Lebara Mobile is a virtual network that operates in several European countries including the UK. The company was formed in 2001 and provides a basic mobile service but targets immigrant populations with cut-price international calling rates. The name LeBaRa comes from the names of the founders – Leon, Baskar and Ratheesan. In the UK, Lebara entered the market on 31st October 2007 and it runs on the Vodafone network.
Lebara do not have any storefronts but have a strong presence in the UK with high-profile sponsorship deals and many high street booths in major cities. Lebara also sells top-ups through Tesco shops which means that, in total, they have 90,000 retail outlets. Lebara have won several industry awards such as the Best Newcomer in the 2008 Mobile Awards and in 2006 they were ranked as the fourth fastest-growing private company in the UK by the Sunday Times‘ Fast Track 100 listing. Currently, Lebara’s sales are over €615 million every year.
If you are interested in trying Lebara, you can order your free SIM from here.
Lebara Mobile review
Like LycaMobile, Lebara specialise in the expat and immigrant market and, as such, offer a fairly basic service but have excellent deals on international calls. Their UK rates are not as competitive but then, you could swap SIMs out for a cheaper virtual network such as Giffgaff for domestic calls and texts. On the whole, the call quality offered by Lebara is fine although when calling internationally this obviously depends on foreign networks too. As Lebara use the Vodafone network, the coverage in the UK is mostly excellent.
There were previously issues topping up especially when roaming abroad but with their increased high-street presence, Lebara seem to have addressed this now. The website still could do with a little improvement though as it does not have all the information you might need on your account – for example, it would be great if it had your currently daily data usage and how many minutes/texts you have remaining. Also, several people have reported poor experiences with customer services. If you are unlucky and things go wrong, it seems to be very difficult to sort it out as they can be quite unresponsive.
However, despite this they have some amazing rates to foreign countries and decent UK prices too. As they are backed by the Vodafone infrastructure, they have a solid network with strong signal and decent call quality. Their roaming rates aren’t the best but, overall, if you are looking for a PAYG SIM to make international calls, Lebara is an excellent choice that is far more convenient than Skype and can save you a lot of money.
At a glance
Lebara’s UK tariff is fairly standard for a virtual network with calls at 10p per minute and texts 10p each. Although this isn’t as good value as budget networks, it’s significantly cheaper than other main UK networks and landline calls are only 5p which is fantastic value. Even better, every time you top-up you get free allowances to other Lebara mobiles which can cut down calling costs quite a lot if you know other Lebara customers.
Unfortunately, the roaming costs are relatively high. Again, although they can be cheaper than other networks, £30/MB data and £1/minute calls in the US and even 38p/minute calls in Europe are prohibitively expensive. Also, MMS picture messaging is rather pricey at 45p each in the UK. Thankfully, data is cheap in the UK with the first 10MB free and the only 15p/MB after that.
However, obviously the main reason for using Lebara is the international rates and these are mostly excellent. The rates that stand out are the fantastic offer of 1p calls to landlines in dozens of countries including Argentina, Australia, Ireland, Romania, Poland and New Zealand. They even currently offer calls to mobiles in India for just 1p/minute while China and Hong Kong are only 3p/minute and Thailand is just 6p/minute for mobile to mobile calls. These are some really impressive voice rates.
As well as having some incredibly cheap international rates, Leabra are also currently running a selection of great offers. These include bonuses of £5 when you top-up £20 online or £10 bonus with a £20 auto top-up. There is also a bonus of £5 free credit if you get your PAC code from your old network and transfer your number to Lebara.
Perhaps the best known offer Leabra have is rewards of free calls and texts to other Lebara mobiles. If you top-up £5 you get 100 extra minutes and SMS all the way up to 1000 extra voice minutes and texts for a £30 top-up. if you call lots of Lebara numbers, this can provide really great value. Each bundle lasts for 30 days and your current status can be checked by calling *#1345#.
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