September 2021

The Spanish mobile network

New arrivals to Spain will be pleased to know that the beautiful Iberian nation has an excellent mobile network that is accessible for expats and visitors alike. Like other European countries, the Spanish use the GSM network for mobile communications. This makes it easy for most people to connect on arrival. However, even if you’re coming from somewhere that uses the CDMA network, your smartphone will still likely work in Spain.

Spain has a well-developed 4G network, with much of the country having access to 4G and 4G+ connectivity. Furthermore, 5G is increasingly available throughout the country, particularly in more built-up areas around major cities and resorts. That said, Spain is a surprisingly mountainous country, and, therefore, connectivity can vary significantly throughout the regions. So be sure to check your options ahead of time to avoid being left without a signal.

Wi-Fi connectivity in Spain

If you’re looking for public Wi-Fi, you’ll find plenty of free hotspots across Spain. These are typically concentrated in areas with higher levels of tourism, such as major cities and coastal resorts. You’ll also find Wi-Fi in some public buildings, such as libraries, museums, and public transport hubs. These are often free, but you may need to complete a brief registration process before you can get online. If you’re looking to set up Wi-Fi at home, then make sure to read our guide on setting up the internet, home phone, and TV in Spain.

Can I use my mobile phone in Spain?

If you’re arriving from a country that uses the GSM network, you’ll be able to use your mobile phone in Spain straight away. However, even if you’re coming from a country that uses the alternative CDMA network – such as Japan, Canada, and parts of the US – your smartphone will still likely be able to connect to the local network. That said, you should always check your options before you travel to avoid any unforeseen connection issues when you arrive in Spain.

Thanks to an EU-wide agreement on international roaming fees, arrivals from EU countries can enjoy free roaming when spending time in Spain. This is also the case for arrivals from the UK, although this could be subject to change following the UK’s exit from the European Union. If you’re unsure, then check with your home operator before traveling to avoid being left with any unwanted bills.

If you’re moving to Spain – or planning to stay a little longer – then you’ll probably want to buy a Spanish SIM card or sign up for a local mobile contract. Getting a SIM card will probably be the cheapest option in terms of up-front costs, but you’ll need to provide proof of identity to get one. However, whether you opt for a SIM card or contract, you’ll find that you have a host of Spanish mobile operators to choose from. Some also offer home internet and TV packages, so it’s a good idea to check if there are any bundle discounts available.

Spanish mobile phone operators

As you might expect from a country as big as Spain, the local mobile phone market is a competitive place. There are four network operators to choose from: Movistar, Orange, mi portal fone, and MásMóvil/Yoigo. In addition to these, there are a number of MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that use these four networks. This means that consumers have an ever-increasing number of choices, so it pays to shop around. This is particularly true if you’re looking for home internet and TV in Spain, as many operators offer discounts if you take out more than one service.

Spanish mobile operators include:

  • Movistar
  • Vodafone
  • Orange
  • Yoigo
  • MásMóvil

When it comes to subscribers, Movistar leads the way with around 30% of the market share in 2019. Operated by the former state-controlled Telefónica, Movistar has historically been dominant in this market. However, other operators aren’t far behind, with Orange (25%) and Vodafone (23%) closing the gap. This is followed by MásMóvil/Yoigo (14%), and many MVNOs. Although some MVNOs struggle to match the coverage of the larger networks in rural regions, there is often very little difference in large towns, cities, and resort areas.