Compare data only sim deals with our easy to use comparison tool. Not everyone needs a SIM card to come with a minutes and text message bundle; if you’re looking to get a SIM card for your tablet or dongle all you need is a SIM with a data allowance.
We compare data sim only plans on all the major UK networks and MVNO’s that currently offer SIMs that just include data. With sims available from as little as £5 per month on 30-day rolling contracts or to 12-month contracts with near unlimited data allowances we’ve got you covered. Compare the UK data sim only market below.
In today’s world, there’s a growing need to be constantly and reliably online. Maybe you need to entertain yourself during your morning commute, maybe you can’t afford to miss that important work email, perhaps you’re a freelancer and an internet connection is your bread and butter. Sure, you could just use your mobile. But you might be better off considering a data only SIM. What’s that? What are the advantages? Where are the best deals? We’ve got answers to all those questions and more in our in-depth guide to data only SIMs.
A data only SIM is pretty much what it says on the box. It’s a SIM card that gives you a data allowance. To be clear, there are no calling minutes or text messages included (like when you get a mobile phone SIM), it’s data only. Stick that data only SIM into your tablet, laptop, or other gadget and you’ve got an internet connection. Bingo. Can you put one into your phone? Sure, but if you do you won’t be able to make calls or send texts, you’ll only be able to go online.
Data only SIMs use the mobile data network of the operator you get your SIM from. So buy an O2 SIM and you’ll be using O2’s 3G or 4G network. This is usually much more reliable than public wifi and means you’ll get data service wherever there’s mobile phone reception.
You can pretty much put a data only SIM into any device that will accept a SIM card. So as we said, theoretically you could put one in your mobile if you wanted to. However, most people use them in data dedicated devices like:
There are a few other gadgets that take SIM cards too. Some home security systems use data only SIMs to stay online and alert, some GPS systems use them, and sometimes tachographs (to record driving and deliveries for truck drivers) use SIMs.
There is also a growing group of people that are choosing to put data only SIMs in their phones. Data only SIMs tend to be cheaper and more flexible than regular mobile plans. And since many people nowadays use internet-based messaging (like WhatsApp and Viber) and internet calling (Skype and Viber again), it’s become less necessary to have calling minutes and texting included in a phone plan.
Okay, okay, you probably get a pretty good internet connection on your phone, right? So why should you go to all the trouble of getting a data only SIM when you could just use your mobile instead? There are a few reasons why you might opt to NOT use your mobile:
Hold up, saving money? A data only SIM can save money? It sure can. The problem with being online on your phone is that you have a limited amount of data in your phone plan. Go over that data limit and you’ll start paying some hefty fees for extra data. A dedicated data only SIM, on the other hand, should give you a large data allowance for a cheaper price than your mobile (since you’re not getting calling and texting included). In the long run, this can end up saving you some cash.
There’s one more reason you might choose to get a data only SIM. If you have a dual SIM phone, then you could opt to put a data only SIM into that second SIM card slot. Why would you do this? Well, as we said before, data tends to be cheaper and more flexible on data only SIMs. Get a cheap mobile plan with minutes and texts that you can use for calling, and then a data only SIM that gives you a higher data limit for a cheaper price than you could get on a mobile plan and you’re good to go. That data only SIM is awesome for back up, or for tethering (using your mobile as a wifi hotspot that lets you connect another device such as a laptop to it), or even for use when you’re abroad or travelling.
The answer to that is really up to you. However, if you spend a fair amount of time online when you’re not at home or in the office, then a data only SIM is definitely worth considering. If you’ve got a long commute, if you want to be able to work in coffee shops or even the park, if you travel frequently, all of these are good reasons to grab an extra data only SIM.
There are two forms of data SIM card available, microSIM and nanoSIM, though many operators are now offering all in one SIM cards where you just press out the size you need from a plastic card. If your device has a SIM card slot then yes, a SIM from almost any operator should fit in just fine. If your device does not have a SIM card slot (which may be the case with a laptop), then you’ll need to get something like a mobile dongle. You plug the SIM into the dongle, then the dongle into your laptop, problem solved!
Of course, there are tons of mobile operators in the UK, but do they all offer data-only SIMs? In many cases, you will save a little money if you opt to combine your data only SIM with a phone plan at one operator. This is called bundling and usually comes with a discount. But does your operator have data only SIMs? And how much do they cost?
It’s difficult to say which network will give you the best deal since this will depend on what exactly you’re looking for. In addition, not all operators offer data-only SIMs. Below you can find a brief overview of what each of the UK’s main networks offers in term of data SIM only deals. In general, your best bet will be to use a comparison site to compare offers from different networks to find the one that best matches your needs at the most affordable price.
BT Data Only SIMs
BT offers what they call a “4G Tablet SIM” (rather than a data only SIM) with various plans. 12-month contracts go from £10 a month for 2 GB of data, up to £22 for 30 GB a month. 1-month contracts start at £12 a month for 2 GB of data and go up to £24 a month for 30 GB. All plans include fast 4G data, free EU roaming, and access to BT’s public WiFi spots.
EE Data Only SIMs
EE have three kinds of data only SIM plans. 30-day plans go from £13 for 2 GB of data up to £30 for 30 GB. 12-month plans go from £12 for 2 GB of data up to £29 for 30 GB. And 24-month plans for from £11 for 2 GB of data up to £28 for 30 GB of data. All plans include free EU roaming, but only the most expensive plan in each group has the fastest 4G data speeds (all others have up to 60 mbps, which is still pretty fast!). All plans have the possibility to add a data cap to stop you using more than your limit.
The operator also offers PAYG options, allowing you to pay upfront before using. You can choose whether you want to use PAYG for 1, 3, or 6 months. 2 GB of data for 1 month is £15, whilst you’ll pay £50 for 2 GB a month for 6 months.
Giffgaff Data Only SIMs
Giffgaff offer only one data only plan, which they call a “gigabag.” This costs £5 a month and includes 500 MB of data. You do get access to fast 4G data speeds where available, however.
iD Data Only SIMs
All of iD’s data only plans are for 30 days, and all include fast 4G data. The cheapest plan available is £5 a month for 500 MB of data, whilst the biggest plan is £25 for 15 GB. EU roaming is included in the price.
Lebara Mobile Data Only SIMs
Lebara don’t exactly offer data-only SIMs, since all of their plans also include international calling minutes. However, they do have what they call a “data pass.” These range from £5 for 500 MB up to £12.50 for 3GB, and will work just fine on your tablet or laptop. However, you do also get 100 international calling minutes with every package. EU roaming is free.
O2 Data Only SIMs
As one of the UK’s largest operators, O2 has plenty of data only deals. On a pay monthly deal (all of which are 30 day contracts), prices go from £11 for 2 GB of data up to £30 for 50 GB. All deals include 100 free text messages, free EU roaming, access to O2’s public WiFi hotspots, and fast 4G mobile data speeds.
There’s also the option of going PAYG. You can buy preloaded data SIM cards from O2 from £8 for 1 GB of data, up to £32 for 12 GB. Plus, the more often you top up your SIM card, the bigger the discount you get on prices. You can also choose top-ups that last varying amounts of time (say a 1 GB top up that’s good for a month, or a 12 GB top up that will be valid for a year).
Sky Mobile Data Only SIMs
Sky Mobile do not currently offer data-only SIMs. However, if you’re an existing Sky customer then all texts and calls for mobile customers are free, essentially meaning that if you get a regular Sky Mobile plan then you’re only paying for data anyway. Regular Sky Mobile plans run from £5 for 500 MB of data to £15 for 5 GB of data. All data is 4G.
Tesco Mobile Data Only SIM’s
Tesco Mobile have three data only offers. There are two 30 day contracts, 3 GB of data for £15 or 8 GB for £25, or a year-long contract with 4GB of data for £15. All include 4G mobile data speeds where available.
The People’s Operator Data Only SIM
The People’s Operator has 30-day data only contracts and offers three options: £3.49 for 512 MB, £5.49 for 1 GB, or £16.99 for 6 GB of data. All include 4G data speeds. Should you run out of data you can also get a bolt on giving you an extra 512 MB (£3), 1 GB (£5), or 2 GB (£8). 10% of all your payments go to charity with The People’s Operator.
Three Data Only SIM
Three have tons of data only SIM deals, though all are on 30-day contracts. The smallest option has 2 GB of data and costs £10, the largest has 40 GB and costs £30 a month. If you prefer to pay as you go there are three options: 1 GB of data good for 30 days for £10, 3 GB of data good for 3 months for £16, and 12 GB of data good for a year for £40. All plans have fast 4G mobile data speeds where available.
Virgin Mobile Data Only SIMs
Virgin Mobile have an array of contracts. Their 30-day contracts go from £8 for 2 GB of data up to £20 for 10 GB, whilst their 12-month contracts go for £4 for 1 GB of data up to £19 for 10 GB. Data is 4G when available, and Virgin Mobile does allow you to roll over unused data into the next month on 12-month contracts.
Vodafone Data Only SIM’s
Vodafone have the choice of 30 day or 12 month contracts with data only SIMs. With a 30 day contract, the cheapest option is £11 for 2 GB of data, going up to £30 for 50 GB. On a 12 month plan, the basic option is still £11 for 2 GB, whilst 50 GB is £25. All plans include 4G data speeds where available, as well as free-roaming inside the EU.
There are a few steps that you should follow to ensure that you get the right data only SIM plan for you. Here’s what you need to do:
Not all operators offer the same kinds of coverage in all areas of the country. You want to make sure that you’re going to get awesome reception (and therefore good data speeds) wherever you like to go. So your first step is to check coverage. You can do that using the OFCOM coverage checker. Alternatively, most operators have a coverage map on their website (which you can find by clicking the appropriate link in the “what are my operator choices?” section).
Don’t forget to check coverage in all the places you’re likely to go, not just around your home. So you might want to check frequent holiday spots or coverage around your friend’s homes, and so on.
Data speeds are less of an issue than they used to be, with more and more networks offering fast 4G coverage. But it is something that you need to keep in mind. If that data deal seems pretty cheap you might want to double check that you’re getting 4G data and not just 3G. On the other hand, if you want to save a little cash, 3G is usually cheaper. It’s really up to you, but remember that 4G can offer data speeds around ten times faster than those on 3G.
Just like with mobile plans, you’ll have the choice of a preloaded data SIM (which works the same way as Pay As You Go mobile service) or a contract. Which is right for you? Preloaded SIMs are great if you don’t want to be tied into a contract, if you might not pass the credit check that some contracts require, or if your data use isn’t constant. If you only use data when you’re at your parent’s house every other weekend, for example, preloaded is probably going to be a good choice.
On the other hand, contracts will give you more reliability. Plus, data prices overall are cheaper on contracts. You might need to pass a credit check though. If you decide a contract is right for you, then again, you’ll have choices. Two choices to be exact:
Which of these options you choose is really up to you and will depend on your circumstances. But if you want the best deal on price then a twelve-month contract is nearly always the best bet.
Finally, you’ll need to decide how much data you need. On a preloaded (or PAYG) data only SIM this isn’t really a big deal since you can top up your data whenever you like. But if you’re opting for a contract, then that data limit is important. Choose a limit that’s too high and you’ll be paying for data you’re not using. Choose a limit that’s too low and you might end up paying extra fees because you’re using extra data (and those extra usage fees are usually pretty pricey). Choosing the right amount of data can be tough. So tough in fact, that this really deserves a section of its own…
Now the hardest question. How much data should you get on your contract? Of course, this depends on how much you tend to go online. You might want to take a look at your data usage. Most mobiles have a data tracker buried somewhere in the settings menu that can give you an idea of how much mobile data you usually use in a month, and that’s a good place to start. But in reality, you’re probably just going to have to make an educated guess. There are a few things that we can tell you that can help you make this decision, however.
According to UK operator giffgaff, the average UK mobile user uses around 2.3 GB of data month. So at best guess, you’ll need around a 2 GB data limit. Again though, this is going to depend a lot on how you use your data connection. So it might be helpful to know how much data different activities use:
You’ll need to decide how you’re going to use your internet connection and do a little math. But if you want a quick handy guesstimate:
If you’re not confident about your data limit guesstimate, or if you know that occasionally you’re likely to go over your limit, then there are some operators that will help you out. Many networks offer “add-ons” or “bolt-ons” that let you add an extra GB or so of data to your plan whenever you need it. These bolt-ons do tend to be more expensive per GB than a contract but they do also provide a little flexibility should you need it. O2, for example, allows you to do this, as does Three, Vodafone, and EE.
Once you know what kind of plan and contract you’re looking for then your best bet is going to be to enter that info into an online comparison tool that compares different operators. Deals change pretty quickly on the UK market, so it’s tough to tell you exactly what the best deals are going to be. DO check yourself. However, right now these are the best deals around:
Finally, before you make that final decision, there are a few more things that you might want to keep an eye out for.
When you’re paying for anything it’s always a good idea to read the small print, and data only SIM plans are no different. If you do this you might notice that a lot of agreements include a “fair usage policy.” This means that the operator reserves the right to slow down your data speeds if they feel that you’re using too much data at any one time.
In reality, these fair usage policies rarely kick in. But if you’re heavily internet dependent and often perform tasks that use a lot of bandwidth, you might want to look out for a contract that doesn’t include a fair use policy, or that has a generous policy. You’ll need to dig around on the website of the operator you’re interested in searching for “fair use policy” to get this info.
Some operators allow you to roll over unused data into the next month, meaning that you ’re not paying for fresh air. This depends on the operator and on the kind of contract you’re signing, and it won’t always be a possibility. O2, Vodafone and Sky Mobile all offer the possibility of data rollover in some contracts. Again, you’ll need to dig around on an operator’s website to find this info.
Finally, watch out for perks! Many operators offer perks for signing up. This might be some free data, or perhaps the chance to win something, or discounted movie tickets once a week. You should never base your full decision on a freebie, but a nice perk can be a deciding issue if you’re stuck choosing between two contracts.
A data only SIM isn’t for everyone. But in some cases going data only is a great way to get a reliable internet connection and to save a little cash in the process. If you’re shopping for a data-only SIM, then you should now know everything you need to know to make a great buying decision. And you’ll never be without an internet connection again!