Hmm. Vodafone. Really ? Can I trust the network ?
In short, if you live in one of Australia’s main cities, then yes, you should be considering Vodafone Australia. In rural areas, you probably shouldn’t.
This is a fair question. Back in 2011, they did have some real problems with their network. Things have improved a lot since then. At the start of 2014 OpenSignal ( an independent research company which compares the quality of the 3 main networks ) did some interesting research. What they found was that Vodafone’s network quality and speed was the best of the big three in metro ( city ) areas of Australia.
This seems borne out in their customer numbers. For the first time in years, at the start of 2015, Vodafone reported an increase in the net number of customers it added to its network. It seems the turnaround has started.
This has all been helped by some of their unique product features but that’s the answer to a different question.
Does Vodafone offer anything the others don’t ?
Yes, they do. The most obvious example is the inclusion of the music streaming service Spotify on their plans. This is just one in a range of content types that Vodafone is looking at including in it’s plans.
Vodafone is trying in Australia what has been successful for it in the UK. By giving you some extra ‘nice to heave’ features with their plans, Vodafone make you look beyond the included cap value and the cost of the cap. In short, they’re positively differentiating themselves in ways other than with price.
Additionally, their Red plans offer priority connection to Australian based high quality Customer Service. They have matched Telstra by offering a ‘no questions asked’ policy on data usage on their network.
In the first month you have your phone, you always spend more time playing with it, setting it up and downloading apps. With Vodafone, you’ll be able to do that without fear you’ll blow your monthly allowance. They have a good roaming offering and automatically add more data when you run out which we’ve covered in another FAQ.
How does the ‘add more data automatically’ work ?
Vodafone have matched Optus by allowing you to set your plan to automatically add another GB of data if you use your entitlement. Say you bought 1.0 GB of data within your plan and then used it all. Vodafone would charge you $10 extra for another GB of data and automatically apply it to your account.
Previously, you’d get to the end of your data allowance and then you would be charged out of bundle rates. Often a MB of data would have cost in the region of 10 cents. Which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realise that’s $100 per GB!
The benefit is clear. More predictable costs and a transparently fairer scheme.
There’s further to go of course. We should really be able to decide whether we automatically get more data, whether the SIM is ‘throttled’ ( slowed down ) instead ( so you don’t have to pay that $10 fee. ) One option should be to stop it all together. However, Vodafone offer this scheme which is far preferable to the preceding one. So do Optus. It’s really Telstra who stand out as the old guard for not having caught up to customer needs in this area.
Are there any smaller phone companies who use the Vodafone network ?
We recommend Cmobile if you are looking for a no frills low end plan ( something below $20 ) and Lebara if you want the best value unlimited plan on the Vodafone network and / or make calls overseas.
What is the Vodafone $5 roaming deal ?
Vodafone have the strongest roaming offering of all 3 major networks. With the right Vodafone plan, you can use your Australian entitlements in partner countries. For example: You buy a plan with ‘infinite’ calls to Australian numbers from your mobile in Australia. You also get 3GB of 4G data.
Then you go to New Zealand for a holiday to NZ. While you’re thee, for $5, you can call back to Australia and use your infinite minute allocation to do it. You can also use your data allowance in NZ ( any component or all of that 3GB you had in your plan ) while you’re there.
Every day you have your phone on and it connects to the network overseas, you’ll pay the $5.
What is Vodafone’s 4G coverage like ?
Vodafone are a bit cagey about the coverage of their 4G network. They are far more forward about the quality of it. They launched 4G over 2 years later than Telstra and about a year after Optus so the other two major phone companies have a big head start in building out the 4G capability. Vodafone was obviously busy during that time fixing the basics of it’s 3G network.
Vodafone have publicly stated that they are aiming to cover 95% of the Australian population with a 4G signal by the end of 2015. They had 2m customers on 4G in the middle of 2014. That’s all we know.
- Research shows the network is great in Australia's cities
- No charge for the first month's data to get you set up easy
- Priority Australian support on Vodafone's Red Plans
- Strong roaming offering : $5 a day scheme
- Great deals on Vodafone from resellers : Cmobile and Lebara
- Coverage still not great outside the main cities
- National 4G coverage not publicly released so not that good
- If you want to call overseas from Oz, use Lebara not Vodafone
- Spending under $30 on Vodafone ? Cmobile are better value
- Optus resellers offer same value inclusions & a better network
Vodafone Australia – Much improved
For some of us the most important factor when choosing a phone plan is the quality of the network. You don’t want to find yourself consistently without coverage. You might miss an important business call or find yourself stranded in the middle of no-where without an on screen map. Vodafone have spent $billions trying to improve the performance of their network and how it’s talked about in the media.
Vodafone Australia is not a tiny company. It has a 14.8% market share, behind Optus at 22.3% and Telstra at 39.9% . The problem is, those market shares aren’t changing quickly. It’s a difficult spot for Vodafone. The simple truth is that if people have a 3G phone, they choose plans from Cmobile Red / Lebara ( who resell the Vodafone 3G network. ) And if they have a 4G phone, people buy from an Optus Reseller. You can get the same product as you do from Vodafone but, with this 4G example, you’ll get 4G coverage across 96.1% of the Australian population instead of Vodafone’s 96% of metro area .
Vodafone – SIM Only Plan Features & Comparison with Telstra and Optus
Vodafone’s SIM Only plans have a couple of key contributing characteristics to them.
First, Vodafone’s network troubles. We have covered this aspect to Vodafone’s service elsewhere and thoroughly. As you’ll sees from our articles on the subject, Vodafone’s network is largely turned around and usable in city areas of Australia. Unfortunately for Vodafone, a lot of customers left them between 2010 and now. What that means to their SIM Only proposition is that they have fought hard to match competitors where their offers improved.
Second is Vodafone’s enormous global scale. It’s hard to conceptualize Vodafone’s reach from Australia. The company has controlling stakes in the better part of 40 worldwide phone companies. They have a whole set of employees in England who represent the ‘Global’ organization. These people negotiate centralized deals with third parties involving huge sums of money and pass the benefits on to Vodafone Australia as Economies Of Scale.
Both of these factors have influenced Vodafone’s SIM Only market offering. The result is a strong set of features which could cause you to look beyond the historical network issues they’ve faced. The other side of the coin is that Vodafone’s SIM Only offering includes what is potentially the best suite of plan features from any of the top telcos.
Quick summary of Vodafone’s SIM Only plans vs Telstra and Optus
|Automatically add extra data when your monthly allowance is finished.||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Share data over multiple devices||Yes. 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 Charge||Yes. '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' Insurance||Telstra'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 App||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|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 Access||Yes. 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 Data||25GB free of charge to users in the first month||No.||Data workout' us unmetered (uncharged) usage for the first 2 months.|
|Network Guarantee||Not marketed but does exist.||Yes.||Yes.|
|New Phone Feeling||Yes. Pay $180 per to upgrade upgrade your phone after 12 months.||No.||No.|
|Free WiFi when out and about||Yes. Telstra 'Air' free wifi at 650k locations in Oz.||No.||No.|
|Loyalty Rewards Scheme||Telstra 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?Scheme||Telstra Mobile Protect. Set up through My Account.||None||None|
|Voice over WiFi app ?||Yes. App requires Telstra home phone rental. Minutes charged against home phone bill.||Yes. Best of the lot.||No.|
- Adding more data when you’ve used yours up:
Vodafone has a facility on their SIM Only plans whereby, when you reach your data limit, you will automatically have more added. Optus have the same thing. Data speeds are increasing. 4G is faster than 3G was. They’re already working on 5G. Newer phones have faster processors and they pull information down from the network faster. The result is that people are using more data this month than they did last month. By most people’s reckoning, each phone user will get through twice as much data next year as you are now. The safety belt feature that Vodafone and Optus have put in place with their auto add data is a lifesaver. It reduces the risk of using data in the first place. It also avoids huge bills for those who accidentally use too much.
- Sharing Data over multiple devices:
Vodafone have launched their data sharing scheme and it’s very similar to Optus’. With it you can add another SIM to what is effectively a family account. Here’s how they work. Imagine a father is paying $50 per month for a SIM Only plan with ‘infinite’ SMS and voice from Vodafone. For $30 per month, he can add another family member, let’s say his wife to that plan. She also gets ‘infinite’ SMS and voice and now splits the data with him. Vodafone’s SIM Only sharing option is an important first step along the multi SIM management path but at this time, the practical benefits are, in our view not worth having. Far better, instead to manage your data needs yourself and buy a bundle you’ll use.
- Overseas roaming at daily prices:
Vodafone have the best proposition in market for overseas roaming on their SIM Only plans. For $5 per day, you can safely (and that is probably the key word) use your phone overseas. Vodafone’s huge global coverage works in their favor here. The range of countries you can go Red Roaming in is already large and is growing every day. Optus and Telstra’s equivalents are more expensive and offers less international coverage. If you travel overseas regularly then Vodafone should be a strong contender for your money.
- Simple ‘Yes’ Insurance:
Vodafone have effectively emulated Optus’ insurance scheme. And it’s really good. It’s less than $15 per month, it has some very reasonable terms and it’s far more useful than what was the industry standard until recently. Remember, you’ll only be able to use it if you got your phone from Vodafone in the first place. So, if you’re after a SIM Only plan then this might not be relevant to you. Also, Optus’ scheme is just as good (which is why it was copied!) However, both Vodafone and Optus beat Telstra hands down on insurance.
- Good Self Service App:
Typically, a cost of approximately $5 is assigned by a phone company like Optus or Vodafone to a customer calling in to the customer care organization. If they’re dialing in to do something they could have done online, it makes sense to create an app which allows them to do it. Banks blazed a trail of Self Service which it took the telcos a while to catch up with. These days, the apps from all 3 phone companies is exceptionally good. That includes Vodafone. And you’ll be able to manage your SIM Only plan just fine using their ‘MyAccount’ app.
- Free content:
Vodafone’s global negotiating power has been used here to negotiate a deal with Spotify which applies to some of their SIM Only plans. In Australia, you’ll also get free access to Stan on some plans although you will be required to pay for the data you use watching it on your phone. Dropbox is another globally negotiated deal that Vodafone have secured. If you do these things on your phone, this is a big deal. If you watch TV or listen to music – and a large and growing number of people are doing them, this alone could be reason enough to choose Vodafone.
- First month of data free:
Telstra will give you 25GB of data in your first month free of charge. Vodafone will give you as much as you like and do it for 2 months. This is an example of the power of the market and the need Vodafone have to grow their customer base. Within a few weeks of Telstra announcing this lovely plan feature, Vodafone announced it too. It applies to their SIM plans and Vodafone’s version is the best in market.
- Network Guarantee:
We have covered Vodafone’s Network Guarantee in some detail before. It’s an important feature if you’re buying a contract. Not so much for a SIM only plan. After all, Vodafone’s agreements are month to month. If it doesn’t work, you just port and go to Boost.
- New phone feeling :
Vodafone do not offer a ‘New Phone Feeling’ equivalent to Telstra’s scheme. Telstra’s plans are so expensive, there is likely more margin in them to cover the provision of this sort of feeling to customers. With Telstra, the New Phone Feeling capability enables customers who pay an additional fee each month and return their device after 12 months, to a new phone each year.
- Free WiFi:
Vodafone SIM Only customers can use the free Telstra WiFi Hot Spots that are currently in market as part of Telstra’s trial just as easily as Telstra customers can. That said, in time, Vodafone customers will be charged for the facility. Telstra’s will be able to use their own plan allowance over the Telstra wifi network. Vodafone are considering an equivalent scheme with JC Decaux, an equally global provider of advertising spaces at places like bus stops.
- Loyalty rewards scheme:
Vodafone doesn’t have one. Good. You shouldn’t be looking at these. Thery’re there to distract you from a more rational consideration of the network / price trade offs you should be looking at. Optus offer Frequent Flyer miles. Telstra have a ‘Thanks’ program. Generally the additional value these schemes offer is small.
Compare plans on the Vodafone network and save money
With 5.3 million customers, a market share of 14.8% and the arguably the best network in Sydney and Melbourne, Vodafone is on the way out of it’s recent dive to the bottom of the pile.
They have spent a lot of time and money trying to win back popularity (and customers) and they aren’t doing half bad. In the old days if you wanted a mobile phone plan on the Vodafone network you would pop down to the Vodafone shop. These days it’s a whole different kettle of fish. There is a number of other providers that sell phone plans using the Vodafone network. The main point to remember is that if you have a 3G phone, you can get a plan on the Vodafone network from many different providers and they are usually cheaper than going direct to Vodafone.
Who are some of the companies that use the Vodafone network ?
Did you know that Vodafone, Optus and Telstra are the only three mobile providers in Australia that actually own and run their own mobile network? All other mobile phone plan providers (e.g. Amaysim, Boost, Cmobile, Bendigo) just rent access to one of these three networks! These companies also use the Vodafone network.
Most popular 3G plans on the Vodafone network
We can tell you which phone plans are the most popular on the Vodafone network – and by this we are not just comparing plans direct from Vodafone, but from any company that sell phones plans on their network. Remember you can buy plans from companies like Cmobile and still have the benefit of being on the Vodafone network!
Why Vodafone doesn’t make sense if you have a 4G phone
Vodafone have raised their pricing over the course of the last year or so to the point where it is within spitting distance of Optus’. In our view, this exposes them to SIM Only competition from providers using the Optus 4G network. The Optus network is far more substantial than Vodafone’s. Optus have a total of 4.45 million customers on their 4G network and cover a total of 96.1% of the Australian population with it. Vodafone cover 96% of metro area and have 2.0 . What’s more, in terms of total national coverage, Optus reach 98.50% of the population to Vodafone’s 96.00 % . In short, if you didn’t know, Optus’ network is much better.
Put that together with pricing like this, from smaller phone companies on the Optus network and you can see why it makes sense to choose a SIM Only plan from Amaysim or Bendigo instead of Vodafone Australia.
No wonder Vodafone’s customer numbers are stuck in the doldrums. Unless you are seduced by the ‘nice to have’ features Vodafone offers, it makes much more sense to go with a network reseller under almost any circumstance. If you have an older 3G phone then Lebara’s headline value and data inclusions represent fantastic value for money. And, if you have a 4G phone, following Vodafone’s price rises, you can get access to the same inclusions but on the Optus 4G network, from a network reseller.
Extra Resources – Articles of use to Prepaid Users
- Prepaid plans now have streamed audio included in them :
You may not be aware of one of the biggest improvements to prepaid plans since they were originally devised. 2016 saw the release of prepaid plans which have streamed audio included in them. If you already have a Spotify, iTunes Music, Google Music or IHeartRadio account, then you might like to find out more about streamed audio in phone plans.
- Entertainment options are becoming common :
You may also have started hearing about the increasing inclusion of entertainment options in prepaid and SIM Only phone plans. We also examine Optus’ mobile phone plan Entertainment options, Telstra’s mobile phone plan Entertainment options and compare the two.
- Prepaid vs postpaid vs month to month :
We’ve given a short explanation on this page but if you want more detail on the types of phone plans in Australia, this is it. In Prepaid vs postpaid vs month to month, we explain and the best value alternatives you have and when it makes sense to use each type.
- Prepaid vs Postpaid –the simple trick to getting the best value :
The tier 1 telcos ( Optus Telstra and Vodafone ) all have both prepaid and postpaid plans. Sometimes they have both types of plan at the same price point.
- Does it make sense to buy a Phone myself and add a SIM ? :
It’s often even cheaper to buy your own phone and add a SIM ( including a prepaid SIM ) to it. We explain how to go Buying a phone outright and adding a SIM.
- Data Rollovers :
Considering a plan with data rollover in it ? We explain why they’re not the real solution to the real problem with prepaid plans.
And, remember, before you buy, read the CIS (that’s the Critical Information Summary–a clearly written definition of what is and is not included in the plans from these phone companies) before you buy. You need to be confident in the plan you choose yourself. You’ll find the CIS on the Vodafone website.
Compare all of our prepaid plans
If you need another network, you might like to check our Best Prepaid Plans Page and compare all the plans ( including every one mentioned on this page. ) A list of best value plans using the Telstra, Optus and Vodafone networks.COMPARE THE BEST PREPAID PLANS
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