Relocating to the UK, can i use my phone in the UK?, data roaming charges for international workers

Can I use my phone in the UK?

By Keith Pilkington

​Before you embark on your new adventure living and working in the UK, there’ll be a few things you’ll want to find out in advance, one being whether your mobile phone will work here. It’s important to understand a bit about the different mobile networks and frequencies in the UK.

Can I use my phone in the UK? Is my phone compatible? Will it work once the plane touches down on UK soil?

UK mobile networks

Here, we have four main mobile network operators:

  • O2

  • EE

  • Vodafone

  • Three

They own and operate the UK’s mobile network infrastructure and all offer 3G, 4G (5G is now offered by EE, Vodafone and Three), voice, text and data services to customers.

UK mobile network frequencies

We’re now all used to connecting to the internet whilst on the move. We do this via 3G, 4G and more recently 5G – but what’s the difference between them?

3G stands for ‘third generation’ and just about every smartphone supports it. Usually, when you buy a phone, you’ll find it already has the capability to receive 3G signals. Although it’s widely used, 3G has now been superseded by 4G. First rolled out in 2012, it’s typically around five times faster than 3G. And now, there’s 5G. As of January 2020, 5G offers faster speeds and more reliable connection on smartphones and other devices. EE was the first UK carrier to launch its 5G network in cities including London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Manchester.

Roaming charges

Roaming is when you use your mobile phone abroad. If you currently live within the EU, you’ll be able to use the minutes, texts and data included on your mobile phone tariff in the UK at no extra cost (as long as you stay within the limits of your contract). Network operators currently have no plans to change their roaming services across Europe, despite Brexit. However, if you live outside the EU and are coming to the UK, it depends on where you live and what network you are on. Some provide a similar deal to the EU offering, whilst others charge very high rates to use your phone here. Find out more about how you may be charged.

Will your phone work?

The good news is that it’s highly likely your mobile phone will work in the UK. If you have an iPhone it will work here because Apple has designed their phones to work on a very broad range of mobile frequencies. Other brands such as Samsung or Huawei are also likely to work, as long as the network is unlocked. If you want to check this, you can visit the Will My Phone Work website, selecting ‘United Kingdom’ as the country.

If you have an older feature phone, the likelihood is it won’t work, so it could be a good opportunity to upgrade! To get a new phone and/or contract, you can either visit a network operator in-store, or most will offer a variety of great deals online.

Read more about moving to the UK.