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Vodafone has a surprisingly good go at tariff innovation

Vodafone passes

UK operator Vodafone has come up with a couple of new tariff ideas that, for once, look like they actually add some value to the consumer.

We’ve come to the expect the mobile industry to gratuitously dick about with its tariffs every now and then, apparently just to show it hasn’t completely given up on innovation. But usually the tweaks are so superficial and inconsequential to the end-user that we wonder why they bother. A couple of Vodafone’s bright ideas, however, seem to have some genuine merit.

For postpaid punters we now have ‘Vodafone Passes’, which allow you to pay extra for unlimited data on certain apps – effectively zero-rating them for a flat fee. Here’s the full range:

  • Chat Pass (£3/month) – Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Viber
  • Social Pass (£5/month) – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter
  • Music Pass (£5/month) – Spotify, TIDAL, Deezer, Napster, SoundCloud, Amazon Music Unlimited and Prime Music
  • Video Pass (£7/month) – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, DisneyLife, Vevo, My5, YouTube, UKTV Play and TVPlayer, which includes channels like HISTORY, Lifetime, MTV & Comedy Central
  • Combo Pass (£15/month) – all four Passes in one

By far the most useful of these is the video one, especially if you can also use it via tethering in a tablet or whatever – which Vodafone has confirmed you can. The chat one is pretty useless for nearly everyone as IM uses so little data, and you can mostly say the same for social media. But we can imagine why people would pay extra to use Spotify on their phone without inhibition and that applies even more so to Netflix, etc.

Having commended Vodafone for innovating it should be noted that it’s far from the first UK operator to try this sort of thing. Three zero-rated a few streaming services in its ‘Go Binge’ tariff earlier this year, which itself seemed to copy T-Mobile US. And Virgin Media got the ball rolling over here last year by zero-rating some social media. But Vodafone seems to have a lot more apps available for zero-rating, something it’s stressing in its marketing.

The other bright idea is something called ‘Pay as you go 1’. This is a daily prepaid tariff that costs at most a quid, and possibly less. From 10 November you can set yourself up with Vodafone such that if you don’t use your phone at all in a day (presumably this doesn’t include incoming calls/texts) you don’t pay anything. You’re then charged 20p per minute for calls, 20p per text and 20p for 5MB of data until you hit a quid (i.e. almost immediately).

After you hit the £1 threshold you get unlimited minutes and texts as well as 500 MB of data for the rest of the day. The sub-£1 increments seem a bit pointless but the subsequent allowances seem generous and the flexibility to leave the phone in a drawer for days without it costing you anything will probably appeal to some.

Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO, said: “We want our customers to be able to use their phones exactly as they want to,” said Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO. “With Vodafone Passes, they can keep in touch, keep tuned in and keep watching without having to keep an eye on their data meter. With Pay as you go 1, we’re ripping up the existing Pay as you go rulebook, so that customers can use their phones knowing they won’t pay for what they don’t need, and they’ll never pay more than £1 a day.”

This sort of flexible, ad hoc tariff offering is what everyone has been saying operators need to do to generate fresh revenue streams for ages. Vodafone seems to have nicely augmented both its postpaid and prepaid offering with these new tariffs and it will be interesting to see if the rest follow-suit.


4 comments

  1. Cetin A. 01/11/2017 @ 2:43 pm

    Data consumed with a chat application can be significant as well. Chatters may choose to exchange images, videos or even start a video call on the said applications.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 01/11/2017 @ 2:45 pm

      Fair point – thanks.

  2. Bernard Szederkenyi 13/11/2017 @ 7:54 pm

    Located in Canada, so unsure of the nitty gritty of European net neutrality laws. I assume Vodafone’s approach passes because they are not slowing or blocking access? Could the regulators view this as differentiated pricing based on the passes and legislate it out of existence?

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 14/11/2017 @ 9:27 am

      I don’t view zero-rating as a net neutrality issue at all. So long as there’s not traffic prioritisation it’s merely a billing policy.

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