If you have just moved to Spain or are planning to in the near future, one of the most important tasks to get completed will be to set yourself up with a new Spanish mobile phone.
That way, you will be able to stay connected to friends and family back home as well as stay in touch with your new friends and work colleagues here in Spain.
If you are going to be self-employed or set up a new business, a Spanish mobile phone will be one of your top priorities.
The good news is that Spain, like the UK and other European countries, has an excellent mobile phone network with many options for you to get connected nice and quickly.
Below we cover the main aspects of purchasing a mobile phone in Spain and take a look at the most important topics including:-
Spain’s Mobile Phone Network
Spain operates a GSM mobile telecommunications network.
GSM or ‘Global System for Mobile communication’ is a digital mobile network which has been widely adopted by the UK, Europe and other countries worldwide.
Will I be able to use my existing mobile phone in Spain?
If you are visiting Spain and usually connect to a GSM network, there is a very good chance that your mobile device will be able to connect to the Spanish network.
If however, you are from the U.S or Asia and usually connect to a CDMA network, it is highly likely that your existing phone will not work in Spain.
Who are the main mobile phone operators in Spain?
As you would expect from a major European country, the Spanish mobile market is competitive which is generally a good thing for consumers, helping to keep prices lower with a wide choice of tariffs.
Each of these offers a wide range of pay-as-you-go and mobile phone contracts.
Many of the operators will have outlets within supermarkets and shopping centres here in Spain.
There are a number of smaller players on the market including Lobster which is geared towards UK expats and claim to be the “all-in-English’ mobile phone service.
Movistar, which is operated by the former state-controlled telecoms company Telefonica, has the largest market share at around 33%. This is followed by Orange and Vodafone both with around 25% and MásMóvil/Yoigo with around 14% of the market.
Pay as you go or contract?
As in other countries, you will have the choice of either paying as you go (PAYG) commonly known as ‘Prepaid’ or having a monthly contract.
If you are not staying in Spain for a long period of time, a PAYG option may be better for you as there are no contracts, with providers offering monthly deals from as little as 6 euros.
Many of the prepaid sim deals also offer a certain amount of both national and international minutes and an allocated amount of data. How much you will get will be dependent on the package you pay for. The more you pay, the greater your allocated minutes and data.
For example, Lobster currently has a deal for just 6 euros per month (50% off for the first three months), which gives you unlimited calls in Spain and to the UK with unlimited texts and 18 GB of data allowance.
Or alternatively, you could plump for Yoigo’s 10 GB Prepaid Sim which offers unlimited calls, free EU roaming and 10 GB of data for just 10 euros per month.
Most Spanish mobile phone operators allow you to order their PAYG sim cards online although you can also purchase them in store.
If you need to top up your credit, you can usually do this online, via an app or in one of the many operator stores or other outlets. Just look for the operator's logo/sign in the shop windows.
When purchasing a mobile phone sim in Spain, you will usually have to provide some ID such as a passport or TIE residency card and run through a simple registration process which is a legal requirement.
There is no contract so you can stop the service at any point, although you will pay a little more than you would if you were on a contract. You will also miss out on additional discounts and bonuses usually reserved for those on a contract.
Mobile phone contracts
The other option will be to take out a mobile phone contract which will tie you in for at least 12 or 18 months.
To take out a contract, you will usually need to provide ID including proof of address, TIE, and bank details. A credit check is not usually required.
A mobile phone contract in Spain is usually the cheapest option. You will not only pay a little less for calls, texts and data usage but also get other perks such as being able to get the latest smartphone.
Most phone deals provide you with free-roaming within the European Union and sometimes further afield.
You may also be able to pay less and get further discounts if your phone contract is with the same company that provides your landline and/or internet service.
Is 5G available in Spain?
Yes, 5G technology is becoming increasingly available throughout the country, although you are more likely to pick up a 5G signal within major cities and built-up areas rather than in more rural locations.
What is the overall coverage like?
As in the UK and other European countries, how good your signal is will depend on where you are.
As a rule, the signal will be strongest in the largest towns and cities as well as the more populated coastal regions.
You should be able to pick up a 4G or 5G signal, however, in the interior of the country, you may struggle to get a reception.
Before you purchase a contract or sim card with a Spanish mobile phone operator, make sure you check the coverage either via their website or via a third-party site such as nperf.
Can I take my number with me if I move to a different mobile phone operator?
Yes, like the UK and other EU countries, most providers offer a portability service allowing you to transfer your number to your new sim card/phone.
Updated: July 14, 2022 CET