If you’re a Vodafone customer – or even if you’re not – you might have heard of 5G Ultra, as this upgrade from the network is a big deal.
The name is fitting really – this is the ultra version of 5G. It’s the version that was envisioned from day one, but which no UK networks launched with, and which at the time of writing only Vodafone offers.
Below we’ll explain exactly what Vodafone 5G Ultra is, what it means for you, and how to get it.
What is 5G Ultra?
5G Ultra is Vodafone’s name for 5G Standalone, which is something every UK network is working towards.
5G Standalone then is – as you might have guessed – a standalone 5G network. What that means is one that’s built purely on 5G technology, rather than on a mix of 5G tech and an older 4G core.
Networks initially used that combination of 5G and 4G technologies, as it meant they could launch 5G services faster and more affordably, as they’d be able to leverage their existing network infrastructure.
However, this combination – known as 5G Non-standalone – doesn’t really deliver true 5G, so for 5G to live up to its full potential, you need 5G Standalone. As for what that potential is, we’ve explained that in the next section.
What are the benefits of 5G Ultra?
5G Ultra powers up 5G in a number of ways. For one thing, Vodafone claims that with this you’ll experience higher 5G speeds. The network hasn’t got overly specific about how fast we’re talking, but has said it will be around ten times faster than 4G.
Vodafone additionally claims that its standard 5G network offers average download speeds of 150-200Mbps, with peak download speeds of 1Gbps. So while it hasn’t provided exact numbers for 5G Ultra, you can expect them to be higher than that.
On top of that, 5G Ultra also delivers improved 5G coverage, with over 1 million more Vodafone customers able to connect to 5G with 5G Ultra.
Plus, it improves reliability and decreases congestion, so that you can make calls and use data even in the busiest places, such as in stadiums, at festivals, and on station platforms.
Perhaps most surprising of all, 5G Ultra can actually increase the battery life of your device by up to 25%, which Vodafone claims equates to around 3 hours of extra life.
5G Ultra also allows for the more ambitious use cases of 5G, such as remote-assisted surgeries, drone deliveries, and network slicing.
How do I get 5G Ultra?
To get 5G Ultra, you need to be a Vodafone Pay Monthly phone or SIM Only customer, as it’s not currently available on Pay As You Go.
More specifically, you need to be on a Pay Monthly plan that was bought from 24th February 2023, onwards. Any new and upgrading Vodafone Pay Monthly customers will also get access to 5G Ultra.
However, it’s going to be a gradual roll out, with Vodafone switching it on for customers in phases throughout summer 2023. At the time of writing some customers already have access, but a lot won’t, so you might need to wait – but Vodafone will let you know by text as soon as you do have access to 5G Ultra, and it won’t cost you any extra.
Note that you’ll also need the latest software on your device to use 5G Ultra. To check if there are any updates available, head to Settings > Software update (though the exact wording may differ depending on your phone).
Where is 5G Ultra available?
Check 5G Ultra coverage
5G Ultra is currently available in parts of various UK towns and cities, including but not limited to London, Manchester, Glasgow, and Cardiff.
The network hasn’t published a complete list of locations, but availability will be increasing all the time anyway. You can use the postcode checker on Vodafone’s 5G Ultra page to check if it’s available where you need it.
Your phone will seamlessly switch to the best network technology available, be that 5G Ultra, standard 5G, or 4G. So once 5G Ultra is enabled on your account you don’t need to do anything – you’ll simply get it when you’re in an area with 5G Ultra coverage.
Which phones are compatible with 5G Ultra?
At the time of writing, you can only use 5G Ultra with a small number of handsets. It works with the Samsung Galaxy S22, Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung Galaxy S21, Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Vodafone promises that more phones will be updated to support 5G Ultra soon, so stay tuned. For the most up to date list, check out Vodafone’s 5G Ultra page (linked above). However, we’d imagine that recent and high-profile handsets would be first in line, such as iPhones and other recent Samsung Galaxy phones.
Frequently asked questions
Does 5G Ultra cost extra?
No, 5G Ultra is being made available at no extra cost from Vodafone. Check you have 5G Ultra coverage in your area.
Can I use 5G Ultra abroad?
Currently 5G Ultra isn’t available abroad, so you can’t use it while roaming – only in the UK. However, Vodafone does offer roaming with standard 5G in select locations.
How does 5G Ultra improve my phone's battery life?
Vodafone 5G Ultra improves your phone’s battery life because it’s a more efficient 5G network than standard 5G, and it needs to communicate with your phone less often.
On top of that, Vodafone says that its 5G Ultra network has an ‘inbuilt battery saving feature’.
How does 5G Ultra improve coverage?
Vodafone is using lower band 5G spectrum with 5G Ultra (as well as the high bands that we’ve already seen the network use). This lower frequency spectrum can travel over longer distance than high frequency bands, and also means Vodafone now has more 5G spectrum to play with.
It hasn’t specified which lower bands it’s using here, but presumably this is repurposed spectrum that it was previously using for 3G or 4G.
Will older phones get access to 5G Ultra?
Many existing phones will probably get access to 5G Ultra, but not all will, and especially not older handsets.
This is because they need both the right components and the right software. Even on the software side this can be out of Vodafone’s hands, as the manufacturer needs to support 5G Ultra too.