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19 Jan 2022

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

As this month's inflation figures are announced, find out which mobile providers have hiked prices the most, and how you can beat the increases
woman looking at two phones

Many mobile network providers have started to introduce mid-contract price rises when you sign up. These price rises were usually reserved for after the contract ends, but now happen annually, often by more than inflation.

With the newly announced 7.5% Retail Price Index (RPI) and 5.4% Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rises, many consumers with phone contracts will be facing significant increases.

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, or compare mobile contract and SIM-only deals on Which? Mobile Switch.

How mobile network provider inflation compares

RPI inflation price rises (7.5%)RPI inflation (7.5%) plus 3.9%Consumer Price inflation (5.4%) plus 3.9%No price risesRolling contract providers (price rise does not apply)
ID MobileO2BT MobileTesco MobileGiffGaff
Virgin MobileEESky Mobile*Smarty
Plusnet MobileUtility Warehouse

* 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.

Last year, ID Mobile, O2 and Virgin Mobile raised their prices just by the RPI inflation. However, this year only ID Mobile kept this increase. O2 and Virgin Mobile will now increase their prices by RPI inflation (which is 7.5% at the time of writing) plus 3.9%

As with last year, BT mobile, EE, Plusnet mobile and Vodafone are increasing their prices by consumer price inflation plus 3.9%.

Three raises prices by a fixed 4.5% each year without linking it to inflation. This might instinctively look like a more expensive option, but usually the price rises for other providers will be higher, as CPI plus 3.9% will likely be more than a simple 4.5% increase. For example, CPI is currently 5.4%, so the price for BT, EE, Plusnet and Vodafone will increase by 9.3%.

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 and Sim-only deals each month to highlight some of the best discounts.

Beat inflation with 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.

Lebara Mobile3GB (5G data)£2.49 (half price first 3 months)
Plusnet12GB (4G data)£7
iD Mobile15GB (5G data)£8
SMARTY30GB (5G data)£5 (half price first 3 months)
Asda MobileUnlimited (5G data)£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.