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Vodafone's unlimited data plans: our verdict on if they're truly unlimited

Vodafone logo and 5G mobile signal bars

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We run the rule over the terms and conditions of Vodafone's new 5G unlimited data plans to see if they're genuinely unlimited. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 30th August 2019.

Vodafone's new unlimited data deals

Are Vodafone's unlimited data plans actually unlimited?

Vodafone unlimited data SIM banner

Unlimited gigabytes but some speed limitsRead latest info

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The answer is yes and no. On the one hand, all of the plans come with an unlimited data allowance of as many GB as you want to use in the UK. On the other hand, some of them have severe speed caps.

Vodafone have split their unlimited data plans into three different tiers: Unlimited Lite, Unlimited and Unlimited Max. We explain the differences between them in the section below.

The plans are available on SIM only and with a phone contract and they're being sold as giving you access to Vodafone's new 5G network alongside their existing 4G/3G/2G networks.

In this guide, we're going to review each of the plans, explain what its speed limit it is and what that would mean if you signed up to Vodafone on it. And we compare them with alternatives from other providers.

Useful link: Read Vodafone's own guide

Differences between the plans

Unlimited Lite: a slow speed cap makes it pointless for most

Vodafone Lite SIM only plan

3G speeds but no data allowance limitsGet this plan

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The cheapest deal currently comes in at £23 a month on 12-month contract with an unlimited data allowance with a capped speed of 2 Mbps:

Or as a 1-month contract:

How fast is 2 Mbps? The answer is not very. Old-fashioned 3G was capable of downloads at this speed (downloading for 24hrs a day solid at this speed would use approximately 650GB in a month).

Realistically, 2 Mbps is only going to be good for basic usage like checking social media, browsing the internet and audio streaming. Video streaming may need to buffer at this speed. Gaming would be tough.

When you're limited to this speed and these types of applications, we’d question whether there's a point in even having an unlimited data allowance. Vodafone may have launched this just to get a nice low "from" price.

If you're only ever using those things on your phone, you'll more than likely find a full 4G-speed SIM with a capped data allowance enough for your needs, which you can probably get cheaper elsewhere.

Useful link: Compare all SIM only plans here

Mid-range Unlimited plans have a healthier 10 Mbps cap

Vodafone unlimited plan

Unlimited data capped at basic 4G speedsGet this plan

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Vodafone’s mid-range Unlimited plan comes in at £26 a month, on a 12-month SIM only contract. It gets you as much data as you like at a higher 10 Mbps max speed:

It's also available as a 1-month deal too:

This speed will be useful to a lot more people, as it will comfortably support data-heavier activities like standard definition video streaming and even High Definition depending on the app you use.

10 Mbps is below the typical speeds of around 21 Mbps you could expect on average on Vodafone’s 4G mobile network. And remember it’s a max speed. Actual speeds could be lower depending on location.

If you use your phone in an area with better Vodafone coverage than other networks with unlimited data, this plan could be a feasible option (although we'd always compare prices first).

Useful link: Use our SIM only comparison tool

Unlimited Max plans always give you Vodafone’s best speeds

Vodafone Unlimited Max Plan

At Vodafone's best 4G/5G speedsGet this plan

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The most-expensive of the Unlimited plans is the Max, which we think will be the most appealing deal. It comes in at £30 a month on the 12-month contract, which is already cheap for Vodafone.

Or on a 1-month contract:

These plans don’t have a top speed cap. Vodafone say they’ll deliver the very best speed for the area that you’re in. So they’ll be suitable for downloading large files quickly or streaming in UHD if you’re in a fast area.

It's also the only plan here to make proper use of connecting to Vodafone’s brand-new 5G network. You will need a phone that has 5G as a feature (still pretty rare) and to be in a Vodafone 5G-covered area.

If neither of these applies, you'll be connecting to Vodafone's 4G network, on which we'd expect top-notch speeds around 44 Mbps via 4G+ or around 21 Mbps over regular 4G (but can be lower too).

There's definitely a point in having unlimited data in this case, because you're going to be able to use data-hungry applications like UHD streaming and modern gaming.

Useful link: How fast will Vodafone's 5G be?

Two plans are available with an entertertainment subscription

Vodafone Entertainment subscription

Choose an entertainment subscription on topHow it works

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Vodafone have also released two versions of their unlimited plans that also include a subscription to an entertainment service, available only as 12-month contracts.

The 10 Mbps speed capped version:

And the full speed one too:

Both plans are priced £6 more expensive per month than their equivalent versions without a subscription, so bare in mind this is not a freebie.

Useful link: Read more about the choices on offer

Vodafone's unlimited data abroad

The Unlimited Plans work with Vodafone's Global Roaming

Vodafone's Global Roaming

We're still waiting for the full termsAll roaming benefits

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Vodafone roaming page here explains how they operate two different roaming zones Vodafone, depending on what plan you have. One covering just the EU, the other 77 worldwide countries.

The Unlimited Lite and Unlimited plans come with EU roaming. The Unlimited Max plan gets you the full 77 Global Roaming Plus countries.

If you read Vodafone's page on Global Roaming here, you'll see that the unlimited plans get you 25GB data a month to use while you're in an inclusive country for no extra charge.

That's no real surprise and 25GB is a huge amount to be using at home, never mind on a temporary trip to another country.

Useful link: More about Vodafone's Global Roaming

How the plans compare

Three's unlimited data is almost always much cheaper

Three unlimited data banner

24-month contract with 4G dataSee full deal

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Vodafone's main competition for unlimited data is Three. Unlimited data is available on every phone contract. While on SIM only, there are 3x plans that are all cheaper than Vodafone's non-speed-capped deals:

These all come "5G-ready", which means that when Three's 5G network goes live, you'll be able to use the ultra-fast data at no extra cost if your phone supports the feature and you're somewhere with 5G coverage.

Three are claiming their 5G network will be the UK's fastest, so it could be worth taking a Three deal on 4G today and waiting it out if you know you're definitely after the higher 5G speeds.

They also have the advantage over Vodafone's Unlimited Lite and Unlimited plans with more roaming destinations as standard (71 vs 48), although Unlimited Max comes with more included countries (77) (full details on roaming here).

The main disadvantage is that Three's UK 4G network is still smaller than Vodafone's, so it's worth checking coverage up front here to make sure you can get as much of the unlimited data on 4G signal as possible where you are.

Useful link: Three's 5G rollout plans

EE's unlimited data plans are more expensive than Vodafone

EE unlimited data banner

Unlimited data with no speed capsSee full details

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For the first time ever, EE are now offering unlimited data on phone contracts and SIM only plans. You'll get as much data as you like in the UK with no speed caps. On SIM only, EE have seperated out 4G and 5G plans:

Or if you want to add your choice of two of EE's Swappable Benefits for an extra monthly cost:

To get 5G there's a premium on EE (which there isn't on Vodafone or Three):

We'd say there's still a slight advantage to joining EE compared with Vodafone when it comes to 4G coverage and speeds (you can compare in your area by using EE's coverage checker here and Vodafone's here).

Other than price, there's not a huge difference between EE's unlimited data deals and Vodafone's Unlimited Max, ignoring Vodafone's speed-capped plans, which are hard to justify as unlimited.

On EE there's a 15GB limit on roaming within the EU with an unlimited data plan, on Vodafone it's 25GB. A nice touch on EE is you can share up to 120GB from your plan with other people on your account.

Useful link: Full FAQs on EE's unlimited data plans

SMARTY's 1-month unlimited data plan is cheaper

SMARTY unlimited data speed

No speed limits, unlimited 4G dataSee full deal

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Three's low-frills sub-brand SMARTY also have a 4G unlimited data SIM only plan that offers a better price than Vodafone's 1-month and 12-month deals with just a 1-month commitment:

It doesn't get you some of the handy big-network extras that you get with Vodafone's unlimited plans like WiFi calling / 4G calling. And it's worth checking you have decent SMARTY/Three signal where you live here.

If you're interested in Vodafone because they have 5G, this is something SMARTY don't currently offer. But their page here says they will be offering it soon.

Useful link: Learn more about SMARTY

What's Vodafone's 5G network like?

Vodafone's 5G network has only launched in a few cities

Vodafone 5G network map

5G's only available in selected citiesSee future locations

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Vodafone are the second UK mobile network to switch on the beginnings of their 5G network. As always, big projects like this start off in major towns and cities first.

Currently 5G is only available in parts of Glasgow, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol. Use their 5G coverage checker here to find the precise locations within those cities.

They also have plans to roll out 5G in 12 more towns and cities up and down the country in the coming year too (see full list of future locations here).

In terms of speed predictions, Vodafone are expecting typical average of 150 - 200 Mbps, which would rival home fibre optic broadband from Virgin Media. And even peak speeds of 1 Gbps!

For the unlimited plans, it's worth noting that only the Max plan will get you 5G speeds. The other two are capped at 2 Mbps (3G speed) and 10 Mbps (mediocre 4G speed). And again you'll need a 5G-ready phone and be in an area with 5G.

If you don't have either of those, it's worth comparing against other 4G unlimited data SIMs (which we do below) first, because you could be paying a premium with Vodafone for 5G you'll never use.

Useful link: Vodafone's own guide to their 5G network

Unlimited data guides on other networks

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SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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