Best business mobile phone plans of 2018 | Top 6 for small businesses

SIM-only? Shoestring budget? No-nonsense deal? Whatever your small business needs, here we walk you through the best plans, providers and phones on the market today

Where would we be without our phones these days? These nifty devices bring us our emails, websites, and what’s still the best way to get hold of someone now: the phone call.

As a small business owner, you know you need to be mobile and stay connected. Today’s businesses move fast, and not being on the end of the line can cost you a deal, or a customer.

So, whether you’re late to the party, or just on the hunt for a better deal, we’re here to break down everything you need to know when choosing the best business mobile phone plan for you.

And rest assured, there’s no bias here. Our rigorous assessment of the leading network providers and business smartphones focused on Ofcom’s latest surveys on customer satisfaction and coverage. As the UK’s government-approved authority for vetting telecoms, it’s a trusted source.

To find out more about the top business mobile networks and options available to you, read on. Plus we’ll help you compare and get the best deals in the UK today.


In this article you will learn:


WHO?

So, who are the top business mobile phone plan providers?

Our extensive testing found that bigger doesn’t always mean better. That’s why our Top 6 Business Phone Plan Providers includes only the most impressive of the big players (EE, BT, 02, Vodafone), but also some slightly smaller ones you won’t want to miss (Plusnet, Virgin Mobile).

To decide, we focused on what our start-up entrepreneurs tell us are the 3 most important factors for small businesses. They were:

  • Value for money – While you’re still growing your business, you need to keep the bills in check. But as a savvy business owner, you know that even more important than price is value for money
  • Coverage & speed – You’re busy, you don’t have time to hang around for slow download speeds, or risk a make-or-break call not getting through. Below we even explain how to check your coverage for different providers before you join them
  • Customer support – With a great business phone provider on board, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. But when we’re talking about your business, you need to know you can get back on your feet as quickly and easily as possible

Here are the Top 6 Business Phone Plan Providers:

Provider Great for…? Prices from…? Rating Compare
02 logo mini Fairer payment plans £15 /month ★★★★★ Compare O2 deals
bt logo mini A good all-rounder £8 /month ★★★★ Compare BT deals
Vodafone The biggest range of business packages £11 /month ★★★★ Compare Vodafone deals
ee logo mini 2 Super speeds and back-up whenever you need it £18 /month ★★★★★ Compare EE deals
plusnet logo mini Affordable, flexible SIM-only plans £6 /month ★★★★ Compare deals
virgin mobile logo mini Happy customers £6 /month ★★★★★ Compare deals

You can click on any of the provider names above to skip straight to their deep-dive review.


HOW?

How do I choose which one’s right for me?

There are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself to help you pick the best business mobile phone provider for you. Let’s start with the easy ones:

  • Who needs the phone? – Maybe it’s just you, or if you want to put several employees on the plan, networks like BT can offer special rates
  • Is my business growing or pretty stable? – If you think you might benefit from being able to mix up your bundles, be sure to opt for a more flexible plan like EE’s and Plusnet’s commitment-phobe packages
  • Who is my current broadband provider? – With BT, Plusnet and Virgin Mobile, you can save on your monthly bills when you combine your business broadband with your mobile phone plan

Now, let’s turn to your chunkier questions…


How much data do I need?

Many small business owners spend most of their days hooked up to their Wi-Fi, so data usage may be less than you’d expect. But to give you an idea of how much data you’re likely to need, check which category you best fit into:

The light user

Data Main use Time
500MB Web browsing
(checking social media and uploading photos)
15-20 mins /day
1GB Web browsing
(checking emails and uploading photos)
40 mins /day

The mid-weight user

Data Main use Time
2GB Web browsing
(checking emails, social media and uploading photos)
90 mins /day
4GB Web browsing
(checking emails, social media and uploading photos)
3 hrs /day

The heavy user

Data Main use Time
12GB Media streaming
(music, films)
1 hr /day
32GB Web browsing and media streaming
(serious downloads)
3 hrs /day

Unless you’re streaming daily films for your commute (remember you could always pre-download them over Wi-Fi), you’re unlikely to be a heavy user.

5GB to 12GB mobile data is usually plenty for most small business owners and entrepreneurs.


Which providers offer the best coverage in my area?

EE gets the trophy for coverage. Their network pioneered 4G (faster internet speeds) and they cover 75% of the whole of the UK.

But today even the smaller mobile network providers piggyback on the infrastructure of the largest suppliers, so the difference is smaller than you might expect.

To check which provider is best for where your small business is located, just tap your details into Ofcom’s coverage checker. You can get it for free on iPhone or Android.

Now, let’s dig in…


THE BREAK-DOWN

Top business mobile phone plan providers in the UK today

02 – For fairer payment plans

02 logo 150x150 PROS – Flexible tariffs, fair payment options, 02 Priority perks, hundreds of stores, 02 Guru support, top coverage, business apps available
CONS – Helpline waiting times can be lengthy

Value for money ★★★★
Coverage & speed ★★★★★
Customer support ★★★★★

02’s strength is their customer service – and as a big provider, you can expect great coverage to boot.

Value for money

★★★★

02 welcomes small businesses with open arms via their dedicated Small Business Plan. You can choose between SIM only, SIM+phone and PAYG (pay-as-you-go) deals.

O2 mobile phone contracts

If you’ll need the full package, here are 02’s most popular phone plans for small businesses:

Phone Data Monthly Phone Cost Best Deals
Samsung Galaxy S8 64GB £42.83 £0.00 View deal
iPhone 8 64GB £47.17 £0.00 View deal
Samsung Galaxy S9 64GB £49.29 £0.00 View deal
iPhone X 64GB £59.88 £0.00 View deal
Huawei P20 Pro 128GB £39.21 £0.00 View deal

Just remember these prices are excluding VAT, and some of their best-selling mobiles come with an upfront cost, typically between £30 and £50. Though the phone is often free for business customers.

Not sure which phone is for you? You can compare O2’s full range of pay monthly deals on their site here.

O2 SIM only plans

O2’s SIM-only tariffs start from just £12 a month for 500MB (or £14 with VAT), but their most popular offer for small business owners is 10GB (of 4G data) a month from just £20 (£24 with VAT).

Here are their top SIM only mobile plans for small businesses:

Data Minutes /Texts Monthly Best Deals
5GB Unlimited £15 Compare O2 deals
10GB Unlimited £20 Compare O2 deals
20GB Unlimited £24 Compare O2 deals

Need more data? Have a look at O2’s full range of SIM only deals here.

Coverage & speed

★★★★★

O2 has its own network and offers 2G, 3G and 4G coverage. Coverage experts OpenSignal found that 02 customers got a 4G signal 74% of the time – beaten only by EE (with 79% access).

Customer support

★★★★★

As one of the UK’s largest mobile phone providers, customers can reach 02 from one of their hundreds of high street stores, where you’ll benefit from the expertise of the company’s ‘O2 Gurus’.

02 even aims to treat their customers like stars. With 02 Priority, you can expect many a perk like pre-sale tickets – and there’s also 02 Rewards which gives PAYG customers a percentage of your spend on credit.

Then there’s 02’s happy customers – on Ofcom they have a stellar customer satisfaction rating at 93% and only 3% have a reason to complain.

Or, to hear it from them:


BT Mobile – For a good all-rounder

bt logo PROS – Great coverage, good variety of business plans, shared employee plans, unlimited BT Wi-Fi access
CONS – No stores, hit-and-miss customer service

Value for money ★★★★
Coverage & speed ★★★★★
Customer support ★★★★

15 years after selling its mobile division to 02, BT Mobile got back in the game in 2015. Today, they are one of the most popular networks, serving everyone from small businesses to NATO and Unilever.

Value for money

★★★★

On the surface, BT aren’t the cheapest providers of business mobile plans. But we found out that if you have your broadband, TV, landline and mobile services with them, you can save quite a few bob.

BT Mobile mostly offer SIM-only deals that you can pair with your existing handset, but you can also find some of the smartphone contracts on their books. Their SIM-only plans start from just £8 a month.

Here are their most popular plans for small businesses:

Mobile phone deals

Phone Data Monthly
Samsung Galaxy S9 64GB £48
Samsung Galaxy Note8 64GB £53
iPhone 8 64GB £53

These phones can have upfront costs which range from £25 (for the iPhone 8) to £270 (if you can’t live without the iPhone X).

You can compare and save on all BT’s mobile phone plans here.

SIM only plans

BT’s SIM only plans are some of the cheapest around, starting at just £8 a month. Plus if you’re keen to add any colleagues, you save 20% on each extra SIM you add.

Data Minutes /Texts Monthly
250MB 250 mins & 250 texts £8
3GB Unlimited £16

Click here to compare BT’s full range of SIM only deals – these are perfect for small business owners who want to use their existing phone.

On top of these deals, BT broadband customers save £5 a month on their mobile plans. Small business owners can also build their own plans, and if you have 5 or more employees you can take advantage of these tidy packages:

  • Mobile Sharer – Create a personalised plan of unlimited UK minutes, texts and data for all your devices
  • BT One Phone Professional – Get the horsepower of an office phone with the freedom of a mobile packed with business features

Coverage and speed

★★★★★

As a virtual provider, BT Mobile doesn’t have its own phone network, but you can expect good 4G, 3G and 2G coverage because it’s hooked up to EE’s solid infrastructure.

Customer support

★★★★

BT keeps its prices low by not having its own stores. But their staff are on hand if you need them on 0800 800 150 (or 150 from your BT Mobile) or through their website.


Vodafone – For the biggest range of business packages

Vodafone PROS – Generous Rewards scheme for PAYG customers, easy to get help (500 UK shops), business mobile experts, 30 day to try the phone guarantee, decent perks
CONS – Low Ofcom customer satisfaction rating

Value for money ★★★★
Coverage & speed ★★★★★
Customer support ★★★★★

We find Vodafone hard to beat for the range of mobile packages they offer, Rewards system and their business customer expertise. And with one of the largest number of UK stores, they’re on hand to take care of you.

Value for money

★★★★

Vodafone offers good value for money, and has a vast mix of pay-monthly offers for business use.

Not sure how much data you need? Vodafone will let you Data Test Drive, meaning you get to enjoy unlimited mobile data for the first two months, and you can update your bundle to whatever amount works best for you.

Small business phone plans

Small business owners are well taken care of by Vodafone with a range of plans to suit most budgets and needs. The most popular ones are:

  • Vodafone Business Value – A straightforward solution for small businesses on a tight budget, including Business Traveller, data capping and Vodafone Secure Net. Read more here.
  • Vodafone Business Extra – For the ‘always on’ businesses that need to stay connected, get everything included in Business Value, plus extras like damage insurance and Vodafone Rapid (lost and stolen cover). Read more here.
  • Vodafone Business Black – If you’re running an ambitious start-up, you might need bundles of data, texts and minutes for your business trips abroad. Read more here.

SIM only deals

Vodafone’s SIM only plans are a great option if you want to keep your existing phone and save on minutes, texts and data.

The SIM only data plans are ideal for companies with fewer than 50 employees, and start from a tidy £11 a month, with no hidden costs. You can check Vodafone’s data bundles out here.

PAYG

Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) customers also get some nice perks and freebies – like the Freebie International Minutes plan which gives you more free international minutes the more you top up. You can flick through Vodafone’s PAYG phones here.

Then there’s a pretty generous Rewards loyalty scheme, where you get points for every top-up that you can put towards more calls and data, or even your next smartphone.

Coverage and speed

★★★★★

As one of the UK’s biggest mobile providers, Vodafone runs its own network, offering 2G, 3G and 4G coverage across the UK.

OpenSignal rank Vodafone just a whisker behind EE and O2 for average broadband speeds and availability, so they’re in the top three nationwide.

Customer support

★★★★★

Customer service is where Vodafone fall down, especially compared to some of the smaller and friendlier network providers. In the latest Ofcom report, they received 11 complaints for every 100,000 customers, which is above average.

That said, it’s one of the easiest phone companies to get help from if things ever go awry. They’ve got 500 shops all over the UK, so there’s bound to be one near you. You can find your nearest Vodafone store easily on their UK store finder.

Plus Vodafone offer a whole 30 days to try out your phone and coverage, and if you’re not impressed you get a full refund. That’s well above the typical 14 days most other companies will give you.


EE – For super speeds and back-up whenever you need it

ee logo sq PROS – Top 4G speeds, most reliable coverage in UK, shared family plans, stores up and down the country, range of incentives, free replacement for 24 months, UK-based customer service
CONS – Shaky customer service, less budget-friendly than competitors

Value for money ★★★★
Coverage & speed ★★★★★
Customer support ★★★★

EE is the biggest mobile network provider and have the best coverage, hands down. That makes them ideal for the busy small business owner, who doesn’t have time to lose, although but expect rivals to offer more competitive prices.

Value for money

★★★★

EE is unlikely to appear on any budget-topping lists, but if you value good coverage for your business needs, they’re a great one to consider.

Their top business mobile phone plans start at £18 a month for a SIM-only contract, but their rates are more competitive when you throw in the handset.

Here are their mobile phone plans for small businesses:

Pay monthly phones

Here are EE’s bestselling mobile phone plans for small businesses:

Phone Data Monthly Phone Cost Best Deals
Samsung Galaxy S8 1GB £39 £50 View deal
iPhone 8 30GB £53 £30 View deal
Samsung Galaxy S9 4GB £38 £50 View deal

Or if you go on EE’s website, you can select your monthly budget to find the best deals that work for you.

SIM only plans

Small business owners can choose between EE’s Essential plans or Max plans. They start at just £11 a month, and many have EU roaming included. Here’s EE’s full list of pay monthly SIM only deals.

Or if you’d rather go contract-free, why don’t you have a nose through their pay as you go SIMs?

Coverage and speed

★★★★★

EE pioneered 4G (super-fast wireless internet) and still offers the best download speeds and coverage – reaching 75% of the UK of all the business mobile phone providers.

Don’t just take their word for it – we checked with neutral coverage experts OpenSignal and they rate EE Number One here, with top download speeds of 31.8Mbps.

Customer support

★★★★

EE doesn’t have a leading reputation for top customer service. But we found that in the latest Ofcom report, they don’t fare too badly – generating just four complaints for every 100,00 customers. That’s lower than BT and Vodafone.

Perhaps that’s because EE offers a host of incentives – from free Apple Music or BT Sport streaming to helpful alerts to stop you eating up all your data too soon.

On top of that, with more than 500 stores up and down the country, EE is one of the biggest phone providers, so they’ll be there should your small business need them. They even offer free phone replacements if anything goes wrong in the first year, the My EE Bill Analyser helps you stay on top our your bills. Here’s how:


Plusnet – For affordable, flexible SIM-only plans

plusnet resized PROS – Value for money, flexible packages, reliable broadband
CONS – Virtual provider, can be tricky to contact

Value for money ★★★★★
Coverage & speed ★★★★★
Customer support ★★★★

You probably know Plusnet as a broadband provider. But did you know they also offer SIM-only mobile phone deals? Plusnet is a great value option, especially if you are already a Plusnet broadband user.

Value for money

★★★★★

Plusnet customers rave about its value for money, with most SIM-only contract-holders paying under £10 a month.

They don’t sell handsets, but their packages can all be changed every 30 days, so they’re ideal for the small business owner who wants to stay in control of their business contracts.

Plus, they use a bill-capping tool called Smartcap, so you can wave goodbye to any shock charges on your monthly statement. This can be particularly useful if you wanted to add any employees to the scheme.

These are their most popular contracts for small businesses and individuals:

Data Minutes /Texts Monthly
2GB 1000 minutes / 2000 texts £7
3GB 1500 minutes / Unlimited texts £9
500MB 250 minutes / 500 texts £6

Outside of these, you’ll pay reasonable rates: 33p a minute for your regular calls and 12.5p per text in the UK.

Coverage and speed

★★★★★

As a virtual provider, Plusnet uses EE’s phone network – and offers 2G, 3G and 4G coverage.

Customer support

★★★★

Plusnet doesn’t have its own stores, so they can be that bit trickier to pin down. But if you need any help or advice, you can always reach them online or over the phone.


Virgin Mobile – For happy customers

virgin mobile logo PROS – Highest customer satisfaction, fastest helpline response rate, extensive coverage, seamless switch, access Virgin Media Wi-Fi hotspots
CONS – Small range of plans, fewer stores

Value for money ★★★★
Coverage & speed ★★★★★
Customer support ★★★★★

Virgin Mobile gets top marks for customer satisfaction, and will custom-build the best plan for your small business.

Value for money

★★★★

Virgin Mobile offers small businesses their Virgin Business Enterprise Plan. This package is tailored to you specifically, so you can enjoy less admin and lower costs. But it also means you’ll need to contact them separately for a quote.

With Virgin, you can also save £5 a month when you combine your business broadband with a 4G bundle.

Pay monthly phones

Virgin have the latest handsets from Apple, Samsung, Sony and more. And all come with 4G data as standard.

Here are Virgin’s most popular phone plans for small businesses:

Phone Data Monthly Phone Cost Best Deals
Samsung Galaxy S8 64GB £31 £0 View deal
iPhone 8 64GB £27 £0 View deal
Samsung Galaxy S9 64GB £27 £0 View deal
iPhone X 64GB £35 £0 View deal
Sony Xperia XZ2 128GB £30 £0 View deal

Not sure which phone to go for? You can compare all Virgin’s best deals here, plus there you’ll find a handy questionnaire to help you find the perfect phone for you.

O2 SIM only plans

Virgin’s 4G business mobile SIM plans give you a whopping 98% UK coverage on EE, plus exclusive access to 250,000 Virgin Media wifi spots.

We like these plans, because they work with you. You can choose between a plan with texts and minutes, or go for a data-only option.

Here are Virgin’s top SIM only mobile plans for small businesses:

Data Minutes /Texts Monthly Best Deals
3GB Unlimited £11.67 Compare Virgin deals
16GB Unlimited £18.33 Compare Virgin deals
16GB Data only £16.67 Compare Virgin deals

Virgin have even more SIM only mobile plans on their website, which you can pick through here.

Coverage and speed

★★★★★

Virgin Mobile guarantee the best network coverage in the UK, having partnered with EE and O2’s 4G networks. That means they can custom-build your mobile solution, based on your location and individual business needs.

Customer support

★★★★★

Ofcom’s unbiased survey shows Virgin Mobile’s customers report the highest levels of overall satisfaction with their broadband service – at 91%. They are also some of the most satisfied customers in general – a whopping 94% give Virgin Mobile the thumbs up.

Plus, with an average call wait time of 38 seconds, you can be sure your small business is in good hands.


WHICH?

The best business phone handsets

Maybe you already have a favourite for your personal phone use. Or maybe you want to try a new model for your business phone. The mobiles below are all excellent options for business use, but they could even double as your personal mobile phone.

Samsung and Apple are both premier flagship smartphone providers that won’t let you or your small business down. Many people already own one of these devices, and like to keep their business mobile phone in the same family.

But if you are looking to branch out, don’t forget Google for similar specs at even friendlier prices. And if you’re a creative professional, have Huawei got a phone in store for you…

Then there’s tech experts Sony and LG who are also rivalling the more famous brands with their high-quality designs and easier-on-the-eye prices.

The models below are all top scorers for quality design, value for money and security. But to get five stars, the phones had to get knock-out scores in all three areas.

Here are the Top 10 business mobile phones:

Smartphone Screen Size Rear Camera Rating Best deals
Samsung Galaxy S8 5.8″ 12 Mp ★★★★★ Compare deals
iPhone 8 4.7″ 12 Mp ★★★★★ Compare deals
Samsung Galaxy S7 5.1” 12 Mp ★★★★★ Compare deals
iPhone X 5.8” 12 Mp ★★★★ Compare deals
Google Pixel 2 5.0 12.2 Mp ★★★★ Compare deals
Samsung Galaxy S9 5.8” 12 Mp ★★★★ Compare deals
iPhone 7 4.7” 12 Mp ★★★★ Compare deals
Huawei P20 Pro 6.1” 40 Mp ★★★★ Compare deals
Sony Xperia XZ2 5.7” 19 Mp ★★★★ Compare deals
LG V30 6.0 16 Mp ★★★★★ Compare deals

You can opt to buy your handset outright, or pay it off monthly as part of your business mobile package. Just remember to check what rates you can get with your favourite provider, as they can vary.


IN A NUTSHELL

So, for budget, most small business owners look to O2. For always-on coverage, it’s worth talking to EE. And for jaw-dropping customer service, you could always let Virgin Mobile take care of you.

But of course, to appear on our list, these networks had to pack a punch in all three areas, so you’ll be in good hands with any of the above providers.


NOW WHERE TO?

Next step: Get the best deal

Now you have a better idea of what the mobile phone network providers are really like, the next step is to find out which ones are offering the best deals for the mobile phone you’re interested in.

We at Startups are here to help – and save our readers time and money by comparing the leading quotes in the UK today.

If you’d like a callback from up to four of our Top Six mobile network providers, just click this link to skip back our quote-finder at the top of this page.

Or you can just click the link below to go straight to our babble-free page on the best mobile phone quotes today for you to start comparing right away.

To compare the best quotes right now, just pop on over to our full list of the Top 10 business mobile phones.

You’ll see our no-nonsense best business mobiles reviews, plus get to pick your favourite from the cheapest deals with EE, O2, Vodafone, Virgin and more.

Don’t forget to also take a look at our guide to best laptops to ensure you’re fully kitted out for cost-efficient mobile working!