For the last two years, my core advice for budget-conscious people considering a mobile-provider switch has been to look at one of the four ‘no frills’ services — GoMo, 48, Clear Mobile and An Post Mobile. In general, this advice still holds: you’ll mostly pay around 30pc to 70pc less, for largely the same service and data allowance, than a ‘main brand’ option from Vodafone, Three or Eir Mobile.
1. Mobile providers
In terms of call and data quality, they use the same networks as the big guns, too. GoMo uses Eir’s mobile network, while 48 uses Three and both Clear Mobile and An Post Mobile use Vodafone. The fact that none of the budget operators currently use 5G makes no difference, as no one yet gets any benefit from that anyway.
There are some drawbacks, however. None of the budget services have their own shops while everything — from getting the SIM card and number to dealing with any subsequent issues — is dealt with online. There’s also no ‘subsidised phone’ plan. So you’ll need your own (unlocked) phone to begin with; you won’t get any iPhones for €199 on some 24-month contract.
If this sounds doable, it remains a no-brainer to switch to one of these services GoMo (€15 per month) and 48 (€13 per month) are still the most attractive options, on a cost-per-benefit basis. The next best is An Post Mobile (€18 per month), which is preferable to Clear Mobile (€15 per month), even though it’s a little dearer; both use exactly the same network, but An Post gives you full 4G speeds whereas Clear Mobile restricts you to 3G-era speeds (a maximum of 5Mbs, which is fine for basic smartphone tasks but relatively slow by any modern standard).
As for the phone handsets themselves, it’s a tough time to be upgrading to an iPhone as they shot up in price last year compared to all other phone brands. By comparison, there’s some great value in the Android world.
Google’s Pixel 7 (€649) is probably the best overall phone you can buy on a cost-analysis benefit, taking into account its screen, cameras and engine. It’s almost €400 cheaper than an iPhone 14 for largely the same features.
2. Broadband options
Of all the digital service utilities, broadband has changed the most in Ireland over the last year or two. Most people reading this now have the choice of at least one very high-speed or relatively high-speed option, the first time this has happened in our country’s stuttering connectivity history.
The gold standard is fibre-to-the-home (as opposed to makey-uppy ‘efibre’ from Eir, which is an old creaky phone line connected to some fibre a few miles away). Industry figures now suggest that around half of Irish homes are now in a ‘real’ fibre catchment area, with another significant percentage able to benefit from cable (from Virgin Media), which is almost as good.
The price of this fibre is fairly reasonable as it tracks with what the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan is charging, which starts at around €40 per month.
My biggest piece of advice is that if any such fibre (but not makey-uppy ‘eFibre’) service is available to your household, switch to it. Furthermore, don’t bother with any of the mid-tier or high-end versions — the ‘basic’ 500Mbs service is blisteringly fast and way, way better than almost anything you’ll ever have experienced before.
It is more than competent at handling an entire large family household with everything that household’s inhabitants use it for, from streaming to gaming to Zoom calls, all at the same time, if necessary. The companies selling it are mostly the same ones that sell basic phone line broadband, namely Eir, Vodafone, Sky and dozens of others.
If this type of 500Mbs fibre isn’t available to you, the next best option is cable from Virgin Media. This is generally very fast and reliable, although can be a little more expensive than fibre.
If this isn’t available, the next best will either be old-fashioned phone line broadband, fixed wireless (from a box or aerial on your roof) broadband, or mobile broadband using a box that sits inside your window or door.
None of these latter three services are remotely as reliable or fast as fibre or cable, and they usually slow down in the evening when others in your catchment area all log on, too. For phone-line broadband, you’ll typically need a ‘line test’, where the company you’re talking to will see what your phone line can ‘take’. If this is achingly slow (under 30Mbs), you’ll already know that you’re qualified to get the state-subsidised National Broadband Plan upgrade to blisteringly fast full fibre.
The only problem is that you may not have a connection date until 2025 or 2026. That may leave you looking at fixed wireless services, which are still fairly popular in rural areas waiting for the NBP to roll out. In general, these cost from about €30 to €40 per month for relatively slow connections that should still be good enough for basic household internet activity, including video streaming.
Mobile broadband depends entirely on the strength of the 4G or 5G signal in your area. If it’s strong, a service from Vodafone, Three or Eir could be a useful stopgap until the NBP rolls out fibre to your area. However, it typically costs from about €35 and often requires extra charges for routers.
For those who are truly desperate, with no landline, mobile or fixed wireless option, satellite services such as Starlink are an option of last resort. They generally work fine, but cost an absolute fortune — Starlink costs a whopping €85 per month plus €450 up-front for the equipment. That may well be worth it to those with literally no other option. But when you can get a fibre service, which is three to four times faster and far more reliable, it’s a non-runner.
3. Top TV deals
The TV service market has changed little in the last year. By and large, most people have three choices: Sky, Virgin Media or Saorview. The first two give you access to things like premium sports and movies, while Saorview gives you the basic Irish channels and leaves it up to you to organise your own streaming top-ups, such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV Plus and Paramount Plus.
Sky and Virgin Media often do switching promotions for new customers; at the time of going to press, Sky had a deal at €25 per month for the first year for its basic TV package, rising to €38 per month after the promotion offer ends.
One advantage that Sky has is that it subsidises Netflix, with a far lower monthly cost for that streaming service if you pay through your Sky bill.
Virgin Media has less deals available for TV only, focusing its offers on broadband bundles that include TV. At the time of writing, its best offer was €59 per month (for the first year, rising to a higher price after that) for its ‘TV 360’ basic package and 500Mbs cable broadband.
Saorview is free to use on a monthly basis, but you’ll need to buy a somewhat old-fashioned aerial for it to work.
*All prices are correct at the time of publication