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Samba Mobile

Samba Mobile was first founded in 2009 and has since secured about £1 million in angel funding. It’s a free ad-supported mobile broadband service. What this means is that users watch adverts to earn a free a mobile data allowance on their phone or tablet. The network first launched in July 2012 and as of the beginning of 2013 it had over 10,000 users and had logged over 3 million advert views.

Although there have previously been attempted to run ad-supported mobile and internet services in the UK, Samba claims to be the country’s first free mobile broadband provider. It has already signed up many brands as advertising partners such as Waitrose, Gilette, Xbox, Intel and Canon. Samba Mobile runs on the 3 mobile network

Samba Mobile review

Samba Mobile is an attractive option for those on a budget. As far as pricing goes, you can’t do much better than free 🙂

Having said that, it’s not quite so simple. After all, you do have to do something to earn your free download credits and if you go overdrawn, Samba cut off your internet access.

Samba have a variety of adverts available to watch which are usually between about 30 seconds and a minute and a half long each. You get credit for each ad you watch of about 3.5 MB. Unfortunately, this isn’t much and that 3.5 MB can be used up even quicker that it took to earn. Don’t assume you’ll be streaming videos or doing heavy web browsing with your free credit – it might not last as long as you hope.

However, Samba do claim that it’s usable. They estimate you’ll get about 500 MB of data a month just by watching less than 3 minutes of adverts a day. That’s a normal-length TV commercial break qualifying you for enough internet bandwidth to satisfy the average user.

Our experience wasn’t quite so simple though. It has to be said that an issue that they’ve had since the start is getting enough advertisers on board. As there’s a limit to the number of times you can watch each advert and there’s only so many available to you, it seems that quite often you’ll run out of adverts to watch.

In practice, this puts a limit of the data allowance you’re able to earn. When this occurs there’s nothing to do but wait a day or two for more adverts to become available. Issues like this make Samba impractical for heavy internet users and that’s not mentioning the amount of time it takes to watch the adverts. With many mobile networks now offering mobile data on PAYG at a reasonable rate, it’s for you to decide whether you really need free or whether it’s worth forking out a few quid a month for a greater amount of bandwidth and avoiding the hassle of having to deal with the adverts.

Samba must be commended for bringing a service like this to the UK. We’re also very glad that they decided to go with 3 which offers a very strong 3G service and in fact has been hailed by Ofcom as the country’s best mobile network for data. We had no issue earning credit and tested Samba’s adverts on a variety of browsers including Firefox, Chrome and Safari. We also found it easy to use on a smartphone as well as in tablets and laptops using a dongle. One snag is that Samba currently does not support roaming (presumably because of the very high costs).

We can’t see it lasting, however. There’s a good reason why previous attempts to offer a service similar this have all failed. Even if savvy users don’t find a loophole to avoid actually watching the ads, any on-the-ball advertising agency will soon noticed very poor conversion rates from Samba users and pull their content or refuse to pay enough to balance the books. Even if Samba hope to gain additional income from selling user information (they admit that they track browsing habits), it’s hard to see this being economically viable for the long term.

Having said that, we may well be proved wrong and there’s no reason not to give it a go while you can. If you don’t want to fork out for an expensive mobile broadband contract, it’s certainly one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get online when out and about. The main warning we would give is that it’s mainly appropriate for low-volume internet users. It works much better if you just want to browse some sites and RSS feeds and check your email and Facebook rather than download games and videos or listen to music. However, after all, you can’t complain that much about a free service.

PAYG Pricing


While Samba is a free ad-supported service, it’s not completely free. You have to pay a nominal free to order your SIM in the first place. At the moment, the price is £4.99 + £2.50 P&P. This is relatively cheap since you get a decent amount of mobile data free once you start watching the adverts but we’d prefer it if they used this cash to give you some included starter credit to begin with. It would also be good if they didn’t overcharge so much on postage.

In addition to earning data allowance by watching the adverts, it’s also possible to buy data bundles that last for 30 day each. There are two options available – 250 MB for £3.50 or 500 MB for £5.00. Compared to the mainstream networks this is a very favourable price point and it’s about as good as you can expect for :pay: mobile data.

Another thing is that Samba run a referral scheme. This allows you to earn credit or internet allowance when your friends and family join. For each new user you recommend you can chose between £2.50 credit or 250 MB of mobile broadband usage. This is a nice bonus to have.



2G coverage: 99%3G coverage: 93%

Coverage map

Samba Mobile runs on 3 and has very strong and broad coverage throughout the UK. Our tests also show that the download speeds are usually excellent. Please see the our Samba Mobile coverage page to learn the network coverage in your area. For more information, compare it with other mobile phone networks’ coverage.


Give your own rating to Samba Mobile below:

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 3.3/5 (19 votes cast)
Samba Mobile, 3.3 out of 5 based on 19 ratings
by Jon M

12 Responses to “Samba Mobile”

  1. Lora 4 September 2013 at 12:34 Permalink

    While I don’t think Samba would be appropriate for very regular users and a contract would probably make more sense, I currently make a couple of weekend visits per month to elderly relatives with no internet connection and this is ideal. I can also see it being useful for UK-based holidays when WiFi access is either not available or is costly. The fact that I can buy a cash top-up if I choose rather than solely relying on ads makes it flexible.

  2. AndyT 22 June 2013 at 15:45 Permalink

    One thing to watch when browsing Samba ads using their dongle is not to click on any more links in the advert, like are often offered at the end of the ad. Reason being watching the actual ad does not come out of your data allowance, but watching any follow on ad does as its treated like any other browsing. Also turn off auto update etc so your computer is not wasting your precious mobile data allowance & bandwidth. Non expiring credit as you say is rare – the original Vodafone £15/1gb dongle was the only one I knew that had it, and still does if you keep it live!. This makes Sambamobile ideal for my holiday camping trips as I build up credit at home and use it when out of WiFi range on holiday.

  3. Paul I 8 February 2013 at 20:13 Permalink

    Good questions, I will guess what I think are the answers, the credit is stored with Samba and they only pay when three send them the bill for what we have used, and even if three stores our credit our contract is with Samba, and on the deactivation, I think most providers have a 180 day maximum of non use, but as said both are guesses and I would like to know the real answers to both.

  4. Job CF 8 February 2013 at 19:29 Permalink

    “Data Credit earned from watching advertisements will not expire.”
    extract from T&C para 4.
    This is great!
    But there are couple of points I could not find answers in Samba T&C or FAQ.

    Is the data earned held with three or Samba?!

    I use normal BB for watching ads. Used the SIM only a few times.
    Does the SIM get deactivated if not used for a period of time?!

  5. Paul I 4 February 2013 at 09:17 Permalink

    I have been using samba since mid January and have been extremely happy, I can buy credit at what I feel is a reasonable cost to boost my free data, but one thing that stands out for me over any other payg service that I know about, the samba free data has no time restriction, in other words, I don’t have to use the free date within 30 days or lose it, and for me that is very attractive.

  6. Job CF 2 February 2013 at 01:50 Permalink

    There has been discussions about this at Samba and MSE forums, including a post by Samba Rep. apparently, when connected to the internet, there are additional processes working in the background. Javascript on to having images on, autoupdates, polling and so on. They drain data.

    • Mobile Network Comparison 4 February 2013 at 13:58 Permalink

      But that’s just standard background data-transfer, surely? That would be the same on any network and is easily avoided. Doesn’t sounds like anything specific to Samba?

  7. Job CF 31 January 2013 at 01:23 Permalink

    Enjoyed reading the SambaMobile review and the two interviews with the CEO. Thanks!
    SambaMobile appear to have a large following. Forum at MoneySavingExpert has a long running thread: “Samba Mobile Broadband – Is it Really Free?”
    I have taken the liberty to post links there to your review and the interviews.

    When connected to the internet data gets used whether one is browsing or not. This happens with normal BB or mobile BB. But with mobile BB data is precious. So I use normal BB only for watching ads.

    • Mobile Network Comparison 1 February 2013 at 14:06 Permalink

      Thanks for the comment and for passing our link along. I don’t quite understand what you mean when you say “When connected to the internet data gets used whether one is browsing or not” though. How can data be used up if no transfers are taking place?

      Keep checking back to the site (or subscribe) – we’re hoping to get more interviews with Ovivo Mobile this year as we prefer their service due to them offering a complete mobile phone package not just data.

      You and the MSE people might also be interested in our White Mobile interview and coming review. They seem to offer pretty good value too!

      • Stanto 14 January 2014 at 00:47 Permalink

        If by ‘no transfers’ you mean the viewing of websites/media streaming/etc. There are other traffic transfers occuring when using your mobile device or computer on a network.

        For example, Windows computers ‘chatter’ on the network to seek out other Windows computers. Computers, bots and people on the internet perform network scans and pings to find computer systems by scouring IP addresses (of which you will have, because you’re able to access the internet).

        These are just some of the examples of internet traffic that you will be charged for. Some of it will be in the kilobytes, rather than megabytes, but it will add up.

        This isn’t also taking into account any management traffic overhead on the TCP/IP stack or in fact, ARP or DNS lookups that you will not directly see as data transfers but will happen anyway.

        So you can guarantee, that 10mB file you just downloaded? Probably incurred more than 10mB of transfer traffic, it was possibly more like 11+mB

        • Mobile Network Comparison 14 January 2014 at 01:08 Permalink

          Great point and one we’re always making when networks try to make outrageous claims about internet traffic/”downloading”.

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