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O2 and Vodafone are two of the biggest phone networks in the UK, and both offer a range of unlimited plans. But which network offers the best unlimited plan? Let’s unpack some stuff and find out…


TL;DR: O2 vs Vodafone – Key Takeaways

O2’s Unlimited Data Plan

  • Fair Usage Policy: O2 caps data usage at 650GB per month. While this is a substantial limit, power users who stream, game, or tether multiple devices might find themselves nearing this cap.
  • Personal Hotspot Limitation: O2 allows a maximum of 12 devices to be connected to your phone’s hotspot at a time. This could be restrictive for those hosting large gatherings or tech enthusiasts with multiple devices.
  • Roaming: O2’s ‘Roam in EU’ feature allows customers to use their data in 48 European destinations at no extra cost, making it a good choice for frequent travellers within Europe.

Vodafone’s Unlimited Data Plan

  • Speed Restrictions: Vodafone imposes speed restrictions on their unlimited data plans. The Lite plan has a max speed of 2Mbps, the Standard plan 10Mbps, and the Max plan offers the fastest available speed. Your choice of plan could significantly impact your internet speed.
  • No Explicit Fair Usage Policy: Vodafone does not specify a fair usage policy for their unlimited data plans, potentially offering more freedom for heavy data users compared to O2’s 650GB cap. However, the lack of a fair usage policy doesn’t compensate for slower internet speeds on cheaper plans.
  • Roaming: Vodafone’s ‘Global Roaming’ feature allows customers to use their data in 81 destinations worldwide at no extra cost, depending on the plan chosen. This makes Vodafone a superior choice for globetrotters.

In this context, Vodafone would be our preferred recommendation right now for value for money and data allowance (it doesn’t have a fair usage policy), although for overall speed (meaning no speed restrictions), O2 is the preferable option.

If you want the absolute best plan, however, you should check out our guide to the best unlimited data plans instead.



As any seasoned mobile user knows, not all unlimited plans are created equal. O2 and Vodafone are both massive players in the UK market, and both networks offer an array of unlimited data deals. 

But which serves up the best value for money? In order to answer this rather nuanced question, we first need to unpack and understand how each network “does” unlimited data. Once we know this, we can start making assessments about which is best and why. 

So, let’s start by looking at how O2 and Vodafone package their respective unlimited data plans, covering off things like fair usage policy, throttling, and hotspot restrictions… 

O2’s Unlimited Data Plan

Key Takeaways

  1. Generous Data Cap: O2 offers a substantial monthly data cap of 650GB, suitable for extensive media consumption and web browsing.
  2. Limitations for Power Users: High-intensity users, particularly those streaming high-quality media or using tethering heavily, may find the 650GB cap restrictive.
  3. Personal Hotspot Limits: The 12-device connection limit on personal hotspots can be limiting during events or for tech-heavy users.
  4. Connectivity for Travelers: O2’s “Roam in EU” feature allows data usage in 48 European countries at no extra cost, enhancing connectivity for travelers.

Fair Usage Policy

At the heart of O2‘s unlimited data plan lies a fair usage policy, capping data usage at a hefty 650GB per month. Now, to put this into perspective, 650GB is a substantial amount of data. It’s enough to stream around 217 hours of HD video on Netflix, spend 16,250 hours browsing the web, or listen to over 108,333 songs on Spotify.

However, in today’s digital age where streaming, gaming, and constant connectivity are the norm, some power users might find themselves brushing up against this limit. Particularly, if you’re using your mobile data for heavy tasks like downloading large files, streaming high-quality videos, or tethering multiple devices, this cap is something to keep in mind.

So, while O2‘s 650GB limit is indeed generous and likely more than sufficient for the average user, it’s not truly ‘unlimited’. Heavy data users should be aware of this cap and monitor their usage to avoid hitting this ceiling before the end of the month.

Personal Hotspot Limitation

When it comes to sharing your internet connection via personal hotspot, O2 imposes a restriction, allowing a maximum of 12 devices to be connected at a time. Now, for the average user, this might seem like more than enough. After all, how often do you need to connect more than a dozen devices to your phone’s internet?

However, consider this scenario: you’re hosting a gathering, and your home Wi-Fi decides to take a break. As the host, you become the go-to person for internet sharing. 

Or perhaps you’re a tech enthusiast with a multitude of devices – smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs, gaming consoles – the list goes on. In these situations, the 12-device limit might start to feel a bit restrictive.

Moreover, if you’re in a household with multiple users or if you’re using your phone’s internet for work purposes where you might need to connect several devices, this limitation could potentially hamper your connectivity needs.

So, while O2‘s 12-device limit on personal hotspot usage is likely to be sufficient for everyday use, it’s worth bearing in mind if you’re someone who often finds themselves in the role of the communal internet provider or if you’re a heavy tech user with a plethora of devices.

Roaming

For the globetrotters, O2‘s ‘Roam in EU’ feature allows customers to use their data in 48 destinations in Europe at no extra cost. This feature allows you to browse, stream, and stay connected while travelling without incurring extra costs.

Vodafone’s Unlimited Data Plan

Key Takeaways

  1. Speed Restrictions: Vodafone’s unlimited data plans vary by speed, with options including Lite (2Mbps), Standard (10Mbps), and Max (fastest available speed). This structure means that cheaper plans come with notable speed limitations.
  2. No Explicit Fair Usage Policy: Unlike O2, Vodafone does not specify a fair usage data cap, potentially providing more leeway for heavy data users, although speed limitations might still restrict usage.
  3. Cost Considerations: Given the speed caps on lower-tier plans, users looking for high-speed data in 2023 should consider plans that offer better value without speed compromises.
  4. Enhanced Global Roaming: Vodafone offers ‘Global Roaming’ on some plans, allowing data use in 81 destinations without extra fees, surpassing O2’s European-only coverage and appealing to global travelers.

Speed Restrictions

Unlike O2, Vodafone’s unlimited data plans come with speed restrictions. They offer three types of unlimited data plans: Lite (max speed 2Mbps), Standard (max speed 10Mbps), and Max (fastest available speed). Depending on the plan you choose, your internet speed could be significantly limited.

No Explicit Fair Usage Policy

Vodafone does not mention a specific fair usage policy for their unlimited data plans. This could potentially offer more freedom for heavy data users compared to O2‘s 650GB cap.

But, if you opt for one of its cheaper plans, you’ll still have to deal with slower internet and no amount of data allowance is going to make that situation any prettier. My advice? You shouldn’t have to pay for fast mobile data, not in 2023. Go with a phone plan that doesn’t charge a premium for faster 5G speeds. 

Roaming

Vodafone’s ‘Global Roaming‘ feature allows customers to use their data in 81 destinations worldwide at no extra cost, but this is dependent on the type of plan chosen. This outshines O2‘s roaming offering, making Vodafone a great option for frequent travelers.

Coverage Metrics

O2 vs Vodafone: Which Has The Best Unlimited Data Plan?Pin

If you’re curious about how O2 and Vodafone stack up in the UK, here’s the latest scoop on their coverage and performance:

Vodafone is hitting some solid numbers with a nationwide median download speed of around 23.7 Mbps. That’s not just it—when you hop onto their 5G, the speeds rocket up to an average of 114.3 Mbps. Thanks to strategic spectrum use and some smart network-sharing deals, Vodafone’s delivering a reliable service that’s tough to beat.

On the other hand, O2 (trading as Virgin Media O2) isn’t taking a back seat. They’re ramping up their 5G game, with coverage now stretching across more than 750 locations in the UK.

That said, their 4G speeds hover at about 17.1 Mbps, which doesn’t quite match Vodafone’s 21.6 Mbps under similar conditions. However, O2’s stepping up their tech game by rolling out a new 5G Standalone network in 14 cities, promising better speeds and more efficient service at no extra cost.

In the battle of the networks, Vodafone seems to have the edge in speed and consistency, while O2 is pushing forward with broader 5G deployment and next-gen tech. It’s a tight race with each network carving out its strengths—Vodafone with speed and reliability, O2 with coverage and cutting-edge technology.

The Final Verdict

Both O2 and Vodafone offer compelling unlimited data plans, each with their own strengths. O2‘s robust network and extensive coverage make it a strong contender, but its fair usage policy and personal hotspot limitations may be a deal-breaker for some. 

Vodafone’s high-speed network and lack of a specific fair usage policy make it a standout choice, especially for heavy data users and frequent travelers. But its speed restrictions are a real kick in the nuts for anyone looking to snag a cheap but effective unlimited data plan. 

Out of the two, O2 is the obvious choice here and in this context it is the one you want to go with but it is not our #1 recommendation for the best unlimited plan in the UK right now – that’d be Three’s £25 a month standard unlimited plan. 

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