Vodafone has waded into the 4G war by revealing its plans to launch its next generation network at the same time as O2’s, with Sky Sports and Spotify partnerships at the heart of the proposition.
London will be the first city to benefit from ultrafast 4G speeds on 29 August, and Vodafone has revealed that 12 more cities – Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield – will be covered by the end of the year.
Entertainment is the overriding message from the network, which seems to be following O2’s lead of differentiation, rather than entering price wars. The new partnerships fostered will allow customers to choose between a sport or music package. Sports fans will be able to view 100 matches from the Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, the Scottish Premier League and Spanish La Liga, as well as stream live cricket, rugby and golf, while music lovers can access over 20 million tracks from Spotify. Sky Sports Mobile TV will be charged at £4.99 per month, while the Spotify Premium subscription will be £9.99, unless customers go for 24 month Red 4G Ready L (£52 p/m) or XL (£57 p/m) tariffs. In this instance one of the packages will be included for the two years at no extra cost. Although 4G won’t be officially launched until August 29, plans will go on the market from August 12 so customers can use the service with 3G.
Pricing, as expected, remains on the premium side, as Vodafone match O2’s £26 Sim-only deal as its cheapest tariff, compared with EE’s £21 offering. An incentive of three months completely unlimited internet is an enticing proposition, although Vodafone UK CEO Guy Laurence admitted that completely unlimited data tariffs were unlikely to be launched in the near future, if at all.
Vodafone’s 4G package may seem to offer more value for money, but those hungry for data will notice that EE’s 24 month £46 per month handset plan offers customers unlimited minutes and text and 10GB of data, whereas £47 per month at Vodafone will get you the minutes and texts, but only 2GB and 3GB of WiFi. Existing Vodafone Red customers with 4G compatible handsets can take advantage of 4G and double their data for £5 per month. A buy-back initiative that makes it easier for customers to trade up to 4G handsets by selling incompatible devices back to the network will also be honoured for existing patrons.
Laurence said that it’s ‘not about catching up with competitors’, but that ‘given the strength of the offer, Vodafone will be able to attract customers from other networks’. Since launching 4G last October, EE has signed up 700,000 customers, with a view to increasing that to one million by the end of 2013. Laurence didn’t speculate on similar targets but did say that ‘this period of mobile development will not be won and lost in one day’
The network spent £900 million upgrading its network this year, while £802 million was spent on ‘acquiring the widest portfolio of spectrum’ in the recent 4G auction. All of this investment will lead to a 98% indoor coverage of the UK by 2015. As well as consumer propositions, Vodafone will launch tariffs for tablets, dongles and mobile WiFi, while business customers will be able to benefit from faster speeds, although tariffs will be more ‘bespoke’.
Laurence said: ‘With 4G, speed is just the start: it’s what you do with it that really matters. We are taking 4G into a new league by offering sport; and changing the tune with all the music you could want. 4G is finally worth getting and there’s plenty to look forward to.’
Author: Matthew Campelli