How to compare unlimited SIM only plans
In this guide
- What is an unlimited data SIM?
- Why choose a SIM with unlimited data?
- Which providers offer unlimited data?
- Frequently asked questions
Three introduced the first SIM deals with unlimited data back in 2017, calling it 'all you can eat'. And it pretty much had that entire market to itself for the next few years. Here in 2020, though, things are changing fast. While not all mobile providers offer unlimited data SIM plans, many now do.
Not only that, but unlimited data is becoming more affordable all the time. Whether or not anyone actually needs it is another question, one we'll explore in this guide to some extent. But like broadband, you can't argue that unlimited data does not at least put to bed any worries you might have about about running out.
What is an unlimited data SIM?
Up until fairly recently, mobile, tablet and mobile broadband SIMs have always come with a monthly limit. However, things have been changing this past year and now many providers are offering a wide range of SIM types which have no monthly limit on how much data you can use.
Although all SIMs are the same in appearance, there are a range of functions and contract types they might apply to. Here, then, is a quick rundown of all of the types of unlimited SIM deal currently available. We'll talk about what is available from each provider further down, but for now these are the basic types.
- Contract – The type of SIM you have in your mobile phone. These SIMs come with minutes and texts and are universally offered on 12-month contracts
- PAYG – Another SIM that goes in a mobile phone, though there are some PAYG SIMs that are also data-only and go in tablets too. It may sound contradictory (pay as you go and unlimited) but with many PAYG SIM packages offering monthly 'bundles' on minutes data and texts, unlimited data is becoming an increasingly common option
- Data-only – These go in tablets, laptops that have a SIM slot, or a MiFi personal hotspot (mobile broadband) device, and distinguish themselves by not offering any minutes or texts
- No contract (30-day) – Slightly distinct from PAYG SIMs, these are 30-day contracted unlimited SIMs for phones and for tablets, where you can opt out at any time with 30 days notice. 30-day SIMs of any type are always more expensive than contract (12-month) SIMs
Why choose a SIM with unlimited data?
Here's the thing. Most of us spend most of our time within range of a wifi signal. In fact, I think many would be shocked just how little mobile data they use, so long as they have logged into wifi at home, work and at the houses of friends and family.
However, there are some either with specific job types that see them out and about more than at home, or they just like to fill their time with video streaming when commuting. So, here are the three reasons you might want to pick an unlimited data mobile SIM over any other type.
- You stream a lot – If you watch a lot of streamed video content on YouTube, Netflix or other, and you tend to do that while you're out and about, then there is potentially a need for either a very large data limit, or more economically, an unlimited data SIM only plan
- You download a lot of apps and games – Equally, apps and games can be pretty huge these days, so if you're a keen mobile gamer and like to try a lot of different apps and games each month, there's potentially an argument to choose an unlimited data SIM deal over any other type of plan
- You just don't want to think about data – Here's the reason most of us here at Cable.co.uk have unlimited data SIMs in our phones: It's not all that expensive and you can just forget about data limits altogether. At the time of writing, we've seen unlimited data SIMs for as little as £11 per month, and there are a lot of limited SIMs out there that cost more than that. Unlimited data is set to become the rule rather than the exception. When, not if, you jump on board then will be up to you
Which providers offer unlimited data?
Not every provider offers unlimited data. Notable brands that don't include Asda Mobile, BT Mobile, Plusnet Mobile, Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile. Enough about who can't though, here are the providers that can.
- EE – Operates on its own network and offers several 4G and 5G plans with unlimited data and flexible benefits (where you can mix and match your optional extras)
- giffgaff – Offers 30-day SIMs which roll on each month, giving you the option to upgrade or downgrade your SIM plan any time you want. It calls these bundles 'Goodybags'. Giffgaff offers a Goodybag called 'Always On', which offers unlimited data
- iD Mobile – Is the network brand for retailer The Carphone Warehouse. It offers one unlimited data SIM deal for phones
- O2 – Offers a wide variety of SIMs on its own network. Of course, there's only really ever any need for one SIM with unlimited everything. O2 has one
- SMARTY – Is a sub-brand of Three, offering a simplified, smaller ranger of SIMs and options, one of which offers unlimited data and is very reasonably priced
- Three – Has offered unlimited data for year, but at a very high premium for much of that time. With other providers now entering the unlimited fray, Three SIMs with unlimited data have come down in price
- Virgin Mobile – Offers an unlimited data SIM deal, but the catches are twofold: First, you need to be a Virgin Media broadband or TV customer to qualify, and second it is far from cheap compared to come of its competition
- Vodafone – Offers an exhausting list of unlimited deals with minute differences that are not immediately apparent. It also offers cut-price 6-month introductory periods. Of all the providers offering unlimited data, Vodafone's is the most confusing. But if you're prepared to spend the time you may find a deal more tailored than you might get elsewhere
- VOXI Mobile – Is owned by Vodafone and operates on the Vodafone network. Provides a 5G-ready data plan it calls 'Endless Data'
Frequently asked questions
Can I get an a SIM with unlimited data?
Yes. A wide range of providers now offer SIMs with unlimited data, where a year or two ago it was just one or two. For the full list of providers, see the section above this one.
Are unlimited SIMs more expensive?
Yes and no. They are generally the most expensive SIM from most providers, however they are often cheaper than very-large-limit SIMs were just a year or two ago. So it's a matter of perspective.
Should I get an unlimited data SIM or just get a limited deal instead?
It depends on the provider you choose, what the monthly cost difference actually is on the day, and of course whether or not you feel you really need unlimited data or could make do perfectly well with a limited SIM deal.
What SIM card do I need?
It’ll be one of three sizes of SIM cards that you need – standard, micro or nano. Deals come with either a multi-SIM that includes all three.
How much data do I need?
Probably less than you think. Though unlimited data SIMs are set to become the norm rather than the exception, most of us spend the vast majority of our time within range of a wifi signal. Ultimately, the only way to really know is to check how much data you use month to month – information usually available from your current provider.
Who has the cheapest unlimited data plan?
This changes day to day, but it's easy to find out using the tools on this very page. Simply select all providers and sort the deals by monthly cost. The cheapest deal will be the first listed.