Recently in the podcast I had a good old rant about the lack of proper information when people simply state the new iPad is a data chewer.  In the UK we won’t be getting anything like LTE (4g) internet at least until the latter end of 2013.

With that in mind we’ve gone through some of the most popular mobile providers in the uk to compare their data tarrifs to help you understand the deals out there.

Before you even start to compare tariffs, first things first, check the coverage for providers in your area.  Not only the area of where you live but take into other factors such as your commuting route, where you work, relatives houses and other places you’ll find yourself taking your iPad.  For me I can use my iPad with data plan on all networks but 02 at home.

Some coverage checkers are goodenough to tell you what sort of speeds and signals service you will get in your area. These are in order of slowest at the top and fastest at the bottom

GPRS: 56Kbit/s
EDGE: 236.8 kbit/s
UMTS: 384 kbit/s
HSDPA: 14,400 kbit/s – 14.4 Mb/s (only in certain places in England, blanket 7.2 Mb/s for Three UK)

At the time of writing Three is the only UK provider that will support the maximum speed of HSPDA+

It’s worth noting that these are the maximum speeds possible with your connection, a lot like home broadband and that famous “speeds up to” catch all.  Also some networks do put in place network throttling alongside traffic management.  Virgin Media is an example of that, although they piggy back on the T-Mobile network, traffic is prioritised to T-Mobile/Orange/EE first.

There are other factors that affects speed but that’s where you can head to wikipedia and speak to folks more in the know than me.

In the uk we don’t have 4g or LTE, well at least not until the latter end of 2013 so think carefully before splashing down on the new iPad thinking you are going to get speeds faster than 3g.

With 4g now available in some parts of the UK it’s now possible to use the iPad 4 and Mini on the uk’s fastest network but you do pay more for that speed along with smaller download limits.  For most a good 3g signal will suffice.

Remember that on some phone networks you can allow tethering to use your iPhone as an internet hot spot. iPad Data Offerings

In the past, three was nothing short of of a joke with poor customer service and even more limited mobile phone service. Thankfully times have changed and major investment into the company means both support and the coverage has improved immensely.

Data Length Cost Add. Data
iPad Micro-SIM Only 1gb 1 month 7.50 10.2p/MB
iPad Micro-SIM Only 10gb 1 month 15.0 10.2p/MB
The One Plan Unlimited* 24 months 35.00 NA
Pay As You Go + 1 1gb 30 days £10.49 NA
Pay As You Go + 3 3gb 3 months 20.49 NA

The above data is from Three who, fair play are keeping things simple with how they present their tariffs.  We’ll go into what you can do for those data limits shortly.   02 on the other hand is a little more difficult but here goes.

o2 iPad Data Packages Comparisons

Data Length Cost Add. Data
O2 iPad Data Plan 200mb 1 day 2.04 2.04p/ 200MB
O2 iPad Data Plan 1gb 30 days 10.21 2.04p/ 200MB
O2 iPad Data Plan 2gb 30 days 15.32 2.04p/ 200MB

On both of the 30 day options your data allowance is doubled on every third top up.  A nice bonus once every three months I suppose but the cost of additional data is a little high with £2.04 per mb being charged.

Giff Gaff iPad Data Plans

Data Length Cost Add. Data
Giff Gaff Micro Sim 500mb 1 month 5.00 20p/MB
Giff Gaff Micro Sim 1gb 1 month 7.50 20p/MB
Giff Gaff Micro Sim 3gb 1 month 12.50 20p/MB

GiffGaff is a subsidiary of 02 so it will be subject to the same coverage.

Orange iPad data plans

Now things start to get even more complicated as a way of selling you an orange sim. I’m not going into if you have an orange phone and want data but they do special offers for that.

Data Length Cost Add. Data
iPad SIM Only 1mb NA* 5.1p 5.1p
iPad SIM Only 250mb 30 days 5.00
iPad SIM Only 1gb 30 days 10.00

*  1mb = 5.1p capped up to £40 per month

T-Mobile iPad Data Plans

In the original article somehow I’d missed these chaps out.  T-mobile are partnered with Orange to have the biggest 3g network of them all.  Let’s see how their prices compare to the others.

Data Length Cost Add. Data
T-Mobile Sim Only 750mb 12 months 13.00  No Surprise Charges?
T-Mobile You Fix Sim Only 500mb 1 month 10.00  No Surprise Charges?
T-Mobile Sim Only 1.5gb 12 month 18.00  No Surprise Charges?

Not the cheapest but not the worst by a long stretch.  It’s worth reading up on T-mobile / Orange / Everything Everywhere coverage subject to the same coverage.  The only gripe with T-mobile is how horrifically complex things are on the website.  You get a myriad of options, sub options and more before checking out. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity!

No Surprise Charges  –  According to the t-mobile website “All our plans come with a fair use amount. If you use more than this amount we won’t charge you a penny, but we may restrict your internet use depending on how often you go over it and by how much. So no surprise charges and no hidden costs. We just wanted you to know upfront.”

Vodaphone iPad Data Plans

Back to making things more complicated as vodaphone run their contracts every 30 days which can work out better for some months that others.  Traditionally vodaphone have always been one of the most expensive mobile companies out there but that can get you better coverage.  Click the TAB for Buy an iPad plan to get to their offerings.

Data Length Cost Add. Data
Vodaphone iPad Sim 500mb 30 days 7.50 7.50 / 500MB
Vodaphone iPad Sim 2gb 30 days 15.00 15.00/ 1GB

EE 4g iPad Plans

  Device Cost Data Length Cost Add. Data Total
iPad 4 16GB Bundle 249.99 3gb 24 months 25.99 873.75
iPad 4 16GB Bundle 199.99 5gb 24 months 30.99 943.75
iPad 4 16GB Bundle 149.99 8gb 24 months 35.99 1013.75

The first 4g network in the uk, EE is a mix of Orange and T-mobile all under the same banner but still keeping their individual branding.  Just in case you aren’t aware 4G coverage is limited to the major 12 cities at this time with more in the eternal state of coming soon.

My recommendation is that if you really need 4g then you don’t have an option but it’s costly for what it is and with reports of varying service levels and reception it’s perhaps worth considering something cheaper and on a shorter contract before putting down for a 24 month contract.

EE 4g iPad Mini Data Plans

  Device Cost Data Length Cost Add. Data Total
iPad Mini 16GB Bundle 99.00 3gb 24 months 25.99 722.76
iPad Mini 16GB Bundle 0 5gb 24 months 30.99 743.76
iPad Mini 16GB Bundle 0 8gb 24 months 35.99 863.76

The first 4g network in the uk, EE now has the iPad mini on their books.

More hints and tips

If you know what you are doing there are a few hints and tips we can share with you. Please feel free to contribute your own tips here as well

Tethering from your phone

Ok, so not all phones have this feature if you do but if you do then look at what you can add to your phone.  For example 3 will let you have unlimited internet on your phone for £3 as long as you are on a contract.

So this means you could take out a £10, 1 month contract sim (which I have) and add unlimited internet for £3 giving you 300 minutes, 5000 texts and then unlimited internet*To get this deal you need to login to your MyThree account page.

Tethering is blocked on my phone, what can I do?

If you have this problem you may be able to work around this but it will require a jailbroken device.  We have a guide on How To Bypass Tethering Blocks that may or may not work but it’s worth a go

Use a normal sim as a data Sim

You can get a normal sized sim and cut it down to fit your iPhone 4’s and iPad and it works.  I should know because I did exactly that and so far so good after 6 months but (disclaimer time) I’m not going to be placing a guarantee it will work for you.  Sim cutters are available from eBay for a few pounds.


As with all things in the mobile phone world, companies are trying to make money by complicating things.   My advice is to get a clear idea of how much you use your iPad, check the coverage in your area and also any other areas where you think you might be using the device.

Ask yourself how many places do you visit that have Wi-Fi capabilities and then set yourself a budget according to your answers.

Best for £5 (ish)

Three come in as a winner, offering for 1 GB for the paltry sum of £7.50.  If you consider what the other companies offering for five pounds it makes sense to spend a little bit extra and know you have a buffer just in case you do go over the limit.

Best for £10

Its all even stevens in this price bracket so follow my advice above and go for the provider with the better coverage for your area.

Best of the Rest

Three once again come in with 10gb for £15 on a one monthly rolling contract which is far better than being tied down like the other companies.

As always the choice is yours but hopefully this guide will come in useful for you.  Please feel free to contribute to this guide and help others out.

T-Mobile’s Full Monty sale is back. Unlimited Texts, Data and calls for only £16 a month.  This really does give you the Full Monty package for iPhone users.  On a 12 month sim only contract you’ll be hard pressed to find a better offer

If you think we’ve missed one then use the Yell US! link at the top and let us know.


Added Vodaphone details
Added Threes Unlimited internet (as long as you have a contract with them)
Added Tethering from your phone options

Whoops sorry.  O2 links went to the wrong pages.  Apologies.

Orange links have been updated.

Whoops realised that I’d forgotten to put T-mobile on the list.

2nd September
Another whoops.  Added Vodaphone iPad Sim Offer links.

15th September.
Updated T-mobile information to include “no surprise charges”

16th November
Whoops, sorry page went a touch screwy after the site update. Fixing now. If you spot any deals please get in touch!

24th November.
Quick check through everything, adjusted 02 pricing (20p off) and added information about 4g iPad and iPad mini plans.

31st December
Added link to “How to get around Tethering restrictions”

12th February
Added EE 4g iPad Mini Data Plans

* Remember that unlimited is never unlimited so don’t be streaming movies galore.

 Some of the best iPad Data Plans Compared


  1. Nice post about iPad data plans. I would also include 3 mobiles SIM only The One Plan at £25. This also includes tethering according to Three UK and is a whole £10 cheaper if you are not on contract.

  2. I’ll get the post updated. I was going to concentrate only on iPad data plans without calls but that deal is too good not to post. Thanks

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