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Vodafone rolls out £12 social broadband tariff

Telco group Vodafone is taking further measures to help UK families and small businesses cope with inflation.

The company this week rolled out what it claims is the country’s cheapest social tariff, which offers 38-Mbps fixed broadband for £12 per month. Called Vodafone Essentials Broadband, it is available not just for those receiving unemployment benefits like Job Seekers Allowance and Universal Credit, but also in-work benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Allowance or Personal Independence Payments. There are no set-up or early cancellation fees, and customers won’t be subject to mid-contract price rises, Vodafone said.

Vodafone is also offering small business owners 12 months of free broadband. It is available to new and existing customers on a 24-month plan. After the first year, customers will pay £26 per month excluding VAT for the entry-level Business Broadband Superfast 1 tariff, and £29 per month for Business Broadband Superfast 2.

The launch of social tariffs for fixed broadband customers comes six months after Voda’s youth mobile brand VOXI launched VOXI for Now, a social tariff that offers uncapped 5G data for £10 per month for people on benefits. The operator has also donated 750,000 free SIM cards as part of its ‘everyone.connected’ programme.

“Whether it be applying for job and volunteering opportunities, managing finances, or ensuring a child can do their homework, we all depend on the Internet in our daily lives and not having access to it can lead to people facing digital exclusion,” said Emma Revie, CEO of charity the Trussell Trust. “We’re grateful to Vodafone for providing much-needed affordable Internet and phone solutions that will allow people on the lowest incomes to stay connected and able to access vital opportunities and services online.”

Indeed, to accompany this week’s launch, Vodafone commissioned some research by YouGov to emphasise the importance of affordable connectivity. According to the survey of 2,000 UK adults, a third said they have saved money by tracking down online offers, while 29 percent of respondents said they are relying more heavily on the Internet in order to hunt for bargains and information to help cope with rising costs.

When it comes to household bills, 16 percent said they are struggling to pay, while 42 percent said they expect to struggle. 45 percent said they know someone who is struggling. In addition, telecoms services rank third behind energy and food as the most essential expenditures. Citing separate figures from Development Economics, Vodafone said rising bills could force up to 1 million households offline in the next three months.

“The rising cost of living is putting a million families at risk of falling on the wrong side of the digital divide. We must not allow this to happen,” said Ahmed Essam, CEO of Vodafone UK, in a statement on Wednesday.

“These new tariffs complement VOXI for Now and the 750,000 free SIMS we’ve donated so far as part of our everyone.connected programme. We’re on track to meet our commitment to donate a million connections by the end of this year and will continue to put the cause at the heart of our business until the problem no longer exists,” he said.

With encouragement from government, UK telcos have bee launching and promoting more affordable price plans, zero-rating certain Websites, and providing information to help customers save money.

Just last week, Virgin Media O2 launched new rolling plans that give customers more data and minutes without tying them down to a long-term contract. Last month, Three UK increased the number of zero-rated Websites to 15, giving customers access to various charities without it eating into their data allowance. Meanwhile, BT has been offering Home Essentials – which provides up to 67-Mbps fixed broadband to eligible customers for £15 per month – since June last year.

However, as consumer group Which? pointed out earlier this week, telco users who aren’t eligible for social tariffs are due to be hit by big price hikes next year. This will doubtless exert even more pressure on the industry to come up with more ways to support customers.

 

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