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Lycamobile launches 'unlimited' 4G for £12 a month. Great. Now where can I get a signal?

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Mobile phone networks need to learn what the word “unlimited” means. Both Three and Lyca claim to offer “unlimited” mobile broadband, neither of them do.

International MVNO Lycamobile has launched what it calls “unlimited” 4G mobile data but there is a catch. After the first 10GB of data, the speed drops to 2G speeds of 128kbps. This piece of information isn’t shown anywhere on the website and took a call to Customer Services to establish.

Lyca undercuts Three’s “unlimited” £12.90, not just by 90p but with 500 voice minutes and unlimited texts in the bundle. The Three deal offers 200 minutes and 5,000 texts. Although to all intents and purposes 5,000 is pretty close to unlimited – it’s about 10 text message per waking hour.

Three’s definition of “unlimited” is 25GB while abroad – although only in "Feel at Home" destinations like Macau and Indonesia – and around 1,000GB a month while at home in Blighty, though Three notes this is "subject to TrafficSense™".

The Lyca deal is not the first 4G MVNO deal for O2, as Tesco Mobile also offers 4G, but offering “unlimited” data is unusual. Tesco Mobile is 50 per cent owned by O2. Strangely neither of O2’s wholly owned MVNOs, Manx telecom and Giff-Gaff, have 4G available. Both say it’s pending.

Unlimited data is not available from Vodafone, EE or O2. While Lyca is mainly targeted at people who want to make cheap international calls, this new tariff is definitely targeted at UK users.

So while, for the odd 90p, Three remains the best deal for fondleslabs: it charges 30p a minute to landlines and 40p a minute to mobes outside the bundle. Lyca, on the other hand, is very much cheaper as beyond the bundled 500 minutes the call, costs are 5p per minute to landlines, 10 per minute to mobes on other networks and free to Lyca mobes.

And all this pre-supposes that you can get 4G coverage where you want to. In practice you may well find the limiting factor is having to use your device where you can get a signal rather than how much data you can use once you’ve got it. ®

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