As the UK comes to terms with another prolonged lockdown, the nation’s communications providers are uniting to offer packages to ensure continuity in education and business. In the latest move, Vodafone is to give small businesses free broadband for 2021.
All major UK broadband companies have removed data caps on their broadband packages and on 5 January, the government launched its “Get help with technology” programme, which aims to increase data allowances on mobile devices to support disadvantaged children.
It is designed to temporarily expand allowances for mobile phone users on certain networks, so that children and young people can access remote education if their face-to-face lessons are disrupted.
Vodafone says the move is designed to offer support for the UK’s small businesses as they battle through the Covid-19 pandemic, and is a response to new research from Vodafone partner Enterprise Nation, a UK small business community network representing more than 60,000 business people.
The research was carried out among 918 small businesses across the UK. Some 84% of respondents were in businesses of fewer than three people, 59% were in their first three years of operation and 16% had been going for more than 10 years.
It found that the number of small businesses running entirely online had doubled during the pandemic over the past year, from 27% to 55%. Nearly three-quarter (71%) of respondents said they relied more than ever on broadband, while 70% believed that a “dedicated” business broadband line would be beneficial.
Offering further proof of how applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become established since the first lockdown, the study revealed that as many as 94% relied on video conferencing for work during the pandemic.
“2020 will go down as the year when business went online,” said Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones. “We have seen small businesses in their droves pivot to build websites, embrace social media and rely on video platforms to keep in touch with their teams. To succeed for the longer term, this requires strong broadband that won't let you down and investment in digital technology.”
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Anne Sheehan, business director at Vodafone UK, said: “The message to small businesses is clear: we’re here to help. Businesses need to be running as efficiently as possible in 2021 – that means getting online, using the best digital tools, getting the best business advice, and spending as little money as possible. It’s great to see how businesses adapted throughout last year, and we’re here to help more do the same in 2021.”
The offer of 12 months’ free broadband is available across the UK until 28 February 2021, on a 36-month plan to all businesses with one to 50 employees, including existing Vodafone customers who are eligible to upgrade.
Once the 12-month period has passed, the monthly fee will revert back to the standard rate of £22.50 (ex-VAT) per month for Business Broadband Superfast 1 and £25 (ex-VAT) per month for Business Broadband Superfast 2. There will be a one-off fee of £20 to cover setup costs, with no further payment required until the 13th month.
Vodafone has also set up the V-Hub small business digital support platform offering guides on key aspects of operating in a more digitised world and free one-to-one support with a business adviser.