Vodafone breaks with UK carrier pack to offer unlimited 4G and 5G data
Vodafone is the first UK operator to offer unlimited data with both 4G and 5G contracts. The move comes as it switches-on 5G in seven UK cities, following on the heels of EE in the UK, and 27 cities across Europe.
Vodafone is offering unlimited data on mobile three speed-tiered data plans, starting from £23 per month. There is no premium charge for data on 5G contracts, but the second and third-level speed-tiering effectively puts the brakes on at 10Mbps and 2Mbps, respectively.
The top-tier £30 unlimited plan will allow speeds as fast as the Vodafone network goes, which Vodafone says tops out at 100-times faster than its current LTE-based 4G network. “Vodafone Unlimited will change the industry for good,” the company said in a statement.
Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and group chief executive at US Carrier Verizon, and former UK chief at Vodafone rival O2, said just last month that Europe will follow the US imminently to offer unlimited 5G data plans as standard.
Vodafone is the second operator to launch 5G in the UK. EE switched on 5G in the UK in May. Three is slated to launch in August; O2 expects 5G in the autumn. The first UK cities to receive 5G services from Vodafone are Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, London, Manchester, and Glasgow.
Vodafone is also offering 5G roaming in the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, from launch. Customers can also use its unlimited 4G plans in 77 destinations.
Analyst house CCS Insight reflected Vodafone has taken a leadership position in the UK market by moving to unlimited data before its competitors. The move is at odds with its conservative reputation, akin even to a ‘challenger’ brand seeking to make waves.
“After a turbulent recent period, Vodafone finally has its mojo back. At long last, there is an air of optimism, positivity and ambition to regain former glories in its emotive home market,” said Kester Mann, director of CCS Insight’s consumer and connectivity division.
“Vodafone’s move into unlimited data and its decision to price 5G the same as 4G indicate the emergence of a challenger mentality. This is in sharp contrast to its traditional premium-focused approach. It could spell bad news for Three, which has built a strategy based on challenging industry norms.”
He added: “The big story is the launch of speed-tiered unlimited data tariffs, a first for the UK. As a new concept, Vodafone will need to articulate the propositions carefully to consumers only just beginning to appreciate the value of megabytes and gigabytes. Once understood however, Vodafone Unlimited could prove a powerful acquisition tool.”
Vodafone’s three unlimited plans are: Vodafone Unlimited Max, for £30 per month, gives unlimited mobile access at speeds as fast as the device and the network will allow; Vodafone Unlimited, at £26 per month, offers speeds of up to 10 Mbps; and Vodafone Unlimited Lite, at £23 per month, tops out at 2 Mbps. The three plans are available on pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go terms.
Its unlimited offer also extends to the new Vodafone Together service, which combines mobile and broadband in one bill.
Vodafone UK chief executive Officer Nick Jeffery said: “5G will transform the way we live and work. Our customers are streaming over 50 per cent more content today than they did last year, and with 5G the demand for data is only set to increase.
“That is why we want to remove the limits on data, so that customers can unlock the full potential of 5G, and we can really propel the UK into the digital age. By offering unlimited plans to our consumer and business customers, we will revolutionise the market. We will give customers all the data they need, when and where they want it.”
Mann commented of the Vodafone Together service: “The stronger push into convergence was overdue; the new brand, single billing and attractive pricing should reinvigorate Vodafone’s standing in this market.”
Five-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton, a long-time Vodafone associate, has been appointed as ‘5G ambassador’, said Vodafone.
Vodafone was the first company in Europe to introduce multiple antenna (Massive MIMO). It has installed 100-gigabit-per-second capable optical fibre connections to its 5G base stations, it said. It is running home broadband, mobile, IoT, and business services over a single all-fibre converged network, called RedStream.
Vodafone is offering two 5G smartphones, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and the Samsung S10 5G, as well as a 5G GigaCube router, for use in the home and office. The companyexpects to “reach” eight million consumers with 5G by 2021. It talked about introducing “cloud-based robotics and augmented reality on the move”, as part of its future plans.