Data only SIM plans
Most SIM only plans these days come with huge allowances for calls and texts as standard - many of them with no limit at all. But what if you just want to use your SIM for data? This may be the case if you want to get online when you’re out-and-about with your laptop or tablet. This is when a data only SIM plan will come in handy.
What is a data only SIM?
A data only SIM deal gives you a monthly allowance of mobile data usage for your device, but doesn’t come with any included calls or texts as with a standard SIM only deal.
Data only SIM cards are a great option for people who want internet on-the-go on their laptop or tablet, but don’t want to pay extra for calls and texts that will go unused. Data only SIM packages can also be used for dongles and MiFi units, allowing for mobile broadband.
Can a data only SIM be used with a laptop or tablet?
You’ll most definitely be able to use a data only SIM with your laptop or tablet as these kinds of devices are what data only packages are specifically catered towards.
Many laptops don’t come with a dedicated SIM card slot, especially older models. In this case you’ll need to purchase a dongle or MiFi unit to get connected to the internet.
Things are more straightforward if you have a tablet or iPad. Just slide your SIM card into the SIM tray or slot and you’ll be ready to go.
3G vs 4G vs 5G data only SIMs
Some data only SIMs only come with 3G data, whereas others give you full 4G capability. 5G data only SIMs have also recently become available too.
3G is an older generation of mobile data technology, and deals offering just 3G connectivity are far cheaper than those utilising the more recent technologies. However, 3G connections are much slower than the newer 4G and 5G forms.
3G coverage is also much wider than that of 4G and 5G coverage. So if you opt for a cheaper 3G plan, you’ll have to bear in mind that even though the coverage is more extensive, data-intensive tasks such as video streaming will take a lot longer over a 3G connection.
4G is considerably faster than 3G - about five times faster, in fact. A 4G connection is usually plenty good for everything from general browsing all the way to video streaming. 4G coverage isn’t as great as 3G coverage, however.
5G is the latest standard of mobile data technology. It is much faster than 4G and 3G, however coverage isn’t as good as 4G just yet as the tech is still being rolled out across the country. 5G packages are also more expensive than the other two forms.
Which networks offer data only SIM deals?
All the major networks offer data only SIM packages, and some smaller networks have some good deals too. This also includes some unlimited data SIM plans, although these will be at the pricier end of the scale.
EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone all have a variety of data only SIM options, and virtual mobile network operators such as Giffgaff and iD Mobile also have data only deals too.
It’s wise to check out the additional benefits of signing up with each provider when selecting the mobile plan that’s best for you. For example, Giffgaff are cheap and flexible, EE has the best 4G coverage in the UK, and O2 will give you additional access to WiFi hotspots around the UK for free.
How much data will I need?
The amount of monthly data you’ll require depends completely on how you intend to use your device. Are you just going to use your tablet to catch up on news and social media? If so, you’ll have a much lower data requirement than someone using a data only SIM on their laptop for online gaming.
Generally speaking, email, web browsing, and social media take up around 10-25MB of data per hour. So if you intend to do this daily, you’ll need around 3GB of monthly data included in your data only SIM package.
If you intend to stream video, however, it’s a completely different story. Streaming video can eat up a whopping 2GB every hour (depending on the video quality) so you’ll need a much greater data allowance if you intend to be streaming on the regular.
If you aren’t too sure how much data you’ll need, opt for a 30-day SIM only plan from one of the providers and see how it goes. Once you have a better idea of how much data you’ll be using, you can commit to a better value deal.
How to find data only SIM deals
Finding data only SIM deals can become time-consuming when you go jumping from one site to another trying to keep tabs on which deal offers what. That’s why using a price comparison tool such as ours makes things quick and easy. Just select your requirements, and we’ll quickly go and grab all the best deals that fit your needs so you can see them all in one place.
Last reviewed: 01 December 2021
Next review: 01 January 2022