By Emma Lunn | Tuesday, February 5th 2019
EE and Vodafone are the only two mobile networks in the UK to offer LTE-Advanced speeds (i.e. super quick). If you’ve got the need for speed, it’s a toss-up between the two. But which one is best?
Contrary to common belief, there aren’t scores of mobile networks in the UK. There are just four: EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three. All the rest “piggyback” off one of these networks – i.e. they operate off the same signal but have their own brand and tariffs.
So, EE and Vodafone are two of the biggest networks out there. Both offer superfast 4G and a wide choice of tariffs, decent data allowances, travel bolt-ons and the latest handsets. However, there are a few differences. Read on to find out what they are.
Both EE and Vodafone offer a wide choice of handsets, bundles and SIM-only options.
For pay-as-you-go customers, EE offers “Everything Packs” starting from about £5. Vodafone pay-as-you-go customers need a minimum of £10 to top up and can either buy a calls/texts/data bundle or pay for usage as they go along.
Both EE and Vodafone offer a huge choice of pay monthly phone and airtime deals. Vodafone has a slightly lower entry point at around £10 a month on some deals, while EE’s cheapest monthly tariffs start at around £15. With both providers, a fancy handset and all-singing all-dancing tariff will cost you more than £70 a month.
If you’re after a SIM-only deal, prices start at about a tenner a month with both providers, and slightly more if you opt for 30-day, rather than 12-month, terms.
Mobile roaming charges have been abolished within the EU. This means all mobile customers can call, text and use data in about 50 countries without incurring extra charges.
However, you’ll still have to pay if you travel outside the EU. Vodafone offers a service called “Roam Further” which allows you to use your normal tariff in 60 countries for a few pounds a day. You’ll only be charged on the days you use your phone, and receiving calls and texts is free.
EE offers deals which allow you to use your home allowance in a few popular destinations such as Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, USA. If you’re on a different plan, EE offers various travel passes for around a fiver a day for data, as well as calls and texts packages.
EE’s big selling point is its speed and it has come out on top on numerous speed tests and been handed several accolades for “fastest speed”. EE was the first UK network to offer 4G, and now offers a LTE-Advanced offering called 4G+. The plus sign means even faster speeds. EE claims it's the equivalent of getting fibre broadband on your mobile and the network promises download speeds of up to 60Mbps on some of its plans.
Vodafone’s download speeds are pretty swift too. It advertises 4G speeds up to six times faster than its 3G speeds. Vodafone is the only other UK provider, alongside EE, to have a LTE-Advanced service (O2 and Three don’t offer this yet), but it’s only available in London, Manchester and Birmingham. However, speed tests suggest Vodafone doesn't perform as well as EE.
EE is racing ahead when it comes to UK coverage – it beats not just Vodafone, but all the other providers, covering 99% of the population for 4G and 98% for 3G. In comparison, Vodafone covers 95% of the population for 4G and 96% for 3G.
But it’s important to remember that if you want EE’s good coverage, you don’t necessarily need to take out a contract with EE. Several other big providers use the EE signal, including BT Mobile, Asda Mobile and Virgin Mobile. It might be worth checking them out.
The same goes for Vodafone. Its network is used by Talkmobile and Lebara, amongst others.
If you read the results of a Which? survey in May 2017, neither EE or Vodafone are particularly popular with consumers – in fact they were voted the joint worst mobile providers in the UK.
Despite its fast 4G service, Which? found that just 20% of EE customers would recommend the company’s services. Our guess is that customers are most upset about EE’s website, which is confusing and frustrating.
EE was fined £2.7m by Ofcom in January 2017 after bodged billing saw almost 40,000 customers overcharged a collective £250,000.
Vodafone’s not much better at keeping both its customers and the regulator on side. In October 2016, it paid out £4.6m as a result of mishandled complaints and mistakes applying pay-as-you-go credit to customers’ accounts.
EE customers get six free months of Apple Music with access to millions of songs, playlists and recommendations, plus the data to stream it. WiFi Calling means you can make calls, even when there’s no signal.
EE also offers free event tickets when you take out pay monthly deals on certain handsets.
With Vodafone you get access to WiFi on the London Underground if you’re one of the following: a pay-as-you-go customer with a Big Value Bundle, a pay monthly customer with data included in your plan, or a business customer.
If you are on a pay-as-you-go plan, you can use the Vodafone Call Back feature. When you’ve run out of credit, Vodafone Call Back texts the person you’re trying to contact, asking them to call you. This service is free, and can be used up to twice a day.
Vodafone customers on the Red Entertainment plans have access to NOW TV Entertainment, Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile TV.
If you want fast speeds and almost-perfect coverage, then EE is the standout winner. Its network is simply faster than the rest, and has the best coverage. Speed freaks will find it’s a step ahead of the competition. Vodafone isn’t far behind though, and both providers are generally faster than Three and O2.
Coverage-wise, the best network for you greatly depends on the coverage in your area: there’s no point in EE covering 99% of the country if your house is in the other 1%.
EE offers a plethora of choices when it comes to handsets, pay monthly plans, SIM-only deals and pay-as-you-go options. However, its travel bolt-ons are a bit confusing – it all depends which plan you’re on and when you signed up.
But where EE lets itself down the most is its website. We’re sure all the info is there but finding what you need is nigh on impossible.
Vodafone’s website is much more user-friendly and it’s easier to find a phone plan to suit your needs. In our opinion it has a much simpler roaming offer too.
As always, it comes down to what you want from your mobile service. If speed is of the essence, pick EE but you’ll need the patience of a saint to navigate its website.