How long does a mobile number stay active in the UK?

A mobile number acquired in the UK will stay active if used according to the network provider's rules to keep an account active.

3 Months Ago
How long does a mobile number stay active in the UK?


A mobile number acquired in the UK will stay active if used according to the network provider's rules to keep an account active. These rules may vary depending on the provider and the choice of contract, Pay As You Go (PAYG) sim accounts and Pay Monthly sim accounts are subject to different requirements to stay active. PAYG mobile numbers need to be used for a chargeable activity every 6 months to be considered an active number, sometimes top ups made to the sim account could also verify the active usage for the network provider.

For example, if you live abroad but also have a mobile number that you still would like to keep active when you are back to receive calls and texts, it is advisable to top up the number for a balance to be displayed in the account once every 6 months, if you pass 180 days the number can be regarded as inactive or even get suspended to be carded to the recycling pool, which may be a nasty surprise when back in the country.

Vodafone and EE

As indicated different providers have various methods to inform their customers of inactivity, Vodafone sends a text message to the customer when a number is inactive for 90 days. In EE 6 months of inactivity makes the number deactivated and the customer has further 3 months to claim the number back before it is being recycled. Topping up is not the only option like old days, you can even buy a bundle or Add-on to your account to verify activity and in some cases, these packages or add-ons may be more suitable for budget transactions to keep the number active.

Mobile Number


In O2 similar rules apply, non-usage of 180 days validates the phone as inactive, and a user needs to top-up or buy a package every 6 months and make a call or send a text to verify the phone is in use. If the number is not used in 180 days, it is categorized as a reclaimable number and the process of deactivation and sometimes suspension leads to the number being sent into recycling.

Three, being one of the big four companies in the UK, well-known and widely chosen for mobile network providers, follows the same rule of 6 months of inactivity leading to the number being suspended and in a further 3 months reclaimed by the provider.

Other Providers

Other providers such as Virgin Mobile, Giffgaff, Lebara, Orange and TalkTalk are also some of the most used and recognized brands for mobile numbers. They all have similar policies for the numbers to be active with a chargeable activity in a 180-day period. According to Ofcom under fair treatment for all subscriber’s network providers allow 90 days for the numbers to be claimed back, if the number is not claimed by the subscriber hence it can be recycled to a new user.

Mobile Number in the UK

In addition to the number being recycled if your PAYG number had any credits unused in your account the amount will also be reclaimed by the network provider. There is a regulatory requirement to recycle the pool of mobile phone numbers inactive. Research shows that people consciously do not keep the numbers active in the majority meaning that it is an act that accepts the consequences of losing the number and any credits associated with the account. 

Only a very small proportion of people would omit to keep the number active unintentionally and network providers allow a reasonable period for the number to be claimed back within 90 days of disconnection. In total 6 months of inactivity and 3 months to claim the number back shows an amicable 9-month period to the user for keeping a number used, if the 9-month period is passed then the number will be recycled. If you intend to keep your number active it is mandatory to keep the credits live every 6 months and use the number for a chargeable activity within the allowed period.