Cheapest UK 4G and 5G Unlimited Mobile Data Plans Compared – 2022

Over the past few years’ we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of UK mobile operators offering unlimited data plans, most of which have sprung up alongside the advent of the latest 5G based mobile broadband technologies. Today we take a quick look to see what you can get across the market.

The following comparison will focus on the cheapest Pay Monthly SIM-Only plans with unlimited data, which is partly because the dedicated Mobile Broadband plans that are still being offered by some operators have not kept pace with what you can get on SIM plans and aren’t strictly necessary (ie you can usually put a regular SIM into a mobile broadband router of your choice, or turn your Smartphone into a WiFi Hotspot).

NOTE: Most Smartphones also enable you to establish a wired mobile broadband hotspot via the USB port (example). Bluetooth also works, but it can be fiddly to setup.

The next thing to be mindful of is that there are four primary Mobile Network Operators (MNO) in the UK market – EE (BT), O2 (VMO2), Three UK and Vodafone. Most of these also supply their services to a large base of smaller Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO), which will inherent some of their parent’s performance or coverage limitations.

In addition, MVNO providers do not automatically gain access to all of the latest features that their parents may offer (eg 5G, Wi-Fi Calling etc.). Such details tend to depend upon the specifics of each MVNO agreement, thus it’s wise not to assume that taking out a contract with an MVNO provider will result in an identical service to that of the primary mobile operator to which it is associated.

Finally, we’ve noticed that some mobile operators attach a Fair Usage Policy (FUP) to their “unlimited data”Plans (eg O 2 and EE). Most such policies are fairly soft (flexible) and rarely ever enforced, which is perhaps because enforcing them might breach the advertising watchdog’s guidelines on unlimited data.

Example FUPs from 7th Feb 2022

➤ O 2 – Unlimited available on Custom Plan on selected handsets and selected SIM Only tariffs. Fair use policy applies, personal and non-commercial usage only. If you regularly use 650GB of data per month or tether 12 or more devices we may consider this to be non permitted use and have the right to move you to a more suitable plan. EU roaming capped at 25GB per month, chargeable at £ 3 per GB afterwards.

➤ EE – Unlimited Plans: Uncapped and Unlimited data – If you’re outside the UK you’ll be subject to the data fair use policy cap (given in your roaming plan). Personal, non-commercial use only. If you regularly tether 12 or more devices, we will consider this non-personal use and have the right to move you to a more suitable plan. We will consider usage above 600GB / month to be non-personal use and have the right to apply traffic management controls to deprioritize your mobile traffic during busy periods or to move you to a business plan.

NOTE: We are only showing the standard plan prices below, excluding any discounts as these may only apply for limited periods. So far as we can tell, all unlimited data plans also come with unlimited UK calls and texts. All the plans below also appear to support 5G and the price data is from early February 2022.

The UK Cheapest Unlimited Mobile Data Plans 2022

At present, iD Mobile appears to have the cheapest SIM-Only unlimited data plan, which also has the bonus of coming attached to a monthly (30 day) contract term. In fact, all of the four cheapest packages have a monthly term, which highlights that if your goal is just to save money and secure more contract flexibility, then you can probably skip the big four primary operators.

However, it’s worth noting that you may get various premium extras if you take a plan from one of the biggest and more expensive operators. For example, at the time of writing, O2 were offering 6 months free Apple Music, 6 months or more of free Disney + and various bonuses for existing Virgin Media customers. Some operators also include special features, such as with how EE allows you to share your data with family members.

Meanwhile, in other areas, you may need to watch out for caveats. For example, both Vodafone and MVNO partner ASDA Mobile separate their unlimited data plans by speed caps (eg Voda caps their £ 23 package at speeds of up to just 2Mbps, rising to £ 27 for 10Mbps and £ 32 for up to 150Mbps) – this is why both operators have been given a price range above.

Giffgaff is another awkward operator to place. On the one hand they have an unlimited plan for £ 35, but they also have a cheaper ‘Always On‘plan for £ 25, which gives you unrestricted speed until you hit 80GB. After that it caps your connection to just 384Kbps from 8am to Midnight (that’s a bit too restrictive to be considered ‘unlimited’, but each to their own).

One final point to make is that some unlimited data packages DO NOT include the cost of sending MMS (picture) messages, which are – somewhat bizarrely in this modern digital age – still ridiculously expensive (eg 65p on Three UK). The annoying part is that many operators still do not make this clear when you sign-up, thus you might only find out once you get hit by it. So the general rule is, do not send pictures via MMS – internet messaging services are much better for this.

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