Vodafone Coverage – Independent Review of Vodafone Network Coverage

60 Seconds On Vodafone’s Network – key points

Vodafone’s coverage was never as bad as it was made out to be. These days, in metro areas, whether you want 3G or 4G speeds, Vodafone’s network is not only fine, it sets the standards when compared to Telstra and Optus. Additionally, Vodafone have innovated, especially in terms of their global roaming proposition. A hoard of independent reviews confirm the progress Vodafone has made in improving it’s network coverage and speed. Vodafone also have broader 4G coverage than Optus, following an announcement in April 2016. Vodafone’s 4G network covers 95.3% of the population with a 4G signal. As if that wasn’t enough, in June 2016, OpenSignal, an independent network research company said Vodafone’s network provided a 4G signal for 76% of the time , Telstra’s customers received a 4G signal 77% of the time . That’s exactly the same coverage for both companies, on 4G in Australia.

Add to the network recovery, Vodafone’s roaming options which allow for $5 per day fixed charges, to use your existing service inclusions overseas and you can see why Vodafone has started building its customer base again.

However, when it comes to 3G SIM Only plans, Vodafone’s network reseller partners – Cmobile, Kogan and Lebara offer substantially better value. And, since Vodafone’s price hikes, it’s now possible to get 4G services from Amaysim on the Optus network for the same price as you’d pay on Vodafone.

 

Vodafone’s coverage has dramatically improved

You’re bound to ask about Vodafone coverage. It’s improved a lot since customers started leaving in 2010 and the company was called ‘Vodafail’ in 2010.

  • Since 2010, they’ve been working hard on network :
    Vodafone began its network upgrade late in 2012, focusing on 3G Plus capability. To you and me, that means better in building coverage. 2013 was about rolling out 4G, starting by providing the faster 4G data speeds to Vodafone’s existing customers.
  • 2014 saw a slew of high value plan additions :
    These included an Australian market leading roaming option. Vodafone announced that users could, for $5 a day use their plans voice and data inclusions on a limited range of overseas networks. Optus and Telstra have since emulated that.
  • 2015 saw Vodafone return to positive net adds :
    That’s an industry way of saying they’d turned around their customer exodus. Vodafone also innovated with the addition of an SVOD service – Streaming Video On Demand : Stan.
  • 2016 saw a significant 4G network announcement :
    In early 2016, Vodafone announced national population coverage with their 4G signal of 95.3% . They beat Optus to this level of 4G coverage.
  • Then in June, 2016 the bombshell :
    The annual Opensignal report showed Vodafone mateched Telstra. Vodafone users have a 4G signal 76% of the time , Telstra customers had one 77% of the time .

Vodafone have a market share of 14.8% in Australia. Already, over 2.0 million people are using 4G on their network. As you are likely to have read, the research says that the Vodafone 4G network is the fastest of all the Australian phone companies in city areas. They have ‘re-farmed’ their 850MHz frequency which provides 4G coverage to 96% of metro area .  And unlike Optus and Telstra’s 700 MHz roll out, almost all Australian phones can use the 850 MHz frequency right now.

As usual, we believe that the best deals in market on the Vodafone network come from MVNOs. CMobile and Lebara are both Vodafone network resellers with cheap plans which far exceed the value offered in Vodafone’s own plans.

Additionally, if you have concerns over the Vodafone network, there are a number of deals available on the Optus network which have pricing that’s better than the current Vodafone deals in market. If you’d like to save 30% on your phone bill and use the Optus network, let us tell you how.

 

Vodafone’s Sydney and Melbourne Coverage 2016

Vodafone Coverage - Network Infographic Vodafone’s coverage has improved dramatically in the major Australian cities.

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The reality of Vodafone’s network coverage

The reality of the gap between Vodafone’s network performance, even before the latest statistics came in, was mis-represented. The difference between the performance of Vodafone and other Australian networks was exaggerated in the press and by the people who were so upset with them – their customers. Vodafone’s performance improvements since those dark days has been so impressive, even the Chief Financial Officer of Telstra has been saying complimentary things about Vodafone’s trajectory.

Early 2013 saw the build of the Vodafone 4G or LTE network. It was turned on mid 2013 and it now rivals Telstra’s 4G networks for speed ( although not coverage. ) Importantly, Vodafone have addressed the core of the problem. Not only have they improved the base stations they use but also the back haul. To ordinary Australians that means they have a genuinely improved and far more reliable network.

This is especially true in the major cities where, as you will see from our infographic, above, the research says, Vodafone’s coverage is at least as good as Telstra and Optus’.

Refarming of Vodafone’s 850 MHz network in late 2015 and early 2016 was tied in with a number of parallel improvements. Vodafone have rolled out the first 3 of a total of 70 Blackspot improvements. The company intends to build or upgrade 70 base stations in total across Australia as part of the government’s program.

The numbers don’t lie. Vodafone’s network planning has improved a lot. They’ve reported an 85% increase in the amount of data their customers use in just the last 12 months. That trend seems set to continue and Vodafone have obviously anticipated it.

 

What’s in this article ?

  • Below, we start by quoting a variety of independent research which has been made available to the public. This research will help you understand how Vodafone Coverage compares to the other major telcos.
  • We provide access to Vodafone’s coverage checker so you can establish what coverage is like now and what it’s likely to be like in the future.
  • We tell you about the Vodafone Network Happiness Guarantee. They updated the name of this facility in 2016 from The Vodafone Network Guarantee.  The  Network Guarantee is mostly marketing. It means you don’t have to worry about the phone / SIM / contract you buy from Vodafone not working when you take it home. We’ll tell you what it is, how to use it and potential problems you might have using it.
  • We also provide details of planned spend and network improvements to the Vodafone Network. So you can determine if Vodafone is the right bet for you over the course of your 2 year contract.

 

Comparing Vodafone to Optus, Telstra & Virgin Mobile

A couple of helpful notes before we get in to it.

  • Virgin Mobile are owned by Optus. Virgin Mobile uses exactly the same network as Optus. There are differences in how they deal with customers. For example, Virgin Mobile have their own call centers and plans. However, statistics like network drop outs and coverage are going to be nearly identical because the infrastructure they use includes literally the same telecommunications masts.
  • Since you’re comparing Vodafone Coverage against the rest, we’ve put Vodafone on the left of these charts and used a consistent order across the telcos shown to make that easier.
  • There are better SIM Only / prepaid deals on 3G / better 4G networks at lower prices than Vodafone’s. We’ve shown examples on this page.

There are 2 aspects to Vodafone coverage. The people / land which is covered and the quality of that coverage.

 

Vodafone’s Australian Population Coverage 2016

You can check your Vodafone Coverage on the Vodafone Coverage checker. As you can see, Vodafone offers a lower population coverage ( 96.00 %  ) than Telstra ( 99.30%  ) or Optus / Virgin Mobile ( 98.50%  ). Check it out on the chart.

The difference in population coverage may not seem like much but population density starts to thin out when you begin to talk about the last 6% of the Australian population. To give you an idea, Telstra’s network covers 2.4  million square miles, to cover that 99.30%  of the population. Optus / Virgin Mobile’s network covers around 1m square miles to reach only 1% less !

Key point : Vodafone coverage is fine 

As a result, Vodafone’s geographical coverage ( the land mass it covers with network ) is a lot less than Telstra . This is largely a strategy decision on the part of Vodafone Australia. They know the perception of their network needs to improve and they’ve tried to focus on giving their customers a better experience in metro ( city and town ) areas.

Vodafone Coverage 2014 - Vodafone's coverage compared to other Australian networks

 CHECK COVERAGE IN YOUR AREA

 

Independent Research is consistent about the comparisons

We spend a lot of time researching the articles we show our customers. Within that research, we have discovered a number of publicly available reference sources. These sources show independent research which you can use to inform the decision you’re making. The results across the following 3 surveys are consistent.

 

Telstra win satisfaction with network quality

Every year the industry ( telcos like Optus, Telstra, Vodafone Australia and other industry contributors including Nokia ) pool resources to have a report created. The report is known as the Australian Mobile Phone Lifestyle Index.

One aspect of Australian Mobile Phone usage that it explores is network satisfaction.

Above : Again, Telstra comes out on to when it comes to network satisfaction. Interestingly, Virgin Mobile does better than Optus – which is not easy since they use the same network. Network Satisfaction comes down to someone’s experience with the network and, more broadly, the company. In our opinion, the great customer service that Virgin Mobile offer ( they got the highest marks of any of the major telcos ) has positively influenced people’s ‘feelings’ about the Virgin brand vs the Optus brand.

Unfortunately, Vodafone comes out substantially below the other networks in every one of the independent reviews, because :

  • It takes a while for new information to become part of the current thinking. Public perception is that Vodafone’s coverage has been bad for the last 3 years. To most people, that’s an eternity. It’s going to take a while to turn public perception around.
  • Outside cities, Vodafone coverage is still not as good as the other networks and these are national surveys.

 

Vodafone’s 4G investments have paid off

This is an Australian site. Everyone in our team knows Australia and has some familiarity with how the Vodafone network has struggled in the last couple of years. Around 2.5 million customers left Vodafone at their lowest ebb, with the majority going to Telstra. The reason for the move was largely to improve their network experience. People were even prepared to pay Telstra more to get decent coverage. Vodafone are trying to fix the problem. They’ve spend $billions getting the network back to spec.

In large part, Vodafone early coverage improvements were about the basics. They started with a capability known as 3G+ or 3G Plus. 3G Plus is just adding in new frequencies ( 850 MHz and 900 MHz ) which work better over long distances and when travelling through walls.

Vodafone coverage will also be improved through the network sharing agreement they have put in place with Optus. This allowed Vodafone access to 400 Optus base stations in 2012 and has allowed access to 500 more , more recently. Network sharing helps both companies improve quality of coverage at a lower cost and compete with Telstra.

Additionally, Vodafone offer High Definition voice services on their network at the moment. This is reasonably advanced technology. It is far from standard anywhere in the world, let along Australia. From a network perspective, reaching 95.3% – that’s 23 million people, is an incredible achievement. It shows how far Vodafone’s 4G coverage has come.

 You can’t say it any more clearly than Vodafone have. Their 4G network has been independently verified as providing Australians with a 4 signal just as often as Telstra. As we said above, The annual Opensignal report showed Vodafone mateched Telstra. Vodafone users have a 4G signal 76% of the time , Telstra customers had one 77% of the time .

Vodafone’s 850 MHz rollout

In late July 2014, Optus and Telstra started their commercial trials of the 700 MHz frequency they won at auction. Each paid over $1bn for the privilege of network access. Vodafone didn’t bid due to it’s financial problems at the time and focus on improving it’s existing network.

However, at the same time, Vodafone started testing it’s existing 850 MHz frequency which it’s ‘re-farming’ ( reusing ) the asset. It’s this that has led to the significant improvements we see today.

850 MHz frequency access means better in building 4G coverage for Vodafone customers in the short term. Importantly, Vodafone will have to invest in 700 MHz spectrum at the next auction if it is to remain competitive, for now 850 MHz gives them a short term advantage. Almost all phones released in Australia recently have access to the 850 MHz frequency. The same is not true for the 700 MHz frequency which is being used by Optus or Telstra. Only the latest phones include 700 MHz access – to give you some idea of the problem, no iPhone has access to the 700 MHz frequency.

So, Vodafone’s coverage has improved dramatically, especially in cities. But they now match Telstra for 4G coverage

 

The Vodafone Network Happiness Guarantee

As we’ve seen above, despite noticeable improvements, Vodafone Coverage is still not quite as good as theTelstra in Australia when considered nationally, across their whole base. However, where you are, it could be fine. One way to test this is to take out a post paid contract with Vodafone Australia and return the handset if coverage is not good in your area. The ability to test the network this way to see if it works for you is called the Vodafone Network Happiness Guarantee.

Vodafone Coverage - The Vodafone Network Guarantee Vodafone Coverage – Vodafone offer the Vodafone Network Guarantee

 

Here are some things to make sure of if you intend on using the Vodafone Network Happiness Guarantee.

  • If coverage isn’t good where you are when you’ve bought the phone, there’s a process to follow.
  • You have to call the Vodafone Service Center and report a problem within 30 days of starting the contract.
  • If they can’t fix it for you, you then have to return the device within 10 days of having called.
  • When you take it back, you’ll need the packaging and the receipt / invoice for the purchase.

Click here if you would like more detail about the Vodafone Network Happiness Guarantee.

 

Vodafone’s plan improvements :

Recent years have been characterized for Vodafone by a number of innovative plan features.

Plan FeatureTelstraOptusVodafone
Automatically add extra data when your monthly allowance is finished.YesYesYes
Share data over multiple devicesYes. No set up or ongoing fee these days.Yes. No set up or ongoing fee these days.Yes. No set up or ongoing fee these days.
Overseas Roaming At Daily ChargeYes. 'Travel Pass' is available if bought up front in multi-day pack. Small daily data allowance around 75MB.Yes. Optus 'Travel Pack' zoned system, typically $10 a day auto enabled. Gives you 50 MB of data. Yes. Vodafone's scheme covers a broader range of countries at a lower daily fee of $5 per day. It too is auto activated.
Simple 'Yes' InsuranceTelstra's 'Premium Care Insurance' very similar to Optus'.Yes. $14 per month. Reasonable terms.Vodafone's scheme is similar to Optus'. 2 options - $10 / $15 per month.
Good Self Service AppYesYesYes
Free Video Content Access (SVOD)No
EPL charged extra unless very high spend plans. Data is zero rated.Free Stan subscription on some plans. Note - user pays for data used to watch the show.
Free Music Content AccessYes. Free Apple Music. Includes subscription to Apple Music. Data is zero rated.Yes. Multiple music services with data free through app.Free Spotify access. Note - cost of data is passed on to use. (Is NOT zero rated.)
Free First Month's Data25GB free of charge to users in the first monthNo.Data workout' us unmetered (uncharged) usage for the first 2 months.
Network GuaranteeNot marketed but does exist.Yes.Yes.
New Phone FeelingYes. Pay $180 per to upgrade upgrade your phone after 12 months.No.No.
Free WiFi when out and aboutYes. Telstra 'Air' free wifi at 650k locations in Oz.No.No.
Loyalty Rewards SchemeTelstra Thanks! Cheap movie tickets. First refusal of event tickets.Cheap movie tickets. First refusal of event tickets. Air BnB tie in.No
Adult content filter protection?SchemeTelstra Mobile Protect. Set up through My Account.NoneNone
Voice over WiFi app ?Yes. App requires Telstra home phone rental. Minutes charged against home phone bill.Yes. Best of the lot.No.
  • Add an extra GB of data, automatically – no more bill shock :
    Vodafone have taken the best of what Optus have done in the last year and made available a facility which lets their customers automatically add another GB of data for $10. You’ll never blow your bill again. This was the best of Optus’ 2013 plan feature additions. Unfortunately, Optus dropped the ball on communication of the capability. Now, only a few months later, Vodafone have caught up.
  • Free data for the first 2 months of your contract :
    On top of that, they’ve mimicked Telstra’s ‘free 25 GB of data’ capability by setting data charges to $0 for the first 2 months of usage while you figure out how much you need. People use more data in their first couple of months of a contract. They’re downloading applications, playing with their new toy and often getting in to the groove of using a faster 4G network. Knowing you won’t get charged overage in the first 2 months.
  • A focus on Double Data :
    Vodafone have made data their lever for customer acquisition and typically have data offers in market which are the best available from any of the tier 1 operators. Data is now more important than voice facilities for many customers signing up to a contract. Vodafone’s approach recognises this and rewards customers who are prepared to do their research and try the Vodafone network. As the analysis on this page shows, when they get there, they find out Vodafone’s network is actually very good.
  • However, there was the network outage :
    Vodafone suffered a national network outage in late June 2014 which countered some of the good work they’ve done to repair their tarnished image. In some ways, the result has been a positive improvement. Most analysts say Vodafone have used the network outage to their advantage. It also gave them a chance to showcase their new 4G network. Additionally ‘luckily’ for Vodafone – if not Australian consumers – Optus / Virgin Mobile ( who use the same network ) also had two outages in the month or so preceding the Vodafone collapse. For the weekend following the outage, Vodafone didn’t charge their customers for their data usage. This resulted in a doubling of the traffic during that network and some remarkable data peak loads. The free weekend started Friday and ran until Monday. During that time, their customers downloaded an unimaginable 600 Terabytes. That’s nearly 400,000 movies worth of data downloaded in a single weekend. The network transacted 60 GB of data an hour on average. I guess the outage proved their network had some spare capacity !
  • Better roaming :
    Vodafone have a market leading roaming proposition. For $5 per day, you can use your domestic service overseas in an ever increasing range of countries. Optus and Telstra have tried to copy them but Vodafone’s global strength gives them the advantage. Optus and Telstra both charge more per day for their roaming option and provide less ( especially as concerns data ) than Vodafone does.
  • SVOD :
    Streaming video on demand. For those who like to watch TV shows on their phone, Vodafone led the way in providing Streaming Video On Demand services to customers. Again, Optus and Telstra have since emulated their product and their success.

 

Summing up Vodafone’s network position

Network coverage is an important aspect of your decision when you’re choosing a mobile and a telco to go with. Vodafone have waited until they’d shown substantial improvements in their 3G network before they made a big deal out of of their turnaround. They’ve improved their 3G Plus network and rolled out 4G with speeds which are equal to if not better than Telstra’s in cities. Vodafone have also completely upgraded their back-haul infrastructure and now provide 4G data speeds to more people than Optus. It’s time to put aside the bad network story for Vodafone. Things have changed. As of mid 2016, Vodafone match Telstra for 4G network coverage.

In addition to their network improvements, Vodafone are improving blackspot performance with 63 scheduled for removal this year. their VOLTE rollout is going ahead full steam. Their roaming proposition is best in market and they are managing huge increases in data usage.

If you want a contract, with Vodafone’s Plan refresh they’ve improved the deals they offered, and implemented innovative roaming and customer service features. They’re taking it seriously and they’re credibly taking a step towards gaining back the customers they lost. However, if you want a SIM Only deal, you can do better than Vodafone. If you have a 3G phone, as you’ve seen, Cmobile and Lebara offer incredible value and exactly the same 3G coverage footprint as Vodafone. If you want a 4G SIM Only plan, check Boost Mobile or Amaysim. Each offers a greater 4G coverage footprint on either Telstra’s 4G network or Optus’ 4G network. And their pricing is cheaper than Vodafone’s.

 

See all SIM Only plans

If you need another network, for example you’re after an unlimited plan with Telstra coverage, or you live in a city and you’re happy with Vodafone, you might like to check our SIM Only Comparison page and compare all the plans ( including every one mentioned on this page. )

COMPARE ALL SIM ONLY PLANS

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.