Having recently purchased a 3G enabled Samsung 550 Chromebook I've been looking at cheap options to get it on-line. 99% of the time I’m in a Wi-Fi area, so I’m only looking for an “emergency SIM” and as such, don’t want to pay too much for it. (£5/month or less is my budget)
Obviously, these findings are just as relevant if you own a 3G enabled tablet or have a 3G dongle for desktops and laptops.
My research has been
- As expected with big name vendors charging high prices for very little data
- I’ve not been surprised to see MVNO’s trying to undercut big networks at their own game
- Pleasantly shocked by MVNO’s with FREE innovative solutions
MVNO = Mobile Virtual Network Operators. The likes of Giff Gaff who piggyback their service onto the main networks.
The Major Networks
PAYG: FREE SIM, then £5 top up for 250MB data (valid for 30 days)
30 day contract: FREE SIM, £7.50 per month, 500MB data
30 day contract: FREE SIM, £5 per month for 1GB data (usually £7.50)
PAYG: FREE SIM, then £10.49 for 1GB data (valid for 30 days)
30 day contract: FREE SIM, £7.50 per month, 1GB data
30 day voice contract: All-you-can-eat-data, 200 mins, 5000 texts, £12.90 per month
30 day contract: FREE SIM, £5 per month for 250MB data and Unlimited BT Wi-Fi
Now Orange PAYG is a little curious. If you purchase direct from the Orange website you get a basic SIM which you then have to add an ‘animal’ top-up to; Monkey, Dolphin, Racoon etc depending on your intended use. None of which seem to lend themselves to Mobile Broadband.
BUT, if you take a look on eBay you can now and then find an Orange SIM for 99p where your first £5 or £10 top up gets you 250MB of data per month for 12 months.
So just £10.99 for 250MB each month for 12 months. Quite a bargain. But the offer seems sparse on the ground and appears to come and go.
That's to MoDaCo member @gluttonyx for putting us onto that one. :) Here'e the eBay link he provided: [eBay Link]
Don't forget possible Quidco Cashback on all major networks, well worth a look. ;)
The Cheaper MVNO Options
Right, so what about the MVNO’s (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), the guys who piggyback onto the major networks?
Giff Gaff [Giff Gaff]
Runs over O2 network
PAYG, FREE SIM, then £5 for 500MB (valid for 30 days)
Virgin Mobile [Virgin Mobile]
Runs over Orange/T-Mobile network
PAYG, FREE SIM, then £10 for unlimited data and 300 texts (valid for 30 days). Obviously a phone tariff, but unlimited data is a draw,although FUP will need some investigation.
Looking at the other main MVNO’s; Tesco, Asda etc, none of them seem to do a mobile broadband plan and none of their voice plans compare on price to either of the above that I could see.
The FREE Options
Okay, the final category is the one that was new to me and has actually surprised me. MVNO’s that don’t charge a bean for using their data, but get their revenue from advertising.
Samba Mobile [Samba Sign Up Page]
Runs over Three network
Samba provide two options:
SIM only for £5 (£2.50 using above link)
Dongle and SIM for £25 (£22.50 using above link)
Both options are purely mobile broadband only with no calls and text packages available.
The dongle supplied is a ZTE MF190 which arrived within 2 days of ordering and mine came unlocked to all networks out of the box, which is contrary to reports I had read. I tried T-Mobile, Vodafone and Samba (Three) SIMs, all of which worked fine.
I then took the Samba SIM out of the dongle, put it in my Chromebook and it worked right from the off. So you can use the SIM however you please and happily swap between SIM only and using the dongle.
Once you are signed up you then have to head to Samba’s website and watch some adverts. Every advert that you watch adds 3.5MB to your allowance. Once gained, there is no expiry of the allowance and you can accumulate as much as you want.
I found it quite easy to accumulate around 100MB a day just by having their webpage on a tab in my browser, clicking on the ad, muting the sound and going back to what I was doing whilst the ad runs in the background. It probably takes a maximum of 10 seconds to get an advert running and they can run anything between 20 seconds and a couple of minutes.
When you then use your accrued data on your tablet/chromebook there are no adverts, you just use as normal.
Whilst its time consuming to build up your allowance, its good that it doesn't expire over time, so you could build up say 700MB watching adverts for a week and keep the SIM there for emergency use.
Just to be be clear, you can watch the adverts over your home/work internet connection and gain allowance. You don’t have to watch the adverts over their network, which would be self defeating in itself.
Note: you need to disable ‘adblock’ or similar for the Samba website. ;)
Finally, if you don’t fancy sitting there watching adverts all day, you can buy data from Samba at the following rates:
£3.50 gets you 250MB (valid for 30 days)
£5.00 gets you 500MB (valid for 30 days)
I was a little sceptical on what speeds would be delivered with SIM. With it being FREE I had visions of speed caps etc and not using the full bandwidth of the great Three network. But I was proved wrong as I managed to get a best speedtest result of 8.4Mbps Down and 2Mbps up from my Chromebook.
You can monitor your on-going allowance by simply logging onto the Samba site.
Ovivo Mobile [Ovivo Mobile]
Runs over Vodafone
Ovivo Mobile use as similar concept to Samba in that adverts drive their revenue, but the way they are delivered is different. Instead of you having to watch adverts in advance to gain an allowance, they say their adverts are forced upon you whilst you are browsing.
To get started on Ovivo it costs you £10 for the SIM and you get the option of having a pure mobile broadband account or a calls/texts/data plan. (more of that cracker below)
But as a bonus, when you activate your SIM after it arrives, the £10 you paid then goes onto your account for you to spend in a PAYG style, so in effect the SIM is FREE.
Then each and EVERY month from now on in you get the following allowance for FREE:
Phone Plan: 100 mins, 100 texts, 400MB data, FREE Ovivo to Ovivo calls
Mobile Broadband Plan: 500MB data
Note: You can swap from one plan to the other by filling in a form on their site if you change your mind later down the line.
100 mins, 100 texts and 400MB for FREE every month seems insane for me and would be a great SIM for low usage people, especially with the FREE Ovivo to Ovivo calls included too.
Note: I ordered the calls/texts/data plan, but it happily works in my Chromebook (data only).
Obviously, once you use all your allowance you’d start eating into your £10 credit until the month is up when your FREE allowance is reset back to the limits above.
The SIM arrived next day after ordering and the activation process was as simple as logging back into their website using the mobile number on the SIM card they send you and the password you previously set up when registering.
Having used the SIM whilst doing some test browsing on my Chromebook for a little while I can’t recall seeing any ads over and above the ones already on websites. And this was with Adblock extension purposely turned off.
I’d be interested to hear from other Ovivo users on their Ad experience, how intrusive are you finding it?
As with the performance test from Samba, Ovivo also appear to use full available bandwidth of its underlying network, this time Vodafone. This was abundantly clear as I managed to get 9.6Mbps down and 2Mbps up using speedtest on my Chromebook.
And checking your remaining monthly allowance is a simple as logging into their site.
Credit to MoDaCo member @simc1 for giving us the heads up about Ovivo. :)
NOTE: Looks like there is a price hike in the offing in the next few days.
Ovivo Sign-up Page: "Please note, from Monday 4th February 2013, it will cost £15.00 to purchase an OVIVO SIM card, but you will still receive the full £15.00 of calling credit onto your account when activated."
So over to you
I personally think the Ovivo deal is unbelievable, maybe even impossible for them to sustain this business model. But for very little outlay and no commitment on our part, its got to be worth a gamble and I will be keeping that Ovivo SIM in my Chromebook for the foreseeable future.
And as I've already built up a healthy couple of hundred MB on the Samba SIM, that will stay in my bag for emergencies as well.
What experience do you have of any of the above? (good or bad)
Is there a bargain provider of Mobile Broadband out there that we've missed that people should know about?
Any comments on this subject are very welcome.