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TPO Mobile review 2018: are charity donations this network's only real feature?

The People's Operator logo and SIM card

We review The People's Operator's mobile network, 4G speeds, pricing and benefits to see if charity donations are the only reason to join. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: March 14th 2018.

Overall rating

TPO Mobile

SIM Sherpa only rates The People’s Operator as average
 (2.5 / 5, others more appealing)

"It feels harsh to give TPO an average review because their charitable giving scheme is a noble one, and will help good causes. But we have to be brutal and review them as a mobile network, not a charity.

The People’s Operator’s plans are uber-basic and don’t come with (m)any frills. They aren’t even the very cheapest on the market anymore. So if you wanted to donate, you could join someone else cheaper and donate the difference instead."

Below, we look in detail at the coverage, speeds, benefits and extras you can expect on TPO Mobile.

The 3 best bits

1) 10% of your plan cost goes to charity
2) Decent coverage and 4G speeds
3) Cheap SIM only plans with no credit check

The 3 worst bits

1) Tethering not allowed
2) No extra benefits
3) Not cheapest plans any more

In our TPO Mobile review 2018

Overall rating

Our verdict

Overall rating

Network review

Network

4G and 3G coverage
Data speeds
Call quality
WiFi calling
Tethering
Free WiFi hotspots

Perks review

Benefits & features

Charity donations
Inclusive EU roaming
Spending limit
Data rollover scheme
Customer reward schemes
Free app subscriptions
Unlimited streaming options
Shared / family plans

Deal review

Deals & plans

Special offers
SIM only plans
Phone contracts
Pay As You Go
Mobile broadband

Customer service review

Customer service

Ofcom data

Reviewing TPO's mobile network

Coverage: access an award-winning network with TPO

TPO Mobile's network map

TPO SIMs tap into Three's mobile networkCheck TPO coverage

at thepeoplesoperator.com
(opens in new window)

If you join The People’s Operator, your SIM card will connect to the Three mobile network to bring your phone signal. TPO aren’t owned by Three, they just use their network.

Three is the smallest of the four mobile networks in the UK. But it has doubled in size in the last 8 years. And it still offers some decent coverage statistics: 98% population coverage for 3G and 91% for 4G.

TPO Mobile customers get the same strength signal as Three’s, so the odds are you’ll be able to get a decent signal where you live. But we’d recommend double-checking before you buy to avoid disappointment.

Use The People’s Operator’s official coverage checker under the link below to check your signal in the places you know you’ll be using your phone (hint, don’t just check your home address).

Useful link: Check your local TPO Mobile signal on their official network map

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
Joint 4th
(out of 4 places)

Not as good as:
EE, O2 and Vodafone
(and all providers that use them)

Same as:
Three, iD Mobile, SMARTY

4G speeds: TPO’s host network speeds are right up there

Mobile network 4G speed tester logos
22.31 Mbps
(Three's result)
20.39 Mbps
(Three's result)

Just because TPO Mobile’s plans are cheap, doesn’t mean you’re going to get a shoddy mobile network experience. In fact, when it comes to 4G speeds, we’d expect decent results for The People’s Operator.

That’s because the network their SIMs run on, Three, scores well in independent speed tester reports conducted by industry-leaders OpenSignal and SpeedTest. Note: they don’t measure TPO directly, only Three.

People with the testing app installed on their phone on average experienced 4G speeds of 20.39 - 22.31 Mbpson the Three network. This was second fastest (behind EE) on one test, and third fastest (behind EE and Vodafone) on the other.

At those speeds, regular internet pages will typically load in under a second, and you can comfortably watch videos on streaming services without buffering.

Useful link: What TPO say about their 4G on their official pages

Our rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd

Not as good as:
EE
(and other providers that use them)

Better than:
O2, Vodafone
(and other providers that use them)

Call quality: good results for TPO Mobile’s host network

iD Mobile 4G Calling banner

HD audio on calls made over 3GSee call charges

at thepeoplesoperator.com
(opens in new window)

Yes, people are using their phones more and more for data. But we still think it’s essential that a mobile provider offers a decent service when it comes to making/taking phone calls. It’s what a phone is for after all.

To gauge call quality on The People’s Operator, we’ve looked at the test reports of P3 Network Analytics, who travel around the country testing the audio quality of calls and how quickly they connect.

Like the data speed testers, P3 only actually measure Three, so we can’t give precise results for TPO. Three get a ‘good’ score, with calls being around 1.5 secs slower than EE or Vodafone to connect.

But audio quality was measured as good. This is likely because The People’s Operator only use 3G signal for calls (not older 2G), which delivers a clearer sound than older technology.

Useful link: See all call charges on TPO Mobile

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
Joint 3rd
(out of 4 positions)

Not as good as:
EE or Vodafone
(and other providers that use these)

Better than:
O2, Tesco Mobile, giffgaff, Sky

WiFi calling: The People’s Operator don’t offer it

An iD Mobile banner for WiFi calling

TPO's rivals iD Mobile do have WiFi callingSee iD's scheme

from iD Mobile's help guide
(opens in new window)

We told you no frills means no frills with TPO. They don’t have WiFi calling enabled on their network either.

WiFi calling is a useful feature if you regularly use your phone somewhere that conventional mobile signal cannot reach, but does have a WiFi router. Examples are in certain buildings or underground.

We’ve rated the best WiFi calling networks in the UK here. And it’s actually TPO’s host network Three that gets our top ranking. Their inTouch WiFi calling scheme works on a large number of phones.

The People’s Operator’s low-cost rivals iD Mobile also offer WiFi calling but on fewer phone models

Useful link: Three's inTouch WiFi calling scheme

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Same as:
All others

WiFi hotspots: no free access on TPO Mobile

Logos of free WiFi hotspot providers

Other providers offer inclusive WiFi hotspots

We think it’s important to understand all features that are on offer with other providers, even if you’re not getting them on The People’s Operator. We hope this helps you decide whether each network is right for you, or not.

Another feature you don’t get with TPO is access to a free WiFi when you’re out and about. This is something you will get on these mobile providers.

It can be an important benefit for some people, because it’s an easy way to keep your mobile data consumption down. So you can choose a smaller, cheaper plan (using public WiFi on those networks doesn’t use up your data).

At the same time, it’s worth saying there is now so much free WiFi around anyway, you could find it’s not something you’ll miss on TPO.

Useful link: TPO's charges for extra data on pay monthly

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Same as:
All others

Tethering: you can’t use your phone as a hotspot on TPO

TPO Mobile's tethering policy

No tethering allowed on TPO MobileRead all TPO terms

This is where the network services that The People’s Operator offer dry up. You can’t tether on TPO Mobile.

Tethering, if you’re unusure, is when you use the mobile signal on your phone to create a mini WiFi hotspot around you. You can then connect tablets, iPads and laptops to this to get access to the internet.

TPO say it’s to keep their network free for regular users, which is fair enough. Tethering does tend to use more data than just browsing the internet on regular phones.

If you know you want to tether, and you’re looking for a cheap network that uses the Three network, it’s worth taking a look at SMARTY, who do allow you to tether. iD Mobile also use Three but don’t allow tethering either.

Useful link: Read all terms and conditions on TPO

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
Most other networks

Same as:
iD Mobile, Virgin Mobile

TPO Mobile's benefits review

Unique benefit: TPO donate 10% to a charity you choose

TPO Mobile charitable cause

10% donated to charity at no extra to youFind your cause

at thepeoplesoperator.com
(opens in new window)

This is the reason The People’s Operator exists. They were set up as a way to make an ordinary purchase that practically everyone makes into one that contributes to good causes. It’s a great idea.

When you first sign up to your deal, you get to choose one of hundreds of charities to donate to (see latest list of causes here). Each month, TPO donates 10% of the cost of your plan to that cause, at no extra cost to you.

It’s a noble scheme but it’s worth doing some sums before you jump in, if you want to donate to charity:

10% of a £7.50 plan is 75p. 10% of a £15 plan is £1.50. If you can find a SIM only plan that gives you the same mins, texts and data, 10% or more cheaper than TPO, you can donate that difference directly yourself.

That way, you and the charity are both better off. For the charity, TPO is only the best choice if no other SIM plan is 10% cheaper or more. So check prices first.

Useful link: Compare all SIM only deals

Our rating:
★★★★★ (best choice)

Rank:
1st place
(out of 14 providers)

Better than:
All other networks

Roaming: TPO are no better or worse than most networks

Free EU roaming on The People's Operator

Roam Like Home in the EU with TPOHow roaming works

at thepeoplesoperator.com
(opens in new window)

It's now a requirement of all mobile networks in the UK that they make the cost of using your phone in the EU the same as using it at home.

For pay monthly deals, it means that calls and texts back to the UK and data used in the EU, just come out of your plan's regular allowances. So won't cost you extra.

This is what happens on TPO Mobile. It's effectively free roaming within the EU (read their article here).

It's not our best-rated free roaming scheme, because it basically offers just the bare legal minimum (our favourite is still Three's Feel-At-Home free roaming in 71 destinations worldwide).

But overall, when TPO's plans are low-cost in the first place, it's a useful benefit.

Useful link: See all TPO roaming costs

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
Joint 6th
(out of 14 providers)

Same as:
Most others

Spending caps: TPO Mobile's deals are technically capped

The People's Operator billing help screenshot

You don't get to control the cap yourselfHow all billing works

at thepeoplesoperator.com
(opens in new window)

Some networks now offer what tend to be called "Capped Contracts" or similar.

These are plans that let you set a spending limit on top of your plan's usual cost that you can't overshoot. If you try using a service that would cause you to overspend, the network blocks it temporarily.

These prevent you from getting a surprise bill if you've used services that cost extra (like roaming, going over your data limit etc). They're particularly handy if you're taking out a contract for someone else.

We rate Tesco Mobile's scheme as the best because it lets you set the limit yourself voluntarily as little as £2.50. Or have no limit at all. On The People's Operator, you don't get the choice:

Each plan comes with a credit limit of £20 you can spend on top of your normal monthly charge. And you can't control the limit yourself. As a result, we can only really give TPO an average rating.

Useful link: TPO's guide to credit limits and overspending from their help section

Our rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
TBC

Not as good as:
Tesco, Plusnet, iD, BT

Better than:
All others

Data rollover: TPO Mobile don't let you keep unused data

SMARTY mobile's data discount scheme

TPO's rivals SMARTY pay you back for unused dataGuide to discounts

at SMARTY.co.uk
(opens in new window)

In our mobile network reviews we think it's worth listing the things you don't get as well as what you do get. This way, we can help you decide if you're getting everything you'd want out of your mobile deal.

One thing you don't get on The People's Operator is a feature generally known as data rollover (read our guide here). This is when a network lets you keep unused data at the end of the month for future use.

TPO don't offer this so get a poor rating in this category.

Our favourite of this type of scheme is from the new network SMARTY, who actually pay you back the cost of your unused data as a discount off next month's bill. It means you can never be on the wrong plan.

Useful link: Networks that offer data rollover

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last
(out of 14 providers)

Same as:
All other providers

Customer rewards: no real loyalty schemes on TPO Mobile

O2 Priority rewards scheme banner

We think O2 Priority is still the best schemeSee Priority offers

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

In this category, we look at how mobile networks look after their existing customers with extras that go beyond your actual mobile deal.

It's not something The People's Operator focus on. We'd say the main thing keeping customers with TPO is the 10% monthly donation to charity that we mention above.

The networks with the best reward apps are O2's Priority and Three's Wuntu.

Other schemes we like are ones where you get payment or rewards for getting your friends to join. giffgaff pay you £5 for each friend. Or SMARTY reward you and your friend with a free month each.

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
O2, Three, giffgaff, SMARTY and more

Same as:
Most others

Free streaming or social media data: TPO Mobile have none

Three's Go Binge unlimited streaming scheme

Three's Go Binge offers unlimited streaming dataTake a look

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

By now, you're probably getting the impression that TPO Mobile are very low-frills. And that's fair enough because it's not like you're not paying a fortune for their plans.

But another thing we're starting to see from other networks, and you don't get with TPO, is free unlimited data for particular usage. Either for streaming or for social media. So it's worth mentioning.

Three have Go Binge with unlimited Netflix and Apple Music streaming (as well as others). EE have 6 months' free Apple Music streaming data. Both are nice ways to get more from your phone.

Or if you're more of a heavy social media / messaging user, you might be interested in two networks, who have unlimited social data included in their deals: VOXI (Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat and more) and Virgin (Twitter and Facebook Messenger only.

Useful link: Our guide to networks offering free data

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
Three, EE, VOXI, Virgin

Same as:
All others

Free subscriptions: don't expect anything from TPO

Other networks with free content

Some networks get you free content

With SIM only plans starting under £10 a month, it's no wonder TPO Mobile also don't have room to offer this next extra that some of the pricier networks offer: inclusive subscriptions to entertainment services.

On Vodafone's most expensive plans you can choose a subscription to either Spotify Premium, a NOW TV pass or Sky Sports Mobile TV.

While EE have 6 months free Apple Music and at least 3 months free BT Sport app access with all their pay monthly plans.

Both of these are designed to offer something different to help justify the higher prices on those networks. We'd recommend thinking whether you're interested in paying more for more or not.

Useful link: Compare TPO SIM only pricing with other networks

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
EE, BT Mobile, Vodafone

Same as:
All others

Family / shared plans: all TPO's deals are the same price

BT Mobile Family SIM promotional banner

Discounts for each extra SIM on BT MobileSee the discounts

at bt.com
(opens in new window)

The final thing we look for in all our mobile network reviews is whether the provider offers discounts or incentives for people taking out more than one contract for family members.

This is another area where The People's Operator have nothing to offer (although you could say their deals don't need much discounting.

We'd say the best network at this is BT Mobile, whose Family SIMs give you a discount off the regular price on extra SIMs you add to your main deal.

Tesco Mobile's Family Perks are decent too.

Useful link: Our guide to shared mobile plans

Our rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last

Not as good as:
BT, Tesco, EE, Three

Similar to:
Most others

TPO Mobile deals and plans

What type of deal are you interested in?

Choose an option to skip to the right section:

Special offers running on TPO Mobile

Here are the latest promotions on SIM only or phone contracts.

Discounted data-only SIM deals for tablets

TPO Mobile discounted data-only SIMs

See the offers

at thepeoplesoperator.com
(opens in new window)

You don't often see The People's Operator offering discounts on their SIM only plans, because they're generally low-priced in the first place.

At the moment though, if you're after a data-only SIM for a tablet, TPO do have two discounts available:

Get 512MB of 4G data on a 30-day plan for £3.99 £3.49
or
Get 1GB of 4G data on a 30-day plan for £7.49 £5.49

That's 50% more data for the same low price of £5 a month.

SIM only plans from The People's Operator

Use our price comparison tool further below to find the right deal

Key facts about TPO Mobile's SIM only plans

Number of plans available:
Price range: £ - £ a month
Contract lengths:
SIM card sizes: Standard, Micro, Nano

Minutes allowances:
Texts allowances:
Data allowances:
Data speed: 4G on all plans

Find a SIM only plan

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Choose data speed (3G or 4G) >
Choose max contract length >

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Phone contracts: TPO Mobile don't do smartphone deals

Our phone contract comparison tool

We compare prices on phone contractsCompare phone contracts

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

The People's Operator are strictly a SIM only provider. And we can't see that changing any time soon.

But we will update this section should they start offering handsets.

In the meantime, if you're looking for a smartphone contract, we've developed a new contract comparison tool that you can use to compare pricing on the UK's main mobile networks.

We've included practically every phone available on the market so give it a go.

Useful link: Use phone contract comparison tool

Pay As You Go: TPO's PAYG SIMs are pretty cheap

Free TPO Mobile PAYG SIM card

Decent per min, text and MB rates on PAYGGet a free SIM card

at thepeoplesoperator.com
(opens in new window)

If you know you don't need a full monthly plan of minutes, texts and data, The People's Operator pay as you go SIM is a decent option, and still comes with the benefit of giving 10% to charity.

Order one of their free SIMs here, top up with credit and you'll pay for what you use at a rate of 4p per min, 3p per text and 2p per MB data (see all other rates here).

These are cheap-ish rates compared to other providers. Although, there are still cheaper options from Three and O2, who both charge 3p per min, 2p per text and 1p per MB data.

Or there are monthly pay as you go bundles that are more expensive than their pay monthly counterparts but have the benefit that you can't overspend on extra charges (see latest bundle pricing here).

Useful link: Full details on TPO's pay as you go SIMs

Mobile broadband: TPO Mobile have some seriously cheap data-only SIM plans

Data-only tablet SIM from The People's Operator

Excellent pricing on SIMs with small data allowancesSee tablet SIM deals

at thepeoplesoperator.com
(opens in new window)

Most budget operators like TPO don't tend to offer data-only SIMs, so it's good to see The People's Operator have a small range of well-priced tablet SIMs (from £3.99 a month!).

You're not going to get a huge amount of data (at our last check 6GB was the biggest). But if you just need a backup SIM to put in your tablet every now and then, TPO make a good, cheap choice.

Their data SIMs have the benefits access to Three's fast 4G and TPO still donate 10% of the monthly cost of your plan to a charity of your choice.

Useful link: TPO's data-only tablet SIMs

TPO Mobile customer service reviewed

Customer service: we've not got data on TPO yet

Ofcom complaints data table

TPO don't have enough customers yetRead Ofcom's report

We can't give you an expectation of what customer service is like on The People's Operator yet, because they've not made it into Ofcom's official complaints data.

Ofcom are the government's regulator of the telecoms industry.

We use Ofcom's data because it's a good indicator of mobile providers with rubbish customer service: if someone can't get their problem service, it's Ofcom they go to.

Our problem is Ofcom only publish data for mobile networks with over 500,000 customers, which TPO don't seem to have hit yet. Therefore we can't see how they compare with others.

Once TPO hit that number, we'll update this section with Ofcom's findings.

Useful link: Read Ofcom's latest telecoms report

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