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 U.K. review, we’ll analyze the network including its coverage, plans and what lies ahead for the U.K. carrier.
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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. The company has made 4G calling (VoLTE) available to a number of cities across the country on phones from Apple, Samsung, Huawei, and Sony.
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).
Like EE, Vodafone U.K. 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.
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 pounds — 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 hopes to start rolling out 5G in H2 2019, but its main goal is to deliver 5G coverage to 1,000 cities by the end of 2020. The first batch of confirmed 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
The firm started testing its 5G technology around the Manchester area in late 2018. This has included turning on 5G as a public trial at Manchester Airport.
As for 5G phones, Vodafone will launch the Huawei Mate X foldable phone and is expected to stock the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.
Vodafone U.K. plans and devices
Vodafone’s Pay Monthly (PAYM) handset plans are split across three tiers, all offering 4G as standard. Entry level contracts are found under the company’s Essentials plans, the Red Extra plan offers unlimited minutes and texts with large data allowances, and the Red Entertainment plan comes with unlimited minutes and texts, plenty of data, and a 24 month subscription to Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, Sky Sports, or NowTV included. 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 U.K. currently offers a maximum of 100GB 4G data with its handsets and the Red Entertainment plan, or just 500MB with 500 minutes on the lowest cost Essentials plan. Monthly prices vary depending on the smartphone model you pick.
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 come with Global Roaming too. As with the Pay Monthly plans, the 12 month Red 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, we’ve included the standard price and the current promotional price):
|Plan||Data||Minutes||Texts||12-month cost||30 day cost|
|Red Entertainment (12 month) / Red Extra (30 day)||20GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||£20/m||£27/m|
|Red Entertainment (12 month) / Red Extra (30 day)||40GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||£25/m||£32/m|
|Red Entertainment (12 month) / Red Extra (30 day)||60GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||£30/m||£37/m|
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 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.
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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’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.
Vodafone certainly has something to offer for everyone
Vodafone’s network is one of the best in the U.K. and more or less on par with EE. Vodafone is by no means perfect 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!
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