Vodafone broadband and fibre review 2018
| Dan Howdle | Friday, July 13th 2018
Speed – how fast is it?
Would you believe that the average household in the UK uses 112GB of data each month? That number might not mean much to you, but it's a lot. Back in the 1980s that would have been more than a warehouse full of IBM mainframe computers. Most of that is going to be down to the most data-hungry application most households engage in – streaming movies and TV. If you're like most you probably do it to a lesser or greater extent, whether that's the odd episode of Dragon's Den on BBC iPlayer or the religious streaming of everything Netflix puts out in UHD 4K.
With this ever-increasing demand for speed, Vodafone has decided to no longer offer standard broadband, instead choosing to focus on fibre. With two speeds – averaging 35Mbps and 63Mbps – on offer, which one is best for you?
Vodafone Superfast 1
WIth this entry-level fibre package, you'll get an average speed of 25Mbps download (10Mbps upload). This is slower than most other entry-level fibre packages (BT offers 36Mbps and Virgin Media offers 50Mbps). All you really need to know is what kinds of household it's suitable for.
This speed would ideally suit a household of four or five people of internet-using age. If you're a couple, with a couple of kids old enough to use the internet, social media, stream Netflix in their bedrooms, play games and so on, this speed will suit. You may, however, start hitting the ceiling of that speed if one or more members of the household likes to stream excessively in 4K, download lots of videogames or otherwise engage in activities that might deem them a 'heavy' user.
Vodafone Superfast 2
You might've seen that Virgin Media is offering a (honestly) ridiculous 350Mbps at its top end. Vodafone's top speed averages just 63Mbps, which sounds rather puny by comparison, proving only that even a polar bear looks small when you put it next to an elephant. It's smaller, but it's still a polar bear!
63Mbps (20Mbps upload) is best suited to households full of folk who like to do a lot of stuff online and – importantly – don't do most of that stuff together. If you're streaming Amazon Prime or whatever in the living room and you're all watching it, you're probably taking up less than 10Mbps of that bandwidth. If you're all off in separate bits of the house downloading this and that, watching different stuff on different screens, then 65Mbps is not going to cut it.
To be honest, there really isn't a lot in it cost-wise. If you never want to have to worry about everything slowing down, perhaps a few extra quid a month is worth the peace of mind.
Equipment – what's the router like?
In a word: great. We could get super-techy here, but you wouldn't like us very much after that. Instead, we'll briefly explore what some of those jumbled letters and numbers mean in the real world. The router is of the 802.11ac standard. See, you're confused already. But wait. All that means is it's capable of sending the highest possible speeds over wi-fi.
It also operates on both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz band. This is a useful feature, as the 2.4Ghz band is the one most home broadband routers use to send and receive wifi signals. Problem is, it's getting awfully crowded, meaning you may suffer slow speeds due to interference from other routers, depending how populated the area you live in happens to be. That’s where the addition of the 5Ghz band comes in.
The Vodafone router also offers something called 'beamforming technology'. What this does is allow you to ask the router to make an extra-special effort to communicate with a specific device. Say your bath is at the other end of the house from your router (speaking anecdotally here), and you want to languish in it half the day while reading from your tablet, and your wi-fi signal doesn't quite reach. Well, this will focus a higher-intensity signal to the specific location of the device. Handy.
All in all, Vodafone's router – which unlike the Virgin Hub, Sky Q Hub and whatnot doesn't have a name – is a very capable bit of kit.
Customer service – what do people say about Vodafone?
Here at Cable.co.uk we conduct satisfaction studies among customers of the UK's various broadband providers every year, and guess who made it into fourth place in 2017? Yep, it was Vodafone. Now before you come back with something like 'Fourth place, that's not even a bronze medal', you should know that was out of around 20 providers.
When you consider that this was Vodafone's first full year as a broadband provider, to beat some of the most established players is a remarkable feat. Vodafone's broadband customers, generally speaking, are very happy indeed.
Vodafone can't match Virgin Media for speed. It can't beat Sky for TV – Vodafone doesn't offer any kind of TV service. But that's not the point. Vodafone's sell is that it's extremely cheap. It offers a premium service that's capable enough for pretty much everyone, but at a price – especially when Vodafone's running a sale – that is in many cases substantially cheaper than the premium competition. Do we recommend Vodafone broadband? Hell yes, we do.
Why choose Vodafone broadband?
If the home broadband market were a street fight, Vodafone broadband would be the guy who brought the gun. At the time of writing it offers the cheapest fibre broadband in the country, without cheaping out on low-quality equipment or iffy customer service. Let’s take a closer look.
- Vodafone broadband focuses on fibre with no set-up fees
- Discounted pricing if you’re a Vodafone mobile customer
- Vodafone offers a speed guarantee or money off
- Vodafone broadband app makes managing your connection easy
- Home phone included in pricing
- High-quality router for such a low-price service
- 6 months free F-Secure antivirus
Vodafone broadband focuses on fibre with no set-up fees
Unlike the majority of its competitors, Vodafone doesn’t offer ADSL (slower, non-fibre) broadband at all. Instead, it focuses on delivering the standard two levels of fibre offered across all providers on the Openreach network – with average speeds of 35Mbps and 63Mbps – and doing so cheaply, effectively and with a minimum of fuss.
There are also, at the time of writing, no set-up fees when signing up to Vodafone broadband. That may sound like a small thing, but bear in mind that the likes of Sky and BT will charge you upwards of fifty quid for the privilege of hooking you up, suddenly that becomes a big deal.
Discounted pricing if you’re a Vodafone mobile customer
At the time of writing, Vodafone’s already super-cheap broadband deals are even cheaper if you’re already a Vodafone mobile customer. Is the difference enough to consider switching to Vodafone as your mobile provider just to take advantage of the discount? Unless you were thinking of doing so anyway, probably not. Nevertheless this is a nice bonus if you’re already a customer.
Vodafone offers a speed guarantee or money off
Bit of an odd choice of words, that: Speed ‘guarantee’. Vodafone isn’t really guaranteeing you a speed. If you sign up and are getting half the speed you thought you were going to get, Vodafone broadband isn’t guaranteeing they’ll bring your speed in line with your expectations, rather it’s offering a discount of 15% if it doesn’t.
Still, we’re not going to look a gift horse in the mouth here. No one else in the broadband market is offering any such thing, so Vodafone does stand out here in that respect.
Vodafone broadband app makes managing your connection easy
Apps are pretty common among mobile providers. Perhaps that’s why Vodafone has managed to get out a broadband app so quickly and with so many useful features. It’s available on mobiles and tablets on iOS and Android to all Vodafone broadband customers and allows you to do a number of handy things traditionally buried deep within the router’s irksome operating system.
You can change your wifi network name and/or password, set up separate guest, family or business networks and allocate bandwidth (speed) to them. You can view all the devices connected to your router and prioritise or ‘boost’ a certain device of devices – useful when your Smart TV or streaming stick isn’t getting enough juice, for example.
There are a host of other features that become increasingly techy as you go. You can manage all the devices on your network, split your wifi bands, set up a schedule for when your home network is on or off, check your broadband line speed and much, much more. It’s useful, easy to use and encompasses everything from simple adjustments to deep customisation of your home network.
Home phone included in pricing
This is common these days, but worth mentioning nonetheless. You don’t just get fibre broadband when you sign up to Vodafone broadband – you also get a home phone line. Sadly, though understandably at this price point, Vodafone doesn’t throw in any additional free calling packages such as call weekends, evening and weekends or free anytime calls. What you get here is pay as you go (PAYG) – you make a call, you pay for it.
However, should you want some form of free calling package added in you can do so at the checkout – just bear in mind this will add to a lesser or greater degree (depending on which calling package you choose) to the sum of your monthly payments.
High-quality router for such a low-price service
The Vodafone broadband router is very good for something at this price point. Sure, there are better ‘free’ routers on the market – BT’s Smart Hub and Virgin Media’s Superhub 3 both stand out from the crowd – but services from these providers are also far more expensive.
For the money, compared with the routers offered by providers charging similar money, Vodafone’s router is way ahead of the pack. It’s dual-band, meaning it operate on both the regular 2.4Ghz and the speedier 5Ghz bands, and it offers something rather special in the form of something Vodafone calls ‘beamforming technology’.
If you think of a broadband wifi router like a lawn sprinkler, firing droplets in every direction, beamforming would be like it quirting the water more in one direction than in any other, where the lawn particularly needs it. Or in the case of wifi, where a device particularly needs the extra power/range. Very handy.
6 months free F-Secure antivirus
Some broadband providers will charge you extra for their internet security suite. Not Vodafone. Well, not for the first six months at least. F-secure SAFE provides security for up to five of your family’s devices against hackers, viruses, spyware and other malware. And if your mobile is ever lost or stolen, it'll help you find it, lock it and wipe its content remotely.