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Cell Phones & Keeping in Touch

Use The Phone You Have

Upon arrival, getting a cell phone is vital. The good news is that you have a variety of options and many resources are available to get you connected.

The UK network uses the 900 or 1800 GSM system, so visitors from the United States (where the system is 800 or 1900 MHz band) will need to acquire a tri- or quad-band set. Contact your service provider for specific details. Be aware that if you enable the “roaming” feature on your phone when abroad you will be charged for the calls you receive, as well as for the calls you make.

Contact your network operator to unlock your account so you can use your phone in the UK with a different provider.  They will suspend your contract while you are overseas.  They may need a copy of your PCS orders as verification

Major UK Cell Phone Providers: EE, Three, O2, Vodafone, British Telecom and Virgin

Cell Phone Plans

Service contracts

  • Approximately two-to-three years.
  • Need a pounds sterling account prior to obtaining a contract.
  • No military clause included.
  • Set a limit (cap) on charges to ensure you don’t use more data than planned
  • Set up an online account to view/change your plan

Pre-pay option (Pay as you go)

  • No pounds sterling account needed to set up.
  • Add minutes online at most retail locations and some ATMs.
  • Set up an online account to view/change your plan
Finding a Phone Plan

Check with the M&FRC to see if they have cell phones to lend while you finalize a plan.

Always shop around to find what provider is best for you. Visit to see which providers offer the best signal for 3G, 4G and calls.  There are options to get a cell phone either on or off base. Some providers may offer a U.S. calling plan.

You can purchase a SIM card locally and top it up with credit. This will allow you to use the local mobile-phone networks, although you can only do this if your handset is not locked to a specific network. 

Alternatively, you could buy a new phone and top up with a pay-as-you-go card, or get a contract phone. Make sure the phone you buy can accept international calls. Check that your insurance policy covers you in case your phone gets stolen, and keep your network operator’s helpline number handy for emergencies.

Fair Usage policy.  Ask if the company has a 60 minute rule?  If you go over that limit there’s often extra charges to pay based on the time of day.  Find out the details before you arrange any cell phone contracts.

Cooling off period?  In the UK there’s often a cooling off period which allows you to go back to the company and cancel a service or contract without any obligation. This could be up to 14 days depending on how, when and where you purchased the item, or agreed to a contract. Check the details with the company before making a purchase!

Wireless Store at BX

The BX has a cell phone store with staff that can help you choose a cell phone carrier. You might find a wider range of options at local providers on the economy.
To sign up for a plan, bring:

  • ID – Driver’s license or passport
  • Post Office Box Address

Keep in Touch with Family Back Home

There are a number of free or inexpensive ways to stay in touch with family and friends in another country.

  • iPhone iMessage/Facetime [Free texts & video calls]
  • WhatsApp [Free texts, calls & very popular]
  • Facebook Messenger [Free texts and calls]
  • Skype [Free chats & video calls]
  • Magic Jack App [Free/$ voice calls & U.S. number]
  • Vonage [Costs $, U.S. number & voice calls]

NOTE: For apps to work, add “+” before Country Code (+44)