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UPDATE Vodafone Launch Data Friendly 4G Mobile and Pay-As-You-Go Plans

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017 (9:41 am) - Score 5,324

Vodafone UK has today claimed that they intend to “banish data use fears” by reinventing how customers on their Pay Monthly and Pay-As-You-Go 4G Mobile plans consume and pay for their data use. They’ve also improved their insurance plans for Apple iPhone owners.

The first big change is the introduction of Vodafone’s new Passes for Pay Monthly subscribers, which means you pay a set fee and then can enjoy “endless” data usage of certain specific apps on your Smartphone (e.g. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Spotify and Viber etc.). All of this sounds similar to Three UK’s “Go Binge” add-on, albeit a bit more optional.

The Vodafone Passes

• 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

As usual there are a few caveats to point out. For example, the “Video Pass” is listed as £7/month but this is actually a special offer and we expect the real price to hit £9 from April 2018. The passes are also only available to Pay Monthly consumers on ‘Red’ or Mobile Broadband plans purchased on or after 12/04/17.

On top of that we note that the passes do work in Vodafone’s “roam-free” (EU) destinations but they apply a 5GB (GigaByte) usage limit per pass. In the UK you can “use as much data as you like” on each Pass. Nevertheless we can see the pricing mounting up once you add in the cost of your normal Pay Monthly plan, but it will make sense to some users.

Meanwhile Vodafone has also introduced their new Pay as you go 1 plan, which is set to go live on 10th November 2017 and will enable customers to make standard calls, texts or go online without spending more than £1 a day.

In other words, you pay for whatever you use up to £1 and after that it’s “free unlimited minutes and texts” for the rest of that day, although data is capped to 500MB and if you want another 500MB in that same day then it will cost another £1 (note: if you don’t use your phone that day then you won’t be charged a penny).

Take note that prior to hitting the £1 cap the standard charges will be 20p a minute for calls, 20p for texts and 20p for each 5MB of data consumed. PAYG customers who don’t use or top-up their phone for 270 days will also run the risk of being disconnected and losing their credit, as per Vodafone’s standard terms (the minimum top up amount is £5).

Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO, said:

“We want our customers to be able to use their phones exactly as they want to. 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.”

Finally, the operator has also announced that they are giving iPhone customers the option to include AppleCare Services for an additional fee and a 2-year warranty on all iPhones purchased directly from Vodafone. On top of that they’ve also launched next day replacement across their new insurance products for all the devices they offer.

The downside of all these changes is that they add additional complexity to the already headache inducing challenge of hunting for a new tariff from lots of very different operators and plans.

UPDATE 3rd Nov 2017

Some readers have been asking about the Net Neutrality implications of the new tariffs, which is something that has been raised about Three UK’s “Go Binge” and similar services at other operators. On this point Ofcom’s June 2017 report (we covered this here) may help to clarify their approach, albeit still leaving a few big unknowns.

Zero-rating practices (Ofcom)

The Regulation does not preclude ISPs from setting a data cap on the IAS products they offer end users. In some cases, ISPs may wish to include a “zero-rating” feature on an IAS with a data cap, under which access to specific services does not count towards the data cap.

The Regulation does not prohibit zero-rating outright. However, as the BEREC Guidelines note, IAS with zero-rating should be assessed closely by NRAs [Regulators] to ensure that they do not undermine the goals of the Regulation. The Guidelines recommend that such assessments should take into account:

i) the goals of the Regulation;

ii) the market positions of the ISP and Content and Application Providers (‘CAP’) involved;

iii) the effects on consumer and business customer end-user rights;

iv) the effects on CAP end-user rights; and,

v) the scale of the practice and presence of alternatives.

Over the past year, Ofcom identified two zero-rating products offered in the UK market. The products related to zero-rating of music streaming and messaging services respectively.

As we pointed out in our earlier report, Ofcom took no action against the two zero-rating products that it claims to have identified, but the reasons for that aren’t what you might expect. In the first case, an unnamed mobile operator was found to have zero-rated access to certain music streaming services for their iPhone orientated contracts, which also came with a 30GB allowance.

However Ofcom took no action and didn’t even formally investigate because it was a brief special offer, although they did say this: “We also noted in particular the very significant data allowance of at least 30 GB. This would permit hundreds of hours of music consumption within the data cap and hence reduce the incentive on users to restrict themselves to the zero-rated music services. The high data cap would be likely to limit harmful effects of the zero-rating practice on end user rights.” Context clearly has a role.

In the second case, an unnamed mobile operator launched a 4G mobile product including zero-rated use of certain messaging services but once again Ofcom took no action. In this instance the regulator noted that the operator itself was very small (minimal market impact) and that the volume of data arising from use of the messaging services is also small, not least because the voice / video functions of the apps weren’t zero-rated.

These factors led us to conclude that the product would be unlikely to have a significant impact on end user rights or on innovation in the online services market,” said Ofcom. So far it seems as if such services are safe, provided the offers are short lived or the operator is so small that the market impact would be minimal.

However Vodafone is a major operator and their new zero-rated passes, not unlike Three UK’s “Go Binge”, are significant and not short lived. Likewise they involve more than just low bandwidth text messaging services. On the other hand Voda’s add-ons appear to be optional extras rather than applying to the main plans by default. Sadly Ofcom won’t report on this again until next June.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
18 Responses
  1. Optimist says:

    Will Vodaphone still be charging 55p a minute to call UK landline numbers?

  2. eM says:

    £30 per month on Pay and Go for unlimited calls, texts and 15 GB data. Not competitive.

    1. Chayne says:

      I’m currently paying £20 on Vodafone for unlimited texts and calls and 20gigs of data… maybe have a look at your plan and if possible change it

  3. Tom Bartlett says:

    Not surprised they are making their tariffs more complicated. They are literally the worst people in the business.

    I was with them for over two years and it seemed if there was always something going wrong, things that could be easily solved if their systems actually worked and they could be bothered to help.

    Somehow they managed to get my bill up to £40 a month, so I tried to leave as soon as my contract term ended.

    If you dial 191 the option to leave is number 4. I’d press 4 and the phone would hang up. That went on for a week. I suppose they are inundated with people who want to leave.

    I managed to get through to someone on a web chat and asked to close my account. They closed it, but didn’t cancel the diect debit and kept on charging me for months (This was in June) despite my complaints.

    I canceled the direct debit myself, but they stil send me weird bills for £0.00

  4. Andy says:

    How does this comply with net neutrality?

    1. Michael says:

      This breaks net neutrality and is a worrying development. People should be protesting and Vodafone should be fined for this, not celebrated.

    2. mike says:

      Because the traffic is not given priority across their network vs other traffic

    3. RevK says:

      I can’t see how it complies either as there is clearly “discrimination” depending on the traffic.

    4. Michael says:

      Hi Andy. As long as a user has some data allowance left then this will comply with EU net neutrality. Three explained this when they launched ‘Go Binge’.

    5. Mike says:

      If you don’t like it use another provider.

  5. Mike says:

    Leaving Vodafone was a pain, the £5 over-data charges sucked as well, never again.

  6. h42422 says:

    Hmmm… I read their FAQ and I did not find any limitations on tethering. Would a video pass work as a sort of cheap alternative to bypass slow landlines and connect for example an appletv to a device having this pass?

    1. C. McCormick says:

      I would imagine not, or at least not in the long run anyway.

  7. C. McCormick says:

    These are good ideas, however they do cast unusual feelings on the market due to them not being familiar.

    Good work Vodafone, you’ve come a long way in the last couple of years.

  8. Big Steve says:

    And they said the UK was neutral on net neutrality, well apparently not.

  9. Rob says:

    500Mb data cap… hahaha. What is it with these companies? 500Mb caps in 2017! I’ve used 58Gb in the last 10 days so this 500Mb is just hilarious.

    Three UK £35 a month gets you hundreds of minutes, hundreds and hundreds of texts and truly unlimited data. “all-you-can-eat” they call it.

    I get excellent 4G coverage and excellent service. How some of these companies remain in business offering inferior services for more money is beyond me.

    1. craski says:

      It is 500MB per day for each £1 paid. It is not 500 MB per month.
      Granted is is more expensive than most paid monthly contracts but not as ridiculous as you suggest when comparing with your current usage (assuming you meant 58GB and not 58Gb).

  10. Simon says:

    Let’s hope 3 now extend to Spotify etc, as this is what some of us want!

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