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Vodafone 4G Coverage and Network Review

14th August 2018

Vodafone Network Coverage

Vodafone has gone from strength to strength since it launched its 4G mobile network on 28th August, 2013, when its coverage was limited to London only. It purchased the largest amount of 4G frequency spectrum in the UK's 4G auction, making it well placed to offer first-class 4G services.

And that’s exactly what it’s now offering, as Vodafone currently has at least 98% UK 4G population coverage across thousands of towns, cities and villages.

Here’s everything you need to know about the network, including where 4G is available, what kinds of plans and extras it offers and what its strengths and weaknesses are.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Good 4G coverage

Not the cheapest network

4G roaming

No unlimited data plans

Inclusive entertainment

Not as fast as EE

Our Rating

Coverage

Vodafone Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

4G 

98%

3G

99%

2G

99%

Vodafone's network offers very good coverage across the UK with 98, 99 and 99 per cent 4G, 3G and 2G population coverage respectively. That puts the network potentially in last place for 4G coverage, as you can see in the table below, but the difference is negligible and with Vodafone making significant progress in the last couple of years thanks to a £2 billion investment in their mobile and fixed networks, the gap is closing.

Use Vodafone’s coverage checker above to find out more about Vodafone coverage in your area, including signal strengths and details on both indoor and outdoor coverage.

4G Network Coverage Comparison

Network

4G Coverage by population

EE

> 99%

Vodafone

98%

O2

99%

Three

99.8%

4G from Vodafone is now available in around 1000 larger towns and cities including but not limited to:

Basingstoke, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bradford, Brighton, Coventry, Dudley, Edinburgh, Epsom, Ewell, Folkestone, Gateshead, Glasgow, Hatfield , Hove and Hastings, Hemel Hempstead, Huddersfield, Jarrow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Maidstone, Newbury, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oldham, Pontefract, Portsmouth, Reading, Rotherham, Sheffield, Slough, Stockport, Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Staines, Stourbridge, Swinton, Southampton, Tunbridge, Wakefield, Walsall, Watford, Wells and West Bromwich.

Vodafone’s 4G service is also available in thousands of smaller villages and other communities across the UK. Recent locations to get a Vodafone 4G upgrade include Barrow-in-Furness. The company has also recently improved its 4G service in Brighton and Cardiff.

And that's just a small selection of the latest additions.

Network Speeds and Frequencies

For the most part Vodafone just uses standard 4G, which is around 5 times faster than a typical 3G network. However, it’s also started rolling out LTE Advanced in select locations, which is typically 20 times faster than a standard 3G network.

OpenSignal – Mobile Networks Update, April 2018

Network

4G download speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

29.02Mbps

40.35ms

Three

22.55Mbps

47.23ms

Vodafone

20.07Mbps

40.6ms

O2

15.16Mbps

42.84ms

According to OpenSignal, Vodafone’s average 4G download speed is 20.07Mbps, putting it behind EE and Three but ahead of O2.

Its average latency meanwhile is said to be 40.6ms. That’s the measure of how long the network takes to respond to a request, which is vital for things like online gaming, and Vodafone’s latency is better than any rival’s other than EE's.

It's also better than it was in a previous OpenSignal report from September 2017, as is its 4G download speed, so it's heading in the right direction.

Speedtest – Mobile Speedtest Data, Q3-Q4 2017

Network

Download/upload speeds

EE

28.80/9.29Mbps

Vodafone

17.26/8.16Mbps

Three

14.58/7.35Mbps

O2

14.11/7.13Mbps

Speedtest meanwhile records an average download speed of 17.26Mbps, which is beaten only by EE (though quite dramatically beaten). Vodafone’s average upload speed is recorded as 8.16Mbps, which again is only beaten by EE.

The upshot is that Vodafone should be one of the fastest 4G networks. It should be plenty fast enough to stream YouTube videos and Spotify songs without any buffering, and will let you upload snaps to social networks quickly.

Vodafone used the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands for 4G. These are at opposite ends of the spectrum, with one band’s strength being the other’s weakness. Specifically, the 800MHz band is long range and good at penetrating walls, making it useful in both rural locations (where there aren’t many masts) and more built up areas.

But it doesn’t always have the capacity to deal with large numbers of connections, which the 2600MHz band does. The network also uses the 1400MHz band, which is something of a middle ground.

For more in depth information, check out our 4G frequencies guide. Or check out the table below for an overview of all the bands Vodafone uses, both for 4G and 2G/3G.

Vodafone Network Frequencies

Frequency

Frequency Band

Network

800MHz

Band 20

4G

900MHz

Band 8 2G & 3G

1400MHz SDL

Band 32 4G

1800MHz

Band 3

2G

2100MHz

Band 1

3G

2600MHz FDD

Band 7

4G

2600MHz TDD

Band 38

4G

4G LTE Advanced

Vodafone has also begun rolling out a 4G LTE Advanced network (sometimes known as LTE-A, 4G+ or 4.5G). This is far faster than normal 4G and is currently available in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

Planned improvements

Vodafone is improving its network all the time but doesn’t always announce its plans, so stay tuned for news.

However, one thing we may see is more mini masts from the network soon, as it recently installed the UK’s first one. These are compact mobile masts which can bring 4G to scenic locations without spoiling the view.

Traffic management

Vodafone states that there’s no real traffic management within plans, even during peak hours and even if you’re a heavy user, adding that it would only block or throttle your data in the event of activity harmful to the network.

However, when the network is congested Vodafone will prioritise calls (including emergency services calls) over data traffic, and it will always prioritise VoLTE, in order to maintain call quality.

Vodafone adds that it may also optimise http video traffic in order to manage customer experience during periods of congestion.

Plans

Vodafone Pay Monthly Plans

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Data Only

Plans Available

Max Data

60GB

40GB

50GB

Contract lengths

24 months

1 or 12 months

1, 12 or 24 months

Tethering

VoLTE

-

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

 

View deals

View deals

View deals

Vodafone offers a range of Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans, or you can opt to Pay As You Go. Plans are further split into ‘Essentials’, ‘Red Extra’ or ‘Red Entertainment’. You can see what you get with each below, but all plans come with 4G at no extra cost.

Plan Benefits

 

Essentials

Red Extra

Red Entertainment

Tethering

Wi-Fi Calling

Inclusive Entertainment

Vodafone’s Pay Monthly plans are split into Essentials, Red Extra and Red Entertainment Plans. Essentials plans are the cheapest, but come with the lowest data allowances.

Red Extra plans up the data limits substantially and add Wi-Fi Calling. Red Entertainment plans up the data limits even higher and give you inclusive entertainment, with a choice of Spotify Premium, Sky Sports Mobile TV, Amazon Prime Video or Now TV Entertainment.

SIM Only plans have a similar split to Pay Monthly ones, so you can get basic Essentials plans if cost is your key concern (or flexibility in this case, as they are available in 30 day or 12-month options).

Then there’s Red Extra plans, which add Wi-Fi Calling and up the data, while Red Entertainment plans come with the most data and give you access to a choice of Spotify Premium, Sky Sports Mobile TV, Amazon Prime Video or Now TV, but they're only available on a 12-month contract.

Vodafone also offers Data Only plans for tablets, MiFi devices and dongles. These come with data but no minutes or texts and are available SIM-only on 1 or 12-month contracts with up to 50GB of data. You can also get them along with a tablet or other device on a 24-month plan.

Tethering

Vodafone allows tethering as standard on all plans and allows you to use as much of your data allowance as you want for tethering, so your only limit is your monthly allowance, which can be as high as 60GB on Pay Monthly plans with a phone, 40GB on SIM Only or 50GB on Data Only plans..

WiFi Calling

WiFi Calling means making calls over Wi-Fi. It’s a service Vodafone (and some other networks) offer which works seamlessly, so you can use your normal dialler and SMS apps to keep communicating when there’s no signal.

However, it’s not available on Essentials plans, so you’ll need to be on a Red Entertainment or Red Extra plan. You also need a compatible device. Many recent handsets such as the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 are compatible, but for a full list head here.

VoLTE

VoLTE or Voice over LTE is known as 4G Calling on Vodafone, and it refers to the ability to make calls over 4G.

This means you can make calls in more places than ever, as some areas have a 4G signal but no 3G or 2G. It can also allow for higher quality voice calls.

4G Calling comes as standard on Vodafone’s plans, but is only available in certain locations. You should be able to use it in most major cities, but you can use Vodafone’s coverage checker to see if it’s available near you.

You also need a compatible handset, but many recent ones are supported, including the Samsung Galaxy S9, iPhone X and many more. You can see the full up to date list here.

Pay As You Go

Vodafone Pay As You Go Plans

 

Mobile Phones

Data Only

Plans Available

x

Add-ons available

-

Max Data Allowance

24GB

-

Data Rollover

Next month -

Add-on expiry 

30 days -

Top Up Expiry

180 days inactivity -

Tethering

-

EU Roaming

-

Vodafone offers a range of 30-day Big Value Bundles, each of which renews automatically. You can see details of them in the table below.

Note that tethering is included on Vodafone Pay As You Go and any unused data, minutes or texts roll over to the next month - assuming you renew your bundle.

Pay As You Go Bundles

Bundle

Allowances

£5 Big Value Bundle

150 mins

250 texts

100MB data

£10 Big Value Bundle

250 mins

Unlimited texts

6GB data

£20 Big Value Bundle

1000 mins

Unlimited texts

12GB data

£30 Big Value Bundle

3000 mins

Unlimited texts

24GB data

View Plans

If you don’t have a bundle or use it all up you’ll be charged 35p per minute, 14p per text and £2 per 50MB, then 10p per megabyte thereafter. There's also a 'Pay As You Go 1' service which you can opt into. This charges 20p per minute, text or 5MB of data, but only up to the first £1. After that you'll get unlimited minutes, texts and 500MB of data to use for the rest of the day at no extra cost.

Roaming Destinations

Not only does Vodafone offer 4G in the UK, but also abroad. The network offers inclusive roaming at no extra cost in the following 48 locations:

Austria, Azores, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (inc Corsica), French Guiana, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Madeira, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (inc Balearic Islands), Sweden, Albania, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, San Marino, Saint Martin, Switzerland, Turkey and Vatican City.

Many but not all of them include 4G speeds. That's a similar selection of locations to most other UK networks, as they're all required to offer free roaming in the EU, but they're not required to offer 4G speeds, and if you're roaming further afield on Vodafone you can do so for £6 per day in 104 Roam Further locations, which include:

Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Cambodia, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Colombia, Congo, Democratic Republic of, Costa Rica, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Lesotho, Macau, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Russia, Saba, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Customer service

Customer service is one area where Vodafone may not excel, as according to the Which? H1 2017 UK Mobile Network Survey, the network is ranked in 13th place by customers, which is joint bottom with EE.

The survey asked 4,026 members of the public their opinions during February 2017, and Vodafone got a 2/5 score for customer service, 2/5 for ease/speed of contacting, 2/5 for value for money and 1/5 for incentives, with an overall customer score of 50%.

Things don’t look much better in an Ofcom complaints report from 2017, which found that Vodafone received the highest volume of complaints per 100,000 users of any mobile network.

The main complaints were focused on billing, pricing and charges, with the handling of faults, service and provision issues also being heavily complained about.

Conclusion

Vodafone is a well-rounded network, with high data limits (though not unlimited data), speedy 4G roaming abroad in many locations, and strong 4G coverage and speeds at home. Plus, if you spend enough you can get extras thrown in, like entertainment packages.

It’s not quite the fastest network, nor the cheapest, and its 4G coverage isn’t quite the best, but it does a good job of balancing price with features.

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