We look into the best mobile data plans available for business users, while also identifying where Google’s latest Project Fi could come in.
What to look for?
There are a few things that business users should consider when choosing the right data plan for their business phone. Whether you are after lots of data, texts, minutes or maybe even all three, it is essential to ensure that the network provider you select can meet your needs at a good price.
This may require some research, but it’s always good to find out what your money is going towards before making a purchase, especially when getting tied into a long-term contract.
Here are some of the best mobile data plans available, wether you're looking for gigabytes of data, or thousands of free minutes, Computerworld UK has you covered.
Business users may want a contract with unlimited data, which removes the cap on how much data can be used monthly, handy when using your phone for email.
This may appear as a perk for many users as there is no worry on whether you have gone over your set data limit each month.
Within the UK, two network providers that offer the best deals with unlimited data are Three and Giffgaff, with 24-month contracts starting at £26 a month.
For business users that regularly travel to countries like the US it may be important to get a data plan which provides overseas data usage. EE for example offers a range of roaming add-ons, including 500MB of data a day for £4 in the USA and Canada and £5 in nine other countries - Turkey, Australia, New Zealand, UAE, India, Thailand, Mexico, South Africa and China. Vodafone offers a similar service for £5 a day.
However this is no longer necessary in Europe, as network providers dropped EU roaming charges in June 2017.
Pros and cons of unlimited data
Of course, the major benefit of unlimited data is just that, the unlimited usage that comes with it. You have no worries about extra data charges because you can use it as you please, and a perk that comes with some networks is also the free data roaming opportunity when travelling for work.
A disadvantage of unlimited data is that the upload speeds may appear slower than other data plans and 3G/ or 4G coverage may also be limited.
For businesses that may require a smartphone contract deal, it is always ideal to firstly look into the best phone for your business. All phones have different features so it is best to ensure that you are provided with the phone which has all the right features.
Over the years, Android phones have grown in popularity and they have also become one of the best choices for businesses.
All of the main network providers offer long-term contracts (minimum 24 months), including O2, Three, EE, Vodafone and more.
Pros and cons of a long-term contract
The perks of signing a long-term (24 months) contract include the possibility of a free phone, dependant on the contract deal and the variety of packages that are available to select from when making your choice.
However, long-term contracts are definitely more expensive than pre-paid and sim-only deals and if you choose to opt out before the end of the contract you risk facing a termination fee.
A sim-only contract works in a similar way to basic mobile phone contracts, except this deal only requires users to pay for the sim as part of a monthly bundle deal for calls, texts and data allowances.
If you are in search of a sim-only plan, Vodafone offers plenty of 12-month contracts with a large scale data offering, typically starting with 20GB for under £20 a month. O2 and EE both offer the same deal for £20 and £30 a month, respectively.
BT is another network provider that offers a sim-only plan, but typically with less data, at the expense of unlimited minutes and texts.
Pros and cons of sim-only
Other than the obvious fact that sim-only deals appear cheaper, another good thing about them is the contract length of just 12 months gives you flexibility.
The one disadvantage for some users is that the contract does not come with a phone, which means aside from the monthly payments, you will have to set some money aside to purchase handsets separately.
In the UK, there are not many prepaid phone deals offered. However, there are plenty of pay-as-you-go sim deals.
The pay-as-you-go and pre-paid methods are flexible as users are not tied down to a contract deal. The sim is provided free and top-up payments can begin from as little as £5 for calls, texts and data allowance.
The various UK providers which offer pay-as-you-go sim deals include EE, BT Mobile, Vodafone, Three and more. Sim deals can also be purchased from Tesco Mobile, Lycamobile UK, Lebara and others.
Pros and cons of prepaid
As mentioned briefly above, the main benefits that come with pay as you go mobile deals are the value for money and the idea of a no-contract programme, which removes the stress of monthly bills.
However, unless you are planning to purchase a mobile phone outright, network providers are mostly unlikely to offer the latest phones on pay-as-you-go and prepaid deals. This means extra cost for the latest phone or having to deal with an old model.
Other options: What is Project Fi?
Something that could be a better option for some businesses would be to buy the Google Pixel/Pixel XL smartphone and have Google’s Project Fi as a contract plan. This would provide a cheaper option for anyone looking for a very specific data plan and flat fees across 135 countries.
Google’s mobile virtual network operator is available in 135+ countries, including the UK. The pre-paid network carrier enables users to make calls and texts using Wi-Fi, whilst also automatically switching between a range of supported network providers to provide data services.
The Fi Basics plan starts with a monthly payment of £15 for unlimited domestic calls and messaging, unlimited international texts, Wi-Fi tethering to use your phone as a hotspot, and access cellular and data coverage in 135+ countries and destinations.
You then pay $10 (£7.50) per GB of data, and $0.20 (£0.15) per minute for calls. If you use less data than your budget at the end of the month you’ll get credit back.
Google launched Project Fi back in 2015 for the Nexus 6 via limited invitations only. The company later went on to drop the invitation only process and from 2016, added US Cellular and Three networks, along with support for Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones