Vodafone Mobile Review – Independent Australian Review



Quick summary of Vodafone Australia

This article compares Vodafone with the other phone companies in Australia. Below:

  • Network information :
    We tell you the truth about their network.
  • 4G Rollout :
    We consider the 4G rollout plans of each of the major Australian phone companies including Vodafone.
  • Best deals :
    We give you insider information on the best deals which use the Vodafone network.
  • Vodafone’s plan features :
    We compare Vodafone’s plan inclusions and special plan features against the competition.
  • Better competitor deals :
    Where there are deals which offer better pricing and network than Vodafone, we highlight them.

Vodafone is a huge and credible global brand

Vodafone have experienced the challenges of the Australian national press for poor coverage since 2010. Despite this, Vodafone is a strong, international brand which should be seriously considered if you’re in the market for an Australian mobile.

The truth about the Vodafone network

Here are the key network improvements Vodafone have made. Vodafone are spending and have already spent a significant amount on improving their core network. They have:

  • Implemented 3G+ :
    The first step in Vodafone’s attempted network turnaround was to roll out better 3G+. 3G+provides for better in building coverage by using lower frequency bands.
  • Launched 4G :
    They were later than their competition. However, in 2013, Vodafone put in place a 4G Network.
  • More network bandwidth :
    Improved their back haul ( which is technical talk for saying they now have a lot of capacity especially for data )
  • Network sharing :
    In an effort to work with their rival and compete with Telstra, Vodafone have signed a network sharing agreement with Optus. This should improve coverage, keep their costs down and improve the time it takes to turn around Vodafone’s fortunes.
  • More square Kms :
    Recently announced improved ground coverage of 500,000 square Kms.

Vodafone’s network  is fine if you live in a city

In CBD and metro areas of all of Australia’s biggest cities, Vodafone’s network improvements put their cellular capabilities on a par with Optus and Telstra. You can read more about this and see the infographic on the Vodafone Coverage page. Outside cities, Vodafone’s network is not as good as Optus. Testra’s network is the best by some way when considering both 4G and square kilometers covered

Key Vodafone plan features and how they compare to Optus and Telstra

Below, we recommend some plans that we think are better value than Vodafone’s offering. However, Vodafone does have some ‘value add’ services which sit on top of it’s own plan costs and value inclusions. We recommend you consider the value of the following when comparing your Vodafone plans to the competition.

  • No data charged for the first 2 months :
    Like Telstra, Vodafone have announced that their new ‘Red’ plan users will not be charged for the first 2 months of data access. Typically, the first 60 days of your contract with a phone company is the time you use the most data. Users install all their apps and sync their phone with their cloud files. Vodafone’s innovative first 2 months free of data plan component should reassure users that they won’t be getting a big bill for excess data in the first 2 month of their contract.
  • A guaranteed network :
    They offer a money back guarantee on purchases if the network doesn’t provide coverage in your area. ( The Vodafone Network Guarantee. )
  • Better Value :
    Of course, Vodafone’s prices are affordable. They have to be in light of  the ‘Vodafail’ press they have received. Vodafone publicly state they are pursuing high data users. Their pricing tends to include more value for the data components of their plans.
  • Australian support staff :
    Telstra are moving to it and Optus has talked about it but, at the moment, Vodafone are the only company to offer you a huge Australian call center for all your customer service calls.
  • Roaming :
    Vodafone’s international roaming options are the best in the Australian market. For $5 per day, you’ll be able to use your domestic plan inclusions when overseas. For example, if you have 1GB of data in your Australian plan, while you’re overseas, you can use that data. You’ll be charged $5 for every day your phone is overseas. The key benefit is you won’t come home to a $3,000 phone bill. Compared to Optus, who have an equivalent facility, Vodafone’s global presence means that their rates are around half the cost of Optus’. Telstra do not have this international roaming facility in place.
  • Sharing data :
    Both Optus and Telstra offer a facility to share data across multiple connected devices. For example, it’s possible with both Optus and Telstra to use the data from your phone plan on an iPad. Vodafone does not have this facility.
  • Loyalty scheme :
    Optus has Frequent Flyers. Telstra has their ‘Thanks!’ scheme. Vodafone does not yet have a loyalty and rewards scheme.
  • Bill shock management :
    If you exceed your plan allocation, Vodafone will automatically charge you $10 extra and ‘bump you up’ to the next level of entitlement. Again, the key benefit is that you will never exceed your allowance by hundreds of dollars again. Optus has an equivalent to this in their ‘My Plans.’ Telstra does not have this facility.
  • Warning SMS and Self Service App :
    All 3 major phone companies have usage alerts, configurable by the user, to warn you when you are reaching the limit of your plan and to give you the chance to stop.
  • Online offers :
    Unlike other phone companies, Vodafone is open to providing online offers to entice you over the line. Telstra and Optus use this facility far more sparingly.

When Vodafone is the best deal :

  • Low end contracts :
    If you live in a city area and / or, you need a contract phone at the lower end of the market, Vodafone could be a good deal. Unlike Optus and Telstra, Vodafone’s contract phones start at $30 per month.
  • Unlimited ( Infinite plans ) with 4G :
    Vodafone also offer Australia’s cheapest pricing for plans which include 4G data speeds and unlimited minutes.

However, other than these circumstances, we would recommend alternatives to Vodafone.

Vodafone Network Coverage

The iPhone launched in 2007. In a very short period, a lot of people bought one. The experience iPhone users had on their new phones was so good that they used their mobiles a lot. And they used a lot of data. Vodafone’s network just couldn’t keep up.

As a result, many Vodafone users experienced unreliable voice, SMS and data service. It got so bad that Nigel Dewes, the CEO of Vodafone Australia at the time had to issue an apology. Some industry watchers have suggested these network performance perception problems have wiped $6 billion from the value of the Vodafone Australia brand.

All of the major Australian telcos are making significant investments in their networks. Vodafone is no exception.

  • In 2012, Telstra spent $3.6 billion rolling out network improvements including dialing up in 4G data services. Over the next 2 years, they will consolidate this investment with an additional $500 million.
  • This year ( 2013 ) and next, Optus intend to spend a total of $2 billion on network improvements. They too have already started to offer 4G services in Australia.
  • Vodafone have stated their intent to spend $1 billion over 2 years improving their network. A component of that spend is allocated to 4G services. Vodafone anticipate launching some 4G capabilities in key metro areas in the middle of 2013.
  • Vodafone spend the end of 2012 improving their 3G coverage with a technology upgrade to their network called 3G Plus ( 3G+. ) Optus have done the same thing. 3G plus uses a lower frequency band to improve in building coverage.
  • Vodafone’s network has already improved.  Measurement of that improvement have still not filtered through to all of the independent research statistics. For example, complaints to the TIO are measured one year retrospectively. Improvements seen in network performance will not materialise until the TIO releases it’s report on telco network performance in mid / late 2013.
  • Critically, Optus and Vodafone, realising that they are behind Telstra in their network rollouts have announced a network sharing agreement. Optus believe this will speed their 4G rollout by 12 – 18 months. In 2013, Optus and Vodafone will share network towers – which will shorten the time it takes to deploy network improvements like 4G. In some circumstances, Vodafone customers will be able to attach to the Optus network for service ( and vice versa ) which will also speed deployment.

Vodafone’s Network Investments are starting to pay off, as we will see below.

Vodafone Network Coverage Statistics

Network performance is the most critical part of the service you buy from your telco. There are a number of independent bodies which track network performance. See the diagram below for recent Vodafone’s statistics. You should consider these worst case comparisons and statistics since, as we’ve said, improvements which have been implemented have not yet been measured and reported.

The most recent Network Quality study does reflect an improvement in the relative performance of Vodafone’s network.

Vodafone Mobile Review - JD Powers Network Improvement

Vodafone Mobile Review – JD Powers’ Shows Improvement

Canstar Blue, an independent rating agency compared network performance with a ( broad ) ‘mark out of 5 stars.’ They found Vodafone on a par with Optus in July 2012.

JD Powers studied network dropouts ( when you expect your wireless service to work and it doesn’t ) per thousand calls. Vodafone had the highest drop out rate.

The AIMIA ( Australian Interactive Media Industry Association ) studied network performance. In this test, Vodafone Australia’s customers were 29% more likely to be dissatisfied with network performance than the nearest rival, Optus.

There are, of course, times when national statistics mean little. There is nothing more personal than a network experience. If the network works where you are, it’s great. If it doesn’t work where you are, it’s terrible.

Tip : Vodafone offer a fantastic service which makes it much easier to be sure about taking a contract out with them. Vodafone Australia have a ‘network guarantee.’ If you buy a phone under contract and the network isn’t up to scratch where you are, take it back ! The telcos are reasonable. If it’s not working, they will accept the return. Of course, you’ll have to talk to them first and give them the opportunity to fix it for you. You can find out more about the Vodafone Network Guarantee, including the terms under which it operates in this article : The Vodafone Network Guarantee – Should I trust it ?

Tip : If you are suffering some call / data drop outs but you’re not so cross with your telco that you’re ready to leave, why not give them a ring. In an effort to ‘keep you sweet’, the telcos might apologise – which sometimes goes a long way – or credit your account with a few dollars. At WhatPhone, we’re even aware of a few circumstances where, towards the end of a contract, people have received a new phone when they’ve complained about network performance from Vodafone. If you don’t ask, you don’t get !

Vodafone 4G

Vodafone Mobile Review - Vodafone have launched a 4G Network

Vodafone Mobile Review – Vodafone have launched a 4G Network

Starting with the iPhone 5 and since the end of 2012, most new high end smart mobile phones have been released with LTE / 4G capabilities. 4G products already make up more than 13% of the Australian market. 4G ( also known as LTE ) offers speeds on your mobile phone that are comparable to what most people get from their fixed line broadband connection at home.

Originally, Vodafone choose to focus on getting their core ( including 3G data ) networks up to spec, rather than on rolling out 4G speeds. In mid 2013, they completed the testing of their 4G Network and released it to their customers. The results have been impressive in the areas covered.  Whe you’re out of coverage, you’ll just get 3G speeds until they upgrade the network to 4G in your area.

Vodafone – Customer Service

Much of Vodafone’s Customer Service is done in Hobart. In fact, Vodafone are hiring more people in Hobart to assist customer service levels in 2013. Some Vodafone customer service is provided in Mumbai.

If and when your phone stops working, you’ll be calling Customer Service quick to get it started again. Stats from 2012 reveal that Vodafone performed poorly on this critical feature. And it must be remembered, that’s against companies which are known for poor customer service themselves !

  • Canstar blue offered Vodafone ( and their partner ‘3’ brand ) 3 stars out of 5. Telstra and Optus scored 4. Virgin Mobile has great customer service and picked up a 5 star rating. This analysis was released in July 2012.
  • The AIMIA suggested that around half of Vodafone’s customers were satisfied with the customer service they received. That’s 15% lower than the next best performer, Telstra.

Recently, Vodafone announced that they would be hiring 750 new employees in Hobart. This is an interesting and innovative step for Vodafone. Industry rumours are that they will be staffing their entire customer facing service capability in Hobart. This will make them the only Australian Telco to have a fully Australian customer service facility. Additionally, in late 2014, Vodafone announced the opening of a new call center operation in Tasmania, suggesting that ultimately, they will employ 1400 staff in total and offer an entirely Australian support center.



Summing Up

Vodafone’s a great brand. Unfortunately, the last couple of years have been hard for them. They offer fantastic deals though so they should definitely be on your consideration list.

Key questions to consider :

  • Is Vodafone’s coverage OK for me ?
    Do I live in one of Australia’s cities ?
  • Vodafone MVNOs :
    Would Cmobile suite my needs ( access to the Vodafone network ) and offer a better price ?

You might like to think about :

  • Optus MVNOs :
    Considering Vaya or Amaysim ( see above ) for unlimited plans which use the Optus network and cost less than Vodafone’s inclusions.
  • Use the Network Guarantee :
    If you do choose Vodafone, remember, you’ll be allowed to make the most of the Network Guarantee that Vodafone offer. If you buy a phone, and the network is no good where you are, you can take it back.

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. )



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.