O2 have finally launched unlimited data plans for consumers; the last of the big four networks to do so. Tariffs start at £33 per month for an 18-month SIM-only plan.
In this article we take an in-depth look at O2’s new Limitless plans. We’ll look at pricing, how O2’s plans compare with tariffs on other networks, and we’ll find out if their unlimited data plans are truly ‘unlimited’.
O2 Limitless Data
In early September 2019, O2 added unlimited data plans to their offerings. O2 customers can now choose an unlimited data plan and scroll to their heart’s content.
In addition to unlimited data in the UK, customers can use up to 20GB of inclusive roaming abroad. There are 75 destinations included in O2’s travel zone, find out which countries are included here.
Unlimited data from O2 is available on 12 and 18-month SIM-only contracts, as well as on a range of high-end handsets with an O2 Refresh contract. Unlimited data is also available as part of the Family Plan, O2 Open and O2 Students plans.
Currently, unlimited data is not available on O2 Pay-As-You-Go.
As for pricing, customers can expect tariffs to start at £33 per month for an 18-month SIM-only contract.
Unlimited handset contracts vary widely in price, but here are two examples (correct at time of writing):
- Apple iPhone 11 64GB: £30 upfront and £69.25 per month for 24 months.
- Samsung Galaxy S10: £30 upfront and £71.71 a month for 24 months.
O2 plans are customisable to an extent, so you can make your monthly payments lower by paying more upfront or increasing the contract length. You can also save money by choosing a cheaper device.
Is it Really Unlimited?
This is the big question: are you paying a premium for something that is in fact not unlimited?
O2 enforce a fair use policy on all of their unlimited data plans. There are a number of restrictions that you should be aware of before buying.
- There is a 650GB per month download limit. This is a huge amount of data but technically not unlimited. It’s especially important to note that if your data usage exceeds 650GB twice in a six-month period O2 reserve the right to investigate your usage or transfer you to another tariff.
- Unlimited data is for private use only. O2’s terms and conditions state that data must not be used for commercial purposes.
- Tethering and personal hotspot usage is limited to a maximum of 12 devices.
- As previously mentioned, you can only use up to 20GB of data while travelling abroad. In Europe a surcharge of 0.4p per MB applies when you exceed this limit. A higher surcharge may apply in countries outside of Europe.
So to answer the question briefly, no – O2 Limitless is not entirely unlimited. There are restrictions, and they’re worth bearing in mind before you sign a contract.
How Does O2 Unlimited Compare to Other Tariffs?
O2 is one of the last big players to offer unlimited data plans. As such, they have a lot of competition. Unfortunately, it seems O2 is currently one of the most expensive networks for tariffs with unlimited data. Their cheapest tariff is £33 a month for 18 months (SIM-only), while other networks like Vodafone and GiffGaff charge much less and offer shorter, more flexible contract terms. In addition, O2 is one of the strictest networks in terms of their fair use policy.
Here’s how O2 compares to other networks for pricing and restrictions:
EE’s unlimited data plans start at £34 per month (SIM-only) for 12 months. EE’s fair use policy caps data usage at 1,000 GB per month, and there is a limit of 12 devices for tethering.
Vodafone Unlimited starts at £23 per month for a 12-month SIM-only plan. This plan is capped to a 2mbps download speed. If you want unlimited speeds for your unlimited data, it’s £30 per month for a SIM-only contract.
Three’s cheapest unlimited SIM-only plan is £20 per month for 24 months. But they also offer a flexible 1-month rolling contract for £26 a month. Three’s fair usage limit is 1,000GB per month.
GiffGaff’s ‘Always On’ data plan costs £25 a month and is a flexible 1-month contract. However, 4G download speeds are only available for the first 40GB per month. After which, download speeds are restricted to 384kbps between 8am and midnight.
What About Coverage?
O2 currently offers 99% population coverage on 4G (with 2G and 3G still used as back up when 4G isn’t available). In fact, O2 recently won the award for Best Network Coverage in the uSwitch Mobile Awards 2019. This 4G coverage is reportedly available both indoors and out.
Download speeds on O2’s 4G network typically average 30mbps but this can vary based on coverage and congestion. All of O2’s unlimited plans are currently offered with 4G download speeds.
You should check coverage in your area before taking out a contract. You can do this by entering your postcode on O2’s coverage map.
5G is the next step for O2, and the service is launching in October 2019. 5G will initially only be available in 6 cities (London, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds and Slough) but will expand to 42 towns and cities over the next 12 months.
5G will offer greater network capacity, faster download speeds and less lag and it will be available with unlimited data soon.
Roaming on O2 Unlimited
We’ve mentioned roaming a few times already but let’s look at it in more detail.
With an O2 Unlimited package, the allowance includes 20GB of data to use whilst travelling abroad each month. This is part of the O2 Travel Inclusive Zone Bolt-On, which covers roaming in Europe (48 destinations) and an additional 27 countries. Popular holiday destinations such as the USA, Mexico, Australia and Costa Rica are included.
If you exceed the 20GB monthly limit, you will pay a surcharge. In Europe this surcharge is 0.4p per MB. Surcharges for countries outside of Europe may be higher.
For more information on O2 Roaming, click here.
Tethering and Personal Hotspots
Tethering is the name for sharing your Smartphone’s data connection with another device (such as a laptop). It’s also known as personal hotspot. It can be really useful while you’re out and about, perhaps studying in a coffee shop or watching Netflix on a train.
You are permitted to use tethering on all O2 Limitless plans, however there is a restriction. Again, we’ve mentioned this briefly already, but it bears repeating. You may only use tethering and personal hotspot on a maximum of 12 devices. If you plan to use your smartphone as your only source of internet data (i.e. you don’t have broadband at home), this restriction may make O2’s plans unsuitable for you. Fortunately a number of other networks offer unlimited data plans without such a restriction.
Are there Advantages or Benefits?
All O2 customers, including those on unlimited data plans, have free access to O2 Priority. This app rewards O2 customers with local offers, exclusive deals and the chance to buy gig tickets before everyone else.
And if coverage is important to you (as it should be), O2 are one of the best. They won Best Network Coverage in the uSwitch Mobile Awards 2019. O2 have won a number of other industry awards for performance and reliability. You can find out which ones here.
The Bottom Line
O2 is not even close to the cheapest network for unlimited data plans and their restrictions are more rigorous than other networks. However, they are one of the best networks for coverage, and they have a solid roll-out plan for 5G.
O2 might be worth considering if you’re an existing customer and you’re happy with the service. But if you’re looking for a cheaper deal – consider the alternatives. Some providers (like GiffGaff) use O2’s network and so offer similar coverage for a much lower price.
And remember; if you switch network you can take your mobile number with you! It’s easy to do, so don’t let the worry of switching stop you from getting a good deal.