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O2 vs Vodafone: comparing their coverage, 4G speeds and benefits

Vodafone vs O2

The retailers featured on this page may compensate us when our readers follow links to their websites and make a purchase. More

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. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 7th January 2020

In our O2 vs Vodafone comparison

Special offer news

Vodafone's cheap Basics SIMs

Vodafone winter sale banner

If you can do without WiFi calling, 4G calling or any roaming whatsoever, Vodafone's Basics SIMs start from just £6 a month for 1GB

See all Vodafone offers (opens in new tab)

O2's 6 months Disney+ offer

O2's Disney offer banner

Join O2 on either a Refresh phone contract or 12/18-month SIM only plan to get 6 months of Disney+ on them at no extra cost

Full offer details > (opens in new tab)

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 coverage is extremely close between O2 and Vodafone

Vodafone Best Ever Network banner

Read why

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

If you ask either network, O2 and Vodafone will both say they offer 99% population coverage 4G. That's signal where people live, rather than how much of the UK's actual landmass has reception.

Independent network testers Opensignal say that O2 and Vodafone's networks are basically the same size - with O2 customers spending 85.7% of their time with a 4G connection, compared to 84.2% on Vodafone.

Both O2 and Vodafone are better suited than their rivals for good indoor coverage for calls, because the frequencies their signal use are better at getting through building materials.

Which is better out of the two will depend a lot on the masts near you, so use both networks' coverage checkers below. Check signal at home and also places you take your phone, like your route to work or school.

Useful link: Read about Vodafone's network improvements

Vodafone have the lead for 5G data coverage

O2 5G network launch banner

Read rollout news

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

It's still very early days for 5G coverage in the UK. And no network has anything like the kind of signal on 5G that they have on the older 4G, 3G and 2G technologies.

You're still looking at a city by city basis for 5G coverage, rather than in percentage terms. So far, Vodafone have the lead over O2 for 5G locations in the UK, with 44 locations, compared with30.

It's a bit of space race between networks to get more towns and cities covered and the number of places is increasing constantly. See Vodafone's current and planned 5G locations and O2's here.

It's important also to understand when they say they have 5G in a location, it's not the entire town or city that's covered. It's just areas. So again, use their coverage checkers for an informed street-by-street view.

Coverage maps: check O2 and Vodafone signal near you

The stats above are fine as a general comparison but the most important thing is your phone works in your actual area

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

"It's extremely close as to whether Vodafone or O2 have the bigger network. Really, you'll find one is better in some locations and vice versa. That's why it's important to check their signal in all the places you'll use your phone."

Compare pricing and deals

Are Vodafone or O2 faster for 4G speeds?

We compare 4G download speeds on O2 and Vodafone

Vodafone have faster 4G than O2 on average

Vodafone 5G speed information

How fast is 5G?

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

Independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla both prove that the typical download speeds on 4G via Vodafone are a fair amount faster than O2.

Their latest reports put Vodafone downloads between 21.15 - 25.1 Mbps, compared to O2's 16.90 - 16.95 Mbps. These are averaged out across millions of measurements of all usage

In reality, you get faster and slower on both. Our own testing found Vodafone rural speeds as low as 5 Mbps but as high as 60 Mbps over 4G+ in cities. O2 was as low as 5 Mbps too but rarely beat 30 Mbps.

What does this mean for day-to-day usage? Basic internet browsing, social media and emails etc aren't likely to be noticeably worse on O2 vs Vodafone. But data-heavier videos and downloads could well be.

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

Our verdict on data speeds:

Vodafone win

"If you know you want to do data-heavy activities like streaming HD video, Vodafone's faster 4G speeds make them a safer bet than O2. For general web browsing, the difference is less important."

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's WiFi calling supports more phones than O2's

Vodafone's WiFi calling scheme

See supported phones

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

The majority of Vodafone's pay monthly plans come with WiFi calling and 4G calling as standard, although you have to switch it on manually in your account. Neither Basics nor pay as you go plans include WiFi/4G calling.

If you have an iPhone with the latest iOS and WiFi calling / 4G calling as a feature, both should work problem-free on Vodafone, even if you originally bought the phone from a different network.

Vodafone are less committal about supporting Android phones not bought from them. Here are the models they say WiFi calling can work with. Our manufacturer-bought test Samsung phone did work fine with Vodafone.

Overall, Vodafone say they support more models than O2 but we'd recommend testing the feature as soon as you receive your Vodafone SIM to avoid disappointment. There's a 14-day returns period when you buy online.

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

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

O2 WiFi calling scheme

See supported phones

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

In terms of functionality, O2's WiFi calling works the same as Vodafone's. You can make and take calls on your usual number over WiFi when there's no mobile signal (neither scheme supports SMS texts).

On O2, it's a similar situation to Vodafone where iPhone models are generally likely to work if they have WiFi calling / 4G calling as a feature but Android is less certain.

If you haven't bought your Android phone directly from O2, they can't guarantee they'll support WiFi calling, even if it's in their list of supported models here.

O2 also make you go into your account and activate the WiFi calling and 4G calling manually, which we find a little tedious. But overall the quality of calls themselves is very good.

Useful link: Full guide to O2's WiFi calling

Our verdict on WiFi calling:

Narrow win for Vodafone

"As long as your phone's supported, there's little to split Vodafone and O2's WiFi calling schemes. We just think statistically, there's a better chance Vodafone will support yours at the moment."

Compare pricing and deals

Free WiFi hotspots compared on O2 and Vodafone

Access to free WiFi hotspots saves your mobile data. So do Vodafone or O2 offer more?

WiFi symbol with O2 and Vodafone logos

Extra benefits on O2 WiFi when you're a mobile customer

O2's free WiFi network

Find nearby hotspots

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

It's useful when mobile providers give you free access to public WiFi hotspots, because it saves on using your regular allowance of mobile data, and it can even be faster than 3G/4G on your phone too.

So it's a good feature on any O2 pay monthly or pay as you go deal that you get access to over 15,000 O2 WiFi hotspots up and down the country, free of charge and with no download limits.

What's particularly good about O2's WiFi is that their mobile customers' phones will connect automatically to 7000 of those hotspots without having to log in, but only if they offer faster data than 4G where you are.

Have a look at the O2 WiFi page here for the locations of free hotspots near you, which are in useful places like shopping centres, cafes and transport hubs. O2 also get you free WiFi on the Underground.

Useful link: How to access O2 WiFi from O2's help section

Vodafone only offer free WiFi on London Underground

WiFi on the London Underground

How to get it

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

While O2 offer thousands of WiFi hotspots around the UK, it's not something that you get on Vodafone.

If you're regularly in London, Vodafone get you free access on the Underground (something O2 get you too), as long as you're a pay monthly customer or have a red bundle on pay as you go (full details here).

Other than that, you'll need to find your own WiFi when you're out and about (there's quite a lot free nowadays anyway) or use up your mobile data.

It's one point of difference between Vodafone and O2. You'll have to decide for yourself how important you think it is.

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

Our verdict on this topic:

Easy O2 win

"With their own network of 15,000 hotspots and automatic connection to many of them, O2's free WiFi goes way beyond what Vodafone offer."

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's roaming is superior to O2's

Vodafone inclusive roaming

See roaming benefits

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

Every plan (pay monthly or pay as you go, phone or SIM) on Vodafone lets you roam in the EU at no extra cost, except for their no-frills Basics plans, which don't work abroad at all.

If it's available in the country and location you're travelling to, you'll get a 4G or 5G data connection, depending on whether your plan includes it at home. Some networks impose 3G speed limits abroad. Vodafone don't.

If you take one of Vodafone's higher-end plans, flagged as including 77 Roam-Free countries, you'll be able take your phone to 29 non-EU destinations and use everything in your regular plan, without paying more.

Added together, we think Vodafone's inclusive roaming is superior to practically every other network, including O2, even it's a case of paying more to get quality.

Useful link: See other Vodafone roaming charges

O2's roaming scheme is less comprehensive

O2 international roaming options

All O2 roaming info

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

Like Vodafone, O2 have a two-tier system for roaming. Every pay monthly and pay as you go plan includes at least EU roaming at no extra cost (every network has to offer this).

If you join on an O2 Refresh or 12/18-month SIM only plan with more than 21GB+ data, you get some free roaming in a further 27 non-EU destinations included too.

Instead of being able to use your regular plan's allowances though, you can only use 120 daily minutes or texts and around 100MB data before being slowed down. We can see that data limit being a problem for many.

Slightly fewer destinations and more restrictions on your usage while abroad makes O2 an inferior choice to Vodafone in our eyes.

Useful link: All roaming costs on O2

Our verdict on roaming:

Vodafone win

"Both Vodafone and O2 will charge you if you want to go anywhere other than the EU, either through a higher-cost plan or via their daily passes. We'd say Vodafone's scheme is more generous and doesn't cap your speed abroad."

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 still the best daily reward scheme

O2 Priority

See Priority offers

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

The more-expensive main networks like O2 need to give their customers more reasons to stick with them. And O2's answer has long been their popular Priority Rewards scheme.

If you've never heard of it, Priority is essentially an ever-changing set of special offers, discounts and freebies on shopping, food and drink, plus other experiences. Many of which are exclusive for O2 customers.

You'll also get first opportunity to buy tickets for gigs and events hosted at O2 sponsored venues before the general public, and get preferential treatment once at the venue (see what's on offer here).

As long as you shop around, you can use Priority to your advantage and genuinely save money. Most people probably won't find it valuable enough to be the sole reason to join O2 though.

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

Vodafone now have something very similar

Vodafone Very Me banner

See example offers

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

You now get something very similar to O2 Priority when you join Vodafone on pay monthly or pay as you go. It's called VeryMe and you access it via your My Vodafone app.

The offers are similar to Priority. There are discounts, giveaways and other special offers. It's tricky for us to do a like-for-like comparison, as they change constantly.

There's definitely less by way of exclusive tickets on Vodafone. O2 benefit from sponsoring venues and sporting teams. Vodafone don't. They have had some specific exclusive pre-sales on theatre though.

Like O2, we wouldn't make VeryMe the motivation to join them, because realistically the app is about getting you to spend more with their partners. But if you do join Vodafone, it could come in handy.

Useful link: Vodafone's guide to VeryMe

Some Vodafone plans include a streaming subscription

Vodafone entertainment subscriptions

How it works

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

On pay monthly, you'll find Vodafone offer two versions of every plan with the same amount of data. One's a straight-up plan. The other includes an entertainment subscription and 100 minutes to EU countries.

For the monthly subscription, you can choose either Spotify Premium (usually £9.99), a NOW TV Entertainment Pass (usually £8.99), access to Sky Sports Mobile TV (£5.99) or Amazon Prime Video (usually £5.99), each lasting the length of your mobile contract.

So far, so good. But be careful, because there's typically a £6 monthly premium against the same plan without entertainment. So it can end up barely worth the extra (unless you really want those EU minutes).

If you compare prices and don't end up paying more than the cost of the subscription, then you're onto a winner. Otherwise, we'd steer clear and join the services separately with new-customer offers.

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 have now joined Vodafone and EE in offering some kind of subscription with their new O2 Extras offers, which you get with selected pay monthly phone tariffs or SIM only contracts.

If you pick a qualifying plan, you can add one of the following to your mobile account: an Amazon Music subscription, Amazon Prime Video, Audible or these various other apps.

It sounds good but you're only getting a free trial, lasting a maximum of 6 months. After that you'll be charged. And you only get Extras on the more-expensive plans, so O2 are using Extras to tempt you to spend more.

We see Extras as another "giving with one hand, taking with the other" offer. But if your chosen plan includes it anyway and you remember to cancel or don't mind paying later, it can still be a nice little added benefit.

Useful link: O2's FAQs about Extras

Our verdict on freebies and extras:

Basically a draw

"Both networks' rewards apps are good as a thank you for your loyalty but we wouldn't let either be the reason to join. There are equal advantages and disadvantages to their subscription offers 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
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Current offers running on Vodafone and O2

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

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O2's 6 months Disney+ offer

O2's Disney offer banner

See all offers

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

O2 are now including a Disney+ subscription at no extra cost with all their pay monthly O2 Refresh phone contracts and 12/18-month SIM only plans, which would regularly cost £5.99 a month.

That includes this SIM only plan, which is O2's most competitive and is available until 10th June:

Useful link: See all O2 current offers

Vodafone's cheap Basics SIMs

Vodafone winter sale banner

See the plans

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

If you can do without extras like WiFi calling, 4G calling and no roaming whatsoever, you can save money with one of Vodafone's Basics SIMs starting from just £6 a month:

Useful link: Vodafone's deals page

Phone contracts: are Vodafone or O2 better value?

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

Phone contracts on O2 and Vodafone

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Early upgrades and build-your-own plans on O2

O2 custom plans banner

See new custom plans

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

O2 are one of the few networks that offer their phone contracts on credit agreements (essentially loans to the value of the handset you purchase offer them). O2 call it Refresh (here's their full guide).

Refresh has the advantage that you can upgrade your phone early by paying off what's left on your loan, so O2 are more flexible than Vodafone if you prefer to have the latest phone once a year.

However, because it's a financial product (basically a loan) we suspect it could be more difficult to get accepted for a phone deal on O2 than Vodafone, if you have bad marks on your credit report in the past.

Another benefit on O2's phone contracts you don't get with Vodafone is choosing your own contract length anywhere between 3 and 36 months with O2's new custom plans, to find a monthly price that suits you.

Useful link: O2's full range of phones at O2.co.uk

Vodafone's phone contracts are more conventional

Screenshot of Vodafone's pay monthly phone range

See phone range

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

Phones on Vodafone are offered on what we'd call a standard mobile contract. It's the type most people are used to:

24 months in length, no complicated loans or financing, and you pick one plan and stick to it the entire length of your deal.

Unlike O2, there are no early upgrade options on Vodafone, other than to buy yourself out of the contract, which won't be cheap, and will rarely work out better than just sticking it out.

We have no specific inside information about Vodafone's credit checking policy but we'd expect it to be slightly easier to be accepted than on O2 because you're not dealing with loans and financing.

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

Our verdict on phone contract prices:

Too close to call

"Realistically, you need to compare each phone individually on the plan of your choice with each network to get the best impression on who's cheaper. In general there's little to choose between O2 and Vodafone on price."

Compare pricing and deals

Special offer news

Vodafone's cheap Basics SIMs

Vodafone winter sale banner

If you can do without WiFi calling, 4G calling or any roaming whatsoever, Vodafone's Basics SIMs start from just £6 a month for 1GB

See all Vodafone offers (opens in new tab)

O2's 6 months Disney+ offer

O2's Disney offer banner

Join O2 on either a Refresh phone contract or 12/18-month SIM only plan to get 6 months of Disney+ on them at no extra cost

Full offer details > (opens in new tab)

Other useful network comparisons

Comparing Vodafone and EE

EE vs Vodafone

Read Vodafone vs EE

Comparing Vodafone and Three

Vodafone vs Three

Read Vodafone vs Three

Comparing Vodafone and Talkmobile

Vodafone vs Talkmobile

Read Vodafone vs Talkmobile

Comparing O2 and EE

O2 vs EE

Read O2 vs EE

Comparing O2 and Three

O2 vs EE

Read O2 vs Three

Compare all networks' coverage

All coverage checkers

See all network coverage maps

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