While a lot of us are reasonably settled on our mobile network providers, it is a useful practice to stop and have a think about what network provider you should go with. While things like cost is one of the biggest driving factor for most people in the UK, there are other things to consider too, such as network coverage, customer service, contract obligations and many more.
Following is a list of things that you should consider when shifting or considering mobile networks:
Cost is one of the biggest factor. While most people will easily go for the cheapest deal that gives you the best value, it is not as black and white as it often seems. A lot of networks now raise their prices every April in accordance with inflation rates. Also, it is always important to consider the following choices:
- SIM Only deals often provide the best value and the easiest contract options
- Phone based contracts are often false economy. You end up paying a lot more for your phone. An easy way to calculate this is to find the same deal as SIM only, and see how much you will pay over the period of your contract, and compare that to buying the phone outright. You will often find that for the latest and greatest phones, this is way more than the SIM Free phone.
- Keep a look out for deals. Phone companies will often throw in packages where a certain phone is cheaper or you get more minutes or data for a cheaper rate.
- Phone bundles is another way to look at the same aspect. While this is more common with companies that give you various network options, it is often an easy way to get your gaming console of choice or a nifty gadget for free. Once again, do your math. Check the numbers before you commit to a 2 year contract.
About 2 years ago I changed jobs. This meant that the network I had been for about 8 years didn’t really give me coverage at the location of my new job. I really didn’t have a choice. I could either hope to rely on WiFi calling (which they luckily supported) or just not bother using the phone. Since the phone also worked as a work phone (start up!), I really had to bite the bullet and move to a different network. Almost all networks will provide you with a coverage guide on their websites, so check it out. However, don’t take it as gospel. When I was facing coverage issues, their helpline told me that I was supposed to get 3G coverage both indoors and outdoors. I did not. I was there. They were not.
You also have to check out for things like 4G availability, 3G reception and basic call quality.
An easy way to test this out is to just get a free SIM from any of these companies and check the coverage.
Phones on offer
While we already said that you have to be careful when getting phones on contract from a network provider, you will often find that some networks will get some amount of exclusivity on certain phones or models. For example, when the iPhone first came out, it was exclusive to O2 in the UK, and AT&T in the USA.
You might also find that some networks offer phones that others don’t.
This may sound boring, but all phone companies give you a fairly hefty contract. You sign up to quite a lot when you get that SIM from them, so remember to read them. Watch out for length of contracts, as well as how easy it is to leave it if you want to. There could be many reasons to leave, such as poor coverage in my case.
The easiest contracts are the one month rolling contracts on offer from almost all service providers, but you normally have to pay a bit extra for this level of freedom. 12 month SIM only contracts seem to be the best compromise for cost and flexibility.
Ask anybody about customer service from their network provider and you’ll almost all hear a few disappointed people and disgruntled customers. Phone companies are all about customer service, so it is a good idea to do some research and ask people about it.
Luckily, these days you don’t just have to rely on calling the helpline, most companies offer web chat as a way to help you. Annoyingly though, going into a shop if you have an issue with an account or service doesn’t really help.
If you are a traveller, or somebody who likes holidays, keep an eye on roaming costs. Different companies offer different deals on roaming, and specially on data costs.
Then there is the matter of perks, and some perks matter more than others. Some give you free roaming, while others offer tickets or food. These may not be the most important things to you, but always good to check for those as well.
Do your research
Remember to always do your research. Ask around. Check with friends and family. For example, if you’re getting poor coverage at work, ask your colleagues about the service they use, and what it is like. Read blogs. Ask on Social Media. Check various online guides.
There is a lot of information out there, and it all easily accessible, so definitely go and check you out.
Check every few months
You may be happy on your package, but if you think you’ll need to move, it wouldn’t hurt to do a bit of research every few months in terms of deals available and costs associated.
Hopefully I have given a few points to look out for when it comes to choosing a network provider. Do you use any of these? Have we missed something out? Do let us know!