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Free mobile WiFi hotspots: how each network compares

WiFi symbol, phone and a SIM card

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Save your regular mobile data allowance for when you really need it with free unlimited WiFi on the go. Keep reading to see the mobile networks offering hotspot access. Last updated: 11th November 2021.

Benefits of free WiFi hotspots

Save your mobile data with free WiFi hotspot access

Chart showing percentage of data used on WiFi vs mobile connection

Some networks help you track data savings

Getting access to free public WiFi with your mobile deal used to be a genuinely useful extra in the days before 4G data speeds. After all, it got you a quicker internet connection than your 3G.

These days, the main draw for WiFi hotspots is in holding onto your data. In a nutshell, by connecting to WiFi when you’re on the go, it means you don’t use up your monthly data from your plan.

You could say that having access to free WiFi hotspots could save you money. You can pick a smaller data plan, avoid charges for going over your data limit and have a backup in case you're completely out of data.

It’s hard to calculate the exact price benefits. We think it’s more of a nice added bonus to sweeten the deal of your overall plan. Something to fall back on, should you need to.

How we rank our free WiFi hotspots category

Screenshot of WiFi hotspot map

The more locations, the better

Free WiFi is only good if there are a lot of WiFi hotspots to access. That’s why we’re looking for the mobile networks with the most locations spread out across the entire country as well as abroad.

Thankfully, no network imposes a limit on how much you can use their hotspots, but if a network were to do so it would bring them down in our estimation. The whole point is to make the most of data-savings.

Having to log in every time you want to use a hotspot is a bit of a pain, so the schemes that log you in automatically, without entering details every time will rank higher in our list.

Finally, we’re keeping an eye out for the fastest hotspots because free WiFi is only as good as its speed. There’s no point connecting to something slower than your 3G or 4G connection and slow WiFi can be teeth-grindingly painful.

Mobile networks offering free WiFi

Mobile networks that offer 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 amount of hotspots in the UK

BT logoBT 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 Even the cheapest plan will give you access
Green plus sign Unlimited and free (usually costs £4 an hour)

What we don't like:
Red minus sign You need an app to access it
Red minus sign Variable speeds for hotspots in different locations
Red minus sign Non-BT broadband customers end up spending more

We like the quality of BT Mobile’s network, but only if you have BT broadband (you’ll get better pricing). See our review of BT Mobile here. The free WiFi included sweetens the deal:

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

Each of these deals gets you access to millions of BT WiFi hotspots:

You’ll only need to register and login once after downloading the BT WiFi app. After that, your phone will automatically connect whenever you’re in range of a hotspot.

And because it’s unlimited, you can use it as much as you like - regardless of the size of your data plan. Overall, we think it’s the most comprehensive scheme, making it the best in our opinion.

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

Our ranking:

Automatically logs you in?:
(download app)

2nd place: Virgin Mobile have more than 4.3 million free hotspots

Virgin Mobile logoVirgin 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 phones and SIMs
Green plus sign Includes access to London Underground WiFi

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Connection problems with the app

Virgin Mobile’s scheme gets our second-place ranking with the second largest number of free WiFi hotspots. With 4.3 million they’re getting close to BT’s 5 million. But their app has been subject to poor reviews.

No matter if you join on a SIM only plan or a phone contract, and regardless of the size of your data plan, you’ll be entitled to free WiFi as a Virgin Mobile customer.

All of these deals get you the Virgin Media WiFi app which keeps you connected on the London Underground and millions of other places:

To get started, you’ll need to download their Virgin Media WiFi app. Like with BT you’ll only ever have to log in once to automatically connect to their whole network of hotspots.

The London Underground and other transport hubs, pubs, cafes and various high street locations (although Virgin don’t publish an easy hotspot checker online) are included, as well as 20 million hotspots all over the world.

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

Our ranking:

Included with:
SIM only plans (pay monthly)
Phone contracts (pay monthly)

Automatically logs you in?:
(download app)

3rd place: O2’s mobile customers get an extra benefit on top of their free WiFi

O2 logoFree 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 many 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

Even if you’re not an O2 mobile customer, you are still able to access their network of 15,000+ hotspots across the UK. So what’s the benefit of joining on one of their plans?

If you do, you’ll get the added benefit of automatic recognition at around 7000+ hotspots. So as soon as your O2 SIM card is in range, you’ll get instant connection to the WiFi there - all without having to login.

And it will only do this if the WiFi hotspot is faster than your existing 3G/4G mobile connection. This is convenient as you’ll only ever have the strongest connection available without having to do anything manually.

Every deal below comes with O2's automatic login feature, ensuring you're always connected at the fastest available speed:

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: giffgaff offer free WiFi through WiFi Extra

giffgaff logogiffgaff wifi on the underground

Follow giffgaff's instructions to connectRead how

at giffgaff.com
(opens in new window)

What we like:
Green plus sign Comes with every plan
Green plus sign Plenty of locations

What we don't like:
Red minus sign Fiddly setup process
Red minus sign Not all O2 WiFi hotspots included

giffgaff are among the list of providers offering free WiFi on London's TFL network. Their WiFi there is provided by Virgin Media.

You’ll also get free access to around 8,000 WiFi Extra hotspots provided by O2. There’s no top up requirement, but you’ll need to download the giffgaff app and make sure to install the WiFi Extra settings.

Other networks are easier to get on with than giffgaff, but follow these instructions to stay connected even when you're underground, away from mobile signal.

Useful link: giffgaff's help guide to their WiFi

Our ranking:

Included with:
SIM only plans (pay as you go)
Phone contracts (pay monthly)

Automatically logs you in?:
has to be set up manually

Joint 4th: Three’s free WiFi is only offered 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

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

If you’re regularly in London, you’ll be able to access Three’s WiFi in the Underground for free. But they don’t provide a network of national free hotspots to use.

These deals all get you free WiFi on the London Underground:

Three customers who have logged into an Underground hotspot at least once will be remembered by all 250 of their hotspots, meaning there’s no need to log in every time you reach a new one.

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

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

Our ranking:
Joint 4th

Number of hotspots:
on London Underground

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

Joint 4th: EE’s free WiFi is also only offered on the Underground

EE logoEE free WiFi on the underground

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

EE is owned by BT, so you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d get access to BT’s WiFi network of 5 million hotspots. But unfortunately this is not the case.

Just like Three and Vodafone, EE joins the group of major networks to offer free WiFi only on London's Underground network.

You’ll get free access no matter what plan you take with them. But pay as you go customers need to have topped up with at least £5 in the last 30 days in order to benefit.

EE may automatically connect you to the WiFi at stations by recognising your SIM, but this depends on what device you have. Otherwise, you'll only need to log in once to 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:
London Underground only

Auotmatically logs in?:
Yes, after first login

5th place: Sky Mobile customers get slightly easier access to Sky WiFi’s free 20,000 hotspots

Sky Mobile logoSky 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

You'd think that with its 20,000 free hotspots we'd rate Sky WiFi higher than the networks above that only offer free WiFi on the Underground.

But there’s one issue - Sky WiFi is already free and you don’t get any bonus features if you sign up to one of their SIM only plans or phone contracts.

The only advantage to being on Sky is that you can access their hotspots using your existing log in, without having to create your own separate account like non-Sky customers have to. But that’s hardly a big incentive.

You can access their hotspots in decent locations and we’d say their network is pretty comprehensive too (find your nearest here by ticking Sky WiFi box). But without a specific reason to join Sky mobile, it’s just not a drawing point for them.

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

Our ranking:

Automatically logs you in?:
Yes, after first login

Joint last place: all other mobile providers in the UK!

1pMobile logoiD Mobile logoPlusnet Mobile logoTesco Mobile logoSMARTY logoLebara logoLycamobile logoVodafone logoVOXI logoASDA logoHonest logoIQ logo

No free WiFi hotspots on these networks

After having ranked all the networks based on their WiFi hotspot schemes, it’s worth mentioning all the networks that offer none:

It’s surprising to see Vodafone and VOXI not offer hotspots. Both used to offer them on the Underground. With ASDA also offering none, Virgin are the only network on Vodafone that offer hotspots.

Tesco are also a fairly large network to not offer hotspots. But for the most part, it makes sense that these other no-frills budget networks won’t be able to offer a network of free hotspots.

This doesn’t mean those not offering hotspots are bad networks. The purpose of this guide is to give you an overview of the providers that give you free hotspot access.

Nowadays free WiFi is easier to find when on the go, so it’s not necessarily a make-or-break benefit to have. Saying that, 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

You get some free WiFi with these SIM only deals

Three SIM cards and the WiFi symbol

Compare SIMs with WiFi included

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

It’s worth remembering that the number of hotspots and locations varies per network, so have a read of our network breakdown above to see what each one offers.

Alternatively, simply choose the minutes, texts and data you want in your deal and we’ll help you compare SIM only plans with free WiFi:

Find a SIM only plan with free WiFi

We've pre-filtered the results for networks with the feature



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