Cheapest emergency BT line access in the car?

  Wilham 16:07 16 Jul 2009

The Cellnet mobile phone advertised in the Sunday Telegraph 29/11/1998 said "Just buy vouchers....No contract, no monthly bills..."
The £99.99 cost included £30 call credit, and the small print required a minimum £20 to be added every 365 days.

I was in my 70's and bought one. My wife was especially reassured by it when she was driving alone.

Three years later in 2001 I apologised at renewal that I had to offer two £10 vouchers instead of £20. I was told the rules had changed and I need only add vouchers when my credit had dropped, it was then £55.41. So I didn't enter the long strings of coding, and I still have the two unused £10 vouchers.

The mobile became part of the car furniture, and after my wife died in 2005 I did not handle the Cellnet for a couple of years except to recharge battery at car service intrvals.

In 2008 the mobile recognised my pin no. but didn't put through my calls, and I found the service had changed. Via my home telephone I was advised to take the Cellnet into any high street phone centre and they would sort it out. The original contract was no longer operative.

I do appreciate that £20 pa may not be enough to pay for a seldom used 24/7 connection, but options open aren't always clear...

Tesco is well-known for value, but its pay-as-you-go terms require a minimum £5 monthly credit top-up. Elsewhere I have found terms and conditions that insist on at one paying call or text at least every 80 days. That may be reasonable, but if I forget to do so I lose all call credits. There are also sub-divisions of pay-as-you-go to suit varied needs. It makes sense that pricing is set to encourage calls,- not to leave equipment idle.

So I seek advice from the wisdom and experience of fellow forum members.

Could an alternative to my Cellnet be a netbook with WiFi or dongle? A friend suggested Skype on a laptop, but wasn't sure if it could offer BT access. Could I network through to my home PC to go further?

One temptation is for me to buy on eBay the Swiss-army style mobile bargain,.... built-in camera, mp3, even Sat Nav, and unlocked. Then fit appropriate PAYG Sim, if there is one. I expect calls to be pricey, but they will be be few and far between.

Putting aside capital outlay and price of call time, can I purchsae the access I first had for £20 pa, or not much more? With you help I shall be better infomed when I visit the phone shop. I welcome your comment.

Thanks, W

  I am Spartacus 16:57 16 Jul 2009

As far as I know Virgin Mobile PAYG doesn't require a monthly top and seems to last indefinitely. I've still got the credit on all the SIM cards I got with my last purchases dating back to around 2003/4.

  Wilham 17:49 16 Jul 2009

I am Spartacas
You may be right. When I went through the small print yesterday, I found under general terms and conditions, section 3.8 titled "Keep talking". It said the use must include at least once in every 180 days either a charge for call or a text message.

This is only once in six months. I don't see it as a financial penalty but as clause that lets Virgin weed out the most infrequent (and unprofitable) users.

In spite of this, Virgin may me the best bet. Thanks.

  oresome 18:09 16 Jul 2009

I've a Tesco PAYG and I don't have to top it up every month. In fact it doesn't get topped up once a year!

At the time, I chose it because there was no minimum useage stipulation. Terms may have changed since of course.

  Diemmess 18:15 16 Jul 2009

I have had an Ericsson Vodaphone PAYG for about 10 years which lives in the car.
A daughter upgrading hers said ours was a brick and gave her old Nokia Orange to us.

Now we have two. Both have very occasional top-ups.
Easy to read the numbers on the old one and almost impossible on the Nokia.

Very poor signal locally on vodaphone adequate on Orange.

Both have old PAYG contracts costing a £10 top-up every few years, and both are conditional upon using once inside 180 days.

  Wilham 20:25 16 Jul 2009

The Tesco p.a.y.g appliation form offer did imply £5 pm min top-up yesterday. No doubt Tesco will honour its longer-standing customers. As you say, terms may have changed. Thank you.

The 180 days is now shorter, but the worry for me is if I forget to activate, I would be unaware if my emergency mobile no longer worked...would be like carring around a dud fire extinguisher.

Your comment on signal pick-up ability is noted. Thanks.

  I am Spartacus 21:11 16 Jul 2009

I have quite a few Virgin SIM cards all with a small amount of credit on them that hasn't so far expired even after a few years. Get in touch via the yellow envelope with your details and I'll send you one with at least a fiver on it.

  Wilham 22:21 16 Jul 2009

I am Sparticus
Thanks, you're very kind. I shall ask Virgin Mobile if they forewarn (by email?) of impending mobile cut-off for whatever reason. We could have driven around a year or two with a defunct Cellnet.

  spuds 00:25 17 Jul 2009

I use a old Motorola Savvy Walk-about T180 for occasional use with Cellnet connection (now 02), which had £5.00 installed free plus something like a £20.00 top-up on original purchase day (2001). It still as about £5.00 left before further top-up. The only comtractual stipulation is that I use the phone occasionally (usually 10/20 seconds check) so as to retain the network connection.

The same applies to another mobile that I have on the Vodafone network.

Regarding SIM cards, there are a number of these about, which usually are sold cheaper than the installed starter charge. But whether it is true, I was informed that some 'modern' SIM cards will not fit older mobiles, so it mat pay to watch out for this.

  hastelloy 07:23 17 Jul 2009

I'm on Virgin PAYG and never top up. They collect whatever I've spent each month by direct debit - usually about £2. The phone cost about £25 a couple of years ago.

  Stuartli 09:34 17 Jul 2009

I've been with Virgin Mobile PAYG since August 2000 to keep a mobile basically for emergency calls or receive/send very occasional calls or text messages.

So far it's cost me only round £50 in voucher credits in total (added £5 worth last weekend after previous credit lasted around a year); the credit on my phone is continuous and none is lost no matter how far back it extends.

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