Finding a Data-Only SIM Deal

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A data-only SIM card is the key to getting online with fast broadband that’s carried by a digital network rather than a cabled connection. It can sit inside a tablet or wireless dongle to facilitate a fast, stable and reliable connection at home or elsewhere. There are many who may benefit from a data-only SIM deal. These include people who work from their tablets and need to take a stable broadband connection wherever they travel, as well as those in rural areas who may not have access to a fibre cabling infrastructure.
Last update: October 2021

Most mobile networks offer data-only SIMs, usually sold with a wireless dongle for the home or in conjunction with a tablet. When looking at a SIM-only deal, which one is the best for you?

Which providers offer data-only SIM deals?

At Broadband Plans, we can search the market high and low for a data-only SIM that’s perfect for your data needs and budget. But who offers data-only SIM deals? You’ll be relieved to know that while data-only SIMs are not the most commonly used method to get online, there are plenty of providers to choose from.

Data-only SIM card providers

Most of the major mobile networks can help you get online with fast 4G and even 5G mobile broadband via a data-only SIM. Different SIM deals have different contract lengths and data allowances, but you can get a range of deals from some of the UK’s best-known networks including:

  • 3
  • O2
  • EE
  • Vodafone
  • ID Mobile

5 cheapest data-only SIM deals

If you’re looking for a cheap data-only SIM deal, we’ve compiled a list below of some of the cheapest deals on the market at the moment. You can see information on prices and data allowances in the table below:


Network Data Allowance Monthly Cost Contract Length
3 1GB £7.50 12 Months
EE 2GB £8 24 Months
3 2GB £8 24 Months
3 5GB £10 24 Months
Vodafone 4GB £10 24 Months



All of the deals above include a “triple SIM” card, with standard, micro and nano to fit with a range of devices.
If you’re looking for a data plan to cover your usage on the go, these may be a great fit for you. However, the relatively modest data allowances may be prohibitive for getting your whole household connected.
If you’re looking for a data-only SIM to use with a wireless dongle for the home, you may benefit from an unlimited data plan. Which brings us to…

Hands and cell phone with laptop in the background - utilising a data only sim card

What is the cheapest unlimited data plan?

An unlimited data plan is a good choice for use with a wireless dongle. With one of these, the whole household can get online without you having to worry about who’s using up all the data. While these deals you may find that your speeds are throttled for the cheapest data-only SIMS. However, it’s fairly easy to strike a balance between budget-friendly prices, unlimited data, and speeds that are comparable with most fibre broadband deals.
You can see the 5 cheapest data-only SIMs with an unlimited data plan in the table below:


Network Data Allowance Speed 5G ready? Monthly Cost Contract Length
Vodafone Unlimited 10 Mbps No £13 24 Months
Vodafone Unlimited "Fastest Available" Yes £15 24 Months
Vodafone Unlimited "Fastest Available" Yes £16.50 12 Months
3 Unlimited 22Mbps on average Yes £22 24 Months
3 Unlimited 22Mbps on average Yes £24 12 Months


How to choose the best deal?

The Broadband Plans team is always on hand to help you find the best deal for your money. As we can see, there are a range of affordable data-only SIM deals to choose from. However, you should be wary of choosing a new mobile broadband deal solely on the basis of cost. There are a number of other things you should also consider when choosing a deal.
Aside from the monthly cost of your SIM, you should also ask yourself the following…

What size data SIM card do I need?

There are lots of affordable data-only SIM deals with unlimited data. But if your usage is fairly light, you may not be getting your money’s worth. You may be better off with a more modest data allowance. It’s important to stick to your limits. You may be charged for going over, and this can result in what Ofcom calls “bill shock”.
Here we’ll look at what you’ll be able to do with the data allowances that are most commonly advertised:

1GB

This is the minimum allowance available for most data-only SIM cards. In a month it will be capable of either:

  • 40 minutes of daily of browsing, shopping and social media use
  • 10 hours per month of music
  • 1-2 films per month (medium quality)

5GB

There are lots of affordable deals that offer around 5GB of data per month. This should be enough for either:

  • 3 hours a day of browsing, shopping and social media use
  • 40 mins of browsing and 1 hour of music per day
  • 40 mins of browsing daily and a few films every month in low to medium quality

8GB

This is a more comfortable data limit for those who are likely to stream music and / or video regularly. It should be adequate for:

  • 6 hours of web browsing and social media per day OR
  • Around 32 hours of low-medium quality video

20GB

When we pass the 20GB mark, allowances get much more generous. This is usually enough for:

  • 2 hours of music and 1 hour of video streaming every day
  • Virtually unlimited browsing

50GB

50GB should be more than enough for most, especially those who would be using their data-only SIM on the go. This should be more than enough for:

  • 2 hours of browsing
  • 2 hours of music
  • 2 hours of high quality video every day

100GB+

Data plans with 100GB or more are functionally unlimited, and should allow for around 50 hours of high quality video streaming per month.

What length of contract should I choose?

A data-only SIM is a fairly long term commitment, with most contracts ranging from 12-20 months. If you want more freedom, there are some networks that offer rolling month-long contracts, but you can expect to pay a little extra for these.

What network should I choose?

You should also do some research on different networks to see which has the best coverage, the fastest connections, and the best reputation for customer service.
At the time of writing EE probably performs best for these three metrics, as well as having the largest 5G presence at the moment.

Let Broadband Plans find the perfect data-only SIM for you!

Whatever your data needs, whether you’re looking for a dongle or a new data-only SIM for your tablet, we can help you find the perfect card for your data needs and budget.
Want to know more?
Call us today on 0330 054 0020 to see how much we could help you save.

FAQ

What is a data-only SIM card?

A data-only SIM card is a SIM that fits into a range of devices including tablets and wireless dongles to provide them with a mobile broadband connection. There are three kinds of data-only SIM available, standard, micro and nano. Most cards offered today are triple SIMS so will work with any kind of device.

What is the difference between a mobile SIM and a data-only SIM?

The principal difference between a data-only SIM and a standard mobile SIM is that the former won’t be able to make calls or send SMS text messages. However, you can use your data for online chat and messaging platforms like Skype, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

Which is the best network for a data-only SIM?

All networks have their benefits and caveats. But on balance, the best network for data at the moment is EE. They have the broadest coverage, the fastest speeds, and the broadest 5G presence. If you’re looking for the cheapest deals, however, 3 is usually your best bet.

Do I need to pass a credit check for a data-only SIM?

Yes. A data-only SIM involves a credit agreement, so there is usually a credit check carried out. However, 30 day rolling contracts will usually forego a credit check, making them the best option for those whose credit is less than stellar.

Updated on 9 Aug, 2021

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Chérie

Junior Copywriting Specialist in Broadband

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Alex

Consumer Broadband Expert