the month. If you find this happening a lot, it should go without saying that you need to upgrade your plan
Roaming on EE
Different mobile providers have different policies when it comes to roaming (using your phone at no additional cost in a foreign country). All 4GEE Essential plans, 4GEE plans and 4GEE Max plans will let you roam for free in a large number of (mostly European) countries.
They are: Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Canary Islands, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guyana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Islands, Romania, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City (Italy).
EE has various rates for other countries, so you'll need to check on EE's website before you travel anywhere not listed above.
Calling abroad from the UK on EE
- With EE pay monthly SIM contracts – With one of EE's pay monthly SIMs, you get cheap call rates to 50 foreign countries provided you purchase the 'International' add-on, comes at a small additional cost paid every month. There's also an International Extra add-on, with cheaper calls to up to 100 countries
- On EE pay as you go – You'll need to plump for a special International PAYG SIM (you can upgrade your current PAYG SIM to this without having to get a new, physical SIM). Doing so will net you inclusive calls to up to 34 countries
Which providers offer good alternatives?
EE isn't the only game in town. You knew that, right? Of course you did. If EE isn't tickling your fancy as you scan over the deals at the top of this page or read our in-depth description down here, there are plenty of others to choose from.
- ASDA Mobile – Is on the EE Network. It offers only pay as you go SIMs, with the option to use your top-up to buy bundles that act a bit more like pay-monthly deals
- BT Mobile – Is on the EE network and can be a good choice if you get your other services (broadband, TV, phone) through BT – keeps your bills in one place and there are often discounts for doing so
- giffgaff – Is on O2, and often offers some of the lowest prices out there, passing on savings from its unusual, community-led customer support
- O2 – Is on its own network and offers a range of deals not all that dissimilar to EEs
- iD Mobile – Is on the Three network, and is the in-house mobile provider brand for the Carphone Warehouse. It offers a wide range of both SIM only and handset deals
- Plusnet Mobile – Is on the EE network and offers only SIM only deals. It's not exactly famous for its generosity with data, though, so probably not even worth a look if you use a lot of it
- Sky Mobile – Is on the O2 network. It offers some reasonably good deals to Sky customers, but wouldn't be our first choice if you're not one
- SMARTY – Is on the Three network, and actually owned by Three. It is basically Three by another name. It offers a range of SIM only deals, one of which offers unlimited data at a decent price. Very rare at the moment
- Tesco Mobile – Is on the O2 network and offers a wide range of pretty much everything, from handsets to SIM only and pay as you go
- Three – Is on its own network and is currently pioneering the concept of unlimited data with its 'all you can eat' SIMs. Technically, Virgin Mobile, SMARTY and giffgaff all have one too, but SMARTY is Three in different clothes, giffgaff throttles the speed after 20GB and Virgin Mobile wants you to be a Virgin Media customer before you can sign up
- Virgin Mobile – Is on the EE network and offers a range of fairly priced SIMs with generous data allowances. You'll need to be a Virgin Media broadband and/or TV customer if you want its unlimited data SIM, however
- Vodafone – Is on its own network, and offers a similarly wide range of SIMs and phones to EE
Frequently asked questions
What length of contracts are available with an EE SIM only deal?
EE SIM only contracts are 12 months long. If this doesn't appeal, EE also provides a good range of PAYG SIMs, including a sort of halfway house arrangement called 'Flex' – where you have a rolling 30-day contract and you can change the minutes/data/text allowances as you please every 30 days.
What size SIM do I need? Will an EE SIM fit my phone?
EE SIMs arrive as something called a 'multi-SIM'. A multi-SIM is three SIMs in one, a SIM, a micro-SIM and a nano-SIM. You just unclip/push out the one you need and pop it in your phone.
Are SIM only deals cheaper than pay-monthly with handset deals?
Yes. Always. When you sign up to a deal that includes a handset you'll be paying for the cost of the handset across the length of your contract. With a SIM only deal, for a handset you already have, there will be no such cost to pay.
Can I keep my old number?
Yes. Once you've decided to switch, contact your existing provider and ask it for a PAC code. Once your new SIM arrives, contact your new provider and give it your PAC code. Porting the number across usually takes about 24-48 hours.
Is my phone unlocked? Can I use a new SIM in it?
It can be hard to tell if your phone is unlocked or not if you don't know. Rule of thumb is if you bought the handset outright in a single, large payment, it's going to be unlocked. If you bought it across a contract with a particular network/provider, chances are its locked. Phones are easy to unlock if this is the case. Check our mobile unlocking guide for details.
How much phone data do I need?
It really depends on you and what sort of things you like to do then you're out and about. Did you know that 75% of the data we use on our phones we use via wifi? At the very least it's worth taking that into consideration because in most cases people overestimate, rather than underestimate, how much they need.
Should I get unlimited calls and texts?
Yes. These days there isn't usually much of a cost difference between unlimited minutes and texts and a SIM deal with high limits. It's worth it for the peace of mind.
What does 30 day SIM only mean?
You can get SIM only deals on contracts, usually lasting 12 months, or you can opt for pay as you go or rolling 30-day contracts. With a 30-day SIM you will purchase some sort of 30-day bundle providing you with a prescribed amount of minutes, texts and data across that period. At the end of the 30 days your allowances expire and you can either roll over to a new 30-day period or quit.
How do I get an EE SIM card?
Any of the deals on this page will provide you with an EE SIM card, which you will be sent in the post.
Can I change my EE SIM plan any time?
Depends if you're on a 12-month contract SIM or an EE 30-day Flex SIM. You can change your data, minutes and text allowances ever 30 days with a Flex SIM, but you wan't get as good value for money as if you opt for a 12-month SIM only contract.
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