Vodafone to offer firms 'all you can eat' fixed price deals

VodfoneOne Mobile network operator Vodafone ...

Mobile network operator Vodafone is to introduce unlimited-use fixed-price three-year contracts from today as part of a shift to providing unified communications services for business customers.

The new programme, Vodafone One, is the result of a change in the way Vodafone values business customers. The mobile network operator is moving away from measuring its average revenue per user to using the total lifetime value.

Unveiling the new direction yesterday, Peter Kelly, who heads Vodafone's enterprise business group, said the company was using the new valuation system because of a raised awareness of the cost of churn, the industry's term for the regular loss and acquisition of customers.

He declined to say what it cost Vodafone to acquire a customer compared to what it cost to keep one. "That's information O2 and Orange would kill for," he said. But a study of the numbers meant that the company was "going to get better at looking after existing customers," Kelly said.

The Vodafone One package was Vodafone's response to growing customer demand to increase the amount of mobility in corporate communications, Kelly said. At present the company is targeting large (more than 500 staff) UK firms and the public sector.

Vodafone One presently allowed a company to provide each staff member with a single contact number. Calls to that number would ring simultaneously on all the devices (any GSM mobile handset, IP desk phone or voice-enabled PC) that the individual used.

The user could also pick up voice mail from any device too, and setting up conference calls was a matter of dragging and dropping the participants into a desktop window.

Kelly said every enterprise had different communications patterns and strategies. This would make every Vodafone One contract unique. But he aimed to save enterprises at least 20% of their communications costs.

Kelly said the intention was to sell "all you can eat" three-year fixed price contracts. This would allow firms to budget accurately, without fear of "bill shock", especially for cross-border roaming calls.

He said Vodafone would discuss usage patterns up-front to determine the contract price, and monitor them for abuses. These would be discussed with the client. But until a new deal was negotiated, Vodafone would pick up the (hidden) costs of varying call rates across the world.

Kelly said data traffic was already 25% of the business, and he wanted to increase it. It was not Vodafone's primary aim to replace firms' existing in-house or outsourced multiprotocol networks. "But we will partner with others to add mobility to those networks," he said.

He said Vodfone was already working with Microsoft, Cisco, Nortel, Avaya and others, and had already bought companies that added skills and expertise in integrating and delivering fixed-wire unified communications systems.

Kelly said he had segmented the business market into four; sole traders and home workers; SMEs, large national firms and public sector bodies, and global enterprises. The company would develop Vodafone One packages and appropriate distribution channels for each segment.

"SMEs like to buy from other SMEs," he said, "but direct is good too."

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