Tesco SIM only deals explained
By Phil Wilkinson-Jones | Tuesday, November 2nd 2021
- Why choose Tesco?
- Is it a good network?
- Data and calling features
- What are the alternatives?
- Frequently asked questions
Tesco is one of two British supermarkets – alongside Asda – to offer mobile deals and is the only one to offer a full range of pay monthly SIM-only and phone deals on 12-month or 18-month contracts. Tesco Mobile has been around a while – since 2003, in fact – and is a joint venture between Tesco and O2.
There’s plenty about Tesco Mobile that makes it stand out from the crowd, such as the chance to earn Clubcard points and the fact you pick up a SIM deal while you do your shopping, so let’s take a look at what exactly the provider has to offer.
Why choose a Tesco Mobile SIM-only deal?
Tesco Mobile stocks a pretty wide range of handset deals but if you’re happy with the phone you’ve got, or prefer to buy one outright, then a SIM-only deal is for you. All Tesco’s SIM-only deals come with an allowance of data, calls and texts, but what else do you get for your money?
- Capped contracts – Tesco Mobile gives you the option of capping your contract so there’s no bill shock at the end of the month. You can set the cap at £0 so you’ll only ever pay your monthly tariff, or factor in a safety buffer to cover things not covered by your allowance, such as picture messages, calling premium rate numbers or making international calls.
- Family Perks – Family perks is a reward scheme open to anyone with two or more Tesco Mobile pay monthly contracts. Each month, you get a ‘Family Perk’ for every Tesco Mobile contract you have. Perks include up to 1GB of data, up to £2 off your bill and up to 200 Tesco Clubcard points – and you can change your perks each month.
- Clubcard points – Tesco Mobile allows you to earn Tesco Clubcard points by paying your mobile bill. You get one point for every pound spent.
- Tariff Promise – Tesco Mobile’s Tariff Promise is that the price of your tariff won’t increase for the length of your contract. This is because Tesco doesn’t go in for inflation-based mid-contract price hikes like some other providers.
Is Tesco Mobile a good network?
Tesco Mobile runs on the O2 network. There are only four mobile networks operating in the UK – EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three. Other providers, such as Tesco Mobile, are MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), which means they offer their services by piggybacking on another network.
Tesco Mobile offers 4G and 5G coverage
O2’s 4G network covers 99% of the UK population and the operator is constantly investing in its infrastructure. It’s 5G network is also growing rapidly and is now available in 150 towns and cities across the UK, including London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham. All Tesco Mobile SIMs are 5G ready so as long as there is a signal in your area and you have a 5G-ready handset, you can enjoy ultrafast 5G speeds.
Data and calling features
This is a quick rundown of some of the features that are becoming increasingly common on mobile contracts. How does Tesco Mobile measure up?
- 4G data speed – The latest report by analysts Opensignal shows O2, which operates the network used by Tesco Mobile, is catching up with its rivals in terms of download speed. Its average speed is now 17Mbps – easily fast enough to pretty much anything you’re going to do on your phone, although still way slower than the leader in the field, EE, with its average download speed of 39Mbps.
- 5G data speed – The average 5G download speed available with O2 averages 115Mbps. This is the slowest of the four mobile networks, but still considerably faster than the average download speed available with a home broadband connection.
- Data rollover – Tesco Mobile doesn’t offer a data rollover feature. If this is important to you, try Virgin, Sky or iD Mobile.
- Tethering – Tesco Mobile allows you to use your phone as a wifi hotspot and allow other devices to get online, a process known as tethering. Any data in your allowance can be used to ‘tether’ another device at no extra cost.
- Wifi calling – Tesco Mobile is yet to offer wifi calling, a technology that lets you make calls over wifi in places where you have no 3G or 4G signal.
- Data gifting – Tesco doesn’t allow you to share your data with family members, but the Family Perks feature does let you give a family member up to 1GB of data at the end of the month as long as they’re on a Tesco Mobile contract, too.
- Data caps – You can stop yourself going over your data allowance by setting a bill cap of £0 when you sign up with Tesco Mobile. You can also choose to have a safety buffer of, for example, £5, that would give you a bit of flexibility should you need it but stop you going too far over your monthly tariff.
Roaming on Tesco Mobile
All mobile providers allow you to use your phone’s data, calls and texts throughout the EU as you would in the UK, although some providers have now reintroduced roaming charges. Tesco Mobile offers its ‘Home from Home’ service in a number of other European countries and does not charge extra for it.
You don’t need to do anything when travelling to any of these countries, other than checking in your phone’s settings that you have roaming enabled. When you arrive, just use your phone as you would in the UK. And if you use up your allowance, you’ll either pay standard UK rates or you can use the Tesco Mobile app to add a data bundle.
The 48 countries included in Tesco’s Home from Home service are Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guyana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Jersey, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, St Martin, St Barts, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.
Frequently asked questions
Does Tesco Mobile offer unlimited data?
Yes, as is the case with most providers now, Tesco Mobile offers unlimited data on both 12-month and 18-month contracts.
How much data do I need?
This will depend entirely on what you use your data for. If you tend to do a lot of downloading and streaming, you will need a large amount of data. Equally, if you are connected to wifi most of the time, then you won’t need so much. The average monthly data usage in the UK is currently around 5GB. If you decide you need to change your monthly data allowance, you can do so with Tesco Mobile.
Does Tesco Mobile offer one-month contracts?
No, Tesco does not offer one-month contracts, but it does offer pay-as-you-go deals, known as Rocket Packs. You can choose to set up a recurring payment or just top up each month.
Do I need to get my phone unlocked?
If you have a phone that was bought on contract from another provider, it is likely to be locked, but you can check by borrowing a SIM from someone on another network. If it is locked, you will need to get in touch with your existing provider who can unlock it remotely for you. This usually only takes a few days but may come with a small charge.
What size SIM will I get from Tesco Mobile?
If you order a SIM from Tesco Mobile you’ll be sent what it calls a Tri-SIM (also known as a Multi-SIM). This contains a standard SIM, a Micro SIM and a Nano SIM – you just need to pop out the one that’ll fit in your phone and you’re good to go.
Can I keep my number when switching to Tesco Mobile?
Yes, and the first thing to do is to request a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) from your old provider. Simply text PAC to 65075, regardless of which provider you are with currently. Then when you have your Tesco Mobile SIM, text PORT to 23424. You’ll get a text asking you to reply with the mobile number you want to keep then another asking for your PAC number. Tesco will then let you know when your number will be transferred across – this usually takes less than two working days.