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When you’re looking for a new mobile phone deal – especially one to help you keep in touch with home while you’re studying – there’s a wide range of different phones, tariffs and networks to choose from. So, how do you go about getting the right mobile phone deal for you?

To help you make the right decision, here’s what you need to know before signing up for a new mobile phone contract while studying at the QMUL campus.

Picking the ideal network

For many consumers, it’s critical to find out which mobile phone provider offers the best level of coverage where they live. One of the advantages of living and studying in London, however, is there’s an excellent level of coverage offered by all of the UK’s mobile providers – in some cases, you can even get a Wi-Fi connection on the London Underground too.

It might be a good idea to check coverage levels in any other location that you're likely to want to use your phone in such as your home/non-term time address, or where you may be based during any fieldwork.

All major providers offer coverage checkers on their site and while networks are expanding all the time, it’s still worth checking what 3G and 4G coverage is like where you are.

Payment options

When it comes to how you subscribe to your chosen mobile phone provider you have three options:

Pay As You Go (PAYG)  

You buy a handset or carry on using your existing phone, and then add credit as and when you need it. This credit will entitle you to a specific quantity of minutes, text messages and perhaps some data allowance. PAYG offers the greatest level of flexibility, there’s no contract to tie you down and it’s easy to
make sure you stay within budget – handy if you’re keeping an eye on your student finances.

Pay Monthly  

You get your handset for free, or at a greatly reduced cost, and you pay a set monthly fee. This includes some level of inclusive calls, texts and data (if you’ve chosen a smartphone), but you will be tied into a contract lasting between 12 and 24 months.

Remember, because of recently introduced Ofcom rules, if your mobile phone network tries to increase your monthly charges in the middle of your contract period you now have the right to cancel and walk away.

SIM only deals 

The provider supplies you with a SIM card only which you put in your existing phone. SIM only deals often represent excellent value for money compared to the other two options and you're usually only into a rolling 30 day contract. You can find out exactly what’s available by comparing SIM only deals

What you get

When you're weighing up your mobile phone options you’ll need to consider the costs and contract terms (if applicable) against what you’ll be entitled to in return. There’s a lot to address here, but a good start will be to make sure to get the answers to each of the questions outlined below:

Inclusive minutes – How many minutes of calls does the package give you? Is there a distinction made between any network and same network minutes? Does your new contract allow you to make free inclusive calls to mobiles? Are calls to customer services and voicemail included or will you have to pay extra for those?
Texts – How many texts will you get? If you'll be a PAYG customer how much will it cost to send text messages to people on other networks? Do you get free MMS picture messages?
Internet usage – What is your data allowance? Will it be enough to cover what you like to do online using your phone? How much will you be charged for excess usage? If you may need to work remotely away from Wi-Fi networks can you use the handset to ‘tether’ it to a laptop? And are you able to use your data allowance for this? If you need this facility, would it be better to consider a separate mobile broadband dongle, or mobile Wi-Fi device?
Handsets – What phone will you get? Do you really need the very latest smartphone, or would the previous version be adequate? Or perhaps even a secondhand handset - if so, is it easy and cheap to have ‘unlocked’ so you can use it on another network? If it’s a contract phone, will you have to pay towards its cost, or will it be completely free? When will you be eligible for an upgrade to a better phone? What happens if your phone is lost or stolen?

Getting answers to as many of these questions as possible will help you steer yourself to the most appropriate mobile phone deal.

How much data do I need?

The average phone user gets through around 1.3GB of data a month, so a package with 1.5GB+ should be enough for most of you. Don’t forget that some phone plans also give you free access to public Wi-Fi hotspots, so using that whenever possible will help you keep your usage down.

Where to buy

Once you’ve got a good idea of what you need from your new mobile phone deal, you’ll be in a much better position to get the right one for you. For further advice or to buy a phone, you could visit one of the following shops within a short distance of the main QMUL campus:

Phones 4 U
Anchor House Retail Park, Mile End Road, E1 4UJ

Carphone Warehouse
88 Cannon Street, EC4N 6HT

148 Bishopgate, EC2M 4JY, or;  93 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1DH

56 Old Broad Street, EC2M 1RX

12 Fenchurch Street, EC3M 3BE

Three Mobile
64 Cannon Street, EC4N 6AE

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