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Sky Mobile vs Vodafone: which is the better network to join?

Sky Mobile and vodafone logos with vs lettering

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We look at everything you get when you join Vodafone or Sky Mobile to find out which is best for you, including coverage, 4G/5G speeds and benefits. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 5th July 2021.

In our Sky Mobile vs Vodafone guide

Latest offer news

Comparing their networks

How coverage compares on Vodafone vs Sky Mobile

Which has the better 3G, 4G and 5G reception

Sky mobile and Vodafone logos with Signal bars

Vodafone win out thanks to better 4G data

Vodafone best ever network banner

 

Read why

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

Vodafone and Sky use different networks. Vodafone own and operate their own, while Sky use the O2 network. There's pros and cons to both when it comes to coverage:

They're both joint-best in country for calls and texts. They have similar amounts of the UK's geography covered for these. And they're generally the strongest choices for indoor calls too.

But on 4G data reception, Vodafone do have an advantage over Sky. In cities and large towns, there's no difference but Vodafone are doing a better job in smaller villages, on roads and rail and the countryside.

You can enjoy the benefits of Vodafone’s extensive 4G, 3G and 2G network on a generally cheaper deal that direct by joining any of these providers:

Virgin Mobile: formerly on the EE network, Virgin have moved to Vodafone and offer low cost phone contracts and SIM only plans (read our review here)

Talkmobile: cheap no-frills SIM only plans with no credit check (read our review here)

VOXI: low-cost brand from Vodafone, specialising in 1-month SIMs with unlimited social media data (read our review here)

ASDA Mobile: low-cost pay as you go bundles (read our review here)

We wouldn't write either off before checking their predicted signal everywhere you can think of you'll use your phone (use their maps further down). Don't only check at home, though that is important too.

Useful link: How Vodafone have improved their network

5G is live on both networks and rolling out fast

Sky 5G location map

See latest locations

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

With the picture changing so quickly, it's hard to give a hard and fast answer to whether Vodafone or Sky Mobile have better 5G coverage. It's live on both and being rolled out fast.

Vodafone's list of 5G locations currently stands at 100+, while Sky Mobile's is at 150+. Neither are covering a whole city at a time. It's still just the most built-up, busy areas they roll it out in.

Sky include 5G with all 5G phone contracts and SIM only plans (choose the add-on in the checkout, which is now free). Most of Vodafone's plans are 5G (except their low-cost, no-frills Basics SIMs and some Red plans).

While the new technology beds in, you'll still spend most your time on 4G anyway. We've found on both that the quality of your connection degrades quickly away from the mast to be slower than 4G sometimes too.

Useful link: How to get 5G data on Sky Mobile

Vodafone and Sky Mobile’s network maps

Use the coverage checkers to test everywhere you’ll use your phone - not just at home

Sky Mobile coverage checker

Sky Mobile coverage checker

Check Sky signal

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

Vodafone coverage checker

Vodafone coverage checker

Check Vodafone signal

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

Our verdict on coverage:

Too close to call

“Vodafone do have a very slight advantage generally over Sky Mobile for 4G data in rural locations but if you mainly live urbanly, there will be little difference. Use their network maps to find how they differ where you’ll use your phone”

Compare pricing and deals

5G and 4G speeds compared on Sky vs Vodafone

Are downloads faster on the Vodafone network or Sky Mobile?

Speedometer icon with Sky and Vodafone logos

4G's noticeably faster on Vodafone than Sky

4G logo and various connected devices

See data improvements

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

We've tested both Vodafone and Sky Mobile for our reviews of them and we'd say it's pretty obvious Vodafone are faster. And independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla back this up too:

Depending which you ask and their methods, they predict typical data performance in the 17.3 - 22.22 Mbps range for O2 (we've not found differences between Sky vs O2) but 21.0 - 31.58 Mbps for Vodafone.

That's an average on both. Realistically, in urban centres you can go all the way up into the 90s on Vodafone but lower rurally. We find O2 tend to float more around that average range.

If you're just thinking of checking a few emails, reading the news and social media, either network is fine. If you're into ultra HD streaming and big downloads, Vodafone are going to be more suitable.

Useful link: What difference 5G will make on Sky Mobile

5G data currently slightly faster on Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile branded phone with free 5G text

How to get 5G free

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

Now more people have 5G, there's some better testing data available from when it first launched. Speedtest include 5G download tests in their latest report here.

They put O2 (for Sky's) 5G "experience" (a blend of download and upload) at 130.04 Mbps and Vodafone's at 130.57 Mbps. So big improvements on 4G but little to split them.

That kind of speed is like having fibre-to-the-home fibre optic broadband and opens up all kinds of new more-demanding things you can do on your phone, like gaming and high quality video calls.

On top of raw speed, the other benefit of 5G is the number of people that can connect at the same time, without getting a poorer experience. That's important at large events and busy areas in cities.

Useful link: Vodafone’s latest 5G rollout news

Our verdict on data speeds

Win for Vodafone

“With 5G pretty much a dead heat on speed and the fact you'll spend most your time on 4G still anyway, Vodafone are proven better performers than Sky.”

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Extra ways to stay connected

Is WiFi calling better on Vodafone than Sky Mobile

WiFi calling icon between Vodafone and Sky Mobile logos

Vodafone and Sky Mobile both have WiFi calling

Screenshot of Sky’s help section on WiFi calling

Check supported phones

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

WiFi calling is a technology that allows your phone to use WiFi to make/take calls instead of conventional mobile signal. It’s useful if you’re somewhere indoors that regular signal can’t reach.

Both Vodafone and Sky Mobile use frequencies that are good at getting call signal into buildings. But they also give you WiFi calling (and 4G calling) on most their plans too (you don’t get it on Vodafone Basics).

Neither have our favourite WiFi calling scheme. But both are decent enough, as long as your phone is supported. Modern Android phones shouldn’t be a problem on either but older ones might have issues.

You can check Vodafone’s supported device list here and Sky Mobile’s here to make sure yours is alright. iPhones should be fine on both. You can send and receive SMS texts on Vodafone but not Sky.

Useful link: Vodafone’s guide to 4G calling

Free hotspots there's now basically no difference

Expired stampScreenshot of Vodafone’s TFL WiFi page

Check supported phones

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

Even though 4G coverage nowadays is excellent and people have large enough data plans, we still think it's a nice little helper when networks offer free WiFi hotspot access with their deals.

For ages, Vodafone took part in the free WiFi on the Underground scheme. But that's now been scrapped, meaning there's no extra WiFi hotspot provision on Vodafone at all.

And on Sky Mobile, there's no extra advantage that you get on Sky WiFi. It's free for everyone anyway. It'd be good if it auto-recognised Sky SIMs and logged you in.

Basically, free hotspots isn't anything to base your decision between the two on, any more.

Useful link: Vodafone’s full guide to free WiFi on TFL

Our verdict on extra network features

Minor win for Vodafone

“Sky Mobile’s WiFi calling is as good as Vodafone’s as long as your phone is supported, it’s just you’ve a better chance of yours working with Vodafone in the first place. There's no difference on hotspots. ”

Compare pricing and deals

Comparing their benefits

Streaming on Sky Mobile vs Vodafone

Which has the better options for staying entertained?

Smartphone with video streaming icon between EE and Sky logos

Unlimited Sky TV app streaming data

Devices with unlimited streaming lettering

Read full guide

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

If you're looking at Sky Mobile, because you've got Sky TV at home, there's a decent incentive to join them: you'll be able to stream channels from your home package, without it using data.

It's called Sky Mobile Watch and Vodafone don't offer anything similar (although their sub-brand VOXI does offer Endless Video on multiple plans). It comes on every plan, even the cheapest with the least data:

The scheme detects when you're using Sky Go or any of these other Sky apps on your mobile connection and doesn't count the usage from your data allowance - so you've basically got unlimited data for it.

We've tried it ourselves for our review here and it really is revolutionary. No more worrying about what data you're using and you can keep yourself or your kids entertained on boring journeys. Sky's best benefit.

Useful link: Full terms and conditions on Sky's streaming

Vodafone include a streaming subscription with select plans

Logos of streaming apps

See your options

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

There’s nothing similar to Sky Mobile’s unlimited streaming data on Vodafone. Any streaming you do will come out of your data allowance just like normal, unless you have one of their unlimited data plans.

But they do have some premium Entertainment plans available on SIM only or phone contracts that include a subscription to your choice of YouTube Premium, Amazon Prime Video or Spotify Premium.

Choose an included subscription with any of these SIM only deals from Vodafone:

You can’t really consider these as freebies though. The plans themselves cost more per month than their equivalents with no subscription included, so you are still effectively paying for them.

But you might still find it convenient to have the subscriptions charged to your mobile deal, rather than paying for them separately. We’d just advise checking you’re actually getting them cheaper than directly.

Useful link: Full terms and conditions for Vodafone’s Entertainment plans

Our verdict on streaming benefits

Easy win for Sky Mobile

“As long as you have a Sky TV subscription, Sky Mobile’s free streaming data is way more valuable than Vodafone’s included subscriptions. You’ll save a tonne on data and you don’t have to pay extra for the plan to begin with.”

Compare pricing and deals

Data rollover on Sky Mobile vs Vodafone

Who’s got the best system for unused data?

A wallet between Sky and Vodafone logos

Keep unused data on Sky Mobile

Sky Mobile piggybank banner

Read full benefits

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

On all Sky Mobile plans (phone, tablet and SIM only), you'll keep hold of any data you don't manage to use each month. Sky automatically work it out and add it to a Piggybank for data.

Then if you ever run out of data one month, instead for paying extra for some more, you can take some out of your Piggybank 1GB at a time. Unused data can sit in your piggybank for up to 3 years.

And if you don't need it, you can also do some clever stuff like send it to other mobile numbers on your same account or trade it in for discounts off phones and tablets.

We think it's the best data rollover scheme in the UK, because it lets you keep data longest (normally it's just a month) and it's flexible in terms of what you can use the value of the data for.

Useful link: Read Sky’s full guide to their data rollover scheme

Vodafone only have data rollover on pay as you go

Vodafone Total Rollover banner

How it works

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

If you join Vodafone on a pay monthly SIM only plan or phone contract, it’s the same as most other providers: if you don’t get through your monthly data allowance, it’s all gone and it’s too bad.

The only exception is on their monthly pay as you go bundles on SIM only, which all come with Total Rollover. These let you keep any unused minutes and data at the end of each month.

All these come with data rollover:

But unlike Sky, on Vodafone you only get to keep the calls and data for one month. After that, it’s gone. But they do make sure you use your rolled-over calls and data first.

If you’re after a pay as you go bundle, it’s a good option. But it’d be better if Vodafone extended their scheme to pay monthly like on Sky.

Useful link: Vodafone’s full guide to Total Rollover

Our verdict on unused data schemes

Win for Sky Mobile

“The vast majority of people are going to join either network on a pay monthly deal. So Sky having data rollover and Vodafone not is a key difference and an advantage for Sky Mobile.”

Compare pricing and deals

Roaming on Sky Mobile vs Vodafone

Are Vodafone or Sky Mobile better for going abroad?

A globe between Sky and EE logos

Vodafone have 5G roaming and some worldwide destinations

More roaming destinations banner

See full country list

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

The majority of Vodafone’s pay monthly and pay as you go plans include EU roaming at no extra cost (excluding their no-frills Basic plans) - you can use your plan’s minutes, texts and data without paying extra.

But they do also have something called Global Roaming Plus on qualifying plans, which extends the number of inclusive destinations to 81 around the world, including the USA (see the latest full list of countries here).

Each of these plans comes with Vodafone’s Global Roaming Plus destinations included:

We also like on Vodafone that you’ll get 5G abroad too if the host country has it and your home Vodafone plan includes it. They’ve partnered with the most networks of any provider in the UK for 5G roaming.

If you’re happy to join on a premium plan on Vodafone, they’re genuinely hard to beat for roaming (here’s how we rank all networks for roaming). It’s a case of getting better by paying for better.

Useful link: All roaming costs on Vodafone

Roaming on Sky Mobile is mainly for travel in the EU

Sky Data Passport banner

Latest roaming costs

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

Sky don’t have any equivalent of Vodafone’s Global Roaming Plus with extra worldwide destinations, so you only get inclusive roaming within the EU (use your minutes, texts and data without paying extra).

If you want to use your phone anywhere outside the EU, things can get a little expensive. You’ll pay per minute, text and MB data used at these rates.

Or you can buy a daily Roaming Passport, which lets you use your regular minutes, texts and data in select countries for a fixed daily charge (see current costs and covered countries here).

If you mainly plan to take the odd holiday within Europe, Sky are a perfectly good choice. There’s no fiddly fair usage policy, you get 4G wherever it’s available and everything just works when you get there.

Useful link: Full roaming costs on Sky Mobile

Our verdict on roaming

Win for Vodafone

“Even though on the majority of plans there’s very little to split Vodafone and Sky Mobile, the fact that Vodafone do have options to get more inclusive worldwide destinations makes them a better choice for global jetsetters”

Compare pricing and deals

Comparing their prices and deals

SIM only plans Sky Mobile vs Vodafone

Which offers better value on pay monthly SIMs?

SIM card between Sky and Vodafone logos

Networks

Providers:

Three logo
ASDA logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
Honest logo
ID logo
IQ logo
Lebara logo
O2 logo
Plusnet logo
Sky logo
SMARTY logo
Talkmobile logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
Vodafone logo
VOXI logo

Plan

Data: (0MB+)

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Contract

Maximum length: (Any)

Added features

Special offers on Vodafone and Sky Mobile

Here’s what promotions each have on this month

Special offer ribbon with Sky and Vodafone logos

Phone contracts on Vodafone vs Sky Mobile

Which provider’s best for taking out a pay monthly phone deal?

Smartphone between Vodafone and Sky logos

Sky’s phone contracts are flexible

Sky Swap contract screenshot

What is Swap?

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

Price-wise Sky Mobile’s phone contracts are always some of the most competitive when you use our phone contracts deal comparison tool. And the majority of handsets are available with no upfront costs.

But Sky’s contracts are also good for the flexibility they give you. Choose a 36-month deal to spread the cost of your phone over a longer period, to get a lower monthly rate. Or a 24-month one to pay it off quicker.

Their phone deals are offered on finance agreements (basically loans). This can make it harder to be accepted for one if you’ve got bad credit history. But it does bring a couple of benefits too.

It means you can upgrade early or leave Sky entirely after 12 months by paying off what’s left of your loan early, without paying extra contract termination fees like you would on Vodafone and other providers.

Useful link: Our guide to Sky Mobile Swap contracts

Vodafone's phone contracts vary depending on where you buy

Our phone comparison tool screenshot

Compare phone contracts

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

If you join Vodafone directly (not via other retailers), you'll now join on an EVO Plan. These work like Sky's, with separate phone and usage contracts but are even more flexible.

You can choose the length of the phone agreement between 12 and 36 months (in one-month steps) and the upfront cost in steps of £10. This lets you choose a plan to fit your budget but does mean more decisions.

But there are loads of other retailers that sell Vodafone phone contracts on traditional style 24-month deals too. Like Carphone Warehouse, Mobiles.co.uk, e2save, Buymobiles.net, Metrofone, Fonehouse and ChitterChatter.

You'll often get a better price with them, because they buy a lot more phones themselves, so get better prices from the manufacturers that they can pass onto you. We compare them all for Vodafone here.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts using our tool

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Probably a draw

“Vodafone and Sky now essentially offer the same type of split phone contract, with many of the same flexibility benefits.”

Compare pricing and deals

More Sky Mobile guides

More articles about Vodafone