Compare Vodafone mobile broadband deals
By Dan Howdle | Thursday, March 26th 2020
In this guide
- What is Vodafone mobile broadband?
- Do I need Vodafone mobile broadband?
- Vodafone coverage and data speeds
- Which other providers offer mobile broadband?
- Frequently asked questions
Vodafone is one the UK's four physical network providers, the others being EE, O2 and Three. It's available pretty much everywhere and like those other providers, it offers a wide range of ways to get online via its network. It's available pretty much everywhere, though you will need to check whether specific types of mobile broadband are available from Vodafone where you live.
Vodafone offers a full range of mobile broadband solutions, including dongles and MiFi devices (portable hotspots), a 4G/5G home router called the GigaCube, designed to replace your home broadband connection, and of course data-only tablet/laptop SIMs and regular mobile SIMs. Let's take a look at the details.
What is Vodafone mobile broadband?
Mobile broadband comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, and doesn't always necessarily mean broadband you can take anywhere with you. Rather, it's broadband that's delivered over a mobile network, and includes mobile hotspots, most commonly referred to as MiFi devices, which indeed you can take anywhere with you, as well as home broadband routers that connect to a mobile network, which generally speaking you can't.
Even then the definitions get rather blurry. Competitor network EE, for example, offers a home broadband router that connects to its mobile network that you can also pick up and take out with you and use as a mobile hotspot. Vodafone also allows tethering, meaning you can use mobile broadband via your phone or data-only tablet SIM. It's a wide range of stuff, so let's take a closer look.
- Vodafone 4G/5G home broadband router – The Vodafone GigaCube is designed to replace your home broadband router. It's currently more expensive than a typical home broadband deal, especially if you choose to have it with unlimited data. So we would recommend this as a solution for people who cannot get good internet speeds via traditional means, but can get a good 4G or 5G signal from Vodafone
- Vodafone MiFi devices – Vodafone offers only one MiFi personal hotspot device – the catchily titled R218. It's 3G and 4G compatible and battery powered, so you can take it anywhere and connect up to 10 devices to it at once
- Vodafone dongles – Vodafone offers one dongle, the K5160. A dongle is a memory-stick-sized device that slots into the USB port of a laptop or other compatible device, and offers that device internet connectivity wherever you happen to be. It does not create a mobile hotspot, though, so you will only be able to have internet access on the device you have it plugged into
- Vodafone data-only SIMs – A data-only SIM is a SIM card designed to go in a tablet or compatible laptop. Unlike a phone SIM they come with no minutes or texts, just the data. Hence 'data-only SIM'. Vodafone offers a wide variety of data limits on its data-only SIMs, including unlimited data
- Vodafone SIMs for mobile hotspot tethering – You can of course use a regular mobile SIM to get mobile broadband, in the first instance on the phone itself, and in the second switching on your phone's 'mobile hotspot' mode and 'tethering' other devices such as a laptop to it the way you would to a regular router
Do I need Vodafone mobile broadband?
All things being equal, we all benefit from having some form of mobile broadband device, and indeed almost all of use do in the form of our mobile phones. But as data limits on mobile SIMs head increasingly towards offering just one option (unlimited), the number of locations where we have ready access is also on the rise. That means we're getting access to more data, but needing it less and less.
Situations, then, where you need something more than wifi, and more than your mobile phone are actually pretty few and far between. Here are some of those situations so you can see whether you fit into one of these categories.
- You have terrible fixed line broadband – If your home broadband deal is extremely slow and there is no sign of it getting better in the near future, you may live somewhere where 4G or even 5G home broadband from Vodafone would be a better option. A more expensive option to be sure, but it's probably worth paying a bit more to get usable speeds
- You travel for work – If you're up and down the country all week long and cannot leave connectivity to chance, a MiFi mobile hotspot or a dongle from Vodafone may be just what you need, perhaps as a backup more than a permanent fixture
- No other options – There are still places in the UK where you won't find a wifi signal for miles around. Perhaps you work outside, somewhere rural, or on a construction site, and need a reliable broadband solution. A personal MiFi hotspot or dongle from Vodafone could be a good fit
- You need a temporary solution – Most of Vodafone's mobile broadband options are available on 30-day rolling contracts. So if you're just filling in a bit of time as you prepare to move somewhere permanent for example, getting hold of a MiFi device or dongle from Vodafone may be a good fit
Vodafone mobile broadband coverage and data speeds
There are actually only four mobile network providers in the UK. These are sometimes referred to as 'MNOs' and include Vodafone, O2, EE and Three. They own their own network infrastructure, meaning that, perhaps rather wastefully, there are four networks each overlapping and covering the entire country.
Other providers – of which there are many – are sometimes referred to as MVNOs, or mobile virtual network operators. They supply their mobile deals by leasing space on one of the four networks mentioned in the paragraph above. This is sometimes called 'piggybacking'.
When it comes to data speeds, there is quite a bit of variety across the four UK networks. In Ookla's most recent speed study, conducted at the end of 2019, Vodafone came in second fastest for 4G speeds, averaging 33.32Mbps. EE got the top spot with 42.91Mbps, Three was in third place with 24.11Mbps and O2 came in last with 22.95Mbps.
For 5G, Vodafone was the slowest with an average download speed of 140.15Mbps. EE was fastest with 205.02Mbps, and O2 came in second place at 159.48Mbps. Three had not yet launched its 5G network at the time of the study.
Which other providers offer mobile broadband?
- BT – Offers dongles and MiFi devices, but stops short of selling its own 4G or 5G home broadband solutions, preferring instead to switch you over to 4G broadband if your fixed line breaks down. BT Mobile operates on the EE network
- EE – Offers a full range of mobile broadband products on its own network (EE). These include dongles, MiFi devices, 4G home broadband routers and of course SIMs. It is currently rolling out 5G availability on an ongoing basis
- O2 – Offers 4G MiFi, dongles and of course regular SIMs. O2 does not currently offer any home broadband solution designed to replace your fixed line
- Three – Offer 4G and 5G home broadband under the newly established brand: Three Broadband. Its range of routers it complex as it depends on whether you can get 4G or 5G where you live. In addition, Three has the same MiFi device available from Virgin Mobile, described below
- Virgin Mobile – Offers just one MiFi device – the Huawei E5573BS. It will supply 4G mobile broadband to up to ten devices at the same time, and is batter operated, so you can take it anywhere
Frequently asked questions
What is Vodafone mobile broadband?
Vodafone's mobile broadband offering includes single-device USB dongles, personal hotspot MiFi devices, 4G and 5G home broadband via its GigaCube router, and of course data-only SIMs and regular mobile SIMs which can also be used for tethering.
How do I use Vodafone mobile broadband?
So long as you're somewhere you can get a workable 4G (or better) signal from Vodafone, you have a range of options for receiving Vodafone mobile broadband. Visit Vodafone's mobile broadband page for more information on the types available and which will most likely suit your needs.
Can I get unlimited mobile broadband from Vodafone?
Yes. All four of the UK's mobile network providers now offer at least one unlimited data mobile broadband package, though they are still at this present time relatively expensive.
How fast is Vodafone 4G mobile broadband?
In Ookla's most recent study, Vodafone came in with the second-fastest average 4G download speeds, at 33.32Mbps. EE is currently the fastest, with an average 4G download speed of 42.91Mbps.
How fast is Vodafone 5G broadband?
Vodafone came in slowest of the three network providers offering 5G at the time of the last Ookla speed study, with an average 5G download speed of 140.15Mbps. The fastest was EE with an average 5G download speed of 205.02Mbps.