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O2 vs Vodafone: 5G/4G coverage, speeds and benefits compared

Vodafone vs O2

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We look at whether you're better off joining Vodafone or O2 for your next SIM only plan or phone contract, by comparing their networks, prices and extras. Last updated: 8th February 2022

In our O2 vs Vodafone comparison

Special offer news

How Vodafone and O2's networks compare

Are O2 or Vodafone best for UK mobile coverage?

We check if Vodafone or O2 have the bigger mobile network

Vodafone and O2 networks

4G data and call coverage is very close

Vodafone Best Ever Network banner

Read why

at vodafone.co.uk
(opens in new window)

In terms of the sheer amount of the UK’s landmass covered for call signal (2G/3G), Vodafone and O2 both cover an estimated 91% of the nation’s physical area.

That means great signal coverage outdoors and better coverage indoors too. Both networks use more-suitable frequencies for getting indoors, a strong point compared to their rivals EE and Three.

There’s very little difference between the two in terms of 4G data coverage in large towns and cities either, but in rural areas Vodafone generally hold the advantage.

But you should always check each network’s coverage in your area by using their network map below. Check everywhere you’re expecting to use your phone, not just at home.

Useful link: Read about Vodafone's network improvements

O2 have a more impressive 5G rollout

O2 5G network launch banner

Read rollout news

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Each network is competing to bring out the most widespread and fastest 5G networks. O2’s focus on their 5G has paid off in a big way.

O2 currently claim to have 190+ towns and cities covered, where Vodafone only claim to have 120+ towns and cities. O2 cover the second largest number of locations of all networks, but that doesn’t tell the whole story:

You also have to check on a street by street basis, as 5G won’t cover the entirety of a declared location. O2 again seem to have better coverage within their locations than Vodafone, so you’ll spend more time on 5G.

But new information is always coming out about 5G, and Vodafone might easily overtake O2 in the future, but for now O2 hold a clear advantage.

Useful link: Vodafone 5G rollout news

Coverage maps: check O2 and Vodafone signal near you

Check everywhere you can think of where you'll use your phone

O2 network map

O2 coverage checker

Check O2 coverage

(opens in new window)

Vodafone network map

Vodafone coverage checker

Check Vodafone coverage

(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

Basically a draw

"For call signal the two are basically equal. Whether one or the other is better will depend on where you are and whether 4G or 5G is more important to you. Each has their strengths, so it’s a draw for coverage."

Compare pricing and deals

Are data speeds faster on Vodafone or O2?

We compare their 4G and 5G speeds

Speedometer icon with O2 and Vodafone icons

Vodafone's 4G data is faster than O2's

Vodafone 5G speed information

How fast is 5G?

at Vodafone.co.uk
(opens in new window)

We put more importance on good 4G speeds than on 5G speeds, as you’ll likely spend more time on 4G. In order to get an idea of a network’s average speeds, we use the results from independent network testers Opensignal.

They take millions of results from volunteers’ phones up and down the country. They found Vodafone’s average speeds to be 21.6 Mbps and O2’s to be 17.1 Mbps.

If fast speeds are something you need then take care when choosing your Vodafone plan.

Their Basics plans aren’t speed-capped outright, but you won’t be able to access Vodafone’s 5G with them. Their Unlimited plans are speed capped. With these you’ll get maximum speeds of 10 Mbps.

On their Unlimited Lite plan, you’ll get a maximum 2 Mbps. That’s only really enough for checking emails and browsing the internet, but even there you’ll notice images loading slowly and videos will buffer a lot.

The rest of Vodafone’s plans have no such speed cap, including their Unlimited Max plan. O2 have no speed caps on any of their plans.

In real life, your speeds will vary more than that. We found that speeds on Vodafone could drop as low as 7 Mbps in rural areas, but as high as 80+ Mbps in urban areas. O2 went as low as 5 Mbps and never really went higher than 30 Mbps.

But what does that actually mean? Well, if you compared the two directly you’d notice little difference in speeds when browsing social media, but loading videos or downloading files will be slower on O2 vs Vodafone.

Useful link: What speed difference will O2's 5G make?

5G speeds are similar between the two networks

5G signal bars and lightning bolt icon

Our 5G networks guide

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

More and more information about 5G speeds is coming out, so we can now confidently begin to compare one network against another.

From independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla, we can see average 5G speeds being between 110.9 Mbps - 141.3 Mbps on O2, and between 73.3 Mbps and 149.9 Mbps on Vodafone.

It’s odd that Vodafone got a lower average than O2 from one tester, but a higher average on another. We think 5G should generally be pretty similar between the two, but speeds may vary more on Vodafone than O2.

If 5G speeds are a big concern for you, we’d probably recommend having a look at Three anyway. They’re by far the fastest in terms of sheer speeds. You can see how we rate each network on their 5G here.

Useful link: Comparing every network's 5G

Our verdict on data speeds:

Vodafone win

"If you need faster speeds on the go, then Vodafone are probably the safer choice as both their average and peak 4G speeds are much higher than O2. However, 5G may be a bit better on O2. Still, Vodafone win this one."

Compare pricing and deals

Is Vodafone or O2's WiFi calling better?

We compare O2 and Vodafone's WiFi calling features

WiFi calling symbol with O2 and Vodafone logos

Vodafone support more phone models for WiFi calling

Vodafone's WiFi calling scheme

See supported phones

at Vodafone.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Most of Vodafone’s pay monthly phone and SIM only deals come with WiFi calling and 4G calling at no extra cost, but you will have to manually turn it on. Their Basics and pay as you go plans don’t include WiFi calling.

You can check their supported phones list here. Most iPhones should work, but Vodafone don’t clarify if Android models not bought from them will work. We bought a Samsung model from the manufacturer and it worked fine.

Vodafone’s scheme also supports SMS text messaging over WiFi and 4G, where O2’s doesn’t. This can be useful for receiving bank confirmation texts and other important messages wherever you are.

While Vodafone claim they support more phones than O2, you should test the feature as soon as you get your SIM just to be safe. There's a 14-day returns period when you buy online to get a full refund.

Useful link: Vodafone's full guide to their WiFi calling

O2's WiFi calling / 4G calling is largely the same

O2 WiFi calling scheme

See supported phones

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

For the most part, O2’s WiFi and 4G calling works the same as Vodafone’s. You can make and take calls over WiFi or 4G signal when conventional phone signal isn’t available (SMS messaging isn’t supported).

Much like with Vodafone, most iPhone models should work just fine with O2’s WiFi calling, but their Android support is a little patchier.

If your Android model wasn’t purchased from O2 directly then they can’t guarantee that WiFi calling will work on it, even if it’s on their list of supported models here.

You also have to turn on WiFi and 4G calling manually in your settings, which is a bit annoying. But the quality and speed of connecting to calls are very good.

Useful link: Full guide to O2's WiFi calling

Our verdict on WiFi calling:

Narrow win for Vodafone

"There’s not a massive difference between the two networks’ WiFi calling schemes. But we think you have a better chance of your phone being supported on Vodafone."

Compare pricing and deals

Free WiFi hotspots compared on O2 and Vodafone

Free WiFi hotspots are a great way of saving data. So do Vodafone or O2 offer more?

WiFi symbol with O2 and Vodafone logos

Access 15,000+ hotspots automatically with O2 WiFi

O2's free WiFi network

Find nearby hotspots

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

We like it when networks offer free access to public WiFi hotspots, because it can save you from eating into your regular data allowance, while sometimes getting you faster speeds than their 3G/4G.

O2 offer 15,000+ WiFi hotspots up and down the country that are free to connect to and without download limits. That said, everyone can connect to these, not just O2 customers. So what’s the benefit of joining O2?

Being an O2 customer means you’ll connect automatically to 8000 of these hotspots, but only when speeds are faster than being on 4G in your location. We tested this in real life in our full review of O2 and it works well.

You can look at their O2 WiFi page here to see where the nearest hotspots are. They tend to be in popular areas like cafes, restaurants and transport hubs. There’s even some free WiFi hotspots on the Underground.

Useful link: How to access O2 WiFi

Vodafone no longer offer any WiFi hotspots

Expired stampWiFi on the London Underground

How to get it

at Vodafone.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Despite the fact that Vodafone have focused largely on expanding their home broadband, they offer no networks of free WiFi hotspots.

Vodafone customers used to get some free WiFi hotspots on the Underground (around ticket barriers and on platforms, not the trains themselves) but not anymore.

So your only choice when you’re out and about is to use your data or find some free WiFi while you’re on the go. Free WiFi is more common these days, so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

While it’s one point of difference between the two networks, how important of a difference it is will come down to how much you’ll need it.

Useful link: Costs for going over your data limit on Vodafone

Our verdict on this topic:

O2 win by default

"O2’s WiFi hotspot network is vast and the automatic connection works well. But since Vodafone offer nothing of the sort it’s an automatic win for O2."

Compare pricing and deals

Added benefits on O2 and Vodafone

Is roaming better on O2 or Vodafone?

We find out if Vodafone or O2 let you go more places for free

A globe with Vodafone and O2 logos

Vodafone offer worldwide roaming on premium plans

Vodafone inclusive roaming

See roaming benefits

at Vodafone.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Like many other networks, Vodafone have changed their roaming policy so that inclusive EU roaming is no longer a standard feature. The only way to get roaming is to join one of their premium “Xtras” plans.

On their non-unlimited plans with 4 Xtras you get inclusive roaming in 51 EU destinations, but with their Unlimited 4 Xtras plan you get an extra 32 worldwide destinations added on top of that.

You can only get inclusive roaming on Vodafone on one of these plans:

If you want to roam on one of their regular pay monthly or phone plans you’ll have to pay £2 a day while in the EU and £6 a day beyond the EU. If you have a Basics SIM it won’t work at all while abroad.

Either way, roaming now comes with a price tag on Vodafone. You’re either paying for an expensive plan or paying a rate to access your regular UK allowance.

Useful link: See other Vodafone roaming charges

O2 offer inclusive EU roaming and worldwide passes

O2 international roaming options

All O2 roaming info

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Every pay monthly SIM only or phone plan comes with inclusive EU roaming as standard in these 49 EU destinations. This is an immediate step up over Vodafone’s roaming, but while there you’ll be limited to 25GB of your allowance.

Going beyond the EU could have you paying at some expensive rates. O2 do offer their Inclusive Zone add-on on select plans, usually slightly pricier ones. This gets you inclusive roaming in 27 worldwide destinations.

This gives you a bundle of 120 daily minutes or texts and around 100MB full speed data. After you’ve used up that data, you actually get unlimited data but heavily speed capped.

But having inclusive EU roaming is enough to put O2 on top. Their fair usage policy is reasonable, and you’ll spend a lot less on trips to the EU on O2 than on Vodafone. O2 also aren’t a terrible choice for worldwide roaming either.

Useful link: All roaming costs on O2

Our verdict on roaming:

O2 win

"The most important difference between the two is that only O2 get you inclusive roaming. The only advantage to being on Vodafone is their great worldwide roaming, but this is locked behind premium prices. O2 is the better and cheaper option."

Compare pricing and deals

Are the freebies and extras better on Vodafone or O2?

We compare what you get on top of your basic minutes, texts and data

Benefits on O2 and Vodafone

O2 Priority is our favourite rewards scheme

O2 Priority

See Priority offers

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Being one of the more expensive UK networks, O2 have to give their customers more reasons to stick with them. One way O2 do this is by offering their Priority Rewards scheme.

If this is your first time hearing of it, Priority gets every O2 customer special offers, discounts and freebies on food and drink, shopping and so on. Many of these offers are exclusive for O2 customers.

What makes this scheme even better is that you’ll be first in line to buy tickets for gigs and concerts at O2 sponsored venues and get preferential treatment once there (see what's on offer here).

It’s a great way of saving money, which helps a little bit in justifying O2’s higher costs. But if costs are your primary concern, then you might be better off just going with a cheaper network.

Useful link: See O2's full list of Priority perks

Vodafone’s VeryMe reward scheme is quite similar

Vodafone Very Me banner

See example offers

at vodafone.co.uk
(opens in new window)

If you join Vodafone on any pay monthly phone or SIM only plan, you’ll get access to their rewards scheme called VeryMe, which you access via your My Vodafone app.

It’s fairly similar to Priority in how it functions. You get ever-changing discounts and special offers on all sorts of services. We can’t really say which has the better discounts as they’re always changing.

Vodafone don’t get you priority tickets like O2 as they don’t sponsor venues or sports teams. But they do sometimes offer some specific exclusive pre-sales on theatre.

Realistically these sorts of apps are more about getting you to spend money with the networks’ partners, rather than aiming to save you money. It comes in handy now and again, but it’s not a primary reason to join either network.

Useful link: Vodafone's guide to VeryMe

Vodafone include a streaming subscription on some plans

Vodafone entertainment subscriptions

How it works

at Vodafone.co.uk
(opens in new window)

You’ll notice multiple sorts of pay monthly SIM only plans on Vodafone’s website. One type are just normal plans, the other are called “Entertainment” plans that come with a subscription and 100 minutes to EU countries.

You can choose on subscription from Spotify Premium (usually £9.99), Prime Video (usually £7.99) or YouTube Premium (£11.99) which will last until the end of your contract.

While that sounds great, bear in mind these Entertainment plans are typically about £7 more expensive than their regular ones. This means you’re basically only getting a discount on the subscription, it’s not a freebie.

Pick a subscription with each of these deals:

It really depends if it’s worth it. Sometimes these services will have discounts that actually makes it cheaper to get a regular plan and a subscription separately. Bear that in mind before you buy.

Useful link: Full terms and conditions

O2 Extras let you choose a time-limited free trial

O2 Extras banner

See the choices

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

O2 offer their customers free subscriptions when they join on select plans. These let you add one of the following to your account: a subscription to Disney+, Amazon Music, Amazon Prime Video, Audible or these various other apps.

While this sounds great, you’re only getting a free trial. These usually last 6 months, after which you’ll have to start paying for them at full price. You also only get these on more expensive plans.

Thankfully you can cancel your subscriptions whenever you like and it’s fairly simple to prevent the money from automatically going out after the free trial is over. Still, it’s a bit annoying to have to keep in mind.

We don’t think it’s massively worth it to shell out for a more expensive plan just to get the free trial. But if you’re already going with a pricier plan, then it’s a nice benefit on top of what you’re already getting.

Useful link: O2's FAQs about Extras

Our verdict on freebies and extras:

Basically a draw

"Both have great rewards schemes that help get a little more value. The two networks also have pros and cons with their entertainment subscriptions too."

Compare pricing and deals

Deals and pricing on Vodafone and O2

SIM only deals: compare O2 and Vodafone plans

Can you get a cheaper SIM on Vodafone or O2?

O2 vs Vodafone SIM only deals

Networks

Providers:

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Added features

Current offers running on Vodafone and O2

We see if it's a better month for promotions on O2 or Vodafone

Vodafone and O2 logos with a promotional sticker

Phone contracts: are O2 or Vodafone better value?

We look at whether O2 or Vodafone's handset deals are best

Phone contracts on O2 and Vodafone

Tailor your phone contract to your needs on O2

O2 custom plans banner

See new custom plans

at O2.co.uk
(opens in new window)

O2 call their phone contracts Refresh, and base them on credit agreements. This basically means they loan you the phone and have you pay it back in monthly instalments (here's their full guide).

Refresh allows you to upgrade your phone early by paying off the rest of your loan at once, so if you want the newest phone every year and can afford to do so then O2 are a great choice.

What’s also great is that their Custom Plans give you full freedom to set your upfront cost and choose a contract length between 3 and 36 months in order to suit your budget.

But because it’s a product based on a credit agreement, we think it could be harder to get accepted than a network with more traditional contracts. Any blips in your credit history could mean you get rejected.

Useful link: O2's full range of phones

Vodafone's contracts also give you great flexibility

Screenshot of Vodafone's pay monthly phone range

See phone range

at Vodafone.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Vodafone offer what they call EVO plans, which are a bit like O2’s Custom Plans. You can set your upfront cost (though there is a minimum required amount) and choose a contract length between 12 and 36 months.

Their contracts are also based around finance. You can pay lump sums to reduce your monthly bill. And because they’re on what are called “split contracts”, you can change your usage plan when you wish.

One difference is that Vodafone have an early upgrade scheme based around trading in your phone to pay off your loan. However, we don’t rate this scheme highly as you can get a better deal just selling your phone elsewhere.

Vodafone’s credit checking is also rather hard to get past, like O2’s. If you want a better overall deal, you can go through a third party reseller. They buy lots of phones and can get you a better price, but without the flexibility.

Useful link: Vodafone's full pay monthly range at Vodafone.co.uk

Our verdict on phone contract prices:

Too close to call

"O2 offer slightly more flexibility with how they build their plans, but with Vodafone you always have the option to get a better deal by going with a reseller. It depends on what you want in the end."

Compare pricing and deals

More O2 guides

More guides about Vodafone