(Pocket-lint) - Vodafone's 5G service has been live since mid-2019 and the network has been keen to push two messages - that it's offering Unlimited data plans with 5G and also that it is the first network to support 5G roaming (in other countries that have 5G).
It also says that you don't pay a premium for 5G services over 4G, although the initial 5G handsets (see below) are more expensive to sign up for than their 4G counterparts.
We'll be bringing you all the latest on Vodafone 5G over the coming months as the service rolls out to even more areas.
What is 5G?
5G follows on from 4G and is an additional layer on top of it. We'll eventually see 3G switched off, but 2G (for voice and some low-level devices such as smart meters) and 4G will continue to be live.
5G offers low latency (lag) for applications such as online gaming, while it'll also bring vastly improved speeds - you'll be able to download things in a fraction of the time.
Where is Vodafone 5G available?
Vodafone 5G is now available in over 100 UK towns and cities. That's less than the other networks so we're expecting Vodafone to announce more locations soon. Here's the full coverage list at present:
Aberdeen, Alexandria, Ambleside, Aughton (Sth Yorks), Basingstoke, Bebington, Belfast, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Bishopbriggs, Blaydon, Bolton, Bootle, Bournemouth, Bradford, Bristol, Bristol Airport, Cardiff, Cheadle and Gatley, Cheltenham, Chesterfield, Clydebank, Crawley (West Sussex), Crosby, Dewsbury, Dinas Powys, Droylsden, Dudley (West Midlands), Dundee, Eccles, Edinburgh, Eston and South Bank, Felling, Gateshead, Glasgow, Gloucester, Gosforth (Tyne & Wear), Guildford, , Hebburn, Helensburgh, Horwich, Huddersfield, Huyton-with-Roby, Inner London, Isles of Scilly, Jarrow, Kingston upon Hull, Kingswood (Bristol), Lancaster, Leeds, Lisburn, Liverpool, Llandudno, Long Benton/Killingworth, Manchester, Mangotsfield, Middlesbrough, Morley, Mosborough/Highlane, Newbury, Newcastle upon Tyne, Newtownabbey, North Shields, Oldbury/Smethwick, Outer London, Paisley, Penarth, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Prescot, Prestwich, Pudsey, Rawmarsh, Reading, Rochdale, Rotherham, Salford, Sheffield, Shipley, Solihull, South Shields, Southampton, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees, Stoke-on-Trent, Stranraer, Stretford, Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield, Swansea, Swinton and Pendlebury, Tynemouth, Urmston, Wallasey, Wallsend, Warrington, Washington, Whitley Bay, Wolverhampton and finally York.
Like other UK networks, Vodafone is using mid-band 5G. In the 2021 Ofcom spectrum auction, the network got 40MHz extra spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band. Vodafone says it's happy with its total holding of 90 MHz of 3.4 - 3.6 GHz spectrum and has swapped some with O2 to ensure it has a block of spectrum. Vodafone is planning on using this and its already-owned 900 MHz spectrum to provide nationwide coverage for 5G.
Ahmed Essam, chief executive of Vodafone UK, said: "This auction means we will have the spectrum we need to further the roll-out of 5G to our customers, bringing high-speed connectivity and opening up new opportunities for products and services."
Vodafone has been working with O2 to build a joint 5G network to bring 5G faster to non-urban areas. The pair already do some network-sharing and also run a joint venture that manages network sites.
What about Vodafone 5G broadband?
Vodafone announced the Huawei-made 5G Gigacube for 5G home and business broadband with prices starting from £30 a month.
Those willing to sign up to an 18-month contract will be able to get 100GB of data a month for £30, 200GB of data for £40 a month, or unlimited data for £50 a month. Upfront costs will start at £100, and then drop to £50 for the two later price plans.
Those that want to be a bit more flexible with a 30-day contract can opt for 100GB for £30 a month, 200GB for £50, or Unlimited for £50. With this contract there is a £325 upfront fee.
Vodafone Together provides you with mobile, home broadband over cellular and a free Amazon Echo Plus for £47 a month. This gives you unlimited data (within reason) and Vodafone OneNumber so you can make calls via the Echo.
How fast is Vodafone 5G?
Speeds are difficult to talk about because there are a lot of variables - devices have different capabilities, while different locations also yield different speeds of course. Users are seeing speeds in excess of most current home broadband - upwards of 100Mbps - while some peak speeds may hit the 1Gbps mark.
Certainly, we saw a speed test hit 900Mbps when we visited Vodafone's Newbury HQ where 5G is deployed. However, that was in perfect conditions - we were stood on top of a car park in sight of the mast.
In our experience, most users get around 100-200Mbps in real-world conditions.
Scott Petty, Vodafone's chief technology officer, believes we will see data speeds of 10 times that of 4G over the coming years.
"5G is a lot more efficient [than 4G]," says Petty. "Each antenna has 64 transmit and 64 receive antennas compared to the one today. We can shove a lot more data down that pipe and we can make 5G the preferred connectivity [method] over the next couple of years. 5G is a journey, not a destination."
What Vodafone 5G tariffs are available?
Vodafone has numerous 5G phones available from Apple, Motorola, Oppo, Samsung, Sony Xiaomi and others.
At launched Vodafone announced "5G [will be] priced the same as 4G" on Unlimited a and Red plans while it was also the first network to offer 5G roaming in selected countries.
Three new unlimited data plans will be available on 5G and 4G:
Vodafone Unlimited Max: Priced at £30 per month this will give you unlimited mobile access at speeds as fast as the device and the network will allow.
Vodafone Unlimited: Costing £26 per month it offers speeds of up to 10 Mbps for HD streaming.
Vodafone Unlimited Lite: This service costs £22 per month and is intended for online chat and social only really. That's because it only offers speeds of up to 2 Mbps - that's pretty slow, so we don't recommend signing up for this.
Customers can add an entertainment pack to their plan (any Unlimited or Red 20GB tariff) for £6 a month. This will get you one of the following: Spotify, Amazon Prime Video, Sky Sports Mobile or Now TV.
Vodafone customers are also being offered free access for three months to the Hatch gaming service as part of these tariffs.
Vodafone has now introduced Vodafone Evo, a new tariff with flexible upgrades.
On Vodafone Red, 5G is also available at no extra cost and include unlimited voice minutes and offer larger data allowances. Called Red 1 (1GB, £11), Red 2 (5GB, £15) and Red 3 (20GB, £20), they have no speed restrictions.
You can find out all about the deals on offer on Vodafone's website.