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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 handsets 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 business mobile phone options available to you, read on. Or you can check out our top corded office phone reviews here.

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), but also some slightly smaller ones you won’t want to miss (Giffgaff, 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:

ProviderGreat for…?Prices from…?Rating
02
02 logo mini
Fairer payment plans£15/month★★★★★
BT
bt logo mini
A good all-rounder£8/month★★★★
Giffgaff
giffgaff logo mini
Budget-friendly SIM-only packages£5/month★★★★★
EE
ee logo mini 2
Super speeds and back-up whenever you need it£18/month★★★★★
Plusnet
plusnet logo mini
Affordable, flexible SIM-only plans£6/month★★★★
Virgin Media
virgin mobile logo mini
Happy customersTailored quotes on request★★★★★

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 Giffgaff’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

DataMain useTime
500MBWeb browsing (checking social media and uploading photos)15-20 mins/day
1GBWeb browsing (checking emails and uploading photos)40 mins/day

The mid-weight user

DataMain useTime
2GBWeb browsing (checking emails, social media and uploading photos)90 mins/day
4GBWeb browsing (checking emails, social media and uploading photos)3 hrs/day

The heavy user

DataMain useTime
12GBMedia streaming (music, films)1 hr/day
32GBWeb browsing and media streaming3 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. 2GB to 4GB mobile data is probably ideal for most small businesses 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

Who are the top providers of business mobile phones in the UK today?

02 – For fairer payment plans

02 logo 150x150Pros – 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.

SIM-only plans

Their SIM-only tariffs start from just £15 a month for 10GB (or £18 with VAT). Here is their top range for small businesses:

DataMinutes /TextsMonthly
10GBUnlimited£15
20GBUnlimited£18
30GBUnlimited£24

Mobile phone contracts

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

PhoneDataMonthly
Samsung Galaxy S8 1GB£35.58
iPhone 83GB£43.75
Samsung Galaxy S930GB£60.33

Just remember these prices are excluding VAT, and some of their best-selling mobiles come with an upfront cost, typically between £30 and £50.

PAYG

If you’d like to get your business a PAYG deal, 02 charges competitive rates: 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB.

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 logoPros – 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:

SIM-only plans

Mobile phone deals

DataMinutes /TextsMonthly
250MB250 mins & 250 texts£8
3GBUnlimited£16
PhoneDataMonthly
Samsung Galaxy S964GB£48
Samsung Galaxy Note864GB£53
iPhone 864GB£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).

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.


Giffgaff – For budget-friendly SIM-only packages

giffgaff logoPros – tiniest prices, customer-focused, ultra-flexible tariffs, no-commitment plans
Cons – few perks and freebies, less extensive coverage, online-only service

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

Although you won’t see Giffgaff in many business mobile lists, small businesses and entrepreneurs actually make up the majority of their clientele. We find Giffgaff hard to beat for their diddy prices, so long as you don’t mind an online-only service.

Value for money

★★★★★

Giffgaff doesn’t work like most phone providers. Rather than contracts, they offer monthly pay-as-you-go SIM cards that you can load with credit or bundles of texts, minutes and data.

Their prices start at just £5 a month, which will get you 150 minutes, 100MB data and 500 free texts.

You can spend more to get more, but even costs outside your monthly allowance are reasonable – just 15p a minute in the UK, or 5p for texts. And if you get your whole team onto Giffgaff, you can all talk for free.

Most of all, Giffgaff is a flexible, no-nonsense phone provider. It couldn’t be easier to change your bundle, or stop completely, and you can even buy your business mobile from them. They’re all unlocked, SIM-free handsets, so you can even switch to another provider if you want.

Coverage and speed

★★★★

Giffgaff is another virtual provider, but you’ll just piggyback on 02’s reliable network to get the 2G, 3G and 4G coverage you need.

Customer support

★★★★★

It’s rare for a telecoms provider to be loved by its customers, but that’s exactly what Giffgaff claims.

We don’t have hard data on Giffgaff’s customer rating because they are too small to be covered by Ofcom. But we do know they put customer satisfaction at the very heart of their business model.

With no contracts tying you in, they say their customers stay because they want to, not because they have to. It’s compelling stuff.

It’s worth noting, though, that this network provider is only able to offer such competitive prices by keeping a low profile. That means you can’t pop into a store if you need an urgent fix, but you can often get the help you need from the forums on their website.

So, if you are happy to receive online support only, maybe you too might fall in love with Giffgaff.


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

ee logo sqPros – top 4G speeds, reliable coverage, 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:

PhoneDataPrice
SIM-only20GB£18/month
iPhone 8+15GB£49/month
Samsung S930GB£49/month
iPhone X100GB£64/month

Just note that some of these phones have small additional upfront costs (usually between £10 and £30), so be sure to check your deal.

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 – even coverage experts OpenSignal confirm it.

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, and My EE & Bill Analyser helps you stay on top our your bills. Here’s how:


Plusnet – For affordable, flexible SIM-only plans

plusnet resizedPros – 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:

DataMinutes /TextsMonthly
2GB1000 minutes / 2000 texts£7
3GB1500 minutes / Unlimited texts£9
500MB250 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 logoPros – 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.

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?

And now, which are the leading 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 …., 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 Blackberry. Yes, they’re still very much in the game, having recently made the jump from keypad to touchscreen. Today, their DTEK60 model is considered the world’s most secure smartphone.

Then there’s Taiwanese phone manufacturers HTC who are also rivalling the more famous brands with their high-quality designs and easy-on-the-eye prices.

The models below are all top scorers for quality design, value for money and security – and any one could even double as your personal mobile if – as many entrepreneurs – you like to merge work with life.

Here are the Top 6 business mobile phones:

SmartphoneOSMemoryCameraCost
Samsung Galaxy S8Android 6.064GB12MP front, 8MP rear£609
iPhone 8iOS 1064GB12MP front, 7MP rear£659
Samsung Galaxy C4 ProAndroid 6.064GB16MP front and rear£328
iPhone 7iOS 1032GB, 128GB, 256GB12MP front, 7MP rear£350
HTC One A9Android 6.016GB, 32GB13MP front, 4MP rear£200
Blackberry DTEK60Android 6.032GB21MP front, 8MP rear£412

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.


NOW WHERE TO?

Are you ready for your quotes?

Of course, the best mobile phone for your small business will completely depend on your needs and budget. But you’ll be in good hands with any of the above providers.

In a nutshell, for budget, you might look to Giffgaff. For 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 Top 6 every single one of the providers needed to pack a punch in all three areas, so you can rest assured your small business will be in good hands with any of the above chart-toppers.