O2 vs Vodafone: which is the better network?

Last updated: 13 June 2021   By Jo Bailey

As two of the largest and most popular networks in the UK, with similar services and coverage, O2 and Vodafone both have plenty going for them.

O2 have a good range of SIM only deals that are generally cheaper than Vodafone's, especially on rolling, 30-day deals.

However, it should be noted that Vodafone's speeds are faster than O2's, although customers should be careful to choose Unlimited Max plans if they want full speed data.

Ultimately, if customers are searching for a specific handset deal, it's worth checking both networks for current deals and special offers.

o2 store front
Credit: Ink Drop/Shutterstock.com

At a glance

Vodafone O2
Prices from £11 - £37 £14 - £30
Length of contract 30 days - 24 months 30 days - 36 months
4G Speeds 17.7Mb average 17.3Mb average
Unlimited data? No - Max 100GB Yes
4G geographical coverage 80% 82%
4G indoor coverage 95% 95%
Customer satisfaction 90% 91%

SIM only plans

Winner: O2's contract SIM only deals are generally substantially cheaper than Vodafone's when it comes to capped data packages.

O2 and Vodafone both offer 24-month and 12-month SIM only deals with varying amounts of data.

Here's a selection of their 24-month plans:

Package Minutes Data Contract term Monthly price
O2 5GB data (4G) Unlimited 5GB 24 months £10
Vodafone Red 5GB Unlimited 5GB 24 months £15
O2 160GB data (4G) Unlimited 160GB 24 months £20
Vodafone Red 100GB Unlimited 100GB 24 months £20
O2 Unlimited data Unlimited Unlimited 24 months £25
Vodafone Unlimited Max Unlimited Unlimited 24 months £25

And some comparable 12-month plans:

Package Minutes Data Contract term Monthly price
Vodafone Basics 4G Unlimited 4GB 12 months £6
O2 5GB data (4G) Unlimited 5GB 12 months £12
O2 20GB data (4G) Unlimited 20GB 12 months £18
Vodafone Red 20GB Unlimited 20GB 12 months £21
O2 Unlimited data Unlimited Unlimited 12 months £33
Vodafone Unlimited Max Unlimited Unlimited 12 months £33

As the tables demonstrate, there are some huge differences in O2 and Vodafone mobile data bundles at lower price points, but they do tend to converge when it comes to unlimited plans.

Something else to bear in mind here is that we've used Vodafone Unlimited Max deals in comparison to O2's unlimited data deals. While Vodafone do offer Unlimited Lite and Unlimited data plans, the speeds on those are capped at 2Mb and 10Mb respectively, so they aren't directly comparable.

Read more about unlimited data SIM only deals across the various mobile networks.

There's also a difference between Vodafone Basics and Vodafone Red, with Basics the cheapest SIM only options available. Two important things to know about Basics is that they are capped at 10Mb and they don't support roaming. It's also tricky to find them listed on Vodafone's official site, so make sure to search for SIM only deals using our checker to find Basics deals.

30 day SIM only deals

O2 and Vodafone 30-day SIM only deals echo the pricing of the longer deals detailed above, with O2 proving to be substantially cheaper:

Package Minutes Data Contract term Monthly price
O2 1GB data (4G) 1000 1GB 1 month £15
O2 9GB data (4G) Unlimited 9GB 1 month £21
Vodafone Red 1GB Unlimited 1GB 1 month £24
Vodafone Red 5GB Unlimited 5GB 1 month £28
O2 Unlimited data (4G) Unlimited Unlimited 1 month £36
Vodafone Unlimited Max Unlimited Unlimited 1 month £45

While the differences between O2's longer contracts and their rolling SIM only deals are small enough to be noticed every month, they're not as large as the gaps between Vodafone's contract deals and their rolling offers.

For customers looking at no-contract SIM only deals, O2 are clearly the best option. Possibly the only reason to choose Vodafone in such a scenario would be if O2 coverage was poor in a customer's area (more on coverage below).

Pay as you go

O2 offer pay as you go options through their Big Bundles system while Vodafone also allows customers to buy bundles of minutes, texts and data.

Here are a couple of PAYG options from both providers:

Package Minutes Data Contract term Price
O2 6GB data Big Bundle Unlimited 6GB PAYG £10
Vodafone £10 bundle Unlimited 5GB PAYG £10
O2 100GB data Big Bundle Unlimited 100GB PAYG £30
Vodafone £30 bundle Unlimited 50GB PAYG £30

Both O2 and Vodafone PAYG tariffs offer data rollover, although there can be limits to the amount customers are allowed to carry over from one month to the next.

From the bundles above, it's clear that O2 are still the most competitive on price.


Winner: Draw depending on the handset, although O2's extended contract options can make things cheaper.

Both O2 and Vodafone offer numerous models of smartphone, from the flagship iPhones to budget friendly devices. Customers on all budgets will find handsets to suit their pocket, whether they're looking for the latest Samsung or a mid-range smartphone with a decent camera.

When it comes down to O2 vs Vodafone mobile phone deals, it really depends on the device and the amount of data customers are looking for.

As an example, these are some deals for the Samsung Galaxy S21 258GB model based on 24-month contracts with similar amounts of data:

Handset Minutes Data Initial price Monthly price
Vodafone Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (258GB) Unlimited 50GB £79 £43
24 month term
Vodafone Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (258GB Unlimited Unlimited Max £49 £51
24 month term
O2 Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (258GB Unlimited 50GB £70 £55.15
24 month term
O2 Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (258GB Unlimited Unlimited £70 £60.15
24 month term

As we can see, for this high-end Samsung device, Vodafone are cheaper over the length of a 24-month contract.

However, if we go towards the budget end of the market and look at Motorola's moto E7 handset on a 24-month contract, it's a different story:

Handset Minutes Data Initial price Monthly price
O2 Motorola moto E7 Unlimited 5GB Free £18.02
24 month term
Vodafone Motorola moto E7 Unlimited 6GB £9 £23
24 month term
O2 Motorola moto E7 Unlimited Unlimited Free £34.02
24 month term
Vodafone Motorola moto E7 Unlimited Unlimited Max £9 £40
24 month term

So, customers looking at specific handsets should use our mobile phone comparison checker to see which network is the cheapest for a particular device.

It's also worth noting that O2 split their airtime and device costs, essentially allowing customers to pay for the device portion over any period from three months up to 36.

This means that device plans can be cheaper every month than the deals listed in the table above, yet the flipside to that is that customers are tied in for longer with their contracts.

Find more information on cheap mobile tariffs and where to get them.


Winner: O2's coverage is marginally better for 4G and they have the edge on rural coverage.

Both O2 and Vodafone offer good 4G coverage across most of the UK, with the nationwide splits for geographical and urban coverage detailed in the table below:

O2 Vodafone
Geographical 82% 80%
Indoor 95% 95%
Urban geographical 99% 99%
Urban indoor 97% 98%
Rural geographical 78% 79%
Rural indoor 80% 75%

As the table demonstrates, O2 and Vodafone coverage is matched when we look at average indoor coverage across the UK and geographical coverage in urban areas.

Yet O2 has the edge in some key measures, notably their indoor coverage in rural areas is much better.

Across the nations, however, it's worth noting Vodafone coverage in Northern Ireland and Scotland is better than O2's.

There's more detail on coverage in our dedicated guide to mobile coverage looking at all four mobile networks.

However, it's worth noting O2 and Vodafone do share a lot of infrastructure, with more shared masts set to appear in the coming years as part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) agreement.

4G coverage will improve over the coming years, but how is the rollout of 5G doing for O2 and Vodafone?


With both O2 and Vodafone now offering 5G services, we can refer to the bi-annual reports from RootMetrics to see how 5G availability is faring in the real world.

When 5G services are switched on, coverage in a location is often limited to begin with, so it's worth looking at the major locations covered in RootMetrics reports to see whether O2 or Vodafone are in the lead for 5G availability:

O2 Vodafone
Glasgow Not enough data 10.2%
Edinburgh Not enough data 1.1%
Belfast 4.0% 3.2%
Newcastle 10.9% Not enough data
Leeds and Bradford 12.3% 3.2%
Hull 17.1% 5.4%
Liverpool 13.3% 44.0%
Manchester Not enough data 14.6%
Sheffield 10.4% 2.2%
Nottingham 11.8% Not enough data
Leicester 12.7% Not enough data
Birmingham 1.1% 11.9%
Coventry 9.0% Not enough data
Cardiff Not enough data 15.2%
Bristol Not enough data 24.9%
London 6.6% 9.7%

It's clear from RootMetrics' testing that Vodafone's 5G availability in test cities is better than O2's, although their availability is only substantial in Liverpool and Bristol.

O2 say they have 5G in 150 locations compared to Vodafone's 100, but there's a big difference between 5G coverage in a town or city and customers actually being able to use it frequently.

Our advice is to utilise the coverage checkers on each provider's website if 5G service is important.


Winner: Vodafone have the edge in terms of recorded speeds.

O2 vs Vodafone on speed usually has one winner: Vodafone.

This is certainly the case in the most recent reports from Opensignal and RootMetrics that look at the average speeds offered by both networks.

In Opensignal's April 2021 report, Vodafone had a 3 Mbps lead on O2, offering average speeds of 21.0 Mbps compared to O2's 17.3 Mbps.

The difference between the two networks is more pronounced in RootMetric's report for the second half of 2020.

Those tests showed average UK-wide speeds of 21.1 Mbps for Vodafone and 12.9 Mbps for O2.

When it comes to 4G speeds, then, Vodafone are ahead.

They're also showing the capacity for high speeds when it comes to 5G, as the same data from RootMetrics demonstrated.

Vodafone registered their fastest median download speed in London with 21.6.6 Mbps, although their speed range began at 81.6 Mbps, so there was a wide range of speed results there.

O2's speed range was from 117.6 Mbps to 178.9 Mbps, with their fastest test recorded in Belfast. While this was slower overall than Vodafone's top results, it does show slightly more consistency in speed.

The truth about 5G speeds is that they're still very much under development, so we'll have to wait and see whether Vodafone or O2 take the lead as the technology develops further.


Winner: O2 offer an inclusive Extra for some plans and access to O2 Priority.

O2 offers various perks to customers, beginning with O2 Priority. This is a discount marketplace and portal for exclusive offers, giving customers access to budget experiences or priority tickets for gigs.

Customers taking some O2 tariffs will be able to choose an O2 Extra. These free subscriptions last for up to 12 months and include services like Disney+, Amazon Music, Audible and the International Bolt On (the line-up frequently changes).

An O2 Extra is free of charge, so it's a genuine perk rather than an option to upgrade whereas Vodafone offer tariffs called Red with Entertainment.

They are enhanced versions of the Red tariffs we looked at earlier in this guide, costing a few pounds extra per month and adding a subscription alongside a customer's mobile contract (saving a little money on the usual cost).

Vodafone also offer a VeryMe Rewards service giving personalised discounts to customers in a similar way to O2 Priority, along with a weekly treat on a Friday.

Finally, customers taking Vodafone mobile and Vodafone broadband will be able to save a few pounds per month by bundling the services together.

Both networks do offer good extras to customers, then, but we think O2 edge this one because their Extra is included within the price of the contract.

O2 customers have access to 15,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK, which can be set up to automatically connect to save on data.

Customer service

Winner: O2 win on almost every customer service metric available.

Ofcom monitor the performance of all mobile networks in the UK to see whether customers are happy with the service they receive.

The most recent report published in May 2021 shows how O2 and Vodafone performed in 2020, with O2's figures better than Vodafone's in almost all categories:

� O2 Vodafone
Overall satisfaction with service 91% � 90%
Satisfaction with value for money 79% 77%
Customers with a reason to complain 7% 16%
Overall satisfaction with complaint handling 62% 55%
Complaints resolved completely on first contact 47% 44%
Complaints per 100,000 customers in 2020 8� 20
Average call waiting time 2 minutes 17 seconds 1 minute 56 seconds

While O2 satisfaction levels are only slightly ahead of Vodafone's, the differences between the two networks becomes more pronounced when we look at the number of customers who have a reason to complain and the number of complaints each network is receiving.

Double the number of Vodafone customers believe they have a reason to complain about their mobile service, regardless of whether they do follow through on that complaint or not. This is further borne out by the number of complaints each network received per 100,000 customers in 2020.

The only measure where Vodafone get slightly ahead is when it comes to answering the phone - their call handlers pick up a little faster.

It's worth noting O2 picked up a £10.5m fine in February 2021for overcharging customers with their final bills between 2011 and 2019.

Even so, O2's overall customer service reputation is stronger than Vodafone's.

Verdict: Who is the best mobile provider, Vodafone or O2?

Overall winner: O2 tick more boxes than Vodafone and their SIM only deals are often much cheaper.

O2 and Vodafone both operate their own mobile networks and they offer a comprehensive range of tariffs, handsets and extras that could overwhelm customers.

Yet a closer look shows O2 are ahead on many key points:

  • Cheaper SIM only deals
  • Less of a premium for taking 1-month deals
  • Flexible contracts up to 36 months
  • Slightly better coverage
  • Better customer service record

One of the major issues with O2 is, of course, their lack of speed in comparison to Vodafone. However, their average speeds are perfectly serviceable and investment in mast infrastructure alongside the rollout of 5G will continue to improve coverage for customers.

If customers are looking for a SIM only deal and there is good O2 coverage in their local area, we'd recommend the O2 mobile network.

For customers looking at handset deals, the picture may be more complicated, so compare mobile device plans using our free tool for full information.

Comments (1)

Nosey Parker
8 November 2019

My husband is with O2 and I am with Vodafone. Up until recently I have always had much better signal in all areas of the Midlands. Since they agreed to work together this summer we both have poor coverage. Has anyone else found this?

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