Just the other day a potential client asked me if I could recommend a mobile phone service for when he and his family move here this winter. This is yet another logistical issue that those relocating to London need to take care of early on, and it’s understandably confusing when the service providers differ from what we know at home. The good news is that mobile (a.k.a. ‘cell phone’) service is BETTER over here. While it’s frustrating to have to pitch yet another probably fairly new cell phone from home for a new one here (unless you manage to find a retailer who can unlock your current phone from its phone plan…if you find one, let me know! We have a Verizon Blackberry filling space in our drawer…), it will not cost you a king’s ransom to do so.
When I purchased my Blackberry Bold at a Carphone Warehouse shop–found on most high streets–the phone itself (worth $300-400) only cost about £35 out of pocket on signing on to an 18-month plan (it can cost more or less depending on the plan). Also, the phones here are not locked to just one provider as they are in the States, so you can change your service simply by switching out the SIM card. I’m able to use my mobile in the States as well, as I purchased an AT&T SIM card there that provides me with a local phone number at which family and friends can ring me as a local call.
I currently use O2 for my mobile service, which is around £40 per month total for my plan (~£25 for 400 minutes & 500 messages, plus ~£9 for Blackberry data transfer, plus ~£5 VAT). Another popular service is Orange, which my colleagues use and I believe likewise costs £40-£50 per month. And let’s not forget that E.T. is not the only one who needs to phone home. For international calls, you can either add such an option to your standard mobile service or purchase a pay-as-you-go SIM card. In the latter case, I personally use a TalkMobile SIM that only charges 4 pence per minute. Your phone will also pick up service when you travel to other countries–it simply roams to their local service and texts you the international rates available.