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Giffgaff Ltd.
FoundedSlough, Berkshire, United Kingdom (25 November 2009)
Founder(s)Gav Thompson[1]
HeadquartersUxbridge, Greater London, United Kingdom[2]
Area servedUnited Kingdom
Key peopleMike Fairman (CEO)
Richard Apletree (CFO)[3]
ProductsMobile telecommunications products and services
Owner(s)Telefónica UK Ltd.
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Giffgaff Ltd.
FoundedSlough, Berkshire, United Kingdom (25 November 2009)
Founder(s)Gav Thompson[1]
HeadquartersUxbridge, Greater London, United Kingdom[2]
Area servedUnited Kingdom
Key peopleMike Fairman (CEO)
Richard Apletree (CFO)[3]
ProductsMobile telecommunications products and services
Owner(s)Telefónica UK Ltd.

Giffgaff (marketed as giffgaff) is a mobile telephone network running as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) using the United Kingdom O2 network. Owned by Telefónica, Giffgaff was launched on 25 November 2009.[4]

Giffgaff has become known for using its members to help with company operation, rewarding members for promoting the network and providing support to other members on a community forum. In return for these services the members receive remuneration through a system called "Payback".


Gav Thompson was educated at University of Cambridge, Wellington College and Windlesham House and is the founder at Giffgaff. He is currently Director of Marketing Innovation, O2 / Telefónica Europe at Telefónica UK, also Head of Brand Innovation (Telefónica Digital UK) at Telefónica Digital. Reports say Mr Thompson came up with the idea after studying Web 2.0 businesses in San Francisco in 2008.

Inspired by the way platforms like Wikipedia and Facebook were enabling a new, non-institutional way of doing things, Gav Thompson imagined a mobile network run on the principle of mutuality: one that rewarded its community of customers for doing much of the work normally done by employees. He could see a gap in the market for people who liked to get involved in different ways of doing things. The principles behind the company formation are set out within the Giffgaff manifesto.[5]

This word, "giffgaff", which is an ancient Scottish term meaning "mutual giving",[6] was chosen to fit around the principles outlined within the giffgaff manifesto.[7]

The slogan for Giffgaff, "The Mobile Network run by You", is intended to reflect the fact that many users of this service help to run the many aspects of Giffgaff operation.

Within 2010, their first year of operation, Giffgaff won two industry awards, the Forrester Groundswell Award in November, also the Most Innovative Community Award at the Social CRM Customer Excellence Awards.[8][9] In November Giffgaff were nominated as the only finalist for the Marketing Society's Brand of the Year but lost to the department store John Lewis.[10]

In June 2012, Giffgaff were named best MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) in the Mobile Industry Awards.[11]

On 16 March 2012 a fractured water pipe caused a major service outage within a third party data centre that provides billing services.[12] Subscribers to Giffgaff lost services such as, ability to send and receive calls, text (SMS) messages and data.


Network and infrastructure[edit]

Giffgaff operates as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) on the O2 UK network and as such many parts of its operations are outsourced to virtual third parties. Primarily for all calls, texts and data the O2 UK cell infrastructure is used.

For customer service enquiries the MVNO uses a mixture of forum based customer support for general queries, account based queries are handled by the third party company Firstsource[13]

Radio frequency summary[edit]

Frequencies are of parent O2 UK network
800 MHzLTE4G

Products and services[edit]

SIM card[edit]

Giffgaff SIM card

The core product is the SIM card that supports all standard 2G and 3G services. With the expected introduction of 4G in March 2014 some Giffgaff subscribers may need to replace their SIM in order to be able to use this service. More recent SIM's are already 4G prepared.

On 17 May 2012 dual format (standard and micro) SIM cards were introduced, allowing use in a standard GSM phone, also those that require the smaller format Micro SIM.[14]

The more recently introduced NanoSIM is available for the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini.

To use the Giffgaff services an unlocked mobile telephone is required, alternatively a telephone locked to the O2 network should be perfectly suitable.[15]

Mobile phones[edit]

In November 2013 Giffgaff started selling a range of mobile phone handsets. [16]

Initially a range of 22 devices is available from seven manufacturers. Devices can be paid for outright or through peer to peer finance. The peer to peer finance is handled by Ratesetter.[17]

Customer service[edit]

The main method of customer service relies upon members of the Giffgaff network providing answers within a forum called the "Community". Members having problems, uncertainty, or anything for that matter, post into the community for help. Those who provide help within this "Community" are rewarded with "Payback".

Integration with Facebook and Twitter was introduced in October 2010, providing alternative channels of customer support.[18][19]

There is a small customer service team who are employed by Giffgaff. This team provides further support that Giffgaff members are unable to resolve and may include:

Giffgaff labs[edit]

New product ideas are initially tested at Giffgaff labs and are made available to all members for a short period.[20] If a new product idea proves to be popular it may be incorporated into the main product, otherwise is withdrawn. The labs' products are Beta Tested by selected community members before release. Most new ideas come from the 'Ideas Board' within the Community.

The first product from Giffgaff labs, introduced in September 2010, included calls for 2p and texts for 1p in return for a monthly payment of £5.00.[21] The product was withdrawn after a trial period.

The second labs product, introduced in December 2010, was nicknamed "Hokey Cokey". For £5.00 customers were allocated 60 minutes talk time, 300 texts (SMS) and a free extra minute for every eligible incoming minute.[22] In June 2011 "Hokey Cokey" became an official product.

BlackBerry services were tested at Giffgaff labs prior to launch in February 2012.


In July 2010, two iPhone apps and a Nokia app, were released to help users manage their account and gain access the Community.[23][24] A notable part of these announcements is that these applications were produced by members of the community, rather than Giffgaff itself. Members are allowed to develop their own applications (apps) for both Android and Windows telephones, there is yet no official app for these platforms.

In May 2012, Giffgaff accepted a community generated idea to create an official app that would provide users with an alternative way to top-up and buy goodybags. This was released in October 2012 for the iPhone only.[25]

In October 2012 an App for the iPhone was released that was developed by a Giffgaff community member. This member later became an employee of giffgaff. This App (application) is now the official version.[26]


Giffgaff allows members to earn points in different ways:

One Point = One Penny

The first payback was made on 15 June 2010.

In December 2012 Giffgaff paid out over £1.8 million to their customers,[29] this was their biggest payback yet, including £15,600 to the Air Ambulance Service and £15,600 to Teen Cancer Research.[30]

In June 2013, Giffgaff paid out nearly £2 million to customers, £12,200 to Great Ormond Street Hospital and £12,200 to Water Aid.[31]


  1. ^ "Case Study: giffgaff". Figaro digital. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "Giffgaff makes a spooktacular move to Uxbridge". Giffgaff blog. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Team". Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  4. ^ Bradshaw, Tim (3 January 2010). "Original ideas suggest customer knows best". Financial Times. Retrieved 2010-01-13. 
  5. ^ "The giffgaff manifesto". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  6. ^ "Giffgaff at". Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "Giffgaff manifesto". Giffgaff. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  8. ^ giffgaff embrace prestigious social media award. "Forrester Groundswell Award". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  9. ^ giffgaff: winner of Most Innovative Community award (20 May 2010). "Social CRM Excellence award". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  10. ^ "2010 Marketing Society Brand of the year finals". 19 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  11. ^ "Mobile Industry Awards 2012 winners". 14 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-15. 
  12. ^ "Problems with the service 16/03/2012". Giffgaff Community forums. 16 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-16. 
  13. ^ Fairman, Mike. "Client testimonials". "Telecommunications". Firstsource. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  14. ^ "Launching...Micro SIM". 2012-05-17. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  15. ^ "Re: Can GiffGaff be used on Tesco Mobile phones?". Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  16. ^ "Buy a phone from giffgaff... and pay monthly". giffgaff Blog. giffgaff. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  17. ^ "What is P2P?". Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  18. ^ giffgaff Facebook integration (5 October 2010). "announcement about facebook integration". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  19. ^ Integrating Twitter and the community. "announcement about twitter integration". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  20. ^ "launch of giffgaff labs". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  21. ^ "giffgaff labs – a great idea! Inspired (partly) by King Charles....". Giffgaff. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  22. ^ "What is the giffgaff labs". Retrieved 2011-01-26. 
  23. ^ Our first giffgaff iPhone apps (20 July 2010). "Launch of first iPhone apps". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  24. ^ First giffgaff app in the Nokia Ovi Store (30 July 2010). "Launch of app in Nokia Ovi store". Retrieved 2010-12-23. 
  25. ^ Snell, Gregory (14 April 2012). "giffgaff App Developed or Endorsed by giffgaff". Retrieved 2012-05-30. 
  26. ^ "Meet the official giffgaff iPhone app". 2012-11-20. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  27. ^ a b "Guide to payback points". Giffgaff knowledge base. Giffgaff. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  28. ^ "giffgaff tool hire". Retrieved 2013-09-20. 
  29. ^ giffgaff blog (21 December 2012). "Biggest Ever Payback- Over £2.9M paid out". Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  30. ^ "Happy Payback Day: £31k goes to charity". Giffgaff. 2012-12-13. Retrieved 2013-08-01. 
  31. ^ "Paying back nearly £2million to our members - The giffgaff community". 2013-06-14. Retrieved 2013-09-20. 

External links[edit]