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Vodafone 4G Coverage and Network Review

2nd September 2019

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 99% UK 4G population coverage across thousands of towns, cities and villages. But Vodafone hasn’t stopped there, as it’s now started bringing 5G to the UK.

Here’s everything you need to know about the network, including where 4G and 5G are 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 and 5G roaming

Not as fast on 4G as EE

Inclusive entertainment

 

Our Rating

Coverage

Vodafone Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

4G 

99%

3G

99%

2G

99%

Vodafone's network offers very good coverage across the UK with 99 per cent 4G, 3G and 2G population coverage. That puts the network potentially in line with rivals for 4G coverage, as you can see in the table below.

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

99%

O2

99%

Three

99.8%

4G from Vodafone is now available in over 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.

5G coverage

Vodafone is about to take the next step in mobile connectivity by switching on a 5G service. It’s first making 5G available on July 3rd, which will make it the second UK network to do so (roughly a month after EE’s May 30th switch on date).

However, 5G from Vodafone will initially only be available in seven cities, with more coming later in 2019. The cities in question are as follows:

Vodafone 5G Coverage Rollout

Current 5G coverage

5G from later in 2019

Birmingham

Blackpool

Bristol

Bournemouth

Cardiff

Guildford

Glasgow

Portsmouth

Liverpool

Reading

London

Southampton

Manchester

Warrington

Birkenhead

 

Bolton

 

Gatwick

 

Lancaster

 

Newbury

 

Plymouth

 

Stoke-on-Trent

 

Wolverhampton

 

That means by the end of 2019 Vodafone should have 5G coverage in at least 22 locations, though initially you should only expect partial coverage in these places, and as with 4G it will likely be years before UK coverage is comprehensive.

But it could be worth waiting for, as 5G is much, much faster than 4G, as well as offering lower latency and greater capacity, so you can stream, download and browse faster, more smoothly and in higher-quality – it could for example make 8K or even holographic streamed video viable, among many other things.

To use 5G you will need a 5G plan (which Vodafone is pricing at the same level as 4G plans), and a 5G phone, but Vodafone already offers several 5G handsets. They include the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, Huawei Mate 20 X 5GXiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G and the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

Network Speeds and Frequencies

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

OpenSignal – Mobile Network Experience, April 2019

Network

4G download/upload speeds

4G latency (ms)

EE

32.5/10.4Mbps

37.9ms

Three

21.6/8.3Mbps

48.7ms

Vodafone

24.3/8.5Mbps

41.2ms

O2

15.8/7.2Mbps

39.2ms

According to OpenSignal, Vodafone’s average 4G download speed is 24.3Mbps, putting it behind EE but ahead of Three and O2. The same is true with its 8.5Mbps upload speed.

Its average latency meanwhile is said to be 41.2ms. 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 Three’s but worse than EE's or O2’s.

Its latency is marginally worse than it was in a previous OpenSignal report, but its 4G download speed is slightly better.

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

3400MHz

  5G

Vodafone uses 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.

And for 5G it’s starting to make use of the 3400MHz band, which is even higher frequency than the 2600MHz band. It’s short range and bad at passing through objects, but it can cope with lots of connections.

For more in depth information, check out our 4G frequencies guide.

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 numerous locations including but not limited to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Nottingham and Bristol.

Planned improvements

Vodafone’s focus at the moment is clearly on building its 5G network. You can see details of its plans for that in the 5G section above.

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

Unlimited

Unlimited

50GB

Contract lengths

24 months

1, 12 or 18 months

1, 12 or 24 months

Tethering

VoLTE

-

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

 

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SIM Only Deals
Vodafone

12 Month Contract

1.5 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£6.00 a month

View Deal

Vodafone

12 Month Contract

3 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£8.00 a month

View Deal

Vodafone

12 Month Contract

6 GB data

UNLIMITED mins

UNLIMITED texts

£10.00 a month

View Deal

View All Vodafone Sim Only 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 ‘Red’, ‘Unlimited Lite’, ‘Unlimited’ and ‘Unlimited Max’. You can see what you get with each below, but all plans come with 4G at no extra cost.

Plan Benefits

 

Red

Unlimited Lite

Unlimited

Unlimited Max

Tethering

Max data speeds

TBC*

2Mbps

10Mbps

Unrestricted

Extended roaming

*Vodafone hasn’t published any details on the current speed of its Red plans, so presumably they’re unrestricted.

Vodafone’s Pay Monthly plans are split into ‘Red’, ‘Unlimited Lite’, ‘Unlimited’ and ‘Unlimited Max’. Red plans are generally the cheapest, as they’re the only ones that don’t come with unlimited data. However, some Red plans do come with inclusive entertainment, with a choice of Spotify Premium, Sky Sports Mobile TV, Amazon Prime Video or Now TV Entertainment. For this reason these plans can actually cost more than Unlimited Lite.

Unlimited plans of all varieties give you unlimited data, but the speeds vary. On Unlimited Lite, download speeds are up to 2Mbps, on Unlimited they’re up to 10Mbps, and on Unlimited Max they’re unrestricted. Unlimited and Unlimited Max plans can also optionally come with the inclusive entertainment options above.

Unlimited Max plans also let you roam further afield at no extra cost (more on this in the roaming section below).

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. At the time of writing the only data plans that come with more than 50GB are home broadband ones, which come with up to unlimited data.

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 unlimited.

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 older Essentials plans (which are no longer sold). You also need a compatible device. Many recent handsets such as the iPhone XS and Samsung Galaxy S10 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 except for Essentials Plans. You also need a compatible handset, but many recent ones are supported, including the Samsung Galaxy S9, iPhone XS 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

40GB

-

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

£10 Big Value Bundle

250 mins

Unlimited texts

6GB data

£20 Big Value Bundle

1000 mins

Unlimited texts

20GB data

£30 Big Value Bundle

3000 mins

Unlimited texts

40GB data

View Plans

There's also a 'Pay As You Go 1' service. 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 4G 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.

However, if you have an Unlimited Max plan or select older plans, you’ll also have access to Global Roaming Plus, which lets you roam in all the above locations plus 29 more, for a total of 77.

The additional locations include: Albania, Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Ghana, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Mexico, Montserrat, Mozambique, Netherlands Antilles, New Zealand, South Africa, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, UK Virgin Islands, USA.

If you’re only on a more basic plan or want to roam even 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.

Note that Vodafone also lets customers roam at 5G speeds in select locations. At the time of writing that includes 40 towns and cities across Spain, Germany and Italy.

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 2018, which found that Vodafone received 8 complaints per 100,000 users, which is well above the average of 4, but not quite the highest.

Conclusion

Vodafone is a well-rounded network, with high data limits, speedy 4G and even 5G 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 on 4G, 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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