Competition is growing among U.K. mobile providers keen to encourage users to upgrade to 4G LTE services. After EE had the market to itself for almost a year, its rivals at Vodafone and O2 announced their competing services a few weeks ago, and now Tesco Mobile has launched its offering too.
While other operators are charging considerable premiums to sign up to 4G – including requiring customers to sign up for a new contract – Tesco has streamlined its offering, making it flexible, easy to understand and relatively affordable for potential customers.
To get access to 4G speeds, customers are asked only to pay an extra £2.50 per month on top of standard 3G tariff. The 4G element of the plan can be added or removed at any time. Tesco’s family of awkwardly named ‘Flexi-bendi’ 4G tariffs also permit users to increase or decrease their data allowance at any time, with up to 8GB month available.
Tesco Mobile doesn’t have its own mobile network like Vodafone and EE though; instead, it’s a virtual operator (known as an MVNO) that uses O2’s physical network for its services.
For a heavy mobile user on O2, a £47.00 per month two-year plan will get you a Nokia Lumia 925 with no upfront cost, including unlimited minutes and texts and 5GB of data (8GB a month only if you purchase before 31 October); on Tesco, you’ll pay £47.50 a month for 3000 minutes, 5000 texts and 8GB of data, including the "free" Lumia 925. A similar deal on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini on O2 is £6.50 a month cheaper on Tesco Mobile.
Once O2’s launch promotion ends on 31 October, Tesco Mobile’s prices will offer a good deal more value than those of the operator that owns its physical network. This, combined with the greater flexibility that Tesco has built into its plans, makes its offering a welcome addition to the U.K. mobile landscape.
Unfortunately, Tesco’s reliance on the O2 network means that it is constrained by the progress of O2’s 4G rollout. The company’s 4G services are still limited to only a handful of cities, including London, Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool and Sheffield.
The Three network is expected to shake up 4G competition even further when it launches its LTE services in the U.K. in December. Three has promised to charge no additional premiums for 4G compared with its existing 3G tariffs, and will also continue to offer mobile plans with genuinely unlimited data allowances.