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Free WiFi hotspots with your mobile deal: how each network compares

WiFi symbol, phone and a SIM card

Getting free unlimited WiFi saves your regular mobile data allowance for when you really need it. We rank the mobile networks offering hotspot access. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 18th July 2018.

Benefits of free WiFi hotspots

Getting free WiFi hotspot access saves your mobile data

Chart showing percentage of data used on WiFi vs mobile connection

Some networks help you track data savings

In the days before 4G data speeds, having free public WiFi access with your mobile deal was a useful bonus because it meant you could get a quicker internet connection than your 3G.

Nowadays, it’s more about saving on your mobile data allowance. That’s because connecting to WiFi when you’re out of the house doesn’t use up your monthly data from your plan.

So in theory, having free WiFi hotspot access could save you money by letting you pick a smaller data plan. It can also help you avoid charges for going over your data limit too.

For us, we’d say the price benefits are actually quite hard to measure. It’s more of a nice-to-have extra that puts some icing on the cake of your overall deal.

What we’re looking for in our free WiFi rankings

Screenshot of WiFi hotspot map

The more locations, the better

Free WiFi is only really worth it if there are loads of hotspots. We’re looking for the mobile networks with the most locations spread out over the entire UK and even abroad.

You don’t want any limits to how much you can use it either, we’re looking for schemes that offer unlimited WiFi data, so you can really make the most of the data-savings it offers.

It’s a huge pain to constantly log in every time you want to use a hotspot, so the better schemes will be ones that log you in automatically, without entering details every time.

Lastly, it’s pointless if the free WiFi you connect to is slower than your 4G or 3G connection would be anyway. So we’re keeping an eye out for the fastest hotspots.

Mobile networks offering free WiFi

Each of these mobile networks offers some free WiFi

Click a logo to skip to that part of the article or read our rankings from top to bottom

1st place: BT Mobile have the most hotspots in the UK by far

BT WiFi app on a mobile phone with hotspot map in background

Download the app and only sign in onceSee the app

at BT.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign In more locations than any other network
Green plus sign You get it on every plan, even the cheapest
Green plus sign Free and unlimited (normally costs £4 an hour)

What we don't like:
Red minus sign You have to download an app
Red minus sign Busy hotpots can be slower than 4G
Red minus sign Non-BT broadband customers pay more for plan

In our review of BT Mobile, we rate the quality of their mobile network (but really only if you have BT broadband for better pricing). Getting free WiFi included too adds to this well:

Whether you join BT on a SIM only plan or a smartphone contract, you’re entitled to free BT WiFi access via BT’s own network of 5 million UK hotspots (find ones near you here).

Download the BT WiFi app and you’ll only need to register and log in once. After that, whenever you’re in range of a hotspot, it’ll automatically connect your phone to it.

You can use it as much as you like, it’s unlimited. And it doesn’t matter whether your mobile plan comes with barely any data or loads. Overall, we think it’s the best scheme because it's the most comprehensive.

Useful link: All reasons to join BT Mobile at BT.com

Our ranking:
1st

Automatically logs you in?:
Yes
(download app)

2nd place: Virgin Mobile have over 3.5 million free hotspots

Virgin Mobile free WiFi app screenshot

Free, unlimited and in useful locationsRead full details

at virginmedia.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign The second-largest number of hotspots
Green plus sign Works on pay monthly and pay as you go
Green plus sign London Underground WiFi included too

What we don't like:
Red minus sign People have problems connecting with app

With the second largest number of free WiFi hotspots, Virgin Mobile’s scheme gets our second-place ranking, although their recently-updated app is getting poor reviews.

Every Virgin Mobile customer is entitled to free WiFi, whether you join on a SIM only plan or a phone contract, pay monthly or pay as you go.

You’ll need to download their Virgin Media WiFi app, which lets you log in once and then automatically connect whenever you’re in range of hotspots which you can find on a map.

This includes the London Underground and other transport hubs, pubs, cafes and other high street locations (although Virgin don’t publish an easy hotspot checker online).

Useful link: Full guide to free WiFi on Virgin Mobile at virginmedia.com

Our ranking:
2nd

Automatically logs you in?:
Yes
(download app)

3rd place: O2’s free WiFi comes with an extra benefit for their mobile customers

Free O2 WiFi hotspots

It's quicker to connect if you're on O2Read why

at O2.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign No app needed to connect to most hotspots
Green plus sign Works on pay monthly and pay as you go
Green plus sign WiFi on the Underground included

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Not all the hotspots connect without logging in
Red minus sign Not as many locations covered as others

It’s actually free for anyone who isn’t an O2 mobile customer to access O2’s network of 15,000+ hotspots across the UK, so should it be a reason to take a SIM or phone from them?

If you are an O2 customer, around 7000+ of those hotspots will automatically recognise the O2 SIM card in your phone and connect you to the WiFi, without having to register or log in.

A really nice feature is that it will only do this if the WiFi hotspot is faster than your existing 3G/4G mobile connection, so you’ll always have the fastest speed available.

As an O2 customer, you’ll also get free WiFi on London’s Underground transport network.

Useful link: How O2's free WiFi works from their official guide

Joint 4th: Three only offer free WiFi on the London Underground

Three logoThree's free WiFi on the Underground

Every Three customer gets itRead full guide

at Three.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Only need to sign in once
Green plus sign Works on pay monthly and pay as you go

What we don't like:
Red minus sign There's no WiFi on the trains yet
Red minus sign Three offer no other free WiFi

As one of the UK's four major mobile networks, the level of free WiFi provision from Three is actually pretty poor (even if their mobile data itself does regularly win awards).

There's no network of national free hotspots to use. But if you're regularly in London, you'll be able to benefit from free WiFi on the Undergound with Three.

Being a Three customer gets you a free login that you only have to enter once on your phone. After that, it will be remembered and automatically log you in, whenever you're at a station with a hotspot.

It works on any pay monthly SIM only or phone contract deal. It also works on pay as you go as long as you've used your phone to send a text, make a call or access mobile internet in the last 30 days (read full terms here).

Useful link: Three's full guide to free WiFi at Three.co.uk

Our ranking:
Joint 4th

Number of hotspots:
250+
on London Underground

Automatically logs you in?:
Yes, after first manual login

Joint 4th: EE also only offer free WiFi on the Underground

EE logo

Some devices will automatically connectRead full guide

at EE.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Automatic login on some devices
Green plus sign Works on pay monthly and pay as you go

What we don't like:
Red minus sign It doesn't work on the trains yet
Red minus sign It's the only WiFi on EE

You'd think being owned by BT would mean that EE would give their mobile customers access to the same BT WiFi network of 5 million hotspots but that's not the case.

EE join Three and Vodafone as major networks to offer free WiFi only on London's Underground network.

Both pay monthly phone and SIM only customers get free access. If you're on pay as you go, you'll need to have topped up with at least £5 in the last 30 days.

Depending on what device you have, EE may automatically connect you to the WiFi on stations by recognising your SIM. Otherwise, you'll only need to log in the first time and you'll be remembered after that.

Useful link: How to get free WiFi on the Underground from EE's help guide

Our ranking:
Joint 4th

Number of hotspots:
250+
London Underground only

Auotmatically logs in?:
Yes, after first login

Joint 4th: Vodafone's free WiFi is limited to the Underground only

Vodafone's free WiFi on the Underground

Access free WiFi on 250+ stationsHow to get it

at vodafone.co.uk
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Free and unlimited usage
Green plus sign Works on pay monthly and pay as you go

What we don't like:
Red minus sign It doesn't work on the trains yet
Red minus sign It's the only free WiFi on Vodafone

Last in the group of major mobile providers with no nationwide free WiFi is Vodafone, who also only offer it on the London Underground.

It works pretty much identical as the other networks who have it (O2, Virgin, EE and Three). You'll get it if you're pay monthly or pay as you.

You'll need to register and log in the first time but after that you'll be logged in automatically.

If you're on a pay as you go, you'll need to have an active Big Bundle to be able access it.

Useful link: How to connect on Vodafone

Our ranking:
Joint 4th

Number of hotspots:
250+
London Underground only

Included with:
SIM only plans (pay monthly)
Phone contracts (pay monthly)
Pay As You Go phones (on Big Bundles)
Pay As You Go Big Bundles

Automatically logs you in?:
Yes, after first login

5th place: Sky Mobile makes using Sky WiFi’s already-free 20,000 hotspots slightly easier

Sky WiFi hotspot map screenshot

There are few advantages for Sky customersHow to get it

at Sky.com
(opens in a new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Plenty of hotspots in useful locations
Green plus sign Fast and unlimited usage

What we don't like:
Red minus sign It's free anyway so no benefit for Sky customers
Red minus sign Not as many hotspots as other providers
Red minus sign No WiFi on the Underground with Sky

With over 20,000 free hotspots, you'd think we'd rate Sky WiFi higher than the networks above that only offer free WiFi on the Underground.

The reason we don't is that Sky WiFi is already free. And there aren't even any bonus features you get if you sign up to a SIM only plan or phone contract from Sky Mobile.

The only real advantage is that you can use your existing Sky login to log in to Sky WiFi, without creating your own separate account like non-Sky customers have to.

The hotspot network itself is pretty comprehensive and they're in decent locations (find your nearest here by ticking Sky WiFi box). It's just not a specific reason to join Sky Mobile.

Useful link: See all reasons to join Sky Mobile at Sky.com

Our ranking:
5th

Automatically logs you in?:
Yes, after first login

Joint last place: every other mobile provider in the UK!

giffgaff logoiD Mobile logoPlusnet Mobile logoTesco Mobile logoTPO logoSMARTY logoVOXI logoLebara logoLycamobile logo

No free WiFi hotspots on these networks

We’ve been through the networks that do have some kind of free WiFi provision but it’s worth having a quick runthrough who doesn’t just to be clear:

You can’t get any free hotspot access when you join giffgaff, iD Mobile, Plusnet Mobile, Tesco Mobile, The People’s Operator, SMARTY or VOXI.

That of course, doesn’t mean these are bad mobile networks, this guide is only here to tell you which are good for getting you hotspot access.

There’s plenty of free WiFi out there nowadays anyway, so it’s not necessarily a do-or-die benefit to have. That said, we do think it’s a nice extra on top of other benefits.

Useful link: Read our full reviews of mobile networks

SIM only plans with unlimited free WiFi

These SIM only deals get you at least some free WiFi

Three SIM cards and the WiFi symbol

Compare SIMs with WiFi included

Below, we’ve pre-filtered our SIM only deals finder to show you only those networks that have some kind of free WiFi for their mobile customers.

Remember, the number of hotspots and locations varies per network, so definitely have a read of our network breakdown above to see what you get with each.

Otherwise, choose the minutes, texts and data you want in your deal and we’ll help you compare SIM only deals with free WiFi access:

Choose what you want in your deal:

Deal options >
Choose mins, texts and data >
Choose data speed (3G or 4G) >
Choose max contract length >

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Three logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
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O2 logo
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Sky logo
SMARTY logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
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VOXI logo
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Phone contracts with free WiFi hotspot access

Compare phone deals with free WiFi

Phone comparison preview

Use our price comparison toolCompare phone deals

here at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

We’re working to bring you a phone contract comparison tool on this page but in the meantime, use our smartphone deal finder here.

You’ll need to be familiar with which networks have free WiFi included with their phone deals, so that you can filter the results.

The ones with hotspots across the country are: BT Mobile, Virgin Mobile (also on the Undergound), O2 (also on the Undergound) and Sky Mobile.

The providers who only offer WiFi on the Underground and no other locations are EE, Three, Vodafone.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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