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

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: 21st April 2021

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

Coverage for 4G data and calls is extremely close

Vodafone Best Ever Network banner

Read why

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

If you look at a nationwide level, both O2 and Vodafone have the best national coverage for basic calls and texts, with 91% of the UK’s physical landmass receiving signal on each outdoors.

And that should translate well into good indoor calls coverage too on both. Both O2 and Vodafone use better frequencies for indoor coverage than their rivals EE and Three.

For 4G data away from where people live and in rural locations, it’s Vodafone that have the advantage over O2. But in large towns and cities, there’s basically no difference.

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

5G data rollout is progressing rapidly on both

O2 5G network launch banner

Read rollout news

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

5G data coverage on all UK networks is nowhere near as widespread as 4G and 3G. But the picture is changing very fast. We’re still looking at city-by-city, town-by-town at the moment though.

The way mobile networks report the number of locations confuses things a little (do you count boroughs of London as a single place or London as a whole) but O2’s count of 150+ is higher than Vodafone’s 100+.

That said, if you compare Vodafone's 5G coverage checker in the places they have 5G, against O2's where they report having it, you'll generally find Vodafone have a larger areas within the places covered.

O2 have focused on the built-up city centre locations so far, busy places like train stations, entertainment venues and shopping streets. Vodafone have done that too but seem to get 5G to more residential areas.

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

"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

Is data 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)

Realistically, most people are going to spend more time on a 4G data connection than a 5G one, so we'd still place more importance on any network's 4G performance than their 5G.

Independent testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla have long placed Vodafone above O2 for their 4G downloads (expect an average of 21.15 - 25.1 Mbps on Vodafone vs 16.95 - 18.00 Mbps on O2).

If you're sensitive about having fast speeds, be careful which plan you pick on Vodafone.

Their Basics plans have a speed cap of 10 Mbps. As do their Unlimited plans. This is enough for basic browsing but could cause buffering on high quality videos.

On their Unlimited Lite plan, there's a 2 Mbps speed cap. That's alright for checking emails and a bit of browsing. But both will be noticeably laggy and high quality video is basically a write-off.

Only Unlimited Max plans and regular pay monthly deals come with no speed caps and so Vodafone's top possible speeds.

O2 have no such speed capping system in place for UK 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?

O2's 5G comes out faster in limited testing data

5G signal bars and lightning bolt icon

Our best 5G guide

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

It's still early days for 5G. 5G users still only spend around 5% of their time connected to the faster technology, so there's not a huge amount of testing data available to compare networks.

But from Speedtest's 5G blog entry here, early testing put O2 ahead of Vodafone on average in London (there's no nationwide reporting yet).

According to the blog, O2 were measuring at 181.19 Mbps downloads over 5G, compared to Vodafone on 166.77 Mbps. Both vast improvements on their 4G.

Useful link: Comparing every network's 5G

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, because you'll spend more time on 4G than 5G. 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.

Vodafone now say their scheme supports SMS text messaging too, which it previously didn't. We've not physically tested this ourselves yet. But it's an advantage over O2.

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 (O2's scheme doesn't support 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 as 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 8000 of those hotspots without having to log in, but only if they offer faster data than 4G where you are. We test this ourselves in our full review of O2 here. And it really works.

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, despite them venturing into broadband in the last few years.

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.

These SIMs all include Vodafone's extra roaming destinations

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), Amazon Prime including Prime Video (usually £7.99) or YouTube Premium (£11.99), 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).

Pick a subscription with each of these deals:

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: Disney+, 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

Networks

Providers:

Three logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
O2 logo
Plusnet logo
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SMARTY logo
Talkmobile logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
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Plan

Data: (0MB+)

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Contract

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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 Vodafone or O2 better value?

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

Phone contracts on O2 and Vodafone

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

More O2 guides

More guides about Vodafone