How to choose a data SIM plan to get online from your caravan, motorhome or campervan – in the UK and Europe
Once you’ve installed your Maxview Roam or Roam X device, and your caravan is Wi-Fi enabled, you might want to look at buying a data SIM, to help you get online in more locations.
Using a data SIM, you can connect to the internet using 4G signal, and won’t need to worry about finding a good Wi-Fi hotspot to get online.
In this guide, we’ve explained how to choose the right data SIM plan to get online from your caravan, motorhome, or campervan.
We’ve explained how these data plans work, and what you need to know when buying – including issues with fair usage limits, if you plan to get online when travelling around Europe.
How data SIM plans work
Essentially, data SIM plans work just like your mobile phone plan. You pay a monthly fee, normally in the range of about £15-£25, and in return you get a SIM card. You can put this SIM card into your Maxview Roam or Roam X, allowing it to connect to a mobile broadband network. Once it’s connected, you can get online using 3G or 4G signal, just like on your phone.
Each data SIM plan comes with a set amount of data you can use each month, from 5 gigabytes (GB) all the way up to unlimited data. This is the main factor that influences what a data SIM plans costs each month.
Data SIM plans are sold by each of the four major mobile carriers in the UK, namely Three, Vodafone, O2, and EE. They are also sold by smaller telecommunications companies such as GiffGaff and VOXI, who resell services from the four major providers. It’s important to note, some companies have separate “data SIM” and “phone SIM” packages for sale. It’s important to choose a data SIM, otherwise the SIM card might not work in your Maxview Roam or Roam X.
How to decide how much data you need
When choosing a data SIM plan, the first thing to consider is how much data you’ll need each month, as this will significantly impact how much you’ll pay for the data SIM service.
The main thing that uses a lot of data is watching videos online, especially using streaming apps such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, as well as on social media, such as Facebook and YouTube.
Watching high definition video will use about 3GB of data per hour, so if you’ve only got a 10GB monthly data limit, you could potentially reach your usage cap after watching a movie or two.
Other common things you might do online, like checking emails, reading news articles, and Google searching, use much less data.
Therefore, the amount of data you need depends on how often you’ll use your 4G connection, and what you do when you get online.
• A 10-30GB plan will be enough for regular web browsing, and the very occasional video. It’s not enough for video streaming using apps like Netflix, unless you’ve very conservative with it.
• A 30-100GB plan will allow movie or two each week, as well as regular web browsing, and social media usage.
• An unlimited data plan is best if you use the internet a lot, and plan to watch high definition video on a regular basis. Getting unlimited data is not hugely expensive when compared to plans with data limits, which is why it’s often a good option.
EU roaming and fair usage limits
While each data SIM plan has a straightforward data limit when used in the UK, once you travel to Europe and try to get online, things become a bit more complicated.
Since Brexit, most mobile networks have begun introducing “fair usage” limits on their data SIM plans when used in Europe. This means that you won’t be able to use your full data allowance, if your allowance is higher than the fair usage limit. Also, most networks have also added additional charges for EU roaming.
• With O2, you can’t use more than 25GB of data each month in Europe. • With EE, you can’t use more than 50GB of data each month in Europe. EU roaming costs £2 per day or £10 per month, but this charge can be avoided with some of their more expensive SIM cards that have roaming available as a “Smart Benefit”.
• With Vodafone, you can’t use more than 25GB of data each month in Europe. EU roaming costs £2 per day, £8 for 8 days, or £15 for 15 days if you don’t have an “Xtra” SIM plan.
• With Three, you can’t use more than 12GB of data each month in Europe. EU roaming costs £2 per day.
• With other smaller mobile network operators, many don’t offer any sort of inclusive roaming in Europe. There are some exceptions – VOXI for example offers 20GB of your allowance for free.
Please note information correct at time of publication.
Also, most companies limit the amount of time that you can spend roaming in Europe, especially if you’re not paying them for the privilege. Most of the time, you can’t spend more than two months overseas in any four month period, although this varies by provider. Although EU roaming is now heavily restricted, using a UK SIM plan to get online overseas will still work for a lot of people. For example, if you spend a week away in France and you have an EE data SIM, 50GB of data should be plenty, although you might have to spend £10 to begin roaming. However, if you frequently travel overseas, and you visit the same country or countries repeatedly, it might be worth buying a foreign data SIM, to ensure you get the connectivity that you need. Depending on the country, and where you use your caravan, it might even be more economical to buy a foreign SIM card, and “roam” with it in the UK, given how restrictive UK data SIM plans are when roaming. To learn more about EU roaming with a data SIM, and the current policies of each mobile network operator, you can read a more detailed breakdown of each carrier in this guide to roaming SIM cards that we’ve written at Broadband Savvy.
Roaming with multi-network SIM cards
Rather than buying a SIM plan from a mobile carrier like Three or Vodafone, you also have the option of buying a multi-network SIM card from a third party, like BroadbandGo.
These types of SIM cards use multiple networks to help you get online, rather than just relying on a single mobile network. There are two advantages to this approach:
• You can get better mobile coverage in remote areas. Your multi-network SIM card will use the best network at any given moment, depending on which network is providing the best signal. This can help you to get better speeds, and can help you avoid your 3G or 4G signal dropping out in some locations.
• You can roam in Europe without having to worry about fair usage limits. With BroadbandGo for example, they allow you to use your entire data allowance in 30 different EU countries – there are no restrictions on how much of your monthly data cap you can use in Europe. A multi-network SIM card can use local 4G networks to help you get online seamlessly when travelling through Europe.
The downside to multi-network SIM cards is you don’t get a lot of data, given how much you pay. If you plan to use a lot of data from your caravan, it might be best to use a traditional SIM card, as well as possibly separate European SIM cards, depending on the countries you want to travel to, and how much time you’ll be spending overseas. However, if you don’t need much data, and only use the internet for web browsing, emails, and reading news articles, then multi-network SIMs are definitely worth exploring due to the convenience they offer.
Pay as you go vs pay monthly data SIMs
When you buy a data SIM, you will have the choice of buying a pay as you go SIM, or entering into a pay monthly contract.
If you pay as you go, you will have a lot more flexibility – you can cancel the plan at any time. However, you will pay a higher monthly cost for the same amount of data, and your EU roaming options may be more limited, depending on the network.
If you pay monthly, you will have to commit to the data SIM plan for an extended period – normally 12 months or 24 months. You can’t exit the agreement without paying a break fee. However, your monthly cost will be lower, for a plan with the same amount of data, and EU roaming might be cheaper.
If you only use your caravan a few months of the year, it’s probably best to choose a pay as you go plan. But if you travel most of the year, and don’t want the hassle of constantly cancelling and reactivating the SIM plan, then a pay monthly plan is probably the better choice.
Does it matter which mobile network I use?
To choose between the different mobile networks, the main thing to consider is how much data you’ll get for each pound that you pay, as well as their EU roaming policies, if you plan to travel overseas.
While EE has the best 4G coverage in the UK by a small margin, the other three major carriers offer very similar performance, for the most part.
In saying this, it can be worth checking to make sure that a given network offers good signal at the location(s) where you want to get online, such as your favourite caravan park.
To do this, you can check each network’s coverage map, which is displayed on the company’s website. To find it, you can do a Google search for “Vodafone coverage map” for example.
Once you’ve found the coverage map, put in the postcode of where you’ll be staying. Ideally, you want the map to say “Good indoor and outdoor 4G coverage” at your location – this will make it much more likely that you’ll experience a fast, consistent connection. 5G coverage is also nice to have, but is by no means essential.
If the coverage map doesn’t indicate that you can get a good 4G signal, it’s worth looking at another company’s coverage map, to see if their network is any better.
If you can only get 3G signal, this will allow you to do basic activities like browsing the web, but it will feel a bit slow, and if you try to watch high definition video, you will likely experience buffering. In this case, it might be worth pre-downloading some videos you want to watch before leaving home, to prevent you having to try and watch them using 3G. Most streaming apps now allow you to download movies and TV shows to your device, enabling you to watch certain videos without connecting to the internet.
This article was written in collaboration with Broadband Savvy.