Vodafone is set to offer shared data bundles to consumers as it looks to bounce back from a difficult past 12 months. The operator has also pushed back its 4G launch to the end of the summer as it seeks to fully test the network.
The move to shared data bundles follows similar decisions by operators in the US. AT&T offers bundles of up to 50GB, which can be used by as many as 10 devices and is priced $500 per month (£329).
Vodafone is looking to roll in the shared data packages into its Red proposition, which currently offers unlimited calls and texts to consumers. The operator is readying a prepay version of Red for later this year. Shared bundles are to be rolled out across Vodafone’s global businesses but it is likely to be 2014 before they come to the UK.
Red is at the heart of Vodafone’s attempts to grow its business, as to moves to attract data hungry customers. Average data per user is double that of other customers at 700MB per month. However, it is taking a hit of £4 on average revenue per user as it moves customers from contracts to Red. It said this dilution was expected and the trend was improving.
The priority for Vodafone is launching its own 4G network, with group CEO Vittorio Colao telling journalists last week it will be late summer before it introduces a next generation offer. This has been slightly pushed back on its original plans. Colao said time was being spent on ensuring the service would be at its best for consumers. He said: ‘We want to be able to launch when it can really make a difference and there is a good commercial momentum.’
Colao said EE had had ‘a little’ effect on Vodafone UK’s performance but added that he agreed with his rival’s policy of adding a pricing premium to 4G. He said: ‘We just paid £800m… for spectrum and that [investment], in any sector, means things should be priced to reflect the true cost.’ He said any competitive advantage from EE is likely to go away when the next generation of the iPhone is launched, which is expected to run on 4G across all networks.
He said cost was at the centre of it walking away from talks to run BT’s mobile network. The operator ran a mobile service for BT’s staff and business customers for almost a decade but the contract was put out for tender after its acquisition of Cable & Wireless Worldwide last year.
Colao said: ‘We have a lot of spectrum and want to use it to differentiate. It’s about time to start setting the principle that we can have partners but they must be willing to pay the full cost. We just paid £800m to the Exchequer for frequency. I’m not going to give that away for free.’
Author: Graeme Neill