Co-op joins the MVNO rat-race, promising low rates across the board and per-second billing

Co-op joins the MVNO rat-race, promising low rates across the board and per-second billingThe Co-operative has joined other major retail players Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's in launching its own Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) network.

The Co-op's network will piggy-back off EE's infrastructure – the largest of the primary networks – and the supermarket chain says its SIM cards will be available in more outlets than any of its retail rivals – 3800.

So what will you be signing up for when you lay down the cash for a Co-op SIM card at a Co-op Food store later this month?

Typically, the chain is promising low, low prices, namely 4p per minute for calls to other Co-op mobile phones, 8p for calls to other local, national and mobile numbers, and – impressively – international calls starting at just 2p per minute.

Texts will cost you 4p apiece, or half that if you're messaging other Co-op mobile users, while data will set you back 5p per megabyte.

And that's on top of the cost of the SIM cards themselves, which start at 99p.

Aside from the obvious value in connecting to other Co-op customers, and the low rates for international calls, the Co-op says its other trump card is per-second billing, something it says too many rival services fail to offer – and don't admit to not offering either.

“Up to now, consumers have been forced to accept that if you want to get very good national rates, you'll have to pay a lot for an international call, and vice versa, or that you'll be charged an arm and a leg for calling 0800 or 0845 numbers,” says Vivian Woodell, founder and CEO of The Phone Co-op. “Some providers have low 'headline rates' but then charge for a whole minute when you've just spoken for a few seconds.

“With The Co-operative Mobile that won't happen, and it's the combination of all these features that makes us so different. We're proving it's possible to have all these benefits in just one SIM card.”

The service will roll out later this month, and you'll be able to buy SIM cards and top up both in store and online.

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