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Vodafone has launched a high-speed broadband and home phone service to realise its ambition of diversifying away from mobile to become a leading provider of consumer communications and entertainment.
Vodafone Connect will come in three flavours: ADSL, with a headline speed of up to 17Mbps; Superfast, which will go to 38Mbps; and Ultrafast, which will hit speeds of 76Mbps.
At launch the service will only be open to existing Vodafone mobile customers located in Manchester, Berkshire, and parts of Hampshire and Surrey. Vodafone expects to undergo a wider roll-out in the next few weeks, and to make Connect available nationwide, as well as to customers who don’t have a Vodafone mobile, later in the summer.
Vodafone UK consumer director Cindy Rose said the firm had wanted to offer the service to existing customers only at launch as “our way of saying thank you for their loyalty”.
Prices will start at £5 per month for Vodafone customers taking the low-end service, rising to £20 for the ultrafast connection, with additional discounts available. Standard pricing for non-mobile customers, when it becomes available, will start at £10 per month, rising to £25. Line rental will start at £16.99, and customers will also be able to take F-Secure’s Safe security service free for the first six months.
Also included will be a plug-and-play router, which when paired with a companion mobile app for iOS and Android, will offer a number of extra services such as network priority for certain devices, beamforming to increase Wi-Fi signal strength, timed access control for children, and guest Wi-Fi options for visitors.
The mobile network operator first announced plans to get into the residential broadband market in autumn 2014, saying it hoped to launch a service in 2015. It already runs fibre broadband services in 12 other European countries, and claims to have more than 11 million residential customers in Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, among others.
Vodafone had a shot at entering the UK broadband market in 2006 with a service called Vodafone at Home, which never got sufficient market traction and was quietly ditched in 2011 with its customers transferred to internet service provider Plusnet.
Since then, Vodafone has acquired the network infrastructure of Cable & Wireless Worldwide, which currently passes 20 million properties in the UK, and will now form the core of the new service.
Vodafone UK CEO Jeroen Hoencamp said: “We’re looking forward to bringing our consumer customers the benefits of our experience in providing fixed and mobile services, both here in the UK and elsewhere around the world.
“Our significant investment is creating hundreds of new jobs over the next couple of years. We are looking forward to the year ahead, including our move into offering TV services, as one which will prove to be a step-change in our customer’s lives.”
Vodafone’s move towards offering a true quad-play – broadband, fixed telephony, mobile and television – service, captures the zeitgeist among communications services providers, with BT also heading in that direction and TalkTalk already there, although its mobile offering takes the form of a mobile virtual network.
According to Rose, Vodafone’s current position as the only UK operator to own both its own fixed and mobile network – at least until BT absorbs EE – put it in “a great position” to create more innovative products and services for its customers.
Analyst Paolo Pescatore, director of multiplay and video at CCS Insight, said it was important for Vodafone to bring something different to the market in such a competitive industry.
“The service is novel and heavily focused on the customer experience. Unlike others, Vodafone owns an extensive cable network and this puts it in a far stronger position. It is a real differentiator,” he said.
However, Pescatore expressed some reservations that Vodafone had not pulled all the stops out to offer pay-TV content, and perhaps other services such as cloud storage space, at launch.
“It makes perfect sense for Vodafone to target its core base, as our multiplay survey shows that people are willing to sign up to more services from the same provider. However, articulating the vast array of its innovative features will be challenging and this underlines the importance of its extensive presence on the high street,” he added.