UK Life

Setting up a Mobile Phone in the UK

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How to get a mobile phone in the UK


Not all international mobile phones or international SIM cards are compatible with service providers in the UK. If you aren’t able to use your current mobile phone or sim card in the UK, then you’ll need to set up a contract when you are here. For our complete guide to setting up a mobile phone in the UK, covering the below information, read on…

UK Mobile Networks

In the UK, mobile phone companies operate via the Global System for Mobile (GSM). This means that not all international mobile phones will be compatible with UK mobile phone service providers.

If the current phone that you are using can be used in the UK, and you would like to keep that device, then you’ll be able to switch your current SIM card to a UK SIM card quite easily.

If the current phone that you’re using cannot be unlocked or used in the UK, you’ll be able to get a new handset in either a mobile phone store or online.

To help save you time, we recommend researching if your current mobile phone is able to be used in the UK prior to your arrival.

Mobile phone plans and deals

If you need a new phone or SIM card, then it’s important to firstly think about which plan will work best for you: Having a monthly contract or paying as you go. To help you determine this, you should consider:

  • What will I be using my mobile phone for?
  • How often will I be using it?
  • Will I require the internet?
  • Will I need international minutes?

After considering what you’re likely to be using your mobile phone for, you’ll hopefully have a better idea of the plan that will be best suited to you. You can then go into a store or online and choose from the below options:

  • A Long term monthly contract: These contracts usually range from 12-24 months and have a variety of data, minutes and text options for you to choose from. There will be a set price for each option and typically, the company will bill you for this on the same day of each month.
  • A Pay monthly contract: A variety of data, minutes and text options will be available for you to choose from. The provider will bill for the payment on a monthly basis. The difference between this option and a long term monthly contract is that you aren’t signed up to a long term arrangement. Instead, you can cancel with a month’s notice. Note that this will however be slightly more expensive than a long term contract because of this.
  • A Pay as you go SIM: This option involves no contract. You simply pay for the data that you use, minutes and texts as you go. This option does tend to be the most expensive of the three.

We recommend that you visit a phone store and you will be able to discuss all of your needs with the company directly. 

Popular mobile phone companies in the UK

Most networks will cover the majority of the UK. You are able to check the network coverage in your area using any of the above providers websites.

What documents will I need to set up a mobile phone contract?

To set up a mobile phone contract, most network providers will ask you for your UK bank account details and following documents:

  • 2 x proof of address (Bank letters/ utility bills) which show your full name and UK address)
  • 1 proof of identification

Tips to get a good deal

Here are a few tips which you may find useful when it comes to getting a good deal on your mobile phone contract:

  • Get more than one contract quote: compare the available deals that each service provider offers
  • Buying both broadband and a mobile contract together may get you a better monthly deal (of course, only if you haven’t yet got broadband!)
  • The mobile phone provider may offer you phone insurance. ‘Tech insurance’ can often be purchased through your bank (for example) and may be cheaper.
  • If you are using the phone to make international calls (excluding Skype, Whatsapp & VOIP etc.) then you should ask how much international calls are with that provider. This will usually be per minute and can be costly if you do not check beforehand.

We’ve written this blog as a guide to setting up a mobile phone in the UK. Do contact our team if you have any questions or alternatively, your current mobile provider.


If you are interested in working in the UK, want to discuss available job opportunities or may have already begun your journey and need further advice, please contact our team today.