Vodafone's 4G service is expect to reach Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, and Sheffield imminently, and Bradford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Newcastle by the end of the year.
This puts it some way behind EE in terms of coverage, but nonetheless Vodafone has ambitions to cover 98 percent of the UK population by 2015.
Vodafone has a range of 4G devices in its portfolio. One of these is Sony's attractive 10.1-inch Android 4.2-based Xperia Tablet Z, which is available on two 24-month contracts: £36 a month with 10GB of UK data plus £49 for the tablet; and £31 a month with 4GB of UK data plus £99 for the tablet.
The notion of 4G on a tablet may prove more compelling than it is on a smartphone. The bigger screen is an obvious pull for Vodafone's consumer-focused Sky Sports Mobile TV offer, for example, and media-rich data is generally better suited to a 10.1-inch tablet screen than a smartphone (5-inch or less) or 'phablet' (5-inch to 7-inch) display.
In my South London office location, the Xperia Tablet Z reported a relatively poor two to three bars of 4G signal. I ran the 4Gmark speed test, which performs a range of upload, download, Google, YouTube and Wikipedia-based sequences. The Xperia Tablet Z managed an upload speed of 7.54Mbps, a download speed of 24.3Mbps and got an overall score of 13,896 points:
The benchmark reports an average UK score of 4,013 points, putting the Vodafone 4G/Xperia Tablet Z combo some 3.5 times ahead of the national average. However, it's worth noting that the 4Gmark test, and 4G itself, needs to do some bedding in.
As a direct comparison I ran the same benchmark on my everyday handset, which runs on EE's HSDPA network. It reported a score of just 315. Even more anecdotally, the wait for the test to run on my everyday phone felt interminably long after running it on the Xperia Tablet Z.