Pricing correct as of 3 August 2021.
I’ve stood back and looked at the Irish SIM-only market over the past few years and the gloves have really come off. First of all, Eir’s GOMO network really kicked things off with their Ryanair-style approach to SIM-only plans. Three’s 48 was next in line while Vodafone recently launched Clear Mobile to take the two on. So, if you’re in the market right now for a new SIM-only plan, which network should you go with? I’m going to show you the best value on the market today and a little further down the page, I’ll tell you why these SIM-only plans can probably save you money.
How We Calculate SIM-only Value
Calculating the value of a SIM-only plan is fairly simple. The primary thing I’m looking at is the price over 12-months. This means I can also cater for 6-month introductory offers and things like that. I’ll also include what you get for your money. This means you’ll have both the price and what you get for your money. Value is very subjective, so I think this is the fairest way to go.
The cheapest operators mentioned here all offer unlimited calls and texts within Ireland. A fair usage applies but it’s so generous you won’t need to worry about it.
48 – Ireland’s Cheapest SIM-only Plan
12-month price: €131.88
48 is Three’s value-focused child network. Originally, 48 targeted people between the age of 18 to 22, but this is just who the brand targeted. It was never a rule that was enforced. Today, 48 still targets the youth market while also being Three’s value network to take on Eir’s GOMO and Vodafone’s Clear Mobile.
48’s big plan is €10.99, making them today’s cheapest SIM-only plan on the market, even when you factor in special offers from others. Included for your money at this price is 100GB of data, all calls and all texts. If roaming in the EU, you’ll have 10GB of data to use. This is taken out of your 100GB.
Another nice thing that 48 offers are a free trial of their network. You can order a free SIM online which will let you try out 1GB of data without any risk. Unique to 48 is also the ability to save, share or donate excess data that you don’t use, which means you can even donate 50c per 1GB you don’t use to charity.
This is for: Most users who have a phone and just want a SIM. Value seekers who like to try before they buy, removing risk.
12-month price: €155.88
Doing things a little different is Clear Mobile. Earlier I compared GOMO to Ryanair, but truly this title now rests with Clear Mobile. Their own website even says “cherry not included”.
Clear Mobile is now cheaper than GOMO and €2 more expensive than 48. One of the network’s big differences is that Clear Mobile sidesteps being unable to use the word “unlimited” by offering genuinely unlimited quantities of data download. It’s only a matter of time until they are pulled up on this because the data is limited, just not in the way the Irish market traditionally does it. Instead of giving you a data quantity cap, Clear Mobile limited your internet speed to 5Mbps.
For some multitasking users, that will simply be too slow, but don’t let it put you off completely. Netflix recommends 5Mbps as the minimum speed required to stream HD content, so Clear Mobile arriving at that speed limit is no accident. At the same time, I wouldn’t like to be living so on the edge of minimum requirements, especially if I ever have to hotspot or tether my phone for work.
Important to note that like GOMO, Clear Mobile does charge a €12.99 connection fee, but also gives you your first month free.
This is for: Patient people who stream over 40 hours of HD Netflix videos per month.
12-month price: €180
Virgin Media’s offers make them a tricky customer. Their prices fluctuate on a near-monthly basis, with customer-only offers from time to time. Virgin Media was recently in top spot but after changing their offering they slip down the pecking order.
Right now, whether you are an existing Virgin Media customer or not, you can get a Virgin Media SIM-only plan for €5 per month. This includes unlimited calls, texts and data. For Virgin Media, their unlimited truly means unlimited these days too.
Virgin Media runs on the Three network and while you will only be able to get 4G it’s a fantastic offering right now. The big “but” here is coming. After 6-months, your monthly plan will increase to €25 per month. This means your first year with Virgin Media Mobile is €180 but year two is €300.
This is for: Those of you looking to consolidate bills and are already a Virgin Media customer.
12-month price: €194.87
GOMO was the network that really kicked the price war off between the three major sub-brands of Eir, Three and Vodafone. Previously, GOMO had the cheapest plan in Ireland, but they must now sit in third place. On top of the €14.99 monthly fee for your plan, there’s also a €14.99 connection fee which gets added to the first 12-months. The connection fee is a fairly annoying part of the deal. While this suggests there’s a cost associated with creating an account, the connection fee always matches the monthly fee so it really is just another way for GOMO to make some money.
GOMO does have one advantage for heavier data users versus both 48 and Clear Mobile as they offer 20GB more data per month than 48 and 4G speeds as opposed to Clear Mobile’s restricted 5Mbps.
If somehow, you manage to go travelling in Europe, GOMO lets you use your full allowance of calls and texts while roaming in the EU along with 10GB of data per month. That 10GB does get taken out of your overall 120GB.
One additional note for you if you’re interested in this offer. GOMO says this offer ends 8 April 2021 although that date has moved out a few times already.
This is for: Someone who knows they need 120GB of data and or who tried 48’s free SIM and didn’t like it.
Ireland SIM-only Plan Comparison
There are other networks out there. For a small country, Ireland has quite a few operators on the market. But, regardless of who you pick from the lot, you will still be connecting to either the Eir, Three or Vodafone mobile network. Below is a full comparison of Ireland’s mobile networks and the base operator you’ll be connecting with.
|Provider||Monthly||Base Network||Offer||12-month cost||Data||Speed|
|48||€10.99||Three||No||€131.88||100GB||Up to 100Mbps|
|Gomo||€14.99||Eir||No||€194.87||120GB||Up to 100Mbps|
|Clear Mobile||€12.99||Vodafone||No||€155.88||Unlimited||Up to 5Mbps|
|Lyca Mobile||€25||Three||80% off first 4 months||€220||60GB||Up to 100Mbps|
|Virgin Mobile||€25||Three||€15 off first 6months||€180||80GB||Up to 100Mbps|
|Tesco Mobile||€15||Three||Double data with Clubcard||€180||15GB||Up to 100Mbps|
Why Choose SIM-only?
There are loads of reasons why people end up buying SIM-only plans. Most of the time, it’s because you’ve been given a phone from someone else or bought an unlocked phone directly from a shop or manufacturer like Apple and just need a SIM-card. You should always do the maths before you commit to a contract. Irish networks will offer you phones, sometimes without charging upfront, to get you into a 24-month contract. It’s often cheaper to buy the phone outright yourself from somewhere like Apple and grab a SIM-only connection.
Ireland’s Cheapest SIM-Only Plans: Frequently Asked Questions
We’re often asked questions about picking plans on our Twitter or other social pages. Here are some of the most asked questions we’ve come across when it comes to picking your new network.
The “home networks” like Eir, Three or Vodafone might suit better if you are looking for some of the frills with a network. This might include your need for a new phone to be paid off over the duration of a contract, access to 5G mobile internet or special offer bundles like home TV and Broadband. Another example is loyalty programmes are often reserved for the main network.
Technically, GOMO 4G and Eir 4G should be as fast as each other. Some things like the number of people using the network in an area might influence this. One big difference is that Eir also offers 5G, so if you have a 5G phone and are in a 5G area, you will be able to enjoy very fast mobile internet. But 4G is more than enough for most.
No. This is where Clear Mobile is very different to the other discount networks. 48 and GOMO offer 4G internet without a speed restriction. Clear Mobile does limit your speed to 5Mbps which is slower than the Vodafone network and the other discount networks. Remember though, speed always depends on where you are and 5Mbps is till fast enough to watch Netflix.
Like GOMO and Eir, there’s no real technical reason for there to be any difference between the 48 and Three network. Again, on exception is that Three does offer the option of 5G which means very fast mobile internet.
If you already have a phone and just need a connection, then SIM-only offers a great bit of value. Even if you need a new phone, check out how much you would spend over 24-months getting a network contract versus buying the phone outright and getting a SIM-only deal.
48, Virgin Mobile, Lyca Mobile and Tesco Mobile all use the Three network. GOMO uses Eir while Clear Mobile runs on the Vodafone network.
Right now, 48 offers Ireland’s cheapest plan. It’s €10.99 per month which is €131.88 per year.