EE vs Vodafone mobile network: Which is best?

Last updated: 12 August 2021   By Jo Bailey

Vodafone and EE both offer super-fast mobile data and have excellent coverage across the UK.

ee store front
Credit: Ink Drop/Shutterstock.com

In this guide:


At a glance

Vodafone EE
Price from £6 £14
Contract length 30 days to 36 months 24 months
4G speeds 21Mbps average 39.0Mbps average
4G geographical coverage 82% 85%
4G indoor coverage 95% 93%
Customer satisfaction 90% 92%

Special offers

Here are the latest special offers available from EE and Vodafone:

Offer Terms

Get the Samsung Galaxy S24 with an 8GB Xtra Airtime Plan from just £20/mth when you trade in a Samsung Z Fold4

Hurry! Offer ends 30 May 2024

36 month phone plan, 24 month airtime plan. Prices from £20/mth with £30 upfront fee. Airtime monthly price will increase each April by the CPI rate + 3.9%.


3 months free on selected 24 month SIM only plans

Hurry! Offer ends 30 May 2024

24 month contract. SIM only for mobile. From £28/mth after 3 months. Airtime monthly price will increase each April by the CPI rate + 3.9%.


SIM only plans

Winner: Vodafone offers more data for less money, although customers should beware of speed caps on some plans.

Both Vodafone and EE offer 24-month SIM deals, with Vodafone also offering some 12-month and 1-month rolling deals too.

EE doesn't currently offer plans shorter than 24 months, so if we're looking at EE vs Vodafone on SIM only plans, Vodafone wins.

Here are a range of comparable SIM only plans on 24-month contracts:

Package Minutes Data Contract term Monthly price
Vodafone Red 1GB Unlimited 1GB 24 months £11
EE 1GB data Unlimited 1GB 24 months £14
Vodafone Red 160GB Unlimited 160GB 24 months £20
EE 120GB 5G data Unlimited 120GB 24 months £20
Vodafone Unlimited Max Unlimited Unlimited 24 months £30
EE Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 24 months £35

So, if we're looking at SIM only EE or Vodafone plans, Vodafone are the cheaper network.

Compare their SIM only deals in full using our live SIM only comparison checker.

Just for reference, here are Vodafone's deals for unlimited data across 24 months, 12 months and 1-month contracts:

Package Minutes Data Contract term Monthly price
Vodafone Unlimited Max Unlimited Unlimited 24 months £30
Vodafone Unlimited Max Unlimited Unlimited 12 months £33
Vodafone Unlimited Max Unlimited Unlimited 1 month £45

Note: Unlimited Max is the only unlimited Vodafone plan with full speed data (the highest speeds available in an area). Unlimited Lite caps speeds at 2Mb while Unlimited caps them at 10Mb. For the best available speeds, customers should opt for Unlimited Max.

Which is better for pay as you go?

Choosing between Vodafone or EE for pay as you go is a choice between different bundles of minutes, texts and data - neither offer traditional PAYG anymore.

Here is a selection of their pay as you go bundles side by side:

Package Minutes Data Contract term Monthly price
Vodafone £10 bundle Unlimited 15GB PAYG £10
EE £10 Jam-packed PAYG 100 8GB PAYG £10
EE £15 Jam-packed PAYG Unlimited 30GB PAYG £15
Vodafone £15 bundle Unlimited 30GB PAYG £15
EE £30 Jam-packed PAYG Unlimited 100GB PAYG £30
Vodafone £30 bundle Unlimited 100GB PAYG £30

As we can see, while the prices of the bundles are in line with each other, Vodafone tend to offer more data for the money at a lower level.

For PAYG, then, it may come down to how much data a customer intends on using every month.

One further thing to note: data can be rolled over from one month to the next with both EE and Vodafone, although specific limits may vary.

Roaming

EE announced in June 2021 that EU roaming charges would be imposed from January 2022 onwards.

Customers will be charged £2 per day for using their phone in 47 European countries from that date or, alternatively, they can purchase 30-day passes.

Vodafone has a 25GB data roaming limit on their plans, with customers paying more than £3 per GB for data use beyond that limit.

Now that the UK has left the EU, those travelling to Europe should check the roaming situation before they travel - previous rules on free roaming no longer apply.


Handsets

Winner: Draw. EE handsets can seem more expensive but Vodafone's EVO plans spread over 36 months sometimes skew the market.

Vodafone now offer EVO plans on all their handset tariffs. These plans, introduced in June 2021, allow customers to take a contract up to 36 months for the payment of their device and to take an airtime bundle on top of that.

It means customers can spread the costs of their handset over a longer period, but it does mean they'll be locked into a contract for longer too.

Meanwhile, EE operate standard 24-month contracts on their device plans.

Both providers offer a wide range of the latest devices, occasionally with special offers on pricing or accessories. If customers are looking to compare EE vs Vodafone mobile phones and tariffs, it's worth ordering our live comparison tables by the special offers available to see the best deals.

As an example of EE vs Vodafone mobile phones, here are two devices side-by-side:

Handset Minutes Data Initial price Monthly price
Vodafone Google Pixel 4a Unlimited 25GB £9 £32
36 month term
EE Google Pixel 4a Unlimited 40GB Free £33
24 month term
Vodafone Samsung Galaxy A12 Unlimited 25GB £9 £28
36 month term
EE Samsung Galaxy A12 Unlimited 40GB Free £35
24 month term
EE Apple iPhone 12 Mini Unlimited Unlimited £30 £54
24 month term
Vodafone Apple iPhone 12 Mini Unlimited Unlimited £9 £55
36 month term

Remember, the main difference between these deals is the contract length, but it's possible to adjust this once you click through to Vodafone's site and customise your deal. Bear in mind, this will increase the monthly costs as the device will be paid for over fewer months.

It's notoriously difficult to say definitively which network is best for a handset since they offer different benefits (more on this below).

When comparing EE or Vodafone, consider the following factors:

  • Contract length
  • Upfront costs
  • Overall costs
  • Speed of data (4G or 5G)

See if Vodafone or EE are the best for the devices you're interested in by comparing mobile phone plans or read more about the cheapest mobile phone deals in the UK.


Extras

Winner: EE have better extras than Vodafone, thanks to their benefits being swappable.

Vodafone offer Red with Entertainment plans at a higher cost than their standard Red airtime plans. These include one extra that is chosen at the beginning of the contract and can't be changed.

Vodafone's Red with Entertainment shouldn't be confused with the Xtra Plan benefits which may include the following (dependent on the handset and plan a customer chooses):

  • Device Care
  • Unlimited Picture Messaging
  • 81 roam-free destinations
  • Up to 6 Unlimited Data Boosters
  • 50% off Smartwatch Connectivity

Meanwhile, EE customers can choose to sign up for Smart Plans for an extra monthly cost. These include Smart Benefits which can be swapped from month to month if a customer wishes to change them.

These benefits change from time and there are different options for iPhone and Android users.

It's unlikely these extras will be the deciding factor when choosing between Vodafone or EE, but we'd always caution customers to check whether the services are cheaper elsewhere anyway.


Coverage

Winner: Draw. Vodafone have better indoor 4G coverage while EE reach more of the UK's landmass.

EE are an amalgamation of two other networks that no longer exist; Orange and T-Mobile. That gave them a head start in terms of coverage and speed, as they already had more infrastructure in place than other mobile network providers, and the 2016 acquisition by BT further improved their capacity for expansion.

According to Ofcom's 2020 Connected Nations report, Vodafone have better 4G indoor premises coverage while EE have more geographic (landmass) coverage.

Vodafone EE
Indoor premises coverage 95% 93%
Outdoor premises coverage 99% 99%
Geographic coverage 82% 85%

EE did have a target to reach 95% landmass coverage by 2020, but that target was missed. Their latest goal is to expand 5G services to 90% of the UK by 2028, although we'll have to wait and see how viable that is and what impact it has on 4G coverage too.

Both Vodafone and EE are committed to improving rural 4G coverage through the Shared Rural Network (SRN) scheme.

Vodafone are building 222 new masts alongside O2 and Three by 2024, while EE are in the process of upgrading 579 masts to improve 4G signal. That work should be completed by the end of 2021.

Read our full guide to mobile coverage in the UK.

5G

Details on the rollout of 5G services are still sketchy, and Ofcom is yet to cover the rollout extensively beyond saying, in their 2020 report, that there were around 3,000 5G base stations active.

EE have switched on 5G services in around 160 towns and cities while Vodafone services are active in 100.

Yet the presence of 5G services in one part of a city doesn't necessarily mean coverage will be extensive.

For customers with 5G devices, understanding the level of 5G coverage in your area is the best way to see whether 5G is an option for you yet. Both networks have coverage checkers available on their website.


Speeds

Winner: EE offer faster mobile broadband than Vodafone. EE are simply a faster network overall.

EE often shout about their super-fast 4G speeds, but are they really any faster than Vodafone? Research conducted by Tutela found that, actually, they are. Here are the test results for the first half of 2021 for you to compare:

Download (Mbps) Upload(Mbps) Latency (ms)
EE 30.6 10.5 11.7
Vodafone 13.1 11.0 15.9

In terms of download speeds on this report, EE's speeds are more than double those offered by Vodafone and their latency is lower too. The slight advantage Vodafone have on upload speeds is negligible.

If we look at data published in April 2021 from Opensignal, we see the actual figures are different but the gap between the two providers is still double:

Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps)
EE 39.0 9.1
Vodafone 21.0 8.1

Both reports point to EE being the faster network by some margin.

If we want to understand the impact the 5G rollout is having on mobile speeds, we can look to the bi-annual testing data from RootMetrics.

They undertake tests in major locations across the UK to understand how mobile networks are performing.

Their most recent report published in July 2021 looks at the first half of 2021 and offers the following insights:

Average download speeds (Mbps) Fastest median download speed (Mbps) Slowest median download speed (Mbps)
EE 58.8 104.2 54.8
Vodafone 25.2 69.4 17.5

The difference between the fastest median download speed achieved by EE in Birmingham and that achieved by Vodafone in Liverpool is over 30Mbps.

To put it a different way, the best median download speed achieved by Vodafone is only 15Mbps faster than the slowest achieved by EE.

Yet there is good news for Vodafone customers as the 5G rollout continues - they achieved a test speed of 192.2Mbps in Glasgow while EE's top test result was only 162.9Mbps in Birmingham.

We've got a full guide to 5G mobile broadband and what it could mean for customers in the long-term.


Customer service

Winner: EE win on almost all metrics, including much lower complaints figures than Vodafone.

Vodafone have a decent customer service record for the mobile side of their business, but EE have one of the best records around.

They've really turned the corner on customer service in recent years, moving on from the £1 million fine they received in 2015 for historic complaint handling failings.

On most of the metrics in Ofcom's most recent Comparing Service Quality report, EE beat Vodafone:

Vodafone EE
Satisfaction with service overall 90% 92%
Satisfaction with value for money 77% 80%
Customers with a reason to complain 16% 9%
Complaints completely resolved on first contact 44% 50%
Satisfaction with complaint handling overall 55% 56%
Average call waiting times 1 minute 56 seconds 2 minutes 9 seconds
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While Vodafone answer the phone a little faster, there's not much in it, and the number of customers with a reason to complain about Vodafone's services are almost double those with a reason to complain about EE's.

If we consider complaint figures for 2020, EE have the better record there too. These are the quarterly and total figures per 100,000 customers:

Vodafone EE
Q1 2020 5 2
Q2 2020 4 1
Q3 2020 5 2
Q4 2020 5 2
Total 2020 19 7

Again, EE have much lower complaint figures, and they are the clear winner on this metric.

Find out more about the best mobile companies for customer service.


Verdict: Who is the best mobile provider, Vodafone or EE?

Overall winner: EE's faster speeds ultimately make them the best option.

Where to next?

Both networks have a lot going for them. In terms of speed and coverage, EE are the better choice, but for low priced packages and large amounts of data, Vodafone win through.

Those in rural areas may find a better connection offered by Vodafone indoors, although EE have wider geographical coverage. Handset availability is good with both, but Vodafone offer the better value for money deals.

We have to pick a winner, however, and in this case it's EE.

In our opinion, the small extra you pay for handsets and contracts from EE is more than well invested thanks to their superior speeds and customer service. Vodafone's poor performance in terms of customer satisfaction make them a risky prospect, should you need help.

More information on both networks are available in our guide to EE here and our guide to Vodafone here.

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