SIM Only Deals Compared

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A SIM only deal is a great way to get cheap, effective broadband to your mobile device. You can also use your mobile device as a wifi hotspot and use it to power other devices throughout the home. SIM only deals are popular because they tend to be very affordable, and don’t require the lengthy contracts necessitated by most ISPs. And because they use mobile networks, there’s no need for a cable connection. As 5G is rolled out across the country, a SIM only deal can potentially provide speeds comparable to a full fibre connection!
Last update: October 2021

At Broadband Plans, we can help you find the perfect way to get online, whether you’re at home or on the go. But how do SIM only deals work? How do you know which is the best SIM only deal for you? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of choosing this kind of broadband deal? We’ll endeavour to answer all of your questions here!

Which broadband supplier offers the best SIM only deal?

There are lots of mobile providers to choose from, all offering attractive SIM only deals. If you already have a smartphone, now might be the perfect time to jump off the endless upgrade bandwagon and secure a better deal for your mobile data. You won’t even have to change your phone number!

Which providers offer SIM only deals?

Virtually, all of the mobile networks offer at least one SIM only deal. And you may find that once you’ve untethered yourself from the cost of financing a new phone or tablet every 2 years that you can get a great value SIM only deal for a few pounds per month.
In the table below, we’ll look at some of the best value SIM only deals on the market.

5 cheapest SIM only deals

If you’re on a limited budget, these SIM only deals combine low prices with a flexible monthly rolling contract:


Network Data allowance Minutes and texts Contract length Monthly cost
Lebara 1GB (4G) Unlimited texts & 250 mins 1 month £3.99
Talk Mobile 2GB (4G) Unlimited 1 month £4.95
Smarty 5GB (4G) Unlimited 1 month £5
ID Mobile 1GB (4G) Unlimited 1 month £5
Virgin Mobile 5GB (4G) Unlimited 1 month £6



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5 SIM only deals with the best data allowance

SIM only deals can be quite restrictive in their data limits. However, in the table below, you can see the SIM only deals that have the most generous data allowances:


Network Data allowance Minutes and texts Contract length Monthly cost
O2 250GB (5G) Unlimited 12 months £28
EE 200GB (5G) Unlimited 24 months £23
Vodafone 100GB (5G) Unlimited 12 months £16
3 100GB (4G) Unlimited 12 month £16
GiffGaff 80GB (4G) Unlimited 1 month £20


5 Best value 5G SIM only deals

5G offers lightning-fast speeds of up to 1Gbps, comparable with a Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) broadband connection. However, if you want a connection of this speed, you can expect a trade-off in the form of a longer contract or higher monthly cost.
You can check out some of the best-value 5G SIM only deals on the market below:


Network Data allowance Minutes and texts Contract length Monthly cost
3 1GB (5G) Unlimited 12 months £5
Virgin Mobile 5GB (5G) Unlimited 12 months £6
O2 8GB (5G) Unlimited 12 months £8
Tesco Mobile 12GB (5G) 5000 texts & mins 18 months £12


How much data should I look for in a SIM only deal?

SIM only deals are designed with mobile use in mind. As such, they tend to have less generous data allowances than most broadband deals offered by ISPs. However, many users with SIM only deals find that they end up with quite a lot of unused data, so it may be advantageous to find a SIM only deal that allows your data to roll over from one month to the next.
But how much data should you look for in your SIM only deals? Let’s take a look:

  • For light use (browsing, social media , shopping) 2-5GB should be more than sufficient.
  • For medium use (checking email often, downloading new apps and games every month and streaming video regularly) you’ll probably need at least 10GB per month.
  • For heavy use (regularly using video streaming platforms and online games) you’ll probably need a more robust data allowance of 20GB plus.

If you’ll be using your SIM card with a wireless dongle rather than your mobile device, it may be better to err on the side of caution and get a deal with 100 plus GB of data.

The pros and cons of choosing SIM only

A SIM only deal could be the perfect choice for you, providing affordability, flexibility and a reliable service. But it can also be a frustrating for those with more robust data needs.
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of a SIM only deal…

The advantages of a SIM only deal

There are some real benefits to a SIM only deal. These include:

  • A huge variety of different deals to choose from
  • 5G offers parity of speed with FTTC broadband
  • Can be used with a handset, tablet or wireless dongle
  • Much cheaper for data than most PAYG deals
  • Much lower monthly bills than deals with a new handset
  • Flexible contracts that give you freedom combined with value for money
  • No need to worry about topping up your credit or being left without data

The disadvantages of a SIM only deal

A SIM only deal is great in terms of affordability and flexibility. But are there any disadvantages? Some potential disadvantages include:

  • Most SIM only contracts require a credit check
  • You’ll need a suitable device to use them with (like a handset, tablet or dongle)
  • Data limits can be restrictive if you’re reliant on it as your sole point of connectivity
  • Heavy data users may find the speed of 4G (which maxes out at around 100Mbps) restrictive.

Man holding his phone looking very surprised

How does a SIM only deal work?

The Broadband Plans team can help you find the perfect SIM only deal for your needs. But how exactly do they work? And how easy is it to get signed up?
A SIM only deal is different to a Pay As You Go data plan, or the kind of broadband connection offered by ISPs. For starters, you’ll need a device with which to use the SIM card, and this will have implications for which other devices you can pair or tether to the device that contains the SIM.
However, one of the good things about a SIM only deal is that it’s pretty straightforward. You get a predetermined amount of data to use every month, usually alongside a set number of SMS texts and call minutes. In most cases, you will need to pass a credit check before you can proceed with your plan.

How do I switch to a SIM only tariff?

The first thing you need to do is ascertain where you’re up to on your current contract. If you have yet to pay off your current handset and data plan, you may find that your provider is unwilling to release you from your contract unless you pay it off in advance. However, you may find that there’s some leniency if you want to switch to a SIM only deal with the same provider you currently use.
If you’re not currently tied to a contract, matters are much easier. All you need to do is sign up (you can do this online or in-store) and your new SIM card will be sent out to you in the post or handed over to you in-store.
If you change your mind, you can cancel your contract at any time within the first 30 days with no financial penalty.

Can I get a SIM-only deal for a tablet?

As long as your tablet is designed to accommodate a SIM card (which not all of them are), you can use your new SIM with your tablet. You can also use it with a wireless dongle if you want to connect your laptop or desktop computer via your SIM only data plan.

How do I get my PAC code?

Nobody wants to have to memorise a new phone number every time they change their data plan. The good news is that Ofcom has made it easy to retain your phone number after you switch.
Whichever provider you’re switching from or to, all you need to do is text 'PAC' to 65075. You will then receive a text with your Porting Authorisation Code (PAC). This is 9 digits long and will remain valid for 30 days. Give the code to your new provider and your number will be switched within 1 working day.

How do I know if a SIM only deal is right for me?

As we can see, a SIM only deal can be advantageous. But is it the right kind of deal for you? If you value flexibility in your contracts and want to keep your monthly expenses low, a SIM only deal is an excellent choice. However, if you want a generous data allowance that’s comparable to an ADSL or fibre broadband deal, you may find that it becomes less cost advantageous.

Who is a SIM only deal most suited to?

A SIM only deal is best suited to those with fairly light data needs who are on a tight budget and don’t like to be tied down to a lengthy contract. Students, for instance, and those whose work doesn’t require constant online access tend to be the ones who benefit the most from SIM only deals.

Let the Broadband Plans team find the perfect broadband deal for you

Whatever you're looking for in a broadband deal, the team at Broadband Plans can help you find it. We can scour the market for the best SIM only deals, data only deals, ADSL and fibre deals for your needs and budget. We’ll even manage your switch to bring you a better connection, faster!
Want to know more?
Give us a call today on 0330 054 0020.

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FAQ

Why choose a SIM only deal?

A SIM only deal is a good choice for those who want affordable mobile data combined with a flexible contract. There are a huge variety of plans from all sorts of providers. And because you can use your new SIM card with a handset, dongle or compatible tablet, it can help you get online with all kinds of devices.

Can I keep my mobile number with a sim only deal?

Yes, absolutely! You just need to text  'PAC' to 65075. You will then receive a text with your Porting Authorisation Code (PAC). You have 30 days to give this to your new provider, after which you’ll be up and running within 1 working day. 

Will I lose service if I switch to a SIM only deal with another network?

As soon as you provide your PAC to your new network you can get up and running within a day. So while you may be briefly without service, it will usually only be for a few hours. 

Will there be a credit check for a SIM only deal?

Most providers will require you to pass a credit check for a SIM only deal. However, there are some like Lebara that are willing to forego this. However, you typically won’t be able to access deals with a more generous data allowance.

Which is better, SIM only or Pay As You Go?

A Pay As You Go deal may be the best bet for those who want maximum flexibility. However, they can be much less cost-effective for heavy data users. 

Updated on 4 Aug, 2021

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Alex

Consumer Broadband Expert