Which telecom operator is fair?

So you buy a Fairphone, but is there an operator (in your country) that has some of the same values as Fairphone? Fairphone is all about creating a fairer economy, give true ownership so you can configure the phone the way you want, being open, honest and truly fair.

Did you also make a conscious decision about your telecom operator? If so, wich telecom operator did you choose?

I live in The Netherlands and I’m curious wich operator people chose with their Fairphone or wich operator you see as open and fair.


Hi @Petervdv

I think this is a very interesting subject! However, I’m not quite sure what you mean with ‘fair’ in this context? Can you give me an example of how a telecom operator could be fair? I’d love to hear other people’s opinions about this :slight_smile:

Kind regards,


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Hey @Robin,

I’m thinking about two things, fair to the consumer and fair to the world.

Fair to the consumer in things like: fair prices, no idiotic out-of-bundle tariffs, honest communication and no nasty marketing trics;

and fair to the world in things like: maybe support charities or fair organisations (like Fairphone).

I see you live in Belgium. Did you choose an operator with fair ideals?

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Being ‘Fair’ is a very loose term unfortunately, so it is hard to say exactly. Being ‘ethical’ doesn’t necessarily mean being good either, because you can have ethics for anything. Unfortunately the marketeers are using these terms all the time so it makes it hard to distinguish what exactly any of this means any more.

Now I’ve ranted about the way things are, I’ll give you an answer from the UK.

There is a phone company called the Phone Coop (or officially Co-operative Phone & Broadband) who have launched the Co-operative Mobile service. What’s more, they have ordered a limited number of Fairphones from the latest batch to offer to customers. As a co-operative, they are a member led business (I’m one of them ;-)). This is their marketing info:

We are run by a group of people united by shared values, shared ownership and democratically made decisions. Our members own us. And that can mean you: 

- As a co-operative member, you have a say in how the business is run.
- Regular updates and meetings connect each one of us.
- We are socially responsible and aim to be 'good neighbours'.

As a co-operative they also have a number of ‘funds’ which they use for community developments and social enterprise. These are funded through a percentage of profits. Unlike corporations, there are no shareholders as such, but as a co-operative they do give ‘divi’ payments to members based on how much they have spent through their services - so all members share in the profits.

The UK also has the giffgaff network which is an MVNO running on the O2 network - their tagline is ‘The Mobile Network Run by You’ and a number of members on their community have discussed whether Fairphones should be offered by the network. The community is led by the community rather than by staff and moderators, and they give ‘payback’ to those that get involved in increasing levels within the community [Edit: This is in exchange for having no shops, or sales, it’s all online support so the community do the majority of the work]. They also consult the community when changes need to be made and have an ‘ideas’ blog generated by the community which very often lead to good changes being made on the network. However it’s not all roses as their about us page would suggest. The network is not an independent company, it is owned by Telefónica, the Spanish company that runs the O2 network, so I leave you to draw your own conclusion as to what kind of ethics lie behind the scenes.

The final one I’ll mention is The People’s Operator which gives 25% of profit to charity. Unfortunately I don’t know anything about them beyond what is on their website.


Hmm, I see your point. I think this is a peculiar discussion with a lot of pro’s and con’s. Such a discussion can lead to a serious debate. I would love to hear what other people think of this, but for me, I think I lack the “knowledge” to eagerly talk about this subject.

And yes, I do live in Belgium :slight_smile: . My mobile operator is Mobile Vikings. One of the things I like about this company is that it almost doesn’t advertise, yet it has over 100 000 customers. Their service is completely online: they only have 2 “headquarters”: one in Hasselt, Belgium and one in Poland.

Mobile Vikings is mostly for people who like to use mobile internet a lot. I currently pay 15 euro and this gives me 2GB of internet, 2000 texts and 150 minutes of calling (well this is just the 15 euro at at 0,10 euro per minute rate). But they have plans for 10, 50 etc. euros as well. Why I’m not trying to “promote” them in any way, the thing I like the most is the fact that they are prepaid but with “postpaid” advantages. So, for example, your bonus (internet and texts) doesn’t “expire” if you forget to top up your balance within the month (one of the nasty tricks other companies here in Belgium do: you top up, get your bonus, forget to top up within 31 days: too bad no bonus for the next month, just your top-up amount.)

Another thing is: they don’t build their own cellphone-towers. They share towers with Base (another provider here in Belgium), but they do have their own maintenance team etc. And lastly (however this has nothing to do with “fairness”): their customer support on Twitter/Facebook (or even e-mail) will most likely respond to your question in less than an hour. That’s another advantage of having a small amount of customers.

As for the rest of your fairness-checkboxes: I think Mobile Vikings can check a lot of them so I presume it’s the “most” fair one, if it’s possible for a mobile operator to be fair. :wink:


Wow, that’s amazing! I think none of the operators in Belgium have such a policy (e.g. donating to charity or being completely community based). In Belgium the whole “mobile operator”-business is dominated by big companies (Proximus, Telenet, Mobistar; 3 leading mobile operators in Belgium) and all the others that want to compete just can’t without being incredibly expensive or using some of the infrastructure of these giants (for example, like I said: the cellphone towers)


I should have posted this as well - it’s a list of all the MVNOs operating in the UK (according to Wiki so be your own judge as to the quality). You can see there are loads, including some charities (WWF and Age UK). Of course the market is dominated by the big 4 (O2, EE, 3, Vodafone) and they own all the bandwith

After searching around I found that we actually do have one in Belgium that supports charity: “ello mobile”. Although I do like this idea, the prices are just way too high for the services they offer :frowning: This may sound a bit hypocrite, but being a student and living in a fast growing-always-being-connected society, this is quite impossible for me to contribute to. Their maximum plan is 36 euros a month for 400 texts and 150 MB of internet. Not enough for me :disappointed:

Like I said before: they can’t compete with the giant companies here that ‘rule’ the market, hence why they’re so expensive. It saddens me a bit, because I do want to be a part of this “social values first” community, but in this case I’m afraid I can’t contribute.


I’m with Vodafone NL, who are absolute morons. The thing is though, the competition is worse.


Not so different from Belgium then :wink:

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In the Netherlands I know Limesco (I’m also involved in the organisation). Their values are open, honest and innovative. But I was really curious if there were more “fair” parties in the Netherlands.


I have found nothing similar to the Phone Co-Op in DE, but i choose simquadrat. They operate on the E-Plus (soon O2) network and basically provide you two numbers, on local (“fixed line?”) based on the town you live in and a normal mobile number. This way people with a fixed line can call you a lot cheaper the before.
Their prices are a bit higher but the price policy is quite transparent. They also were on the first companies in germany to get rid of roaming fees (at least partially): If you visit another eu country, there will be no roaming fees in the first 4 weeks. That is sufficient for most holidays.


@ben - that’s a really interesting idea from simquadrat. I believe some of the networks have tried various things like that over here like cheaper calls when you’re calling from your home postcode area etc, but that’s a much better idea!

I’m with T-Mobile here in Germany. I don’t have a clue as to how ‘fair’ they are, but my guess would be not so much.
I have never really thought about the fairness of my mobile operator before, so I’m unaware of any fair operators here. It’s nice to know that such concepts like simquadrat exist @ben! Is this something dependent on the region you’re living in or available in all of Germany?

I also quite like the concept of Phone Coop @Chris_R mentioned in his post, that sounds very promising!


Hi @Kris_S,
simquadrat is available everywhere in Germany. It uses the E-Plus network, thought which is not so good in rural areas i here.

Thanks to dual sim, you can easily try simquadrat or others in the second sim. I use simquadrat together with congstar (owned by T-Mobile i think) and now i have signal everywhere and people can reach me with three different numbers ;-)!

Disclaimer: They have a “community” promotion currently running, so customers can get a link to give away to people who are interested and get a promotion of some minutes to other simquadrat users if somebody signs out with their link. I do not want to use this forum for advertisments, but if someone wants to try simquadrat, i happily share my link ;-). Just send me a private message.


I just looked at simquadrats website @ben. It does sound pretty good, I’m very tempted to try it. The downside is that I live in a pretty rural area, so I have my doubts if it would be very useful to me…

However I’ll think about it and might come back to you about that promotion link :wink:

Rank a Brand analyzed all major Dutch telecom providers for their sustainability. Telfort and Xs4all come out on top: http://m.rankabrand.org/brands.php?sector=5&title=Telecom


My tuppence on the issue:

Find the cheapest plan for your needs (regardless of operator) and then donate what you can afford to a charity you trust.

OK, there are operators with a conscience, and of course it may be valuable in itself to support them by choosing them. But as pointed out already by Robin, these operators share infrastructure with the giants. Co-Op, for instance, uses T-Mobile’s towers and bandwith.

My own operator, TeliaSonera Sweden, is dodgy indeed - drawn into a lot of suspicious business activities in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, for instance. But a lot of operators use their network. There are only three network owners in Sweden: TeliaSonera, Tele2 and Telenor. I wouldn’t hope for any of them being particularly fair. You don’t grow into a profitable international company if you are.

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well… i think i have to disagree. The more people select their companies for matters of sustainability, the more even the “big players” in the business will have to include these factors in their business operations, thereby changing the whole economic system little by little. And well, that’s the underlying idea behind the Fairphone, isn’t it? Otherwise you could also buy a cheap phone an put the saved money into charity.

Then again I’m convinced, that only political pressure will lead to real and long-term changes in the nature of our economics, but purchases based on the sustainabilty as an incentive for companies to promote a fairer and more sustainable economic system are as good as we can get by now.



@madde: a good point, and reason for reconsidering. Maybe there’s a difference, though - if I buy a FP, Apple (or HTC, or whoever) misses a customer and their profit. If I switch to a fair operator, my money will still find its way to the big companies’ pockets - I can’t avoid using their infrastructure.

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