Your complete guide to mobiles in Ireland
Whether you’re choosing a new mobile network, curious about 5G or want a refurbished phone, our complete guide to mobiles covers everything you need to know, including how to compare SIM-only deals and bill pay phones.
What’s in this guide?
Ireland’s Mobile Market
A mobile network, or cellular network, is the wireless framework that connects our data and calls. Mobile networks cover most of Ireland and are owned and managed by companies called mobile network operators.
How many mobile networks are in Ireland?
There are three main networks operating in Ireland. eir, Three, and Vodafone. Mobile virtual networks operators (MVNOs) are companies that lease space from the main networks to deliver their mobile services.
Unlike main operators, they don’t own the infrastructure they use. In total there are 10 mobile service providers in Ireland:
Mobile Coverage Map
ComReg (The Commission for Communications Regulation) has created an outdoor mobile coverage map that makes it easy to check coverage for:
- 2G (calls and texts)
- 3G (calls, texts and data)
- 4G (calls and data)
- 5G (calls and super-fast data)
See what the coverage is like wherever you use your phone the most - i.e. at home or at work.
Remember, results aren’t guaranteed and it’s based on outdoor coverage which may be different from inside your home or office.
What is 5G coverage like in Ireland?
5G, or fifth generation, is the latest leap in mobile internet. It offers much faster connection and download speeds than its predecessor, 4G, which is still more widely used in Ireland.
Most counties in Ireland are now covered by at least one 5G site. As with 4G, rural and remote areas of Ireland are less likely to get decent 5G coverage, but 5G networks are continuing to roll out across the country.
Who has the fastest 5G network?
In 2023, Ookla named Three the fastest 5G mobile network in Ireland, with a median download speed of 192.13 Mbps.
But mobile internet speed can also depend on things like the hardware capability, network congestion and how many apps you might have running in the background.
Is 5G worth it?
To get 5G, you’ll need to have a 5G compatible phone and be on a 5G contract with a network that offers it in your area. If you can’t get 5G now, it’s likely you’ll have access within the next couple of years.
If you’re thinking about switching to a new mobile plan with 5G, bear in mind only eir, Vodafone or Three offer 5G coverage, and you will need to buy a 5G enabled device.
Here’s a snapshot of what to expect:
Faster than 4G
Read more about 5G in Ireland
Types of mobile plans
Mobile plans differ based on price and the level of data and calls you recieve each month.
You can pay for your plan via a monthly contract (bill pay plan) or upfront (prepay or pay as you go plan). You can also include a mobile phone, or purchase a SIM-only deal.
What is a SIM-only plan?
It’s a mobile phone contract that includes minutes, texts and data only. You don’t get a new phone with a SIM-only deal, so you’re only paying for airtime.
There are two ways to pay for a SIM-only deal.
- Bill pay: This is a 30-day, no-strings-attached, rolling contract.
- Prepay: Means you can pay upfront. This is also known as pay as you go.
SIM-only plans are cheaper than plans that include a mobile phone because you’re not paying to spread the cost of the new phone.
What is the best deal for SIM-only?
Many networks offer SIM-only deals with varying levels of minutes, data and roaming. Some providers may offer further discounts if you are switching from another network.
Finding the best SIM-only deal can depend on how much internet you use, your budget, and where you live.
What are bill pay plans?
Bill pay means paying your bill via a monthly contract, as opposed to upfront.
If you don’t need a mobile phone, you can choose a SIM-only, bill pay plan. This is usually a shorter, rolling contract. You can also choose a bill pay plan that comes with a handset.
With a bill pay phone, remember:
What is a prepay or pay as you go plan?
A prepay or pay as you go mobile plan is paid for upfront, as opposed to a monthly bill and contract.
It can be useful if you’re under 18 and don’t have a bank account, if you have a poor credit history or if you don’t want to be tied into a contract.
It can also be a good option for those who use lots of data everyday, and want to control their usage.
See which is best: SIM-only or Bill pay
What is data roaming?
Data roaming is using your mobile phone in another country. When you travel within the EU, your network may apply limits and data could be capped.
Mobile add ons and bundles
An add-on is a bundle of minutes, texts, data, or combination, that can be bought and activated straight away, keeping you topped up for 30 days, or on an ongoing basis.
Mobile call charges
The phone plan you choose will affect the number of minutes you have and the type of calls you can make. Some plans include a set number of minutes e.g. 300 per month, while others are unlimited.
Choosing a new mobile network
Whether you want to improve your coverage or just save money on your bill, here’s some things to consider before choosing a new mobile network.
How to compare mobile networks
When you’re comparing networks and plans, think about:
- Price: Although some plans are cheaper to start with, consider any increased cost when an initial offer period ends.
- Unlimited or capped: Unlimited deals allow you to call, text and download as much as you like. Capped deals are cheaper, but you’ll get a set number of minutes, texts and data and be charged if you go over.
- Coverage: You can check the coverage map to see if a provider covers your area, and if they offer 5G there. If you opt for an MVNO, it’s worth seeing which main network they use.
- Contract length: Most SIM-only deals now have 30-day rolling contracts, so you’re free to leave whenever you like. Longer contracts with tie-ins are normally cheaper.
Who has the best mobile coverage?
Vodafone, Three and Eir, offer up to 99% 4G population coverage in Ireland, but some people still struggle for a good mobile connection.
If you want to see what coverage is like in your area, you can use the coverage map or go to each website directly:
All the mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) run services using one of the three main networks:
|An Post Mobile
As all MVNOs use the same networks as the main operators, they’re likely to offer the same level of coverage.
Which is the best mobile phone plan in Ireland?
Many networks offer SIM-only and bill pay phone deals with varying levels of minutes, data and roaming. Some providers may offer further discounts if you are switching from another network.
Finding the best SIM-only deal. can depend on how much internet you use, your budget, and where you live.
Many MVNOs like 48, Clear Mobile, GoMo and more offer low-cost, flexible deals for those on a budget who don’t want to opt in to a lengthy contract.
Choosing a new mobile phone
What is the best mobile phone to buy?
If you’re looking to buy the latest device, a bill pay phone could be a good option. Finding the best bill pay phone depends on what you value. Consider:
Refurbished phones Ireland
A refurbished phone is a pre-owned handset that’s undergone repairs. It has to pass a set of tests to prove it’s in working order.
Some refurbished phones are like new, while others are older with more obvious signs of wear and tear.
- Creative IT
- DID Electrical
Are refurbished phones worth it?
Yes. Global sales in refurbished devices increased by around 5% in 2023, as consumers become more cost-conscious and sustainable aware.
The refurbished process usually includes rigorous testing, repairing and restoring, so many refurbished phones can operate like-new.
You could also save over €370 opting for a refurbed phone vs a shiny new device.
Switching your mobile network
Whether your bill pay contract has ended and you’re looking for a cheaper deal, or you’re thinking of a buying the latest bill pay phone, here’s all you need to know about switching to a new mobile network.
Before switching, you should check to see if you have any outstanding bills with your existing provider. If you leave your existing contract before it has expired, you may be charged for the remainder of the contract period.
Steps to switch and save:
- Choose a mobile deal: Based on the information above, decide if you want a prepay or bill pay deal, SIM-only or bill pay phone.
- Check your usage: Check your current phone bill or plan to see how much data and minutes you use every month. This will help you choose the right package.
- Compare: Switcher.ie can help you compare the best mobile deals from Ireland’s top networks with our simple comparison tool.
- Choose your new plan: Once you pick your new plan, you’ll be taken to the mobile provider’s website. Follow the simple steps.
- Switch: While switching you may be asked whether you are moving from another network, or if you are a new customer. You may also be asked to fill out an online form, and receive a call to authorise your information.
- Transfer your old mobile number: Changing providers doesn’t mean losing your phone number. Let your new provider know you would like to keep your old number, and they will talk you through the steps of ‘porting’ it over.
What to do with your old mobile phone
If you’ve chosen a plan with a new mobile phone, you might want to get rid of your old one. Here are few things you can do:
- Sell it: You can sell it yourself, on Facebook marketplace, Done Deal or Adverts. You can also sell it directly to a company like Cash Gadget Exchange, envirofone or GetTech.
- Recycle it: Mobile providers e.g. Three, Apple, and envirofone may give you some money if you do. You can also drop it to Civic Amenity Site or WEEE recycling point for free.
- Trade it in: Trading in an old phone means you can get money off a new handset, accessories or your monthly bill. Most network providers like Vodafone, and some mobile retailers let you trade in any phone on any network
Does Home Insurance cover mobile phones?
Yes, some policies allow mobile phones to be used against Accidental Damage whilst in the Home, under things like Accidental Damage cover. Compare the best home insurance deals on Switcher today.
How do I unlock my mobile phone?
If you find your phone needs unlocking, you’ve got two options:
- Use an online unlocking service
- Ask your phone provider
If you use an Irish phone unlocking service, you’ll be given a unique unlock code with instructions on how to enter it into your phone to unlock your device. The fee for getting your phone unlocked will vary.
If you’re happy to wait, you can contact your existing network to unlock you handset for free once you’re out of contract.
What mobile phone charges are the highest?
Many networks offer SIM-only and bill pay phone deals with varying levels of minutes, data and roaming.
Finding the best plan can depend on how much internet you use, your budget, and where you live. Compare the best deals. on Switcher today.