What I want from a mobile provider in 2024

I’m dashing this post as a follow up to this thread on Mastodon, when I was asking for pointers for new providers, after getting sick of Vodafone’s poor broadband service. It’s an outline of my circumstances as I hunt around for an alternative provider of mobile connectivity for someone who lives in Berlin.

Here are my circumstances

  1. I already have a mobile phone – an iPhone SE 2020. I’m broadly happy with it, and would like to extend the life of as much as possible.
  2. I’m interested in the policy implications of 5G, but not excited about using 5G myself to justify buying a new phone to use it, so coverage is less of a factor for me.
  3. I hate being locked into long contracts
  4. I use data much more than voice, and being able to tether from a laptop or tablet is important to me
  5. I travel outside my home country a few times a year, so connectivity with other providers when roaming is important, although less so since e-sims became a thing.

Finally, while I’d like to move my number across to my new provider, there’s a degree of faff associated with doing so.

This is one of the things that I like about e-sim – – it lets me keep my number while I try a new provider, before I take the plunge and switch the number across.

What I think this translates into what I want from a provider

  • eSim support – I don’t want to
  • good tethering support – I’ve paid for data usage, and how I use it should be up to me
  • rolling 1 month contract, where I have the option to switch up or down as my needs change
  • decent coverage and roaming – probably re-using an existing network, like Vodafone or Telekom, or some other established provider
  • a generous data allowance probably between 15-25GB of data usage per month
  • the option to purchase more data if need be, like if I ended up needing to tether for some reason
  • A good online support options like a knowledge base so I can self serve when I have problems. I’m more comfortable using chat than voice calls for support, as I get a transcript, and can translate things if I don’t understand what certain words mean
  • keen pricing – I don’t think I should be paying more than 25 EUR for this in 2024

What I’ve had recommended to me or tried, that sound close

Blau – their 10 EUR package is pretty good – you get 25gb of data, e-sim options and it’s running on Telefonica, a network I’ve had good experiences with before. There is a 30 EUR connection charge, but that feels more honest to me if the monthly rates afterwards are lower.

Fraenk – me and my wife thought Fraenk would be ideal, but their tethering support was really patchy, and service in Berlin seemed quite slow with poor reception. They use the Congstar network, which makes me wary of that network now.

Congstar – Congstar is the youth brand for Telekom, and they have a monthly offering of an e-sim contract, with up to 30gb of data, for around 22 EUR. My main reservation is how bad reception or speed was with Fraenk, who seem to be using the same network.

Update – these two are new and noteworthy:

Wetell – this seems to be a sustainability themed virtual provider, who also use the Vodaphone network. The most common tariff is 15GB for 20 EUR which is noticably pricer than others. I’ve had them recommended by people I trust.

LIDL Connect – another MVNO built on top of the Vodafone network. The most comparable tariff here might be the 20Gb plan, for 14 EUR per month. You can find cheaper tariffs via Tariff UX who seem to have some promotions.

Are there any others you’d recommend that meet the criteria above?

Bonus detail – what I mean by poor service with Vodafone.

When I say poor service with Vodafone, I meant that over the last few years we’ve had a series of day(s) long outages in the building we live in, culminating in most recently having our connection conk out entirely on May 2nd.

I’ve spent hours on the phone, on multiple times trying to arrange a technician to visit and each time, I’ve been fobbed with someone saying I’ll receive a call in the next day or two, with no actual phone call. In addition, the first time I tried, I had a sales representative try signing up me up with three new two year contracts, which would have cost me around 100 EUR / month in total, that I hadn’t asked for. I had to spend another hour at least on the phone exercising my wider rights to cancel these, to avoid being locked into spending nearly 2.5k over the next two years.

Bonus bonus aside

I know that if you are in a contract with an existing supplier, you can sometimes negotiate a really sweet deal, that’s cheaper than what is available publicly. I used to pay 35 EU for 25GB on contract from 2017, but I saw that I was moved to a new contract charging me 55 EUR, in April for a similar deal, but with way more data than I could ever use. I didn’t ask for this. Jeez. Switching can’t come soon enough.