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Mobile network price rises: which providers are best and worst for inflation?

Find out how mobile providers compare for inflation and above-inflation price rises, and how you can beat the hikes

Mobile network price rises: which providers are best and worst for inflation?

Many mobile network providers have started to introduce mid-contract price rises when you sign up in recent months. These price rises were usually reserved for after the contract ends, but as costs and usage go up, providers have started putting up customers prices annually, often by more than inflation. 

If you’ve found your contract costs have increased, it may have come as a surprise. We detail the best and worst providers for mid-contract price rises, what you can do to reduce the risks, and how to get better value from your subscription.

Discover the best and worst mobile networks for 2021, or compare mobile contract and SIm-only deals on Which? Mobile Switch.

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How mobile network provider inflation compares

RPI inflation price rises (1.5%) Consumer Price inflation (1%) plus 3.9% No price rises Rolling contract providers (price rise does not apply)
ID Mobile BT Mobile Tesco Mobile GiffGaff
O2 EE Sky Mobile* Smarty
Virgin Mobile Plusnet Mobile Utility Warehouse
Vodafone Lebara
* Sky Mobile does not currently raise prices mid-contract, but offers no guarantee **Three will raise its prices by 4.5% each April, not linked to inflation

Which providers are raising prices?

Mid contract price rises have taken various forms, with some increasing the price by inflation only, and others attaching a fixed percentage alongside inflation. This is likely due to the low rates of inflation in recent years.

iD Mobile, O2 and Virgin Mobile have all introduced inflation price rises linked to RPI (which was 1.5% at the time of writing).

Some have taken it a step further, like BT Group (which includes BT Mobile, EE and Plusnet Mobile), who will raise prices by the Consumer Price Inflation (which was 1% at the time of writing) plus 3.9%, representing a significant uplift for all new customers signing up for a mobile contract. Vodafone is also introducing the same measure for its mobile customers.

Three has said that all new customers will see their prices rise by 4.5% every April, which is a fixed charge and is not reliant on inflation figures.

Which providers are not raising prices?

Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile do not currently raise prices mid-contract for their mobile contract customers. However, Sky Mobile does not guarantee your price will stay the same, stating that prices may go up during your subscription.

Tesco Mobile does guarantee your price won’t change mid-contract as part of its ‘Tariff Promise’, whereby it freezes your price until the end of your contract.

How to beat the price rises

If you have recently signed up for a contract, then there is not much you can do without paying expensive termination fees.

If you are out of contract, or nearing the end of your contract, your options open up. Rolling contract deals, which allow you to leave with just 30 days notice, are the best way to give you the flexibility to beat price rises, and ensure that you can move to a monthly bundle that suits your needs if your situation changes.

Low-cost Sim-only providers, such as Giffgaff, Smarty, Utility Warehouse and Lebara, offer one-month contracts and do not raise prices annually – and our survey of the best and worst mobile providers has shown that they can often outperform bigger rivals.

Even the majority of the ones that are raising prices annually offer one-month deals, although they can sometimes be more expensive.

Love a bargain? We round up the best mobile phone deals each month to highlight some great discounts. 

Find out more about Smarty and Lebara, who made their first appearance in our mobile providers survey this year.

Best one-month Sim-only deals

In the table below, we have rounded up some of the best one-month Sim-only deals that can help you beat the price rises. All these deals come with unlimited minutes and texts.

With text to switch, changing your mobile network is very easy yet many choose to stay with their current provider who may not be offering you the best deal out there.

Provider Data Cost
SMARTY 3GB £5.00
Lebara Mobile 4GB £5.99
Lebara Mobile 14GB £6.99
iD Mobile 15GB £8
Giffgaff 9GB (5G included) £10

Read our in-depth guide on how to switch mobile provider, which offers advice whether you’re in or out of contract, and how to make sure you get a good signal with a new provider.

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