Mobile providers and the best SIM-only plans - Newstalk's Tech Talk

Image Mobile providers and the best SIM-only plans - Newstalk's Tech Talk

There's no better time to be a mobile consumer with plenty of great products and plans available but the difficulty sometimes is telling each plan apart and where to find the best value.

From GoMo to Lyca Mobile, Vodafone to Virgin Mobile there are plenty of options to choose from.

Our Head of Communications at bonkers.ie, Daragh Cassidy joined Jess Kelly on Newstalk's Tech Talk programme to discuss the different mobile operators, what constitutes a good deal, as well as what to consider before signing up.

Here’s an outline of the main questions answered by Daragh in the interview.

How much movement have we seen with the emergence of these digital mobile networks?

Things really kicked off for SIM-only digital networks in late 2019, when GoMo was launched by Eir. This really undercut the market.

GoMo came out with a €9.99 per month plan for life, which subsequently changed to €12.99 per month, and has since increased to €14.99 per month. With this plan, customers can avail of free calls and texts, and 120BG of data. 

Three then relaunched its digital mobile network, 48, and now offers SIM-only customers unlimited calls and texts, and 100GB data for just €10.99 per month. 

Earlier this year, Vodafone launched its low-cost, budget brand Clear Mobile. Customers are being offered unlimited calls and texts, as well as unlimited data for €12.99 a month. However, it’s important to note that there’s a cap on the data of 5 megabits per second.

Take a look at our recent blog post on the best SIM-only deals available right now for more information

What is an MVNO?

MVNO stands for mobile virtual network operator. They provide customers with mobile services through networks that they don’t own.

Tesco Mobile, 48 and Virgin Mobile all use the Three network, while An Post Mobile and Clear Mobile use Vodafone.

There is speculation that the Three network suffers more as there are so many networks on it, and some think that Three, Vodafone and Eir save the best signal for those on their own network. 

How transparent are the digital networks when it comes to terms and conditions?

There could be more transparency from all mobile and telecommunications companies. Often advertising slogans can be misleading to consumers and sometimes the term ‘unlimited’ is used when it’s not necessarily true.

Mobile customers should try to avoid going over their data allowances, as they can be charged extra. It’s important to read the terms and conditions carefully.

What are the drawbacks of digital networks?

One drawback for some customers is that these digital network plans are SIM-only, so you need to buy a phone separately. Often the newest phones on the market are quite expensive, so some may prefer a billpay plan.

The digital network plans may suit someone who is out of contract and waiting to get a new phone, as they work on a 30-day rolling contract.

Something to be wary of is that MVNOs only offer 4G, not 5G. However, the difference between 4G and 5G isn’t so big, so it’s not the end of the world.

Many of the networks mentioned don’t have physical stores. How much of a pain is that for customers?

There are no stores that you can go into unfortunately for these digital networks. If you’re with Clear Mobile, for example, you won’t be served in a Vodafone store.

You can contact customer service through social media platforms, such as Twitter. However, if you like a more personal approach, this is something to take into consideration when choosing a network. 

Can you get a better rate than what’s being offered from one of the main networks?

Sometimes you can still ring up and haggle with energy or broadband providers, but this isn't really the case with mobile providers. The price is what it is. 

However when it comes to switching mobile providers, it’s quite seamless. You can easily move your number to a new network, thanks to ComReg bringing in number portability. Usually that only takes a few hours, or sometimes up to a day.

What happens if I switch and the signal is bad?

Always have a look at the ComReg outdoor mobile coverage map. The map tells you the 3G, 4G and 5G signals around the country. There’s not much difference between the provider signals at the moment. 

There can sometimes be regional differences. Asking friends and family who are with a particular network how the coverage is, particularly in rural areas, can be helpful. 

If you’re unhappy with the mobile service, remember there’s usually a cooling-off period. If you’re having trouble with your signal, maybe something to look at is WiFi calling.

Looking ahead, will more people move from traditional networks to these networks?

SIM-only plans will become more and more popular because buying phones upfront can be expensive. Saying that there will always be a market for billpay customers.

Save by switching

What do you think of the surge in digital mobile networks? Are you looking to switch your mobile, TV or broadband provider? You can easily compare deals on bonkers.ie!

It’s quick and easy to switch and can all be done in the space of a few minutes. Use our broadband, phone and TV comparison tool to find the best deal available in your area.

We recently wrote about 10 things to consider when choosing a mobile phone plan, which may be of interest to you if you’re looking to switch providers.

If you have any questions related to what was discussed in the interview, feel free to reach out to us on social media. We’re on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.