Vodafone made the U.K.’s first mobile phone call in the 1980s and sent the world’s first text on Christmas Eve in 1992. The company switched on its 4G network in August 2013.
For the first few decades, Vodafone was the largest network in the U.K., but recently, the company has seen its subscriber base affected by increased competition from its main rivals — EE and O2 — which have pushed the red brand into third place.
In this Vodafone network review, we’ll analyze the network including its coverage, plans and what lies ahead for the U.K. carrier.
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Vodafone network technology
Vodafone U.K. currently uses the following frequencies:
|900MHz||GSM / GPRS / EDGE||2G|
|1800MHz||GSM / GPRS / EDGE||2G|
|900MHz||UMTS / HSDPA / HSPA+ / DC-HSPA+||3G|
|2100MHz||UMTS / HSDPA / HSPA+ / DC-HSPA+||3G|
|2600 MHz (TDD)||TD-LTE||4G|
Vodafone’s network encompasses over 99 percent of the population and its 4G LTE network matches its chief rivals EE, O2, and Three by also covering 99 percent of the population.
Although Vodafone U.K. launched its 4G network nearly a year after EE in 2013, the carrier rapidly expanded its coverage, while also making promises over the quality of its LTE offering.
Vodafone signed a network sharing agreement in 2009 with O2, through the Cornerstone project, to share their U.K. infrastructure. Unlike other projects however, the two networks share the structure the masts are located on, but not the antennae themselves.
The Cornerstone project is crucial to Vodafone’s LTE network in the U.K. as it means the carrier doesn’t have to bare the costs of deploying thousands of masts to improve its coverage. Alongside Cornerstone, Vodafone U.K. also repurposed its existing masts to improve 3G coverage (on the 900MHz frequency), while adding more capacity using the 800MHz (indoor coverage) and 2600MHz (long-range, high-speed outdoor coverage).
Vodafone U.K. also offers 4G LTE Advanced using carrier aggregation (also known as 4G+), and while EE was first to offer the service, Vodafone’s double speed network has been shown to offer faster real world speeds in some places, though EE’s 4G network seems to generally be considered faster overall. O2 and Three also support 4G LTE Advanced.
Vodafone 5G plans
As with every U.K. carrier, Vodafone has big plans for 5G. The network won big at the 5G auction in 2018, grabbing 50MHz of 3.4GHz spectrum for £378,240,000 — more than any other carrier. Vodafone is also continuing its relationship with O2 parent company Telefónica by agreeing to extend its network sharing partnership to 5G at joint radio sites for a faster national rollout.
Vodafone kicked off its initial 5G rollout in July, 2019, and has promised to deliver 5G coverage to 1,000 cities by the end of 2020. The first batch of Vodafone 5G cities and towns are Birkenhead, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Guildford, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newbury, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Reading, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Warrington, and Wolverhampton.
Read more: All you need to know about every 5G phone confirmed so far
As for 5G phones, Vodafone stocks the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G.
Vodafone coverage checker
You can check to see if Vodafone has the best mobile network coverage for you using the Vodafone coverage checker.
VoLTE and Wi-Fi Calling
Vodafone has made 4G Calling (VoLTE) available to a number of cities across the country on phones from Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Sony.
Wi-Fi Calling is also supported on devices from Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Sony, and Google.
Both 4G and Wi-Fi Calling are available on contracts deals as standard with the exception of the Essentials plans.
Vodafone leases its network to 11 mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the U.K., including low-cost international calling network Lebara and the social media-centric network Voxi.
Vodafone plans and devices
Vodafone’s Pay Monthly (PAYM) handset plans are split across two tiers, all offering 4G and 5G as standard. Regular contracts are found under the company’s Red plans, while the Unlimited plans offer unlimited minutes, texts, and data. The latter is further split into three additional tiers — Unlimited, Unlimited Lite, and Unlimited Max. Unlimited Lite offers speeds of up to 2Mbps and Unlimited up to 10Mbps, while Unlimited Max offers the fastest speeds possible (though Vodafone doesn’t give a number).
Red, Unlimited, and Unlimited Max plans can also all be bundled with Vodafone’s Entertainment package which comes with a 24-month subscription to Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, Sky Sports, or Now TV. All of the plans come with Vodafone Global Roaming, which allows you to use your allowances at no cost in 48 Roam-free destinations.
Vodafone was at one point the only network to offer 12-month handset contracts in the U.K., but these have been dropped in favour of more traditional 24-month options. If you’re interested in 12-month or 30-day contact options, you’ll have to check out Vodafone’s SIM only deals.
Vodafone stocks a wide range of phones from a variety of manufacturers on Pay Monthly. Below is the full list of the major brands:
The selection isn’t quite as great on Pay as you go as Vodafone doesn’t sell premium phones SIM-free. Instead, you’ll find cheaper handsets from Sony, Nokia, Doro, and Vodafone’s own branded phones.
Pay Monthly SIM Only
While most customers buy their phones as part of a contract, a small (but growing) subset of customers are buying handsets and contracts separately, as it will often work out significantly cheaper overall than buying the handset on contract.
For these customers, Vodafone U.K. offers SIM Only (SIMO) plans with either 30-day or 12-month commitments and if you go for the latter, you can upgrade to a handset after just three months (but you’ll need to honour the whole commitment if you want to leave Vodafone).
All of Vodafone’s SIM packages include both 4G and 5G data. This makes them the best value for 5G and the only carrier so far to offer unlimited 5G data. As with the Pay Monthly plans, the 12-month Entertainment SIMO deals include subscriptions to Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, Sky Sports, or NowTV for the contract term.
Here’s Vodafone’s current SIMO pricing (subject to change):
|Plan||Data||Minutes||Texts||12-month cost||30 day cost|
|Red 20GB with Entertainment||20GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||£26/m||n/a|
|Unlimited Lite||Unlimited (max download 2Mbps)||Unlimited||Unlimited||£23/m||£25/m|
|Unlimited||Unlimited (max download 10Mbps)||Unlimited||Unlimited||£26/m||£28/m|
|Unlimited Max||Unlimited (fastest downloads)||Unlimited||Unlimited||£30/m||£32/m|
|Unlimited with Entertainment||Unlimited (max download 10Mbps)||Unlimited||Unlimited||£32/m||n/a|
|Unlimited Max with Entertainment||Unlimited (fastest downloads)||Unlimited||Unlimited||£36/m||n/a|
Pay as You Go Plans
Just like every network, Vodafone U.K. offers 4G Pay As You Go (PAYG) plans too. The standard Pay As You Go 1 tariff costs 20p per minute, text, or 5 MB of data, and is capped at £1 per day.
Alternatively, Vodafone sells 30-day rolling Big Value Bundles, offering packages of data, minutes, and texts from as little as £5 per month. Any unspent data, minutes, or texts roll over into the next 30-day period. Customers can also collect reward points with these bundles, which can be spent on high street vouchers, accessories, or even put towards a new phone.
Here are Vodafone’s PAYG Big Value Bundle options:
|£5||150||250||100MB||30 days||100 Reward Points|
|£10||250||Unlimited||2GB||30 days||150 Reward Points|
|£20||1000||Unlimited||8GB||30 days||250 Reward Points|
|£30||3000||Unlimited||20GB||30 days||350 Reward Points|
Vodafone doesn’t have much in the way of perks, but VeryMe is a decent shopping portal that offers exclusive discounts and freebies from Asos, Costa, Greggs, and more, as well as pre-sale tickets to live events. Pay monthly customers get unlimited access to VeryMe, while Pay as you go customers get VeryMe Rewards when you topping up at least £10 every six weeks.
My Vodafone app
The My Vodafone app lets users view bills, check allowances and upgrade eligibility, buy add-ons, and more.
Vodafone offers a range of mobile broadband products like USB dongles, Mobile Wi-Fi routers, and data only SIMs.
The mobile broadband deals change fairly often but the 4G data SIMs are more consistent. Here are the data-only SIM plans at time of writing:
|Data||12-month cost||30-day cost||Global Roaming|
Vodafone’s main mobile broadband proposition is the GigaCube. The 4G hotspot can connect up to 20 devices and is designed for the home as a broadband replacement. Pricing starts at 35 pounds with data plans ranging from 60GB to 300GB on either 30-day or 18-month plans.
Tablets, accessories, and smart home
Vodafone carries variety of tablets on Pay Monthly plans or Pay as you go. Mostly you’ll find Apple iPads, but Vodafone does stock more affordable Android tablets from Samsung and Huawei.
The network also sells accessories such as cases, memory cards, screen protectors, chargers, headphones, and more. Vodafone also stocks the Apple Watch and its own V-SOS Band and V-Kids Watch wearables.
Finally, Vodafone has a smart home category called V by Vodafone. The V-Home bundles together smart home products from various manufacturers into a single package all supported by the V by Vodafone app. There are also V by Vodafone trackers for bags, pets, and cars.
Broadband, landline phones, and quad-play
The rise in demand for mobile services has meant mobile networks are beginning to challenge traditional fixed-service providers in a bid to become the sole “Quad-play” supplier for customers. The Quad-play market is becoming ever more competitive as mobile carriers branch out to also offer traditional fixed line services such as TV, Broadband and Landline (does anyone even use a landline anymore!?) to their existing customer base.
More U.K. content: Best phones under £500 in the U.K.
Vodafone currently offers two options for fiber broadband with a home phone line included. The Superfast 1 package costs 23 pounds per month (or 21 pounds for existing Vodafone Pay Monthly mobile customers) for unlimited usage, landline usage, and speeds averaging at 35Mbps. The Superfast 2 package offers the same package with average speeds of 63Mbps for 25 pounds per month (27 pounds for Vodafone Pay Monthly customers). A 60 pound fee applies for any new customer without an Openreach line.
Vodafone network review: The verdict
Vodafone’s dominance has waned considerably in the U.K. in recent years, most notably due to the rise of EE as the region’s biggest player.
The network has improved its U.K. offering — in terms of coverage quality and packages — and managed to slowly increase its market share once again. Vodafone is eying 5G is a huge opportunity and is in prime position to deliver next-gen data speeds thanks to its big win during the most recent spectrum auction.
So far, Vodafone is the only carrier to offer unlimited 5G plans (as well as making all of its contract plans 5G ready by default) and is much cheaper compared to EE. This arguably makes it the best option for 5G early adopters.
Vodafone certainly has something to offer for everyone
Vodafone is by no means perfect (its customer service and perks aren’t the best) but the network has made massive improvements over the past few years.
Whether you’re based in the U.K., or travelling to the U.K. and need a local SIM, Vodafone has something for everyone.
Are you a current or former Vodafone U.K. customer? Let us know your opinion in the comments!
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