Cookies on the SIM Sherpa website

We use cookies to track which pages on our website readers visit most. This helps us understand which topics people find interesting, to write more articles about them.

You can accept these tracking cookies or choose to block them. You can change these settings at any time.

X close

✖ Tracking cookies deleted and blocked

Ok, we will not track your page views as you move around any part of the SIM Sherpa website. But we will use that one cookie to remember you don't want to be tracked.

Click here to unblock tracking cookies

X close

✔ Cookies accepted

Thank you for accepting cookies for the SIM Sherpa website. This will help us constantly improve our content.

If you ever want to change your cookie settings for our website, go to our Cookies page here.

Virgin Mobile vs Vodafone: differences between the networks

Virgin Mobile and Vodafone logos

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

What's the same and what's different when you join Virgin Mobile or Vodafone? We look at their coverage, speeds and benefits to find out. Last updated: 5th January 2022

In our Virgin Mobile vs Vodafone guide

Latest offer news

Comparing their networks

Coverage on Vodafone vs Virgin Mobile

Is one better than the other for signal?

Virgin Mobile and Vodafone logos with signal bars

They now both use the same network

Vodafone best ever network banner

Read why

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

Virgin have completed their move from EE over to Vodafone, meaning no matter which one you choose you’ll now be getting access to the same network.

If you join Virgin on a SIM only or a phone contract, you get full access to the Vodafone network. That means you’ll have the same 2G/3G/4G/5G signal in the same areas you’d get them on Vodafone directly.

But how has the move from EE affected Virgin?

Well, we’d say Vodafone have superior coverage for call signal (2G/3G) indoors and outdoors, and the network experience is the same as being on Vodafone. Virgin are in the process of buying O2, so they could switch networks again.

Useful link: How Vodafone have improved their network

You can get the same 5G connection on both

5G data on Virgin Mobile

Read their 5G guide

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Virgin Mobile have access to Vodafone’s 5G network. You’ll get full access to 5G on all of Virgin’s SIM only plans and phone contracts with 5G-ready phones.

Like with the rest of their network, you get 5G on Virgin in the same places you’d get it on Vodafone (check street-by-street coverage here).

Unfortunately, Vodafone comes last in our rankings for the best 5G networks. While Vodafone’s coverage in their 5G locations is alright, they don’t cover many cities and their speeds are only average.

But we expect Vodafone’s 5G rollout to catch others up during the course of your contract. It’s a seriously competitive world for getting the best 5G connection at the moment, so we can only wait and see.

Useful link: Getting 5G data on Virgin Mobile

Official network maps on Virgin and Vodafone

Don’t just check at home but everywhere you’ll use your phone

Virgin Mobile signal map

Three coverage checker

Check Virgin coverage

with their coverage checker
(opens in new window)

Vodafone signal map

Virgin Mobile coverage checker

Check Vodafone coverage

with their coverage checker
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

A draw

“Now that Virgin have settled into using Vodafone’s network, we can say for certain that you’ll get the same network coverage experience on one that you’d get on the other - so needn’t inform your decision”

Compare pricing and deals

Data speeds on Vodafone vs Virgin Mobile

Is Virgin Mobile’s 4G/5G faster or slower than Vodafone’s?

Vodafone and Virgin Mobile logos with a speedometer

We expect 5G/4G to be the same on both for speed

Virgin don't let anything slow you down banner

See data improvements

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Not only do Virgin now have complete access to Vodafone’s network coverage, but we now expect there to be no differences in speeds between the two.

There’s no speed caps like there used to be back when Virgin was on EE’s network. Both on Virgin and Vodafone you’ll get average 4G download speeds of 21.6 Mbps. That’s enough to stream HD video comfortably.

In real life tests we managed to get speeds of up to 120 Mbps in city centres or even more in a couple of places. In rural areas you can expect speeds to drop below that.

On 5G it’s much the same story between the two. According to Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla you’ll get average speeds between 73.3 Mbps and 149.9 Mbps.

Useful link: 5G vs 4G on Vodafone

Our verdict on data speeds

Generally identical

“We found no evidence of a speed cap nor is one mentioned on either networks’ websites. So, what you get with one is what you get with the other.”

Compare pricing and deals

WiFi calling on Virgin Mobile vs Vodafone

Which has the best scheme?

Virgin and Vodafone logos and WiFi calling symbol

Vodafone’s WiFi calling is better on balance

WiFi calling explained

Check supported phones

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

Vodafone broadcast their call signal on frequencies that are effective at getting indoors through building materials. But if you’re far from the mast or live in a particularly thick-walled building, you may still need some help.

That’s where WiFi calling comes in. It lets your phone use WiFi connection to connect to calls. You won’t get it on Vodafone’s low-cost Basics plans, but it comes as standard on all other pay monthly SIM only and phone deals.

We’d say Vodafone’s WiFi calling works well, so long as your phone is on their supported list here. Older models that aren’t on the list generally won’t work with WiFi calling. You can also send and receive texts over WiFi.

What’s also great is that you can move from WiFi to 4G without your call dropping. Overall, the fact that Vodafone has had WiFi calling for a long time means it is better implemented than on Virgin.

Useful link: Vodafone’s guide to 4G calling

Virgin Mobile’s WiFi calling is pretty limited still

Virgin Mobile WiFi calling

Check supported phones

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

This is one thing that separates Vodafone and Virgin, as Virgin use their own WiFi calling instead of using Vodafone’s. But this comes at the consequence of it being a less well developed feature than Vodafone’s.

Virgin have a shorter list of supported devices. They also state that if you move out of WiFi range but have 4G signal that your call will transfer from one to the other. But we found our call dropped even when we had 4G signal as a backup.

If you can get it to work, it’s alright. Sometimes the receivers of our calls complained about sound quality, but this was only on occasion. Virgin claim they support SMS texting over WiFi, but we could only receive texts, not send them.

While Vodafone’s have the better feature, Virgin offer WiFi calling on all of their plans. And if your phone is supported then there’s not too much difference between them. It’s a choice of quality against price as Virgin are cheaper.

Useful links: Virgin’s guide to their WiFi calling

Our verdict on WiFi calling

Minor win for Vodafone

“Generally Vodafone offers the better quality calls over WiFi that can be switched over to 4G if needed and offer it on more phones.”

Compare pricing and deals

Free hotspots on Vodafone vs Virgin Mobile

How do their free WiFi schemes compare?

Virgin and Vodafone logos with coffee cup WiFi logo

Virgin Mobile use the Virgin Media hotspot network

Three's Go Binge promotional banner

See locations and app

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

While data coverage these days is good enough to keep you connected on the go, we still like it when networks offer free WiFi hotspots (read our full guide here). It can help you hang on to the data you’ve paid for.

Virgin Mobile are one of the best for this. Being on any Virgin Mobile plan gets you access to 4.3+ million hotspots around the UK and 20 million around the world. If you download their app you won’t have to log in every time.

These hotspots cover high streets all over the UK and on the TFL network. But there are also a few in residential areas where Virgin Media broadband is available as your phone can use a separate connection from home WiFi.

In our testing the app didn’t always log us in automatically. But when you log in, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that you’re not using up your data allowance.

Useful link: Virgin’s full guide to their free hotspots

Vodafone no longer offer any WiFi hotspot provisions

Expired stampVodafone TFL free WiFi

How it worked

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

Vodafone used to offer free WiFi hotspots on the TFL network that kept you connected on the London Underground. That’s now gone completely.

It’s odd because Vodafone do offer home broadband, so they could do the same as Virgin in using a separate private connection to keep you connected in residential areas. But, no such luck.

We think this has been done to cut costs so that Vodafone can expand their 4G and 5G networks. It might also be there to push people onto bigger data plans, but we can only speculate.

In all, it’s a case of comparing one of the biggest networks in the UK for WiFi hotspots against one that offers none.

Useful link: Vodafone’s full guide to free WiFi

Our verdict on free hotspots

Win by default for Virgin Mobile

“Now that Virgin are the only ones offering WiFi hotspots they automatically beat out Vodafone for this. That takes nothing away from the fact their hotspot network is truly amazing.”

Compare pricing and deals

Comparing their benefits

Roaming on Virgin Mobile vs Vodafone

Which is best for taking your phone abroad?

Virgin and Vodafone logos with a globe

Vodafone offer inclusive worldwide roaming on premium plans

Vodafone most destinations banner

Read full guide

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

Vodafone have changed their roaming policy so that you’ll only get inclusive roaming on pricier Xtras plans. You’ll need a plan with 4 Xtras in order to get roaming. They’re the only network to offer 5G while abroad, however.

On non-unlimited 4 Xtras plans you get inclusive roaming in 51 EU destinations, but with their unlimited plan with 4 Xtras you get an extra 32 worldwide destinations on top of that (see the latest list of destinations here).

If you don’t have a plan with 4 Xtras, then roaming can get expensive quickly. On any other pay monthly SIM only or phone plan you’ll have to pay £2 a day to roam in the EU, and £6 a day further afield.

You don’t get roaming at all on Vodafone’s Basics SIMs. We don’t just mean free roaming, we mean your SIM won’t work at all when abroad on a Basics plan. Roaming is pricey either way, but getting worldwide destinations is nice.

Useful link: All roaming costs on Vodafone

Virgin Mobile’s roaming is only really for EU

Virgin Mobile roaming banner

See all costs

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Virgin Mobile have largely kept their EU roaming in place. But you only get roaming in 43 EU destinations. There’s no inclusive worldwide roaming.

There is a fiddly fair usage policy that limits how much of your regular allowance you can use while abroad depending on the cost of your plan. It shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but it’s annoying to have to think about it.

If you were thinking about going beyond the EU with Virgin, you’d better save up. Virgin become very expensive with rates of £2 per minute and £5 per MB in the US. Using 1GB in the US costs you £5000 (you can cap spending).

For going abroad to the EU, Virgin are a fine choice. Especially these days where some networks are pulling their EU roaming. But for long haul jet-setters, we’d steer clear of Virgin.

Useful link: All roaming costs on Virgin Mobile

Our verdict on roaming

Minor win for Virgin

“Vodafone’s roaming is arguably better, but considering how much you have to pay for it, it’s hard to justify putting it in first place. Virgin’s is still not great, but getting free EU roaming isn’t something we can argue against. A small win for them.”

Compare pricing and deals

Better benefits on Virgin Mobile

What do you get on Virgin that you don’t on Vodafone?

Virgin Mobile better than Vodafone

Keep unused data for a month on Virgin Mobile

Screenshot of Virgin’s data rollover

How it works

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Virgin are among the handful of networks to offer data rollover. This “rolls over” your unused data into your next month, meaning you get to keep what you haven’t used to use it up later.

Vodafone only offer this on pay as you go. You don’t get the benefit on their pay monthly plans, so once your monthly is up your unused data is gone for good.

Virgin let you keep your data for a month, which is fairly standard. But it’s overshadowed by Sky’s “piggybank” scheme where you can bank your unused data for three years, gift it to users on your account and trade it for discounts.

We tried Virgin’s out and it works just fine. What’s nice is that you will use up your rolled over data first so you have. You can change plans if this keeps happening.

Useful link: Virgin’s help guide to data rollover

Free unlimited social media data offered on every Virgin plan

Virgin free social media data

Full details and terms

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

A fair few networks offer free data for streaming or social media. Virgin Mobile are among them. With them, you can use Messenger, Whatsapp and Twitter without using up data.

So whenever you use these apps for messaging you’re effectively getting unlimited data, and it’s offered at no extra cost on all of their pay monthly and SIM only plans.

For Messenger and Whatsapp you can message and download files without using data, but calling will eat into your allowance. You can use Twitter without using data at all. But, if you switch to an app that’s not covered it will use your data.

Vodafone’s sub-brand VOXI offer something similar. They let you use social media without limits (on certain apps) and also get you unlimited video streaming data on some deals too.

Useful link: More details on Virgin Mobile’s scheme

Better benefits on Vodafone

What things are better on Vodafone than Virgin?

Vodafone better than Virgin Mobile

Entertainment plans can save a bit of money

Vodafone entertainment subscriptions

How to get yours

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

Virgin Mobile don’t offer any sort of tie-in with their parent brand Virgin Media to offer TV services on phones. But Vodafone do, with their Entertainment plans that come with a streaming subscription of your choice.

The current choices are YouTube Premium, Spotify Premium or Amazon Prime. By choosing an Entertainment plan, you’ll get one of these subscriptions included on your monthly bill. You can use them on any device you want.

It’s not a total freebie. Their Entertainment plans are around £4-6 more expensive than the non-Entertainment ones. But you’ll save a few pounds vs buying a non-Entertainment plan and subscription separately.

This would be a much better benefit if the data that the apps used on your phone didn’t come out of your data allowance. That would add more value. But it’s not currently the case.

Useful link: How to get started

Vodafone’s VeryMe Rewards are nice to have

Vodafone VeryMe rewards

See types of offers

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

If you know about O2 Priority or Three+, then Vodafone’s have something very similar called VeryMe. It’s a loyalty scheme to reward you for staying with them.

VeryMe is already in the My Vodafone app. You get a bunch of new offers every week that you can choose which range from discounts on highstreet restaurants and cafes to prize draws and even giveaways.

If you’re a big fan of sites like Groupon, we think VeryMe will appeal to you. You can find some genuinely nice offers to choose from if you keep a lookout every week.

In all, VeryMe is a nice thing to have on top of your Vodafone deal.

Useful link: See examples of the rewards

Our verdict on added benefits

Minor win for Virgin Mobile

“The most useful extra benefit between the networks is definitely Virgin Mobile’s data rollover. VeryMe rewards are nice, but you’ll generally save money on Virgin anyway.”

Compare pricing and deals

Comparing their prices and deals

SIM only plans Virgin Mobile vs Vodafone

Which offers better value on pay monthly SIMs?

SIM card with Vodafone and Virgin Mobile 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+)

Minutes: (0+)

Contract

Maximum length: (Any)

Added features

Special offers on Virgin Mobile and Vodafone

Here’s what promotions each have on this month

Virgin and Vodafone logos with a special offer label

Phone contracts on Virgin Mobile vs Vodafone

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

Phone contracts on Vodafone and Virgin Mobile

Both networks offer flexible phone contracts

Virgin Mobile Freestyle Contracts

Read help guide

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

If you want to pay less per month on your phone contract (at the cost of a longer commitment) then both Virgin and Vodafone are good choices.

With Virgin, you pay nothing upfront and choose to spread your contract over 24 months or 36 months. With Vodafone you can set your upfront payment (you have to pay some) and set your contract length anywhere between 12 and 36 months.

Both networks base their phone contracts on finance, meaning they’re essentially loaning you a phone for you to pay them back. This does give you the flexibility to pay off your loan early before your contract is up or leave altogether.

Virgin’s phone contracts work out cheaper than Vodafone’s (especially joining them directly) and get you access to all the pay monthly benefits we’ve gone through above in this article. But Vodafone’s are more flexible.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts with us

Join Vodafone via resellers to get better value

Our phone comparison tool screenshot

Compare phone contracts

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

There’s more ways of getting a Vodafone contract than joining them directly on vodafone.co.uk. Instead, you can join via a long list of third party retailers, like Carphone Warehouse, Mobiles.co.uk, Fonehouse and more.

These retailers buy more phones than Vodafone do and so are able to give you a better deal than Vodafone would be able to, while still getting you onto a Vodafone contract.

This means you’ll get the same pay monthly benefits, whether you join Vodafone directly or via a retailer. You can compare joining Vodafone directly vs retailers here, and we think it’s well worth a look.

These contracts are not based on finance, however. So you don’t have the flexibility to upgrade early or pay lump sums to lower your monthly bill. It’s a trade off of flexibility for better prices.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts using our tool

Our verdict on phone contracts

Win for Virgin Mobile

“Virgin offer greater flexibility overall and lower prices than joining via Vodafone directly. But it’s still worth it to compare them vs third party retailers for price.”

Compare phone contracts

Other Vodafone guides

More guides about Virgin Mobile

Individual network reviews