Vodafone wasn’t the first network to launch 5G in the UK, but it aims to be the most appealing to businesses and consumers with a bunch of unlimited tariffs.
There’s also a broadband option for both business and home users, too, which it is also offering as part of a bundled deal with mobile called Vodafone Together.
Vodafone is also making a play on being the first network to offer roaming on 5G - again it's hoping this will appeal to the corporate market. Although it’s restricted to Spain, Germany and Italy for now (and only in 5G areas in those countries, of course), it’s clearly an area where Vodafone thinks it can lead.
Vodafone is citing peak 5G speeds of peak speeds of 1Gbps - we’ve seen around 900Mbps next to a mast at Vodafone’s Newbury HQ - and average speeds of 150-200Mbps in other areas we’ve tried the signal.
We’ve seen speeds hit around 180Mbps while out and about in a couple of Vodafone’s 5G locations. It’s early days though, and real-world speeds will increase as the 5G rollout goes on.
Read on for the full lowdown on how Vodafone is rolling out 5G services.
Vodafone 5G cities and towns
Vodafone 5G coverage has already grown since launch and the service is now available in 15 UK towns and cities - these are: Birkenhead, Birmingham, Bolton, Bristol, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow, Lancaster, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newbury, Plymouth, Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton.
Vodafone says it will be rolling out 5G in Blackpool, Bournemouth, Guildford, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton and Warrington before the end of this year, but expect the rollout to come to even more areas by the start of 2020.
You can see if Vodafone 5G is available in your area using the network using its network status checker.
Vodafone 5G phones
You’ll need to have a 5G phone to take advantage of 5G networks and Vodafone has announced several of these already. There isn’t as a great a selection as there is with EE, but it’s still early days. Indeed, it's the same selection of handsets as Three has currently confirmed for its upcoming 5G mobile launch.
You'll need a 5G ready plan and a 5G phone to connect to Vodafone 5G. If you’re buying a SIM-free 5G phone and want to use an existing contract you have with Vodafone, you’ll need a new SIM. If you’re buying a new 5G handset from Vodafone it will, of course, come with a 5G SIM.
Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G
Although Xiaomi isn’t a particularly well-known name in the UK, its 6.4-inch Mi Mix 3 5G is a force to be reckoned with - the 64GB handset uses Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 855 platform so it’s super-fast. There’s a pop-up dual front camera plus 12 megapixel cameras on the rear. It is Vodafone’s entry-level 5G handset and so is the most accessible way to get access to 5G - it’s available on much cheaper tariffs than some of the other handsets.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
Launched earlier in the year alongside the S10, the S10 5G was Samsung’s first 5G handset. It has more in common with the larger S10+ but is supersized compared to that handset at a whopping 6.7-inches. There’s a supersized battery, too, at 4,500 mAh. Samsung’s own Exynos 9820 and 5G modem powers this handset which has a quadruple rear camera including wide, telephoto and ultrawide lenses. Note that Samsung’s previously-announced Galaxy Fold foldable phone is also set to be 5G-capable when it finally hits the streets in September, but we don’t know if that will be coming to Vodafone as yet.
Huawei Mate 20 X 5G
If you’re looking for large, you’ve just found it. Huawei’s first 5G device is absolutely massive, with a 7.2-inch display alongside 4,200mAh battery, 128GB storage and fast 40W charging. It’s powered by Huawei’s own, powerful, Kirin 980 platform and Balong 5000 5G modem. As for other Huawei 5G devices, expect a version of the upcoming Mate 30 Pro to be 5G capable as well, and have a smaller screen. Although Vodafone had originally announced the Mate 20 X 5G would be coming to its network, it didn’t make the handset available as early as the Xiaomi (below) because of Huawei’s trade ban in the US.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G
This is Samsung’s second 5G phone after the S10 5G. This phone is larger than the S10 5G by 0.1-inches and it’s a brand new 6.8-inch version of Samsung’s Galaxy Note series which is now available to pre-order. The Note 10+ comes complete with the usual S Pen stylus that slots into the phone’s body and is also powered by Samsung’s latest Exynos 9825 processor and 5G modem. It also comes with 128GB of storage and has a large 4,300mAh battery, too.
Vodafone 5G coverage
Naturally, to get Vodafone 5G, you’ll need to be in an area that has 5G coverage. Remember that, if you’re in an area that doesn’t have 5G, your phone will just step down to 4G, 3G or 2G and will switch back to 5G when available.
Vodafone has a long-standing network sharing deal with O2 which it has now extended for 5G. The benefit to this is extensive, enabling both networks to roll out 5G services quicker, particularly in areas where it may not have been cost-effective to deploy 5G otherwise.
Within the agreement there is also provision for each network to ‘do their own thing’ at around 2,700 sites in 23 of the UK’s largest locations - that’s around 16 percent of Vodafone’s mast sites. At these places each network will install its own fibre backhaul connection and radio gear while still sharing the mast.
The separate arrangement means each network can keep control of its busiest locations and also deploy future tech that, presumably, it doesn’t want the other to access. At other locations, all the gear will be shared.
Vodafone 5G deals
Alongside the launch of 5G, Vodafone also announced a bunch of Unlimited data plans called Unlimited Lite, Unlimited and Unlimited Max plans, all of which are 5G-ready. These are also available for business users (at prices excluding UK VAT).
If you’re getting a 5G plan for business, you get a three month trial of Secure Net for protection against malicious sites and apps while you’re connected to the mobile network. Thereafter it will cost £1 a month - and you’ll need to make sure you cancel it if you don’t want it otherwise you will be automatically charged.
All three tariffs offer you completely unlimited 5G downloading, but they do so at different speeds. Our pick of the deals is Unlimited Max which offers you the maximum speed available for £30 a month (£25 ex-VAT for business). Below that, Unlimited Lite (£23 a month, £19.17 ex-VAT for business) and Unlimited (£26 a month, £21.67 ex-VAT for business) offer relatively poor download speeds of 2Mbps and 10Mbps respectively, so aren’t really worth the cost saving.
An Unlimited plan is a good idea for 5G downloads, because in our experience downloading over 5G can eat through data quickly.
However, you are also able to get Vodafone’s Red tariffs for 5G.Red 1 (1GB, £11), Red 2 (5GB, £15) and Red 3 (20GB, £20) all have unlimited minutes and texts. The Red plans include roaming in 48 destinations as standard. Unlimited Max includes roaming in 77 destinations.
Consumer customers can add an entertainment pack for just £6 a month and choose from Spotify, Amazon Prime Video, Sky Sports Mobile or Now TV.
For gamers, Vodafone has also teamed up with the Hatch game streaming service to offer three months free with any new Vodafone 5G phone.
Surprise, surprise, EE has now followed Vodafone and announced some unlimited data 5G tariffs, though these are a little more expensive.
Vodafone 5G broadband
Vodafone has also announced its broadband service that uses Huawei’s Huawei 5G CPE Pro router that Vodafone markets as its 5G Gigacube. It’s essentially a wireless router that has a nano SIM in it - there’s no fixed line connection, it just needs power. You can, however, cable two devices like a Powerline network or games console directly into the router, it doesn’t just cater for wireless devices. Because it only needs power, you can theoretically use it anywhere, but it’s 21cm high so it’s not exactly portable.
The business and consumer Gigacube tariffs are, essentially the same but Vodafone clearly sees the potential for Gigacube to help teams to work remotely en mass - such as at a corporate event, trade show or other temporary location.
For Vodafone’s 5G broadband, you’ll obviously need to be in one of the Vodafone 5G areas mentioned above (although the router will still use 4G if you can’t get 5G at any point). You can connect up to 64 devices to the Gigacube.
Contracts are available in two versions - 18 months or a rolling 30 day contract.
The 18 month tariffs are available in both business and consumer versions. There’s an introductory offer to get unlimited data for £50 a month with £50 up front (£41.67 ex-VAT for business). 200GB per month costs £40 (£33.33 ex-VAT for business), while 100GB a month costs £30 (£25 ex-VAT for business).
If you want a rolling 30 day tariff, you’ll need to pay £325 up front for the router, but you can then pay the same monthly amounts. Therefore, it’s currently better to take out the 18 month contract as you get the router for £50.
Vodafone reseller programs
For telecom resellers, Vodafone says it’s always on the look out for ambitious companies to join its partner programme. Its portfolio covers everything from mobile to fixed line and beyond including IoT devices and cloud hosting solutions, too.
Vodafone says it can offer tailored advice and training depending on what you want to offer and the telco offers partner rewards and awards, too.