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The People’s Operator pay-as-you-go review

The People’s Operator (TPO) is a mobile provider with a noble goal to raise money for good causes. It offers competitively priced pay-as-you-go bundles and call rates, with 10% of your spend directed towards a charity of your choice.

TPO piggybacks on the EE network to offer widespread 3G coverage and now fast 4G too, so you can talk, text and get online in most parts of the UK. Here are the details to see if TPO is the provider for you...

Cable.co.uk overall rating
3

The People’s Operator offers reasonably priced 30-day SIM bundles and standard pay-as-you-go rates, with a portion of every top-up donated to your chosen charity. You’ll get widespread 3G coverage on the Three network but can only get 4G in selected areas. Data allowances are pretty limited and tethering is not allowed.

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Coverage & data speed

Rating

3

Rather than operating its own network, TPO is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that uses the EE network instead. EE is the largest 3G network in the country with 98% coverage so users can make phone calls, send text messages and use the internet throughout the UK. Coverage for TPO should match this and you can check if it’s available in your area using the online coverage checker.

Mobile internet access requires a 3G connection, which allows you to get online to download webpages and files at a reasonable speed. However, some activities work better and faster with 4G, which TPO now offers as standard, covering around 91% of UK premises. There’s no indication of how fast TPO’s 3G or 4G download speeds are. In theory it should mirror Three’s, which are a relatively fast 7Mbps (3G) and 17Mbps (4G), but MVNOs are often slower than their parent network and TPO does not confirm otherwise.

3G coverage
97%
4G coverage
91%
Average 3G speed*
7Mbps
Average 4G speed*
17Mbps
Call allowance
Bundles, or 4p per minute
Text allowance
Bundles , or 3p per message
Data allowance
Bundles, or 2p per MB
PAYG handsets
No
The coverage and speed of Three, which The People’s Operator uses to run its mobile phone service.
Prices from
3G coverage 97%
4G coverage 91%
Average 3G speed* 7Mbps
Average 4G speed* 17Mbps
Call allowance Bundles, or 4p per minute
Text allowance Bundles , or 3p per message
Data allowance Bundles, or 2p per MB
PAYG handsets No
Prices from From £7.50 per month
The coverage and speed of Three, which The People’s Operator uses to run its mobile phone service.
Info

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Data usage

Rating

3

TPO offers several inclusive data options or you can pay for every megabyte (MB) of data you use instead. Bundles give better value for money and options include between 512MB and 6GB per month. These are ample for light to medium internet users who browse, check in on social media, and watch the occasional YouTube video, for example. Those who spend more time online may find these caps too limiting; higher data allowances, including unlimited, are available from rival providers.

Another drawback is that tethering is not permitted on TPO pay-as-you-go SIM deals. This means you can’t set your smartphone up as a mobile wi-fi hotspot and use your internet connection to get other devices online. This function is quite restricted on PAYG SIM plans in general, but some providers do allow it.

Calls & texts

Rating

4

TPO offers generous bundles of calls and texts. The options include allowances of between 200 and 2400 minutes, and 500 to unlimited texts per month. Calls and texts between other TPO users are free. If you reach the limit on your bundle or choose a pay-as-you-go deal, you’ll pay 4p per minute for calls to UK landlines and mobiles and 3p per text. Picture messages (MMS) always cost 30p each and calls to 05 numbers cost 20p per minute. International rates vary between destinations.

Extra features

Rating

3

TPO doesn’t offer extra perks and freebies like the more mainstream mobile providers, but there are a couple of interesting features nonetheless. TPO customers can donate 10% of their bill payment to a charitable cause of their choice at no extra cost. In order to donate, a partner code is required, which can usually be found on your chosen charity’s website. You’ll need to enter the code online during the sign-up process. TPO also frequently runs campaigns to raise awareness and money for charities, which customers are encouraged to get involved with.

Finally, if your phone was previously used on a different network, it may need to be unlocked to accept a TPO SIM card. This sometimes incurs a charge and TPO offers £3 off the cost of unlocking your phone through mobileunlocked.com.

Value for money

Rating

3

TPO offers several pay-as-you-go bundles from £7.50 that run for 30 days as well as competitive rates if you’d rather just pay each time you use your phone. The provider sits in the middle of the mobile market with regards to value for money – the standard rates and bundles are fairly priced, but not the cheapest around. But if you like the idea of investing in an ethical company and contributing to charity each time you top up, it may be worth the slightly higher price. However, the lack of official data on speed is concerning, as is the lack of track record on TPO’s customer service. TPO is a SIM-only provider and doesn’t offer handsets, so you’ll need to already own an unlocked phone.

Overall Rating

3

TPO is an interesting alternative to mainstream mobile providers. Pay-as-you-go options include several 30-day packages – the Power, Super, Wonderful and Unmasked Bundles – with varying amounts of calls, texts and data to suit different budgets. Light users may prefer to simply top-up and pay for each call or text, and that’s an option too with reasonably priced standard rates. TPO takes an ethical stance and donates 10% of every top-up towards a charity of your choice.

The provider uses EE’s 3G network to operate its mobile service but doesn’t currently offer faster 4G on the PAYG tariff. The low data limits and the fact that tethering is prohibited may also put some people off. TPO doesn’t offer new handsets so you’ll need an unlocked phone before you can sign up.

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