Vodafone said it will ‘soon’ offer 4G roaming to more countries than any rival, in a bid to make business travellers and tourists a key battleground with the competition.

The operator will offer roaming on LTE networks in 18 countries from summer 2014, partly by leveraging a geographic footprint that is more extensive than its rivals.

Vodafone already offers roaming to its own 4G networks in the five markets of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

By this summer, it will have added a further six markets where it runs the local network: Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the UK.

However it will also have roaming agreements in place with competitors in another seven markets. These are Austria, Belgium, France, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland.

Vodafone said 4G roaming in the 18 countries will cost no more than the tariffs for existing 3G roaming services.

Meanwhile the operator also announced it now has 500,000 4G customers in the UK, six months after the launch in August 2013.

Last week the operator said in Q3 results it had over 370,000 4G subs (end-December 2013 figure).

It lags rival EE which has taken an early lead in the LTE market and announced last month that it had attracted 2 million subscribers since its launch in November 2012.

EE said the rate at which it signs up 4G subscribers sped up recently, consolidating its lead.

Vodafone’s strategy has been centred on the supposed strength of its 4G content, primarily bundled subscriptions to Spotify and Sky Sports packages, but it has not matched its fast-growing rival.

EE has pushed more aggressively on coverage rather than content, emphasising its geographic reach around the UK.

In an attempt to burnish its own credentials, Vodafone said its service is now available to 36 per cent of the country’s population. Its LTE network is rolling out in 208 cities, towns and districts across the UK.