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* * * * *

Mobile Broadband on a Budget (or FREE!)


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

Vodafone [Vodafone]
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

T-Mobile [T-Mobile]
30 day contract: FREE SIM, £5 per month for 1GB data (usually £7.50)

Three [Three]
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

Orange [Orange]
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.


Posted Image



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.

Posted Image


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.

Posted Image


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.

About the author

Zarch1972's Photo
Zarch is a veteran gadgeteer who has owned everything from a Commodore VIC-20 to an iPhone 5S and much of what came in-between.

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89 Comments

I would like to keep my own number. If it is ported to any of these companies and they go bust, can my original number still be retrieved by the company they piggy backed on (by say voda or 3 etc) and be reused by me or is it a one way trip?
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ovivo is a bit vague about this:

http://ovivomobile.c...view=3151#q3151

or are they?
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ovivo is a bit vague about this:

http://ovivomobile.c...view=3151#q3151

or are they?


one sentence sums it up:

Your Mobile number, is also your property and by UK regulation, you have the right to take it with you at any time if you wish to leave OVIVO.


for example, if your land line company went bust they would have to release your land line number if you wanted to take it with you, the same applies to a mobile number.
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thanks for clearing that up hecatae.
"if you wish to leave OVIVO." confused me
as it's not the same as ovivo going bust :)
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I would still not advise porting your number to this company just yet. See the link below which refers to over 30 pages of user experiences (particularly the last half dozen pages. Seems the offer changes from week to week and that the allowances are fast diminishing, towards a rolling price type plan. The director has apparantly ,(dont quote me but there is company research listed and documented on the pages), wound up several companies in the last few years. Registered address may be a redirection type address. As I say, read it right through, especially the latter pages and judge for yourself. As always, caveat emptor.



www.hotdeals.com/misc/anyone-using-ovivo-sim-only-deal-1254886
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Excellent article, many thanks, should save me some of my hard earned.

I'm going to sign up for both Samba and Ovivo, would anyone like to PM me their referral details?

Thanks
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Excellent article, many thanks, should save me some of my hard earned.

I'm going to sign up for both Samba and Ovivo, would anyone like to PM me their referral details?

You can use the link in the original post for Samba. :)

Cheers.
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everett_psycho
Feb 27 2013 11:59 PM
For the next 24 hours samba is offering double data, shop 7mb for every ad you watch, a nice way to get boosting that internet if you are using them at all
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For the next 24 hours samba is offering double data, shop 7mb for every ad you watch, a nice way to get boosting that internet if you are using them at all

Good call....... well worth following them on Twitter too to get their announcements. (@SambaMobile)

:)
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You can use the link in the original post for Samba. :)

Cheers.


Perfect, thanks. Just signed up.
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Got this from Ovivo this morning

More Free Minutes and Texts for OVIVO Phone Freedom Customers!

We are happy to announce that we have increased the free minutes and texts for all OVIVO Phone Freedom customers! Now, each month, you will receive:

150 Free Minutes (Any Network)
150 Free Texts (Any Network)
400MB Free Data
Free OVIVO to OVIVO Calls and Texts outside of your free allowance
Any new customers signing up to our service, or those how have purchased a SIM card from us recently but not activated it yet, will automatically be on our new Price Plans.

Any customers who have been awarded an upgrade to their Price Plan as part of the OVIVO Loyalty Promotion, will also receive an additional 50 Minutes and 50 texts in their allowance.

All existing and activated customers will see the new allowances take effect the next time your free allowance resets.

The OVIVO Mobile Team


So an extra 50 mins and 50 texts for free......... Nice! :)

You can also follow Ovivo on twitter: @ovivomobile
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everett_psycho
Feb 28 2013 05:02 PM

Good call....... well worth following them on Twitter too to get their announcements. (@SambaMobile)

:)

extended to 10am tomorrow now, their servers were useless so they've upgraded them which brought the site down so they've added time on to compensate

Also ovivo sent me a message this morning, I now get 150 texts and 150 minutes a month, an extra 50 free for no real reason, everyone using it should get the same treatment
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I have for some time now been using both the Samba and Ovivo data sims.
The saving/adding of Mb via Samba is good, though only possible on my PC. My tablet (Asus Infinity TF700) has the flash player issue, therefore cannot load the ads viewing page. But like most say, I simply have a separate tab open on my PC when I remember and add some credit in the background.
The Ovivo data (free 500) sim I have has been great also and takes a hammering first generally for Mb each month, and then should I need more, I eat into the Samba credit.

It is useful having both sims also as they are different networks. I cannot get 3 network at work, so the Ovivo is the only solution, likewise at home Ovivo does not connect at full speed onto my dongle, so I use the Samba sim. Though not much point as at home, so can use my wifi lol.

All in all, a great solution for free broadband on my tablet (and mobile) via my mifi dongle.

For information, I bought a 2nd hand Huawei E585 off an auction site and unlocked it myself, which works great.

If anyone wants a sim, then PM me and i'll happily send a recommendation link for either network (and GiffGaff also) and hopefully get us both a bit of free credit.
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it works!
my allowance reset today right on que.
luv it :)
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it works!
my allowance reset today right on que.
luv it :)

Yes, a nice warm feeling all-round. I still can't believe its free and there is no catch? :)
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TangerineTractor
Mar 08 2013 04:04 PM
I've got a t-mobile contract - a tenner a month, unlimited texts, unlimited data and 500 mins calls. If you but a smartphone from t-mobile they automatically let you pick an addon, so choose the unlimted data. It's a two year contract, so I get a new lowish spec handset every two years too. Sell the phone boxed up on ebay for £100, and you've effectively got unlimited data for a fiver a month over two years.
This is done through t-mobile business - do it on the phone, tell them you're a self-employed consultant. Business accounts get free voicemail, and better handset support, so if you're using their phone, ring them up after about ten months, say it's faulty, and they ship you a new/refurbished one.
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i don't like contracts, ebay, tmobile or being deceitful to obtain that deal.
i prefer honesty, payg, vodafone and the word FREE :)



I've got a t-mobile contract - a tenner a month, unlimited texts, unlimited data and 500 mins calls. If you but a smartphone from t-mobile they automatically let you pick an addon, so choose the unlimted data. It's a two year contract, so I get a new lowish spec handset every two years too. Sell the phone boxed up on ebay for £100, and you've effectively got unlimited data for a fiver a month over two years.
This is done through t-mobile business - do it on the phone, tell them you're a self-employed consultant. Business accounts get free voicemail, and better handset support, so if you're using their phone, ring them up after about ten months, say it's faulty, and they ship you a new/refurbished one.

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samba saves the day!
my virgin broadband is down as i write so i'm writing this using my samba card in my old mobile phone as a dongle.
speed is 2.7mb allowing very good browsing speed.
plusnet home broadband speed in my area is 1.8mb!
no brainer :)
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lineone is fast becoming Samba's no.1 fan. ;)
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i luv 'em both:)
just maxed out the samba ads whilst watching tv over the last hour or so.
credit stands at 948mb.
500mb add on for your payg 3 costs £5
why would you not want this?

lineone is fast becoming Samba's no.1 fan. ;)

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I still think it's too good to be true. That said, I ported my number to Ovivo last Friday. No issues thus far *touch wood*. Their mobile site is good for tracking usage as well, although I do kind of miss the little GiffGaff popups I got at the end of every call and after sending a text, telling me my balance.
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Great, useful thread. I signed up with Ovivo and have had no complaints. Even paid for some extra mb when I wanted to stream something and couldn't wait, felt good to pay a little start-up company a couple of quid for a decent service, especially as I plan on only using the free 500mb allowance for the foreseeable future.

Seems they're hiring new directors or some such business, not too sure if that's just to give potential customers comfort but I hope they manage to stay afloat for some time to come as I use a mi-fi device for my sim and have never seen any Ovivo adverts... Oh well, if it's working don't hex it I suppose :-)
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My Free Data allowance reset standard, no problems. Happy days, Ovivo working well with no worries (or additional adverts) to speak of! Their site itself is getting a little 'advert-intensive' but that's nothing for free mb each month...
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everett_psycho
Apr 15 2013 11:27 AM
Ohhhh ovivo has upped the allowance again, up to 150 minutes and 200 texts, internet remains the same though with 400mb for phone plans and 500mb for data plans. They also seem to have added monthly tariffs, of you can add these on a monthly basis it could be a really useful spare that can be topped up should you need a month with extra data or calls
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Ohhhh ovivo has upped the allowance again, up to 150 minutes and 200 texts, internet remains the same though with 400mb for phone plans and 500mb for data plans. They also seem to have added monthly tariffs, of you can add these on a monthly basis it could be a really useful spare that can be topped up should you need a month with extra data or calls


I still don't understand how they're making money off me...
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