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Mobile Broadband on a Budget (or FREE!)

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#1
Zarch1972

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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#2
The Soup Thief

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Blimey - this is interesting! Think I'm gonna give Ovivo a try for my UK visits
Just having a look around their site, it looks like they think they're going to be able to make a sufficient return by doing this:

OVIVO’s Advertising is designed to be as non-intrusive as possible. We don’t make you watch adverts in order to receive the benefits of our service. Similar to the Internet or Television, Advertising is part of the experience.
We send you regular promotional offers to your registered e-mail address (along with our Monthly Service bulletins and any important service updates) and during 2013 we will introduce new advertising mechanisms designed at adding value to your mobile experience.

(From their About us page)
It looks a bit unsustainable to me too, but if they think they can make it pay, then good luck to em. It just looks a little too inviting to set up a duff email account just for Ovivo spam (or else to set your regular spam filters to "super twitchy"), unless they include a link in each mail that you have to click to verify you've opened it
I are intrigued...

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#3
still_strange

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Love the idea of the Ovivo and quite tempted to get 1 for those times I am out and about. Now what we need in conjunction to this is a review of 3g wifi hotspots that work well with these sims for us nexus 7 wifi only owners.

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#4
BTatHome

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I have been using ovivo for a while. The advertising/offers they send you via email are not that bad ( a couple of emails each week with offers in them, you don't have to do anything with the emails, but the offers don't seem to be to bad).

The advertising whilst browsing has been disabled for a little while now (I believe they had issues with people abusing the system) and will be enabled again pretty soon according to the last info I had.

Don't forget to use referrals too, as each friend you get to sign up gets you extra credit , and free calls to them too :)

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#5
The Soup Thief

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Wish there were something like this over here in Ireland...

edit - just saw there's a new mvno starting on Meteor soon - More Mobile - no mention of any deals like these though
Currently I'm on 48 months which gives unlimited mobile calls for 10 euros a months and data for another tenner, or 15c for a half hour of access
Better than the rest, but nowhere near the deals in the UK - rip-off Britain? You lot don't know how good you've got it!

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#6
giryan

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I've been using a PAYG sim from T-Mobile in my tablet for a while.
If you purchase £20 of topup, then you get a month's free internet: http://www.t-mobile....s-you-go/plans/
Then they do a 6 Month internet booster for £20:
http://www.t-mobile....you-go/boosters
So for £40 you can get 14 months of internet.

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#7
Zarch1972

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I've been using a PAYG sim from T-Mobile in my tablet for a while.
If you purchase £20 of topup, then you get a month's free internet: http://www.t-mobile....s-you-go/plans/
Then they do a 6 Month internet booster for £20:
http://www.t-mobile....you-go/boosters
So for £40 you can get 14 months of internet.


Sounds a great deal, thanks for posting up. :)

This is in effect, unlimited internet, subject to their FUP of course, but it isn't bad as I've got similar in my phone. :)

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#8
Skip Tracer

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I have been with Ovivo now for 4 months so that’s 4 months of calls, text and a bit of data for zilch and I have still got my £10 credit. For data I use Samba, it has taken me about 4 months to save up over 3 Gb of data for the summer and as I don’t use it much in the winter months it has been a massive saver for me.

I too have my reservation about how long this will last and still have my GiffGaff sim as a fall back, but for now I am as happy as a pig in, you know what.

To add to the above very informative thread you can get 1Gb of data with a 30 day expiry and tethering allowed for £5 on a PAYG basis from Vectone who are an NVMO on T-Mobile/Orange. I some times use this if I can’t get a 3 network signal on holiday haunts but the data offer being a good one their standard PAYG call rates are way too expensive for me at 15 ppm.

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#9
JimNu

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I've been using a PAYG sim from T-Mobile in my tablet for a while.
If you purchase £20 of topup, then you get a month's free internet: http://www.t-mobile....s-you-go/plans/
Then they do a 6 Month internet booster for £20:
http://www.t-mobile....you-go/boosters
So for £40 you can get 14 months of internet.


Yes, this is what I do, except I only top up by £10 a month to get free 'unlimited' internet _and_ texts for the following month. I don't actually use my phone for voice that much so I let the balance build up to around £60 and then buy the £20 booster to cover the next 6 months internet and I don't then have to top up again for the whole 6 months. When the 6 months has expired I then start topping up £10 again to get the internet and the cycle starts again.

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#10
tillaz

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i pay £5 for unlimited internet with T-mobile (have done for the last 4 year now)

t-mobile don't actually have a data allowance on there paygo internet boosters, it just a fair use policy

witch means after you use your 500mb, you can still browse the web as normal,
but can only download / watch videos inbetween 12 midnight and 4pm

basically you are throttled down to 5/kbs inbetween those hours
(Turing my internet on and of normally resets it for me though lol)

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#11
The Soup Thief

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Just about to sign up to Ovivo - does anyone want to send me a recommendation so they can earn some free credit? (you'll need to PM me your name and Ovivo number - promise I won't do anything dodgy with them)
I'd be happiest to get the credit to Zarch1972 (or even @simc1) since you guys gave me the info about this....

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#12
Zarch1972

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Just about to sign up to Ovivo - does anyone want to send me a recommendation so they can earn some free credit? (you'll need to PM me your name and Ovivo number - promise I won't do anything dodgy with them)
I'd be happiest to get the credit to Zarch1972 (or even @simc1) since you guys gave me the info about this....


Thanks for that, PM Sent......... seems like they have made it particularly private to refer (more friends>friends) than a web-link referral like Giff Gaff etc. :(

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#13
Dan Mullen

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I use Samba and can vouch for the service. It's easy to build up a decent data allowance and, in an emergency, their PAYG rates are very reasonable. They also do things like "half data days", where they only reduce your balance by half the data you use, or "double data days" where you get 7MB for each advert you watch. I've currently got 925MB sitting in my account.

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#14
bladebuddy

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Looking on the Ovivo sign up page it mentions that it might not work on rooted phones.
Is that only regarding add blocks ?
Can someone confirm it does / doesn't work on a rooted phone as I am very interested. Thanks

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#15
everett_psycho

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A couple of notes on three, their all you can eat voice plans are not mobile Internet, they don't like you sticking them in a hotspot or USB modem. However you can get better than free internet if you use quidco and don't mind changing sim cards, just buy a £10.49 payg broadband sim that has 1gb over a month and get back £12.50 from quidco, when you run out buy another one. You are down on the deal until quidco comes through but as far as i'm aware it doesn't say you can only do this once

Edited by everett_psycho, 01 February 2013 - 02:31 PM.

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#16
N-B

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I've found that Orange do a sim with data at 5.1p/mb - and as you can link it to your monthly contract I find this ideal:
http://shop.orange.c...adband/sim-only
"pay for what you use" tab.

I tried a Three PAYG SIM so that the data wouldn't expire after a month but despite paying for the data, they block non-phone devices. I wasn't that impressed, surely paying for data means that you can then consume it?

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#17
everett_psycho

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I've found that Orange do a sim with data at 5.1p/mb - and as you can link it to your monthly contract I find this ideal:
http://shop.orange.c...adband/sim-only
"pay for what you use" tab.

I tried a Three PAYG SIM so that the data wouldn't expire after a month but despite paying for the data, they block non-phone devices. I wasn't that impressed, surely paying for data means that you can then consume it?

Did you have a phone or mobile broadband sim? it does say in the t&cs that mobile contracts shouldn't be used in other devices but mobile Internet ones should work, you have to make sure you get the right one

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#18
Mr.Clark

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Interesting. Have just signed up to Ovivo, although it looks a bit "too good to be true" at the moment. We'll see how it goes.

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#19
Shuflie

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I imagine ovivo will go the same way as GiffGaff eventually, they couldn't give away free internet for ever

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#20
FullCycle

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I'm just about to sign up to Ovivo too (before they put the price up on Monday). Does anyone want to refer me so that we both get a bonus? How does the federal process work?

Cheers.

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