by: Paul Smith
If you already have a mobile phone, you can switch to a different network and take your phone number with you, although you may need a different handset. You could get a connection with a new number, using your existing handset.
When you buy a phone you need to choose a network - O2, Vodafone, Orange and T-mobile are mobile phone networks. Each network is a collection of radio towers all over the country, linked together and transmitting people's conversations.
A mobile phone service usually comes as a package, made up of the phone itself and access to a network. There are five main mobile phone networks in the UK - O2, T-Mobile, Orange, Vodafone and most recently '3' with its growing third generation network which can support mobile video. Other operators such as Virgin and BT Mobile use the 5 main networks and there are many airtime resellers dealing with one or all the networks. They offer two ways of using their services; by "pay as you go" or by monthly line rental. If you do not intend to make a great number of calls from a mobile phone, a pay as you go package may suffice but any reasonably regular use (especially during business hours) probably warrants a monthly package - which package will depend on the volume of calls you anticipate making.
You don't need to put pen to paper for most mobile phone contracts nowadays, but they are still legally binding. Contracts can be 'signed' over a website or over the phone.
The network should be the first thing you choose when you're starting out. Your choice of network will decide where you get good coverage, and how good the customer service is. Some networks have better coverage in particular areas than others, but customer service varies from day to day, depending on demand.
Next, decide whether you want a pay as you go phone or a traditional contract arrangement.
Pre-pay, where you pay (usually by buying vouchers) before you make calls. There is no risk of a high bill, but sometimes this is an expensive option, adding vouchers can be inconvenient and you may run out of credit during an important call.
Pay as you go packages are useful if you only expect to use your mobile occasionally, and are cost effective if you expect to receive a lot of calls, but not to make many. But you should be aware that some companies set an expiry date on their credits, meaning that the credit must be used in the time allocated.
Contract - where you get a bill each month, but the call charges are usually lower, and there are more facilities offered.
With rental you pay a monthly fee in the same way as you would for a land line. Many monthly rental packages include some inclusive call minutes or talktime
Monthly line rental costs from around
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