Last updated: December 2016
Have the network operators got ethics covered?
Last issue, we looked at mobile phones but any mobile phone user needs to choose a network operator too. This guide covers the top nine mobile phone networks, which account for 98% of the UK market, as well as two alternatives: The Phone Co-op and The People’s Operator.
The biggest four providers, with about 70% of market share, are:
EE (now owned by BT), with about 25% of customers; O2 with 20%; Vodafone with 15%; Three with 10%.
These four also provide the network infrastructure, which other providers ‘piggyback’ on. In the table on the right we have taken an average of the combined scores of the brands and the network they operate on. This average score doesn’t change the relative position of any of them in the main table. Tesco Mobile is half owned by O2 and uses the O2 network.
Since our last report on mobile networks in 2013, several companies have been gobbled up or given up. Green Mobile has been taken over by Excell Group and did not respond to our emails so are no longer included as an alternative provider. WWF Wildlife mobile is no more, Sainsbury’s no longer offers mobile contracts, and Orange and T-Mobile were retired by EE, which was then bought by BT in January 2016.
The are two main ways of buying a mobile phone:
- A pay-as-you-go deal where you buy your own phone and pay for each call, text or time you spend on the internet.
- A monthly contract where you pay a set amount each month, usually by direct debit, and either get a phone ‘free’ or a SIM Only deal which you can use with any phone.
Within these two options there are literally hundreds of different deals available (Orange alone has 28 different monthly contract plans). You could liken it to the energy market, where different providers blind you with complicated alternatives and try to lock you into deals for anything up to 24 months.
The Which? website, used in conjunction with our own ethical information, is a useful guide.
For mobile handsets we’ve picked best buys that cover a range of prices. The Fairphone, which you can pre-order now before its release in December, is £280. You can get a Nokia feature phone for as little as £16. A new iPhone will cost upwards of £400.
If you choose a contract on our best buy network O2, you can get an older iPhone model for around £17 per month with 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data for surfing the net.
You can get a SIM Only contract with Green Mobile for £10 per month with 50 minutes talk time and 50 texts. You can get 500MB of data for an extra £7.50 per month.
TPO does a SIM Only deal for just £5 per month for 50 minutes of talk time, 50 texts and 50MB of data.
The Co-operative do a SIM Only deal for £15 per month this includes 100 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of data.
O2’s cheapest SIM Only deal is £8 per month for 100 minutes, unlimited texts and 100MB of data.
Sky’s major shareholder is 21st Century Fox, a Rupert Murdoch company. In EC159, March/April 2016, we featured an article encouraging readers to steer clear of his many brands, with their well-known right-wing position. This was in the context of refugees dying on the borders of Europe, the rise of far-right parties, and the Murdoch news empire’s bias against the scientific consensus on climate change.
More recently, Murdoch’s Sun newspaper has been targeted by the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which began after the upsurge in media hate speech that accompanied the EU referendum. The campaign quotes the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who in 2015 raised concerns about the “vicious verbal assault on migrants and asylum seekers in the UK tabloid press”, which he said followed “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion.” The aim of the campaign is to “take on the divisive hate campaigns of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express by persuading advertisers to pull their support.”
Want more information?
See detailed company information, ethical ratings and issues for all companies mentioned in this guide, by clicking on a brand name in the Score table.
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1 Mintel Mobile Network Providers UK report, February 2016