Using your UK mobile phone service abroad

It’s become a lot simpler and cheaper for us to use our own mobile phone when in the USA over the years thanks to changes made by Ofcom. Let’s take a look at why the situation is what it is and our options

1. History and how it works

In the UK our mobile networks are:

- Vodafone
- O2
- EE (now owned by BT)
- Three

Although some of these are owned by larger conglomerates who operate globally, the networks still need to “rent” access to mobile networks in other countries in order for us to use our phones abroad. This is referred to as “Roaming Agreements

Ofcom and the EU organised flat rates for us in Europe but in the USA it’s a different matter.

UK mobile networks have different roaming agreements with US networks and “rent” different levels of spectrum, therefore what we pay and the service we get differs:

- EE & Vodafone rent a lot of spectrum so they offer 4G and the ability to use your home allowance.

- O2 rent spectrums reserved for voice and just a few for data. They offer capped services across calls, texts and data, but data is only 3G.

- Three rent spectrums reserved for voice and few for data. They can offer calls and texts but 3G only speeds that is throttled.

2. Check who you are with

It’s straightforward as to who your network provider is if you shopped directly with O2, EE, Vodafone or Three.

If you’re not directly contracted with one of the above networks you will be with a Service Provider such as Giff Gaff, Tesco Mobile, Virgin Mobile etc. In simple terms they provide the billing, tariffs and customer service, but ultimately they are reselling EE, Vodafone, Three or O2.
Their Roaming Rates can be different to their Parent Network so please check:

3. Decide how you want to use your phone in the USA

Deciding how you wish to use your phone will ultimately determine what network is best for you while out there. Take a look at the maximum usage the networks currently provide:

Now decide how you may want to use your phone:

4. Now factor in the cost……

These prices are correct as of September 7, 2018

Three state it is inclusive to call other Three numbers abroad with you as long as they have Go Roam as well. Also, Three do offer a £5 Data Passport option with unlimited data and the ability to tether and stream without throttling.

EE no longer offer Max Plans on SIM-only, so the only option is a MAX Phone contract or to add their £60 Go Further Bolt-on.

Vodafone's current cheapest tariff (as of Aug 2018) is a £22 SIM-only 12m contract and includes Entertainment and 8GB

You must check full details for you tariff yourself and even give your provider a call as many terms and conditions are often hidden

- Vodafone
- O2
- EE Max Plan
- EE Go Further Bolt On
- Three


To call back home from you dial +44 and drop the leading 0 off the UK number

People calling you from the UK will just use your normal number.

People calling you from the US will use 01144 and drop the leading 0 off your mobile number.

To call US numbers while you are out there you need to dial +1 then the number.

Some sim cards to use recommended previously are:



AT&T sim cards

Alternate phones to buy are Net10 & Tracfone
These can be bought from Walmart, Target & Super Target.
Page created by Stu on 23-09-2010 20:43.
+ Last editted by Fatboyslick on 07-09-2018 10:02. View History

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